The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Mon., Oct. 30, 2000

First Session

MONDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Canada Post - Truro Heights: Mailboxes - Install, Mr. B. Taylor 7559
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Lbr. - Pioneer Coal/USW: Dispute - Agreement Tentative,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 7560
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2875, MacLeod, Stuart - Death of: Family - Sympathies Convey,
The Premier 7562
Vote - Affirmative 7562
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 66, Consumers Protection Act/Mortgage Brokers' and Lenders'
Registration Act, Hon. A. MacIsaac 7562
No. 67, Crane Operators and Power Engineers Act, Hon. A. MacIsaac 7563
No. 68, Occupational Health and Safety Act, Hon. A. MacIsaac 7563
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2876, Educ. - Special Needs: Gov't. (N.S.) - Funds Restore,
Mr. W. Gaudet 7563
Res. 2877, Women, Status of - Advisory Council: Concerns -
Commun. Serv. Min. Heed, Mr. John MacDonell 7564
Res. 2878, Women, Status of - Women: Achievements - Recognize,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 7564
Vote - Affirmative 7565
Res. 2879, Health - Col.-Musq. Valley MLA: Tory Policy -
Opposition Commend, Mr. Manning MacDonald 7565
Res. 2880, WCB - Court Issues: Questions - Speaker Permit, Mr. J. Holm 7566
Res. 2881, Agric. - Austrian Smokehaus: Awards - Congrats.,
Hon. E. Fage 7566
Vote - Affirmative 7567
Res. 2882, Culture - Music Week Gala: Participants - Best Wishes,
Mr. D. Downe 7567
Vote - Affirmative 7568
Res. 2883, Culture - Four the Moment: Best Wishes - Extend,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 7568
Vote - Affirmative 7568
Res. 2884, Econ. Dev. - Home Depot: Opening - Congrats.,
Ms. M. McGrath 7569
Vote - Affirmative 7569
Res. 2885, Educ. - PanCanadian Petroleum: Students Choice Award -
Initiative Congrats., Mr. Wayne Gaudet 7569
Vote - Affirmative 7570
Res. 2886, Oakey, Joan/Miller, Fenwick - Knights of Columbus:
Family of the Year Award (2000) - Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 7570
Vote - Affirmative 7571
Res. 2887, Agric.: N.S. Milk Producer's Assoc. - Commend,
Mr. B. Taylor 7571
Vote - Affirmative 7572
Res. 2888, Health - Services: Hosp. (Reg.) - Dismantling Cease,
Dr. J. Smith 7572
Res. 2889, Health - Cuts: Min. - Intervene, Mr. D. Dexter 7573
Res. 2890, Econ. Dev. - Shelburne Film Prod. Ctr.: Staff - Congrats.,
Mr. C. O'Donnell 7573
Vote - Affirmative 7574
Res. 2891, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Victoria Co.: Road Work -
Allocate, Mr. K. MacAskill 7574
Res. 2892, WCB - Widows' Pensions: Discussion - Speaker Permit,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 7575
Res. 2893, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Lt. Gov's. Medal:
Robicheau, Keith - Award Congrats., Mr. F. Chipman 7575
Vote - Affirmative 7576
Res. 2894, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Election (CBRM):
Morgan, John (Mayor) - Congrats., Mr. D. Wilson 7576
Vote - Affirmative 7576
Res. 2895, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Road Improvements: Plan -
Publish, Mr. W. Estabrooks 7577
Res. 2896, Cox, Donald - Atl. Agric. Hall of Fame: Induction - Congrats.,
Hon. E. Fage 7577
Vote - Affirmative 7578
Res. 2897, Robinson, Rev. Richie - Presbyterian Synod: Moderator -
Election Congrats., Mr. B. Boudreau 7578
Vote - Affirmative 7578
Res. 2898, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Infrastructure:
Fed.-Prov. Agreement - Conclude, Mr. H. Epstein 7579
Vote - Affirmative 7579
Res. 2899, NSLC - Surcharge: Decrease - Min. Withhold,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 7579
Res. 2900, Fin. - Home Heating: Seniors - Subsidize, Mr. J. Pye 7580
Res. 2901, Galley, Alice: Community Efforts - Congrats.,
Mr. John MacDonell 7581
Vote - Affirmative 7581
Res. 2902, Sports - Sydney Millionaires: N.S. Sport Hall of Fame -
Induction Congrats., Mr. Manning MacDonald 7581
Vote - Affirmative 7582
Res. 2903, EI - Legislation Changes: Election (Fed.) - Promises,
Mr. J. Holm 7582
Res. 2904, Fin. - Deficit (1993): GAAP - Recalculate, Mr. D. Downe 7583
Res. 2905, Commun. Serv. - Child Care Workers: Value - Explain,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 7584
Res. 2906, Health - Gov't. (N.S.): Responsibilities - Outline, Dr. J. Smith 7585
Res. 2907, Prime Minister (Chretien) - Industry: Acting Min. - Name,
Mr. K. Deveaux 7585
Vote - Affirmative 7586
Res. 2908, Commun. Serv. - Workfare: Min. - Rural Areas Visit,
Mr. K. MacAskill 7586
Res. 2909, Health - Queens Co.: Bowater 50th Anniv. Gift Trust -
Trustees Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 7587
Vote - Affirmative 7587
Res. 2910, Econ. Dev. - Stream International: Glace Bay -
Call Centre Locate, Mr. D. Wilson 7588
Res. 2911, Gray, Winston: Community Stand - Congrats.,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 7589
Vote - Affirmative 7589
Res. 2912, Canada Post - Sorting Station (N. Sydney): Employees -
Efforts Congrats., Mr. B. Boudreau 7589
Res. 2913, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Privatization: Postcard Campaign -
Employees Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 7590
Res. 2914, Amherst - Fire Dept.: Recruits - Congrats., Mr. R. MacKinnon 7591
Vote - Affirmative 7591
Res. 2915, Premier - Fishing Lodge: Retire/Gov't. (N.S.) Goals -
Elevate, Mr. H. Epstein 7592
Res. 2916, Commun. Serv. - Cole Hbr. Rehab. Ctr.: Closure - Delay,
Mr. J. Pye 7592
Res. 2917, Nat. Res. - Nat. Gas: Cape Breton - Access Ensure,
(by Mr. John MacDonell), Mr. F. Corbett 7593
Res. 2918, EI - Gov't. (Cdn.): Cuts - Unfair, (by Mr. W. Estabrooks),
Mr. F. Corbett 7594
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 62, Employment Support and Income Assistance Act 7594
Hon. P. Christie 7595
Dr. J. Smith 7597
Mr. K. Deveaux 7612
Amendment moved "bill be read six months hence" 7630
Mr. R. MacKinnon 7630
Mr. John MacDonell 7642
Mr. B. Boudreau 7648
Mr. H. Epstein 7660
Adjourned debate 7666
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Tue., Oct. 31st at 12:00 p.m. 7666

[Page 7559]

HALIFAX, MONDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

4:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition. The petition's operative clause is, "We, the undersigned, residents of TRURO HEIGHTS area, would like to petition Canada post for the installation of RED MAIL BOXES to provide outgoing mail pickup at this location TRURO HEIGHTS KWIK WAY 301 Truro Heights Rd RR # 1 Truro . . ." A missive has gone to Member of Parliament, Bill Casey, and the residents want to make it known that for three years they have been petitioning the Chretien Liberals in Ottawa to approve this reasonable request and so far it has been flatly turned down.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

7559

[Page 7560]

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

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

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a matter of great importance. As all honourable members know, the Department of the Environment and Labour has been closely monitoring a long-standing labour dispute between Pioneer Coal and members of the United Steel Workers of America. There are a number of constants within my department, one of them being a respect for the collective bargaining process. While we fully understand and appreciate calls for early intervention, it is of paramount importance that we allow the process to unfold as it is legislated. We have done this and I have just been advised that the parties have, today, reached a tentative agreement. (Applause) No details are available as yet. It is my understanding that the union will take a ratification vote tomorrow.

Again, Mr. Speaker, the collective bargaining system works and with patience and understanding, the parties can bring about a resolve. We want to acknowledge the efforts of both parties to resolve their differences and begin the process of rebuilding their relationship. Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable minister for his statement. We weren't aware of it until he stood up, but I guess that is hot off the wire and I can appreciate that. That is good news, our caucus certainly supports and congratulates all the stakeholders that have been involved in this particular process.

I realize it has not been easy, having walked that path once before myself, I know it is a lot easier to criticize than it is to find the right process to bring resolve. It has been a very tense and difficult situation for both parties, however, at the same time, at this juncture, I think it would be appropriate to raise the flag in terms of the legislation that we do have in terms of the Trade Union Act. Some possible amendments that could be made to make it a little more contemporary with labour-management relations and indeed, some further reflection on the mandate, the structure and the terms of reference with the Labour Relations Board, I think is something - perhaps we will end up with the same composition, chemistry, design and terms of reference as we have now. Because it hasn't been reviewed for quite a number of years, I think it is an excellent opportunity, because of situations like what has transpired with Pioneer and certainly what happened down on the South Shore with the hotel workers and in a number of other jurisdictions.

I think it is perhaps time to take a deeper reflection on this entire process but at the same time, I do congratulate the minister for following and providing a leadership role, as per the design of the legislation. Some would argue that perhaps he should have been a little more forceful but again, having been there, I know it is not easy and certainly we had lots of

[Page 7561]

opportunity to criticize but I saw it from the perspective of having had that experience and I know it was not easy. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, there is a sigh of relief in Stellarton tonight and that sigh of relief is something that people throughout this province have been waiting to hear. Unfortunately, it has been a long, difficult situation in Pictou County.

This has been an ugly dispute. I had the opportunity to visit that Pictou line a number of times. It has been an ugly dispute because basically that minister, who today is fortunate enough to announce that there has been a settlement, sat on his hands throughout a long summer and basically did nothing. So I congratulate the fact that the workers and the employer have gotten together but this ugly dispute is the result of the fact that the employer is allowed to take advantage of the situation.

With the current legislation the employer was allowed to basically do what he wanted because there is no first contract legislation in place in this province and the Pioneer strike is a perfect example of the fact that that legislation should be brought forward, so we do not have ugly, prolonged disputes such as this one that, thankfully, has finally come to a conclusion. So, to the people involved, congratulations. To the people in Stellarton and the surrounding Pictou County area who have finally reached this settlement, it is a positive day. But I hope the minister will learn from the lesson of Pioneer Coal, as hopefully, he learned from the Rodd strike and introduce first contract legislation so that workers in this province do not have to be subjected to the difficult times that they have endured over the last number of months. That sigh of relief in Stellarton is felt by Pictou County members over there, who basically at times did not take the proactive role which they did. Congratulations to the workers, let's get on with the job. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West on an introduction.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce to members of the Legislature in the east gallery, Ms. Elspeth McLean-Wile, who is a dairy producer and also involved in a national organization, Dairy Farmers of Canada, on a promotion - I believe she chairs that and she is also here keeping an eye on us, as we potentially get into Bill No. 64, the Dairy Industry Act. I would like all members to give a warm welcome to Elspeth McLean-Wile in the east gallery. (Applause)

[4:15 p.m.]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

[Page 7562]

RESOLUTION NO. 2875

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas on Friday, October 27th, Stuart MacLeod of Sydney passed away peacefully, surrounded by his closest loved ones; and

Whereas Stuart MacLeod was one of Cape Breton Island's leading volunteers, giving time, talent and money to community organizations too numerous to list, including distinguished service with the Sydney Rotary Club, St. Andrew's United Church, the Masons, Sydney Board of Trade, Sydney YMCA, the United Way, the Red Cross, the Cape Breton Children's Aid Society, the Easter Seals Campaign and the Clan MacLeod Society of Cape Breton; and

Whereas Stuart MacLeod was also one of Cape Breton Island's leading Progressive Conservatives, serving as a riding president at both the provincial and federal levels, as campaign manager for four successful elections of Donald MacInnis, MP, and three elections of Donald C. MacNeil, MLA, and as a key organizer of the first ever Cape Breton Nova PC Association, resulting in the election of the late Pinky Gaum as MLA;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House, on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia, express deep regret and sorrow at the death of Stuart MacLeod, a great Nova Scotian and a great Cape Bretoner, and convey our deepest sympathies to his wife of 48 years, Edna, his children, grandchildren and large extended family.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 66 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 92 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Consumer Protection Act, and Chapter 291 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Mortgage Brokers' and Lenders' Registration Act. (Hon. Angus MacIsaac)

[Page 7563]

Bill No. 67 - Entitled an Act Respecting Crane Operators and Power Engineers. (Hon. Angus MacIsaac)

Bill No. 68 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 7 of the Acts of 1996. The Occupational Health and Safety Act. (Hon. Angus MacIsaac)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2876

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

Whereas the Minister of Education is calling for submissions from parents, students, teachers, school boards and special needs advocates on the way the school system educates students with various physical and learning disabilities; and

Whereas the Department of Education says it wants to develop a plan to provide additional resources to children with special needs; and

Whereas in last spring's budget this government cut the Education Department's funding by $53.3 million, thus causing severe cuts in the services to children with special needs;

Therefore be it resolved that before entertaining any input from Nova Scotians concerning children with special needs, the government restore the $53.3 million it confiscated from school boards so that it will have an appropriate starting point from which to provide additional resources for children with special needs.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 7564]

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2877

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 Advisory Council on the Status of Women is concerned about changes to the social assistance system that will have a disproportionate impact on women; and

Whereas the Advisory Council is concerned that the monies allocated to cover private day-care space are not adequate; and

Whereas before women go to work, the Advisory Council would like to have the issues of support clarified for women wishing to pursue post-secondary education, a clothing and telephone allowance, both of which are needed in order to apply for employment and training programs that accommodate all racial backgrounds;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services heed the concerns of the Advisory Council on the Status of Women and make appropriate changes to the bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2878

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

Whereas tomorrow will mark the conclusion of Canadian Women's History Month, and with it a time devoted to women's history and the opportunity to rediscover the women who helped shape our nation; and

Whereas the barriers for women, because of inequalities, often made the valuable accomplishments of Canadian women that much more remarkable; and

Whereas the example of the famous Person's Case just celebrated on October 18th is but one of so many that we should ensure is never forgotten;

[Page 7565]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature recognize the significant achievements of women while reflecting on a statement by Agnes MacPhail, the first woman ever elected to Parliament, when she said, "I want for myself what I want for other women, absolute equality. After that is secured, then men and women can take turns at being angels."

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2879

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

Whereas despite what the Health Minister says, any sane and rational person knows that cuts to the Colchester Regional Hospital will have a negative impact on patient care; and

Whereas the MLA for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has publicly contradicted his own Health Minister, and expressed concern about the cuts at the regional hospital; and

Whereas this conflict within the ranks proves that whoever is in charge of keeping the peace between the Tory caucus and Cabinet is not doing a very good job;

Therefore be it resolved that the MLA for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley be commended for once again opposing Tory policy, and that the concerns of his constituents should be acknowledged by the Minister of Health.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 7566]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville.

RESOLUTION NO. 2880

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

Whereas this House is a final court of appeal for citizens who seek relief from unjust laws; and

Whereas citizens and their representatives have the right to seek changes in government legislation and policies; and

Whereas questions and resolutions seeking changes in unfair and unjust WCB legislation have been permitted in this House by the present Speaker and by all of his predecessors even if that matter is also before the courts;

Therefore be it resolved that Mr. Speaker should permit resolutions and questions seeking legislative action to solve policy issues before the court, as he did for example on May 11th and April 26th of this year instead of making new and arbitrary rulings that prevent the voice of WCB widows from being heard in this Chamber.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

RESOLUTION NO. 2881

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

Whereas the Austrian Smokehaus, a meat processing business owned and operated by Hans and Heike Langmann in Upper North River at Truro, recently participated in an international meat and sausage competition in Austria; and

Whereas the Austrian Smokehaus won eight gold medals and four silver medals for the product; and

[Page 7567]

Whereas the Langmanns work hard to live up to the high quality of standards required by the Taste of Nova Scotia Quality Food Program of which they are chartered members;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Austrian Smokehaus and the Langmanns for being such fine representatives for the province internationally for winning eight gold medals and four silver medals for their products, and for their continued commitment to quality food products in Nova Scotia.

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.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2882

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

Whereas for the first time, Music Week wrapped up on Saturday October 28, 2000, with an awards gala at the Halifax Metro Centre; and

Whereas sponsored by the Music Industry Association of Nova Scotia, this year's theme was The Route to Success; and

Whereas awards were given to members of the association in 25 different categories ranging from Female Artist of the Year to Volunteer of the Year;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the organizers, sponsors, volunteers and award winners for the success of this year's gala and wish them all the best as they begin preparing for next year's event.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

[Page 7568]

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. 2883

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

Whereas 19 years ago, Four the Moment, a local a capella group came into being to combat racism and to oppose the presence in Nova Scotia of the Ku Klux Klan; and

Whereas for the past 19 years, these multi-talented women, who have included Kim and Delvina Bernard, Andrea Currie and Anne-Marie Woods, have moved many an audience with their sweet harmonies and their passionate lyrics of struggle and injustice; and

Whereas Four the Moment held their farewell concert Sunday evening, leaving legions of loyal and grateful fans, as well as a legacy of a growing number of African Nova Scotian artists of considerable talent;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend a sincere thank you to Four the Moment, for their ground-breaking work and extend best wishes to the group's members and to their managers past and present.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 7569]

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 2884

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

Whereas another example of Nova Scotia's expanding economy came with the opening of the new Halifax location of The Home Depot, just opened this month on Lacewood Drive; and

Whereas the addition not only adds more selection for consumers, but also adds jobs for the province with The Home Depot employing 160 people to date, with 20 more being hired this Friday; and

Whereas the store opening also opened the door for 20 of its employees, including its manager, who were employed elsewhere in the country, to transfer back home to Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the company on its recent opening and applaud a business which brings Nova Scotians home to work and offers new opportunities for others, including a financial donation for Big Brothers and Big Sisters as a way of celebrating its new location.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2885

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

[Page 7570]

Whereas PanCanadian Petroleum, which is active in Nova Scotia's offshore petroleum industry, is initiating a Students Choice Award in Halifax; and

Whereas Halifax area students will have the opportunity to nominate teachers that go the extra distance, making an impact not only on learning, but on their school's overall quality of life; and

Whereas the best teacher in Primary to Grade 3, Grades 4 to 6, Grades 7 to 9, Grades 10 to 12 and the principal's award, will each receive $2,500 for professional development, and each school that nominates a winner will receive $2,500;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to PanCanadian Petroleum on this most generous initiative recognizing the excellence of teachers and administrators in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

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.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 2886

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

Whereas the Father John Mills Council of the Knights of Columbus based in Eastern Passage takes the opportunity recognize families that contribute to the community; and

Whereas Joan Oakey and Fenwick Miller have contributed many years of service to the communities of Eastern Passage and Cow Bay over the past number of years; and

[Page 7571]

[4:30 p.m.]

Whereas Joan and Fenwick have volunteered for such diverse groups as the Lions Club, the Summer Carnival Committee, Hope Cottage and the local food bank;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Joan Oakey and Fenwick Miller on receiving the Knights of Columbus Family of the Year Award for 2000.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 2887

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

Whereas a total of 84 Nova Scotia dairy farmers are receiving 1999 Awards of Excellence from the Nova Scotia Milk Producer's Association; and

Whereas 11 of the 84 dairy farmers being recognized are from Colchester County and they are Andrew and Bill McCurdy, Duncan McCurdy, Fred Canning, Eric Fisher, Keith Fulton, Fred and Anne Hamilton, Roy Neilsen, Reginald Sill, Havy Whidden and Lloyd and Florence Yuill; and

Whereas the Chairman of the Nova Scotia Milk Producer's Association, John Vissers said, "producers who achieve this high level of success exemplify those who strive to excel in quality milk production";

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly commend the Nova Scotia Milk Producer's Association and Nova Scotia's 372 dairy producers who are constantly striving for excellence.

[Page 7572]

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2888

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

Whereas against the recommendation of the Goldbloom Report, this Tory Government secretly disbanded regional health boards, causing disarray in the system; and

Whereas Tory health cuts are now causing an erosion of strong regional health care facilities like the Colchester Regional Hospital; and

Whereas cuts to the core complement of vital services and staff at regional hospitals is causing care at community health facilities like the Lillian Fraser Memorial Hospital to suffer;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health stop dismantling services offered at regional hospitals across the province in order to maintain adequate health services in rural areas.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 7573]

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2889

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

Whereas when health care cuts were unacceptable to the people of Lunenburg, the Minister of Justice was forced to intervene to halt the cuts and save his job; and

Whereas when cuts to Roseway Hospital were deemed unacceptable to the people of Shelburne, their MLA had to threaten to resign to get the cuts stopped; and

Whereas with pending health cuts in Truro, the Minister of Health can only talk about process and not the issue;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health follow the example of the member for Shelburne and the Minister of Justice and intervene on behalf of his constituents and stop ill-conceived and poorly thought out health cuts.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 2890

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation and the Southwest Regional Development Authority are working together in an effort to market the Shelburne Film Production Centre; and

Whereas the partnership has been struck to market both the sound stage as well as the southwestern Nova Scotia region to potential investors; and

Whereas this marketing effort is expected to provide the Shelburne Film Production Centre with the necessary profile to attract additional businesses;

Therefore be it resolved that the Shelburne Film Production Centre be commended for playing a leading role in attempting to attract more business to southwestern Nova Scotia and that all MLAs extend our congratulations to the centre and staff and wish them every success in the future.

[Page 7574]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 2891

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

Whereas the beautiful Cabot Trail is a cornerstone of the tourist industry in Nova Scotia and depends heavily on motor vehicle traffic; and

Whereas a key plank of the Tory election platform was to provide much needed road work to encourage economic development in rural areas; and

Whereas since coming to power, the Tories have allotted just a small section of seal coat and a whole half-kilometre of new paving in Victoria County, home of the Cabot Trail;

Therefore be it resolved that this government remember its commitment to rural roads and the importance of Victoria County should not be ignored when allocating road work.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

[Page 7575]

RESOLUTION NO. 2892

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

Whereas Beauchesne says, ". . . the House has never allowed the sub judice convention to stand in the way of its consideration of a matter vital to the public interest . . ."; and

Whereas for generations that convention has never been used to prevent discussion of public policy or legislative short-comings in this House; and

Whereas Liberals and Tories who are embarrassed by their decision to deny benefits to 95 WCB widows should recognize that censorship in this House only increases their embarrassment;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Speaker to respect the traditions and practices followed by himself and all other Speakers by permitting the issue of WCB widows' pensions to be raised here.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2893

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 2000 Lieutenant Governor's Medal for Excellence in Public Administration was recently presented to the Chief Administrative Officer for the Municipality of Annapolis, Keith Robicheau; and

Whereas the award was first presented 14 years ago in 1986 to recognize an individual who has significantly enhanced the performance and delivery of public administration in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the chairwoman of the Institute of Public Administration of the Canada Awards Committee described the award won by Mr. Robicheau as being one way to publicly recognize exceptional achievement;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs extend congratulations to Mr. Keith Robicheau for his outstanding work for the Municipality of Annapolis and commend him for winning an award of such distinction.

[Page 7576]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2894

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 21, 2000 a new mayor and councillors were elected by residents of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality; and

Whereas John Morgan, a native of Glace Bay, was elected as Mayor, receiving 29 per cent of the total votes; and

Whereas the new mayor and council elected will be sworn in on November 13, 2000;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mayor-elect John Morgan and his new council and wish them success as they serve the residents of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 7577]

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 2895

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

Whereas secondary roads throughout our province continue to deteriorate; and

Whereas road tenders issued from the Department of Transportation and Public Works reflect that this Tory Government is going about business in the same old way; and

Whereas this government promised a plan for road improvements that publicly would identify priorities within its first year in office;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works instruct department staff to publish this plan immediately, since Nova Scotians continue to bump along on our deteriorating roads.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 2896

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

Whereas on October 25, 2000, Donald Cox of Princeport was inducted into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame representing Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Mr. Cox made a profound impact on the province's hog sector, when working as a provincial swine specialist he spearheaded the industry to breed genetically superior hogs and encouraged the use of the Central Swine Test Stations; and

Whereas since his days as a 4-H representative, he has been a strong supporter and advocate for the 4-H movement and program here in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Mr. Cox for his induction into the Atlantic Agricultural Hall of Fame and for the legacy of innovation, excellence and youth development that he has built for the betterment of Nova Scotia's agricultural and rural communities.

[Page 7578]

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 2897

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

Whereas Reverend Richie Robinson was elected Moderator of the Presbyterian Synod of the Atlantic Provinces; and

Whereas as Moderator, Reverend Robinson's main duties throughout the year will be to represent the synod at official functions and preside at the next annual meeting; and

Whereas the last Moderator from Cape Breton was elected 27 years ago;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Reverend Richie Robinson on his new position and wish him all the best in his future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

[Page 7579]

RESOLUTION NO. 2898

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

Whereas the federal government collects $125 million per year in fuel excise taxes from Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the federal government returns virtually none of that revenue to the province as a contribution toward transportation infrastructure needs; and

Whereas Nova Scotia has seriously deteriorated roads plus a need to explore alternatives to automobiles such as commuter rail;

Therefore be it resolved that the provincial government move immediately to conclude a new federal-provincial agreement on transportation infrastructure.

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 West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2899

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

Whereas on Friday past, the Minister of Tourism and Culture announced that the 9.3 per cent surcharge charged by the Liquor Commission to licensees would be cut in half; and

Whereas this decrease in the surcharge amounts to a saving of $3.4 million to the licensees; and

[Page 7580]

Whereas today the licensees have said that they are unable to pass these savings on to their consumers;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Tourism and Culture withhold this decrease until the licensees show that they are willing to pass these savings on to the consumers.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2900

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

Whereas many seniors live on fixed incomes; and

Whereas there is expected to be a significant increase in the cost of home heating fuel this winter; and

Whereas this increase will cause many seniors to choose between heating their homes or eating proper nutritional meals or taking their necessary medications;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government help seniors by subsidizing their home heating costs for these winter months.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

[Page 7581]

The notice is tabled.

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2901

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

Whereas seniors provide valuable leadership to our communities; and

Whereas the Hants Shore Health Centre grew from the efforts of Mrs. Alice Galley who was trying to find a replacement for the community whose local family doctor was retiring; and

Whereas Alice Galley has been recognized for her achievements by national bodies such as the Canadian Federation of Community Clinics and was awarded a Paul Harris Fellowship for her community contributions;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Alice Galley, a retired school teacher, for her example of continuing to use her talents for the improvement and benefit of her local community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2902

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

[Page 7582]

Whereas the 1948-49 Sydney Millionaires pushed the heavily favoured Toronto Marlboros to the limit in a five game series for Eastern Canadian Allan Cup title at Maple Leaf Gardens; and

Whereas the Sydney Millionaires of that era were among the best hockey clubs in the country; and

Whereas on Friday, October 27, 2000, this legendary hockey team was inducted into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame at the World Trade and Convention Centre;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the members of the 1948-49 Sydney Millionaires for their hockey prowess and for bringing a great deal of pride to the people of Sydney and all of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 2903

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

Whereas the Chretien Liberals, who amassed a huge cash cow in the last several years from unspent Employment Insurance premiums, blamed their fall from electoral grace in Atlantic Canada on the harsh cuts they made in EI eligibility; and

[4:45 p.m.]

Whereas a recent federal election call was preceded by much money being routed into projects, programs and causes in Atlantic Canada - promises, promises, promises; and

[Page 7583]

Whereas the Chretien Liberals also promised to legislate changes to EI but while other legislation went through Parliament this bill died on the order paper;

Therefore be it resolved that this House warn Nova Scotian voters that the promised EI changes could have been passed into legislation before the election was called but Chretien chose not to give you that assurance that real changes would occur.

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 Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2904

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

Whereas it took less than six months for the government to recalculate government debt and deficits back to 1996 using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles; and

Whereas unfortunately the government seems unable or unwilling to calculate deficit figures back to 1993 despite requests and assurances that these recalculations would take place; and

Whereas clearly the Minister of Finance is trying to hide the deficit of 1993 which could have been well over $1 billion using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and not the $617 million recorded at that time;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance immediately proceed to recalculate 1993 deficit figures using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles so Nova Scotians can be assured that the Minister of Finance is not trying to hide his former government's fiscal legacy.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

[Page 7584]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 2905

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 Centre for Families, Work and Well-being recently published a comprehensive study entitled, You Bet I Care; and

Whereas this study provides a detailed account of the wages, working conditions and practices in child care centres across Canada; and

Whereas this study found that in Nova Scotia the average wages for assistant teachers and/or teachers, the majority of whom are women, were well below Statistics Canada's low income cut-offs;

Therefore be it resolved that this government explain why it thinks the early education and caring of young children is roughly worth the same as tending cars in parking lots.

Mr. Speaker, I seek 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 Kings North on an introduction.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to introduce to you a recent graduate of Acadia Divinity College, who graduated with his degree, Master of Divinity, this year: Russell Prime from Digby. Russell is also working on his LL B, so he is going to

[Page 7585]

combine law and ministry. I would like Russell to stand and perhaps we could give him the welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2906

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

Whereas during their election campaign the Tories promised more money to hire full-time nurses throughout the province; and

Whereas in their blue book, the Tories promised to put enough funding in place to establish additional full-time nursing positions; and

Whereas last week, the Minister of Health told the Nurses' Union that employing nurses was not the responsibility of his Tory Government;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government clearly outline their responsibilities so that Nova Scotians can keep better track of this government's broken promises.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 2907

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

Whereas when Brian Tobin was Premier of Newfoundland he ignored and frustrated all efforts by Russell MacLellan to gain an early resolution of the offshore boundary dispute with Nova Scotia; and

[Page 7586]

Whereas then Premier Tobin was equally unhelpful when Nova Scotia's new Premier sought agreement to joint management of the territory that is in dispute; and

Whereas these delays have denied work in Cape Breton and created the danger that French territory will be the base for Laurentian shelf offshore development;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges Prime Minister Chretien to name an Acting Minister of Industry to deal with all aspects of federal involvement in offshore development and to ensure that Brian Tobin does not participate formally or informally in federal Cabinet deliberations on this issue.

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.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 2908

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

Whereas after three news conferences in three days, people still do not know the extent of changes to the Social Assistance Program; and

Whereas these changes ignore the fact that there are two economies in Nova Scotia, and Victoria County faces different challenges than Bedford; and

Whereas people on social assistance in Victoria County will not have the same access to jobs, child care or transportation when they are forced into the workforce;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services leave metro Halifax and visit rural areas like Victoria County in order to see how unrealistic his workfare plan is.

[Page 7587]

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

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

Is it agreed.

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2909

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

Whereas at the end of this year, the Bowater 50th Anniversary Gift Trust will hand over $300,000 towards health care and $50,000 towards recreation in Queens County; and

Whereas over the past number of years, the trust has given out money to local recreation groups; and

Whereas the trustees of the money include representatives from Bowater and the surrounding community;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend and congratulate the trustees of this trust for their hard work and dedication to making their community a better place to live.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources on an introduction.

[Page 7588]

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the members of the House to the gallery opposite. I would like to make a couple of introductions. It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you Elspeth McLean-Wile. Elspeth is the Past Chair of Milk Maritime, as well as Past President of the Nova Scotia Milk Producers Association. Along with Elspeth is Barron Blois, who is Past President of the Dairy Farmers of Canada. Both of these individuals have achieved high office, nationally, within the milk industry. It is my pleasure to ask them to rise and be introduced to the House. (Applause)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2910

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

Whereas unemployment in Glace Bay is an ongoing tragedy that is yet to garner the attention of the provincial government; and

Whereas unofficial unemployment hovers around 50 per cent, placing horrendous pressure on the Glace Bay Food Bank, among other volunteer organizations; and

Whereas Stream International is holding a job fair in the area to gauge the potential workforce to work in a potential call centre;

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory Government finally pay attention to the human tragedy of unemployment in Glace Bay and do everything in its power to ensure Stream International will make Glace Bay its location of choice for its new call centre.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to say that since everybody else has had an opportunity to introduce Ms. Elspeth McLean-Wile, let me just say that she and her colleagues at the farm market in Wileville make some of the best ice cream cones

[Page 7589]

in this province. I know because I eat them on a regular basis, as do my daughter and my wife.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 2911

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

Whereas sometimes it takes just one person standing up to criminals in his neighbourhood to encourage others to do the same; and

Whereas Winston Gray of Spryfield has stepped forward to rid his neighbourhood of gangs who have vandalized and fire bombed his home; and

Whereas Mr. Gray's neighbours in Spryfield have decided to ban together and back Mr. Gray in his fight to reclaim his community from violence;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Winston Gray for taking a stand in his community and fighting for a safe environment in which to live.

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 The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 2912

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 Premier of Nova Scotia sat silent while Canada Post made plans to close the postal sorting station in North Sydney; and

[Page 7590]

Whereas former MLA Russell MacLellan personally contacted the President of Canada Post to protest the move; and

Whereas despite NDP efforts to take credit for keeping the station open, the federal minister responsible for Nova Scotia has never been contacted by the NDP or MP Peter Mancini, on this issue;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the employees and people in the community who have worked to keep the postal station open, while Tory and NDP politicians said nothing.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 2913

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

Whereas Department of Transportation and Public Works employees have undertaken a well-received postcard campaign opposing the privatization of services in that department; and

Whereas these dedicated men and women have conscientiously offered their valuable services for that department; and

Whereas privatization will not improve the Department of Transportation and Public Works service that Nova Scotians have taken for granted;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Department of Transportation and Public Works employees for their postcard campaign, and thank them for their many years of irreplaceable service.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

[Page 7591]

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 West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2914

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

Whereas nine recruits with the Amherst Fire Department were recognized by the outgoing Amherst Town Council on Monday, October 23rd; and

Whereas these nine members of the Amherst Fire Department were presented with their level one provincial firefighter certificates; and

Whereas this is the first time in the history of the Amherst Fire Department that a group of nine firefighter recruits completed this course at the same time;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to these nine recruits and wish them every success in their careers of service to their community, which will at times involve considerable risk to their own safety and well being.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

[Page 7592]

RESOLUTION NO. 2915

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

Whereas in a recent speech the Premier suggested that "first as Nova Scotians, we must recapture the sense of struggle, survival and perseverance that was part of daily existence for our forbears"; and

Whereas perhaps the Premier would have us all return to sod huts and kerosene lamps; and

Whereas the famed Tory blue book, titled, Strong Leadership . . . . A Clear Course should have been titled instead, Struggling for your daily existence under a Tory Government;

Therefore be it resolved that in the interest of the province, the Premier should either retire to his fishing lodge to struggle for daily existence or lift his sights higher when he sets goals for his government.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2916

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 Cole Harbour Rehabilitation Centre provides long-term care services for Level III care clients; and

Whereas many clients in the metro area requiring Level III care services are being relocated to facilities more than 75 kilometres away; and

Whereas this great distance makes it impossible for family members to be near their loved ones on a regular basis;

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory Government delay the scheduled closure of the Cole Harbour Rehabilitation Centre until a solution is found to provide a facility for Level III care in the metropolitan area.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 7593]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

[5:00 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 2917

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

Whereas the former Liberal Government of John Savage made a Sable gas deal that left Cape Bretoners out of the equation; and

Whereas former Liberal Premier Russell McLellan promised a better deal, but he allowed an inadequate gas line to Cape Breton be installed without adequate assessment; and

Whereas flaws in the line to Cape Breton now impose an artificial limit on industrial and residential use of natural gas in the region where a new energy source is most needed;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the government to immediately undertake plans to ensure that most of Cape Breton Island has access to natural gas as quickly as most other Nova Scotians, including plans for adequate pipeline capacity.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 7594]

RESOLUTION NO. 2918

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Jean Chretien indicated in August and early September that a November general election was likely; and

Whereas nevertheless the federal Liberals waited until the end of September to introduce legislation reversing some of their EI cuts, then left the bill on the order paper after two days of debate; and

Whereas as a result of this deliberate action, these highly-publicized EI changes were killed by the election call;

Therefore be it resolved that this House regrets this betrayal of Nova Scotians who are being unfairly denied employment insurance as a result of unjust federal Liberal cuts, and notes that the EI legislation supposedly showed how the Liberals really feel about Atlantic Canadians.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for, no, I won't, that's okay. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

[Page 7595]

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the legislation called the Employment Support and Income Assistance Act. This new bill will replace the existing Family Benefits Act and most provisions of the Social Assistance Act; the parts of the Social Assistance Act dealing with the community supports for adult programs and long-term care will remain in effect.

Mr. Speaker, passage of Bill No. 62 will allow us to reinvest $20 million in programs to help Nova Scotians. The Employment Support and Income Assistance Bill will enable us to help people to help themselves. At the same time, we realize that some people will need longer-term assistance and the new system will address these situations in a compassionate manner; however, we have to build a system that helps people achieve their potential.

Mr. Speaker, people with disabilities will be supported in their effort to work at the level they are able. This is important, because too often in our society disabled people have been marginalized and prevented from reaching their potential. During our consultation, disabled people told us loud and clear that they wanted to be included; they wanted to join the workforce. We will provide disabled people with more access to employment supports than ever before.

This new bill also confirms our commitment to the five-year phase out of municipal contributions to social assistance. Two years remain in that phase-out agreement between the province and municipalities signed in 1998. After April 1, 2003, municipalities will no longer contribute to the cost of social assistance in Nova Scotia. The legislation supports the establishment of a new integrated child benefit, and this benefit will provide secure benefits for children in all low-income families.

Mr. Speaker, we are removing barriers for people in the assistance phase when they want to enter the workforce. When people can move to the workforce more readily, they have a chance to contribute to their own requirements. Traditional welfare programs have not been effective in reducing poverty. The most immediate and effective way to address poverty is to help people get back to work. This bill authorizes a total redesign of the social assistance system in Nova Scotia and it is a system that is in dire need of overhaul. This much we know. Too far and too long Nova Scotians on assistance have been frustrated in their attempts to move from welfare to work.

They are frustrated, Mr. Speaker, because of the towering welfare wall that stands between them and the workforce. This virtually insurmountable wall is made up of the complex two-tiered system which is confusing, inequitable and hopelessly behind the times, but most of all it is a system that hinders people who sincerely want to be self-sufficient, people who want and need the self-esteem that comes with providing for themselves and their families.

[Page 7596]

Bill No. 62, Mr. Speaker, combined with our economic growth strategy, focuses our effort because in planning for the long-term growth of our economy, we must consider the best of what we have and we know that investing in the people of Nova Scotia is a good long-term investment in our future growth. Bill No. 62 sets the stage for our social policy to integrate with our economic policy. The redesigned Income Assistance Program will be simpler, more equitable and encourage self-reliance. What we do in social services has to tie into what government is doing in economic development and education. Our goal is to help people reach a level of self-sufficiency within their capacity to do so. It is about lifelong learning.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, education is critical to the success of both social assistance redesign and our economic growth strategy. Whether formal or informal, or in the workplace, or in formalized instructions, opportunities are the learning keys. This bill is to authorize the provision of various kinds of assistance to people in need. It incorporates the philosophy that some people need help to attain their potential and authorizes the provision of that help. This is about much more than simply rates of assistance. No one on assistance receives only the core benefits. Other benefits such as employment support add significant value to the total package. In fact, support structures are a cornerstone of the redesigned program. Government recognizes the benefits of supporting people's efforts to gain independence and self-sufficiency.

The bill is drawn broadly because it recognizes that the good practices of today are likely to change in the future. It provides the flexibility to change programs as economic and social conditions change. Essentially the bill replaces the rigid nature of the Family Benefits Act and incorporates the flexibility of the Social Assistance Act. The bill provides for one system of assistance and employment supports for all recipients. Some people will not be able to make use of all the employment supports but, Mr. Speaker, most will be able to move toward self-reliance.

This legislation includes a new mandatory administrative review before going to a formal board. In addition to more effective collection mechanisms, the bill contains broader authority to write off overpayments and, Mr. Speaker, a six month limit on overpayments caused by system error. The bill also contains transitional provisions that allow for appeals under the current system to continue once the new system is in place.

Mr. Speaker, through the passage of Bill No. 62 we hope to lower the welfare wall. If people on assistance can move to work more readily, they have a better chance of becoming self-reliant. Poverty is one of society's most troubling and perplexing ills. We know that it will not end overnight by redesigning our social assistance system, but we hope to put a stop to the growth of poverty. We hope to help people escape its devastating impact. That is why this government has undertaken and introduced Bill No. 62 to help in the redesign. It ties in with our programs in education and economic development. I look forward to the debate and to hearing other members' comments. Thank you.

[Page 7597]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to address Bill No. 62, An Act to Encourage the Attainment of Independence and Self-sufficiency through Employment Support and Income Assistance. This was introduced a few days ago and there was much concern about the issue of privatization within this system. There was concern expressed throughout about the regulations and what they might look like, because the bill itself is lacking in detail with no clear direction to where this government is going and what commitments they intend to keep that may well evolve into some more broken promises. The training issues are very scarce here on this particular issue.

There has been a shift in policies. We have seen assistance go up and down and some of the increases the minister has been talking about in the last few days are increases after decreases have taken place. So we have seen a particular level drop and then partially go back up but not up to the original level. So there has been a great deal contributing to confusion in the community. Certainly, I can judge by the calls that are coming into our constituency.

Mr. Speaker, we do recognize, as a Liberal caucus, that this bill is here before us as a result of an initiative that was taken several years ago to move from a two-tiered system to a single-tiered system in this province and to phase out the municipal contribution. We are moving toward that, and for that we are pleased to have this legislation. I also believe that it does warrant full debate. From debate we may learn more than we know now. As I have mentioned, I certainly am not clear. It is a small bill for joining two Acts and being so important, impacting on so many thousands of lives, particularly the lives of children in this province. It really lacks detail. I think that is part of the Tory strategy as we move forward.

The issue of municipal involvement, as I mentioned, is to be commended, and that was an initiative that we sent forth. Like so much of the legislation and the matters of business that this government is bringing forward, these initiatives were started under previous governments.

There is no question that people in the system, as they call it, really want to work. I think that is a given. It bothers me when you hear many people in the community and in this Legislature talking down to people on social assistance as if they don't want to work, that there is wholesale fraud. There is no evidence that that is so. I spent three years as minister in this department and I know there were lots of initiatives that made people mad at times and many reports but so many times when we looked into those matters, it really just wasn't so. But this is a perception that is there and perception becomes reality and those issues have to be addressed as well.

[Page 7598]

I think the strength of the system will determine the amount of fraud. Clause 19 and in that area is very clear on the punitive actions to those who might be getting assistance that they are not eligible or qualified for.

The issue of appeal is here in the legislation, Mr. Speaker. That was a concern, certainly, to many groups. We had concerns expressed that there was not an appeal mechanism in place initially. It is here now, whether it was there initially or not, and if it was not, because concerns were expressed, then I would say that is a positive initiative, not only by those people who brought the matter forward, but also the government for responding to their particular wishes. This is a bill of great importance for so many people, particularly children in this province.

[5:15 p.m.]

While there are positive initiatives that we support, we have our major concerns with this particular legislation. We will try to outline them in debate. We could move the bill to a hoist, and those types of initiatives, but we have chosen not to, as a caucus, because we believe that this should receive adequate debate in the House, as a substantive measure in the social assistance area, but also it should go to the Law Amendments Committee. I know there are many groups waiting to come in to speak to that. We will do what we can to encourage debate and presentations at that particular level.

Mr. Speaker, in starting the debate on behalf of our caucus on Bill No. 62, there is no question that this is the corner piece of legislation of this government in this current session of the House. Just last week we witnessed three news conferences in a period of three days, to relay good-news stories. They didn't say much; a good spin, if you will, on the Tory agenda. Unfortunately, like the news conferences last week, this bill that we have before us today begs more questions than it has answers.

I don't think there is anyone in the Legislature who will disagree that encouraging the attainment of independence and self-sufficiency through employment supports is not a positive step. It is, but what happens when you don't have the infrastructure in place to ensure that clients are able to truly achieve independence? What happens to those clients who live in communities with high rates of unemployment, not only industrial Cape Breton but Shelburne, Digby County, those particular communities?

What happens to those clients and, more importantly, to the children when the parents are unable to access adequate child care or obtain adequate nutrition for that child? What happens to clients who are disabled and will require accessible transportation, or a workplace that is accessible, or additional supports in the form of extra employees to assist them with their daily tasks, so that they are indeed able to make a meaningful contribution to the workplace? Like the press conferences, the bill produces more questions than answers.

[Page 7599]

On April 11, 2000, the government produced a budget very similar to this bill - there are many similarities - a budget that was scant, in fact, in details, a budget that required the Opposition to ferret out its impact on various organizations, hospitals, other health care facilities, and clients receiving assistance from government. Included in the budget were reductions in assistance, and a 50 per cent reduction in earning incentives. What type of message does a 50 per cent reduction in the earning incentive send out to clients? Here is a bill from the government that attempts to make clients self-sufficient, but at the same time we see a budget from this government that says, please don't work, we will just take back more money from you, so there is no point in working, and no incentive for the client to go out and search for work. There is nothing but mixed messages that do nothing but add to client confusion.

In meeting with disabled organizations recently, our caucus understands that certain prescription drugs for disabled clients are no longer being covered under this prescription plan. I don't know what is happening there, but the calls are increasing. These are drugs that are very important to disabled persons, probably even to their life. Drugs such as antidepressants, anti-psychotic prescriptions are now no longer being covered for clients with disabilities.

Mr. Speaker, and to all members of the government, these are the very drugs that will ensure that disabled clients will be able to make a meaningful contribution to the workplace. It is important for their life, it is important for their stability, it is important for their families. Without these drugs, not only will clients become demoralized and unproductive, other employees will be impacted negatively as well. There is no question that those who are disabled want to make a contribution, that is not the issue. Unfortunately, they are unable to do so without the supports, one of which would be these types of medications. So the cycle continues, and the stigma against mental illnesses remain and are in force, in force due to the short-sighted programs of this government.

We have seen a government that decides the first action would be to cut benefits. As I mentioned previously, there is probably no one in the Legislature who would disagree that meaningful welfare reform that would make sense, welfare reform that keeps our most vulnerable in our society, the disabled persons, is needed. To date, we have seen a veiled attack on those most vulnerable in our society, in order to gain some popularity in opinion polls. This is very popular in some sectors, people who don't stop to think, who don't put a human face on those with particular disabilities and special needs. It is very popular. It is very popular to kick those people.

It is incumbent upon all of us on this side of the Legislature to look at these changes, to show exactly what is going to be beneficial and what is going to be harmful and what changes will be required if the bill is really going to have the effect that the minister says it will. For all members of this government, it is incumbent upon all of you, to reflect on all sides of the debate to ensure that what is being established as welfare reform just does that,

[Page 7600]

reforms the system for the better. That is what we started out to do several years ago as a government, Mr. Speaker, and has resulted in this bill. It is so crucial that the reform makes things better.

Motives are very powerful things. If the government's motives are well intentioned, the right thing will be done. If your motives for changing the system are to improve your popularity, which is not riding terribly high in the polls at this juncture, or to improve the government's bottom line to keep some of your election promises, if this is going to be at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society - and I speak of our disabled persons - then society as a whole will lose. We all will be losers. Those of us in this Legislature and all Nova Scotians will be the less for it.

In examining the bill, I recall following with interest the agenda of the Harris Government, about three years ago, on this very issue: welfare reform. Perhaps the most startling difference between the legislation in Ontario as opposed to this bill, Bill No. 62, lies in the details, Mr. Speaker. When Bill No. 142 in Ontario, the Social Assistance Reform Act, was tabled, it contained many pages of details as to how the reform would be carried out in Ontario. At least the Harris Government had the wherewithal to bring the details forward with the bill. We have not seen that here.

Perhaps this government consulted with the Harris Government in Ontario in order to learn from their experience. Perhaps Premier Harris told Premier Hamm, don't tell the clients the details, and perhaps you will be able to get the legislation through without difficulty. Well, I assure you, it is not going to go without difficulty. We are going to watch this legislation very carefully, because we think this is probably the most important bill coming before the House this fall session.

Maybe Premier Harris advised Premier Hamm to not tell the people of Nova Scotia that real meaningful reform, reform that enables disabled persons to fully participate in the consultative process and in the process of studying policies, reform that will yield the results that are contained within your whereas clauses which state independence and self-sufficiency, including economic security through opportunities for employment, will cost a lot of money.

Without the infusion of a substantive amount of money, the results being proposed through this well-intentioned piece of legislation could yield a society that most people in Nova Scotia may find intolerable, even those who are now shouting to catch the fraud, get the single mothers off of social assistance, put a human face on it. Maybe those people who are saying that, even they will find intolerable what this government may do without a substantive amount of money in the system. It is not going to be cheap. The transition from social assistance to work is not cheap but the alternative is not acceptable either.

[Page 7601]

Let me tell you that every government, despite its political stripe, has always advocated getting people into real jobs. How a government does this and how punitive the measures may be if a person is unable to find employment or need extra supports will be a true indicator of just how serious this government is in their motive behind this bill, how they do that, how they build that infrastructure and what punitive measures they do, in fact, bring in.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Community Services said that Bill No. 62 is the most significant piece of legislation introduced by his department. It is important. It is too bad that such an important piece of legislation is only being released in a piecemeal fashion. It has become the policy of the secretive Tory Government to release important information in dribs and drabs only. We have seen three press conferences and the legislation and still it is even difficult to understand at this juncture.

Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker, will not see the regulations for Bill No. 62 until January 2001. Essentially, in this Legislature, we are being asked to debate Bill No. 62 in blind faith, faith that we can trust this government. That makes me uneasy. It was like the bogus budget that we saw in the spring. We do not have enough information or the proper data in order to make informed decisions on this bill. Like the budget, we are being asked to vote before we have a chance to examine the complete picture. Again the Opposition is being forced to ferret out the details because the details are certainly not present in this bill and that would be an understatement.

The philosophy behind Bill No. 62 is based on a Conservative belief that everyone should be required to pay their own way. This belief is popular with some voters, as Mike Harris has proved in Ontario. The title of Bill No. 62, Mr. Speaker, has a lofty ring to it, An Act to Encourage the Attainment of Independence and Self-sufficiency. It is a grand title but you can't judge a book by its cover. It is too bad the reality of Bill No. 62 does not live up to the title. The title is the grandest part of the bill.

In looking at the employment plan, which is crucial, there are serious concerns about the requirements to develop this employment plan. What should such a plan look like? How will it be developed? Has the Minister of Community Services set targets for getting people off social assistance? Are there targets? How will we know if these changes are a success or will they be a failure? Development of an employment plan for each and every person on social assistance is a way of looking at the problem on an individual one-by-one basis. This may be effective but what about looking at poverty as a provincial problem? Changes to social assistance in Bill No. 62 seem to ignore the big picture of poverty. We can't expect everyone on social assistance to achieve self-sufficiency until we address the bigger problems associated with poverty.

Developing an employment plan for each and every person on social assistance puts an incredible burden on overworked caseworkers. People on social assistance already complain that they do not get enough time with their caseworkers as it is. We heard in the

[Page 7602]

Red Chamber the other day, someone on social assistance had not spoken with their caseworker in two years and we know from our phone calls that this is not just an isolated situation. These caseworkers are hard-working professionals and they do struggle to do the best job they can with limited resources. Are those resources going to be there to meet their increased demands and the changing role of the caseworker? Now the Tories are piling up extra responsibility without first consulting with the caseworkers. That is what we are hearing, Mr. Speaker. Maybe the minister can comment on that later. This is unreasonable and it is an unrealistic burden to put on the caseworkers.

[5:30 p.m.]

This is what we have learned that Mike Harris did in Ontario, and it was a failure. In Ontario, there never was a clear outline about what qualifies as a job, what is a job. Caseworkers are now expected to become employment counsellors. They are expected to become experts at labour market research and experts in job placement. To date, caseworkers have been in the dark concerning these massive changes. That is the information we have.

These caseworkers are now getting calls from their worried clients, but they don't yet have the answers. There will be no answers until January 2001. On Page 23 of the Tory blue book, it says the government will, "Ensure that front-line Community Service workers are fully briefed on all relevant changes to government policies and procedures . . ." They are being called upon to explain the changes. It is our understanding, our belief, perhaps it is not true, and so the minister could address that, that they are not qualified to make comments on those changes.

I believe this is obviously a broken promise, since front-line Community Services workers were not consulted about these changes. The minister said in the House that the August 1, 2001 implementation date will allow plenty of time for consultation. That will be encouraging. I am sure the groups, coalitions and others addressing the issues of poverty will be pleased to hear that, because they have not been granted consultation to date to have input into Bill No. 62, with this grand title and little substance. Even with that, they have not been allowed consultation.

However, that consultation taking place will be after the fact. The regulations come out and the consultation will be after the fact. That is not meaningful consultation because the Community Services employees will have no say in the process. How will these employer plans be developed? What model will be used and how will they be evaluated? Perhaps some of that could have been hinted at, at least, or spelled out a bit in this bill, Mr. Speaker, and then we could have more meaningful debate. This is a crucial issue, whether these employment plans are realistic and this includes almost all persons on social assistance, I would say, who are able to be off that assistance and they want to be working. So how can these employment plans be individualized and how can those employment counsellors

[Page 7603]

facilitate that transition, what model, and how will they be evaluated? Those are very important.

There has been very little information released about these employment plans, and this is crucial. For instance, we don't know what penalty a person will suffer if they fail to develop an employment plan, or the punitive nature. We see some of the punitive aspects spelled out in Clause 19 and other areas. Also, what penalties are there if someone fails to follow this plan? What is a job? That is a question that I asked earlier. It is impossible to intelligently debate Bill No. 62 until we see the regulations. There are too many unanswered questions in Bill No. 62 regarding the impact of that legislation. We don't have enough information to evaluate it.

For instance, what qualifies as a job under these new changes? This was a huge problem when Mike Harris in Ontario tried to implement workfare in Ontario. In Ontario those on welfare were expected to do volunteer work. Does holding the door open for a senior citizen qualify as volunteer work? To be realistic, the only type of job someone just coming out of social assistance can expect to get is a job that pays only minimum wage, particularly if there are no effective training programs to carry them beyond that initial minimum wage job. Unless the government is prepared to pay millions for education and training programs, low paying, part-time jobs are all that some people on social assistance can expect. These are the same jobs, Mr. Speaker, that our young people and university students depend on. Young people need these jobs to help pay for their education.

Surely we know that. That is obvious. Forcing people on social assistance to get low-paying jobs will even displace these young workers. Without these jobs, young people may not be able to afford more education, will not have the training for higher-paying jobs. The changes for the Social Assistance Act could actually make the cycle of poverty worse, and the cycle goes on and on.

Regarding the $200 million reinvestment. The minister said these changes represent a reinvestment of $20 million from within the Community Services budget, so in reality there is no new money being spent to develop this new system. This grand title really is shallow, and there is no new money being spent or to make sure that these changes are implemented properly. It costs money to transition programs. The reinvestment means that $20 million is being cut from other areas of the Community Services budget. That is the reinvestment within that budget. What programs will we see, the impacts of these cuts? We have already seen big cuts to social assistance in the spring budget.

This government, Mr. Speaker, made a promise to eliminate the clawback on the National Child Tax Benefit. However, the integrated child benefit only passes along any future increases to the National Child Tax Benefit and, therefore, is another broken promise. There is no guarantee that passing along this funding will directly help children. This is a challenge to directly have assistance in any programs impacting directly on children.

[Page 7604]

Our previous Liberal Government made sure that this money went to programs that would directly help children. Changes to child benefits for low-income families and those on social assistance sound positive on the surface, but will need further study. It will be well over a full year before these changes will take place and we can assess their real impact. The impact of these changes on children may be negligible because the government has already cut social assistance benefits.

According to Pauline Raven, coordinator of the Annapolis Valley-Hants Community Action Program for Children, a major drawback of the changes in the child benefit is the $1,600 cap. She says this would actually reduce the amount that would be available for new children coming to the system. On a case-by-case, these changes will only help a minority of children in low-income families.

Mr. Speaker, earlier I spoke about the concern of the role of the private sector. What is the role of the private sector? Bill No. 62 puts a lot of faith in the economy and the private sector. There is a large assumption that the private sector will be able to handle the influx of people into the workforce. I mentioned earlier the competition even for those low-paying jobs.

When the minister introduced these changes, he stated repeatedly that the Nova Scotia economy was doing well now and thus would be able to accommodate the influx of workers. It is doing well. As Liberals we can take pride in the fact that Nova Scotia is enjoying a good economy, but history tells us the economy seems to suffer after a few years of Progressive Conservative rule. Tory times are hard times.

How will these changes work if the economy does stall? What back-up call does the minister have just in case we see an economic downturn in Nova Scotia? It is important that this Tory Government consult with business in order to find out the needs of the job market, that we have a system in place to transition persons from social assistance into meaningful jobs.

Developing an economy plan is useless until research is done in the job market. The job market is constantly changing, so this type of research is an ongoing process and a full-time job for several people. This Tory Government has done very little in the way of job creation in Nova Scotia. According to The Globe and Mail Report on Business, Nova Scotia has dropped in the ranking of Canadian provinces in regard to economic growth. Under our government, Nova Scotia ranked second or third. Can we expect people on social assistance to become self-sufficient if all they can expect are low-paying, part-time jobs? All of this, this dropping of the Nova Scotia status is happening at a time of high employment in communities like Halifax-Dartmouth and yet we see that the concerns of Nova Scotians throughout the province are not being addressed and we are slipping behind. You can see that mood change, you could see that mood change last spring, I felt there was a distinct

[Page 7605]

change. Although in many areas, many people are better off now than they have been for some time.

There are changes, but that is the scene that changes, so the programs that we see here and the programs that are being addressed by this fine sounding bill to social assistance, the programs must be flexible, they must be clearly understood by the clients they are serving, by those caseworkers who are administering the plan, but more importantly, must be understood by this minister and his government.

Many of the jobs available to those just coming off social assistance will be low paying with no benefits and little room for promotion. Where are the mechanisms to make sure that any employment plan guarantees a fulfilling job with opportunities for growth and advancement? Is that too much to hope for? Can one dream for that? Certainly we know they have people with great abilities there, it is a matter of tapping and supporting that and having meaningful programs. We will not know that until we see the regulations and, more importantly, a step beyond the regulations as to how in the field and in our communities those regulations will be interpreted and the policies that will govern them.

How can we guarantee the jobs will provide necessary life skills and work experience? Bill No. 62 is primarily focused on getting people back to work, but what about those who can't work or have little chance of finding a meaningful job? These changes in social assistance are so centred on getting people back to work that they ignore those who truly depend on social assistance. Even the harshest critic and the meanest person out there criticizing those on social assistance would have to agree, even the strong right-wingers would have to agree, that there are those who really, truly do depend on social assistance.

We feel that Bill No. 62 is job specific, that not everyone is able to work. There is a percentage of the population and that is a given, so we are creating a program that is work centred and will no longer address the needs of those who must stay on social assistance through no fault of their own.

Someone mentioned earlier, I think in a resolution, about Nova Scotia's two economies and it has been said that any major policy changes must take into account the fact that Nova Scotia has two economies - metro Halifax-Dartmouth and the rest of the province, generally speaking.

Since we have no details here within Bill No. 62, we cannot now determine if it addresses these important realities. Is that part of what we will see in regulations? For instance, how do these social assistance changes deal with people in areas of high chronic unemployment? In industrial Cape Breton, people on social assistance cannot be expected to have the same success rate at finding a job as you might expect someone looking for work in the Burnside Industrial Park in Dartmouth or Bayer's Lake.

[Page 7606]

Yet, Bill No. 62 expects people on social assistance to continue to look for and to find work, that is what the bill is saying. If not, they will be cut off social assistance. Is that really what the minister is saying? Is that what the intent is? What training programs or job creation programs is this Tory Government putting in place in areas like Cape Breton? What are they putting in place for Digby, an isolated community? Digby Neck, Digby community, or along the Eastern Shore, they have seen the fishery collapse and not significantly return?

People in rural communities also have different transportation needs than those in the minister's riding of Bedford. A $1 million price tag of moving the new jail out of Bedford could have provided a lot of support to single mothers, but that is an aside and I don't want to follow the rabbit tracks or the train tracks, whatever you might want to refer to that. The Minister of Health perks up when he hears $1 million. He would like to have a little bit, but you could fix up the Tatamagouche area for $100,000, but then I digress.

[5:45 p.m.]

People with disabilities also have little or no access to public transportation in rural areas. In rural areas it is particular devastating for those with mobility issues and here in metro, even though the government has put money in for adequate transportation for those persons with disabilities, particularly wheelchairs. It is a challenge at the best of times and that is a debate for another day, but it is all an integral part of what we are discussing here today in Bill No. 62 because these are the persons who will be impacted by this punitive legislation. Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend you on your distinguished appearance in the Chair this evening as a colleague of the Liberal caucus. (Applause)

Healthy child development. I mentioned earlier my concerns about programs for children and how difficult it is actually to get dollars directly into children's programs; nutrition, shelter, personal safety, literacy issues, those types of programs that impact in a positive way directly to children not only of school age, but in the early stages of development.

In February the federal Liberal Government, Mr. Speaker, made a bold commitment to healthy child development by extending parental leave from six months to one full year. I am glad that this Tory Government finally followed the lead of the visionary federal Liberal Government and made similar changes to labour standards here in Nova Scotia by legislation that was introduced and debated here in the House of Assembly on Friday. Allowing the parent to stay home with a new child through these measures recognizes the importance of family and the crucial development stages of a newborn infant and child.

Unfortunately, the positive move by the federal Liberal Government is compromised by the changes proposed in Bill No. 62. Forcing new parents into the workplace does not take into account the needs of healthy child development. In the Tory plan single people on social assistance will be the only group in society denied the choice to stay home and raise their

[Page 7607]

children. Is that true? Am I mistaken on that as to how I am reading this legislation? Will those persons, those mothers on social assistance, will they be denied the choice that we have just extended to other working mothers in Nova Scotia, working parents, the choice to stay home and raise their children?

That is certainly a concern that we have when we look at this legislation, Mr. Speaker. It is why we had some reservations on Friday. Day care, the years of day care, you can argue day care is a major issue. It is a critical issue. It is a fact of life, it is a given. It is a crucial issue. It is critical given the large number of single parents with children who receive benefits. The legislation increases the day-care allowance to a maximum of $400 per month. Parents who are forced to get a job must then seek subsidized space or find another child care option and that is what a lot of people find are the options, not quality child care.

While these changes to social assistance do make allowances for child care, however, are there enough subsidized day-care spaces to meet the need? What I am hearing from persons involved in child care is the real cry for the infrastructure, the supports within child care to make that infrastructure that supports our child care system sustainable and viable and functioning to meet the needs of children, the children that they are serving now, Mr. Speaker.

So, are there enough subsidized spaces? How will the minister address that? Does he have a commitment? Will he be able to compete for the federal monies that are coming? Will they go to Health, will they go to Community Services, will they go to children? Will they go to children under Health or will they go to children under Community Services? Those are things we will be watching for because we would like to know where that extra federal money is going because all we have heard is poor-mouthing the federal government on new monies.

Let's take a look at child care. I know there are some persons who feel that that is a luxury, but ladies and gentlemen, members of the Legislature, that it is not a luxury; it is a given. It is a fact of life and children, whose mothers are working in the workplace, will be looked after by someone and we have a fair say on what that child care system will look like and how sustainable it will be and how it will meet the needs in the early social and educational development of our children. This is all crucial here, Mr. Speaker, particularly when we are talking about vulnerable families, families that have been forced on social assistance and find themselves perhaps deserted, perhaps single mothers who are deserted. That is the issue here.

The Tories followed the lead set by the previous Liberal Government by increasing the number of subsidized day-care spaces in Nova Scotia and 100 new spaces were created this year. I compliment the minister for that. However, these cases are supported to help parents get back to the workforce where there is nowhere near enough to meet the current need let

[Page 7608]

alone meet the need created by the new changes to social assistance. So we have an increased demand.

Where are the plans for this? Where will this be spelled out, Mr. Speaker? If the initiative is that these persons on social assistance are required to return to work, where are the extra child care spaces coming from? Will the spring budget be spelling this out or will we know before?

If the changes proposed in Bill No. 62 are successful, it will greatly increase the demand in subsidized day care without a corresponding increase in spaces. That is why we say piecemeal because this is very crucial. The bill cannot be silent on these matters and these are not spelled out. The problem of sufficient day-care spaces also ignores the fact that Nova Scotia has two economies. The needs of a working rural parent in Nova Scotia will be different than the needs of a working parent in the metro area. We mentioned transportation. We mentioned access to child care, the cost of work. Those two items alone are significant.

As well, many non-profit agencies, like the Boys and Girls Club, for instance, operate in the metro area. There are some choices. If you are lucky, you are going to get a place there, in a quality child care facility. These non-profit agencies will certainly see an explosion in their membership if single parents are forced into the workplace.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am listening with a lot of interest to the member's speech and I am just wondering if he would entertain a brief question.

DR. SMITH: How much time do I have left? (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member was asked if he would entertain a question.

DR. SMITH: Before I responded, I wanted to know how much time I had left, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: You have until 6:10 p.m.

DR. SMITH: Yes, I will entertain a question, Mr. Speaker.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for taking a brief question. I was just listening to the member, and he was pointing out - quite correctly, I believe - a lot of the uncertainties, a lot of things that we don't know yet. I am wondering if he believes that the progress on this bill might be enhanced if it was suspended for a number of months for the government to have a chance to bring forward the regulations, and so on, to put them on the table so that we could look at the regulations and see what they are actually proposing along with the piece of legislation?

[Page 7609]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have met with various groups and the conclusion that we have come to as a caucus - and as Caucus Chair I guess I have some authority to speak on behalf of our caucus, other members may want to address this, I know everyone wants to speak - our commitment is to bring our concerns to the Legislature, to cooperate with the government where we see there are positive initiatives. As I said, a bill like this, bringing a single-tier system of social assistance in Nova Scotia to fruition, we are seeing that, and we want to support that aspect of it, but we also want to bring our concerns from every region of the province that we represent, and bring them here to the House of Assembly and have debate.

We want to see this bill go to the Law Amendments Committee, where groups will finally have a chance to speak to the legislation. There are groups in Nova Scotia, many of the agencies, non-profit organizations and others with real concerns and a genuine concern for those persons with disabilities and children, particularly; they have not had the opportunity to address this legislation. To deny this and have this go along in a month's time, several months or six months or wait until the spring, I think that is a choice that the honourable member wants to pursue, he can, in due course, bring that before the House, and then that will be dealt with by members of this Legislature.

Our commitment is to have substantive debate on this, not to filibuster, to bring our genuine concerns from our communities, bring them before the House, before the people of Nova Scotia, to have the Law Amendments Committee process, to encourage all of those who haven't had the chance, that this government has bypassed and overlooked, even though they are quite legitimate, real concerns, that they will come to the Law Amendments Committee, and then they will deal with that. How we vote on this bill at the end of the day will be determined by our caucus decision at that time. If I am out of order my colleagues . . . (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, that is my answer to the honourable member. It is a bit longer than the question, but I think he has the gist of what I am trying to say. We are speaking in terms of child care being a crucial part of the support services of this bill that are lacking and not spelled out. I think the honourable member has a good point on his intervention, whether this bill is just turfed or not, you can debate that. I expect that to be popular in some areas. There are also people out there who want to see this system fair and they want to see it working. If it is good, we will support it, and if it is not, then at the end of the day we will voice our opinion there.

This is a majority government. This government can do pretty well anything they want within the rules of the British parliamentary system, and we respect that. I will move from that response and try to use the rest of my time, probably not the full amount of time, to bring some of the concerns from our caucus and from my community that I represent, Dartmouth East. We speak in terms of the non-profit agencies that do offer child care programs, such as the Boys and Girls Club in east Dartmouth and other communities, they will see an

[Page 7610]

explosion. I guess this is the issue that we have concerns about. If all of these tens of thousands of people will be moving off of social assistance, as the minister is saying, it tends to be too glib, and it seems to be missing a point there somewhere. Where are the building blocks of that program that is going to address these particular issues?

I mentioned the issue of caseworkers, and their job as employment counsellors, the training that they will need. To take social workers and have them as job counsellors, that really just doesn't happen overnight. These are experts in the field, or at least they should be. The challenge of child care is another major issue. I think before we support this legislation, at the end, we will want to know some of those answers. Perhaps we will get them from the Law Amendments Committee, and from other debates in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

Many Boys and Girls Clubs, as you know, have morning programs that assist young children in social skills in other areas, however, these are not day-long programs. How will the funding be increased to deal with the changes? Will the Dartmouth Boys and Girls Clubs' programs be doubled or tripled, perhaps, or will we see a downloading? This is our concern, will we see a downloading on non-profit organizations that do provide these services? They have absorbed and they have absorbed. I feel that they are beyond the breaking point and how they continue in business and maintain their programs the way they do, just continually amazes me every time I attend an annual meeting of some group like the Boys and Girls Club and other programs.

[6:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I will mention the Ontario experience of workfare to some extent. In Ontario, Mike Harris used workfare to pit one segment of society against the other. That is what I think is happening here. It is very popular to be punitive and penalize those on social assistance. There is a whole constituency out there of people who think that is really great sport. Well, it is sick, because we pick on vulnerable people. We need a pecking order it seems in our society and this Tory Government caters to that. The Harris Government did. The Minister of Finance can wipe the smirk - there he did, thank you - I was just going to say I am sure I would find no job in being punitive on those people in greatest need and vulnerable people in our society.

This is very similar to the anti-Cape Breton policy the Tories used to win seats here on the mainland. We saw the famous card from the Halifax member that read close Sysco and open hospital beds in Halifax. The honourable member just arrived. I didn't mean to be speaking of her behind her back and now I can address her to her face. (Interruptions) We saw that in the Harris Government, pit one segment of society against another. I think the famous one was also to recommend tests for women on social assistance to see if they were taking Valium or not, supposedly this was a bad thing. They were abusing Valium and if they

[Page 7611]

got off Valium then they would get off social assistance or there was some confused policy or logic there somewhere in the Harris thing.

We seem to be sort of copying this. Is this what we are doing here, pitting one segment of Nova Scotia against another; Halifax-Dartmouth-Bedford against rural Nova Scotia? Some of those communities against industrial Cape Breton, Digby, Shelburne, high unemployment areas?

Workfare is very popular in Ontario with those who believe that the poor should be blamed for the situation they are in and should be punished. Workfare promotes the belief that the unemployed are lazy and they do not want to work. We hear that. There is a danger that Bill No. 62 will promote those same feelings and that is a concern of our Liberal caucus.

Like Ontario, Quebec and Alberta have experimented with workfare-type programs. Studies show that workfare fails to help people find permanent jobs that pay more than minimum wage. It actually hinders them, because they don't have the lack of programs. They put in punitive measures, they try to make the transition off social assistance and find themselves in low-paying jobs and the cycle of poverty just keeps going around and around and around, therefore it does nothing to fix the problems of poverty. Statistics Canada shows that the number of single parents in Alberta living below the poverty line increased from 5 per cent in 1993 to 17 per cent in 1995 after the implementation of workfare. Workfare does not reduce unemployment or create jobs. Workfare creates a large pool of cheap labour.

Research on employment outcomes for work for welfare programs in the United States shows that they have a terrible record in helping people get off welfare for work. In West Virginia, workfare resulted in no improvement in the participants' chances of employment over 15 months. No improvement in chances of being employed after 21 months and no increase in earnings over a 15 month period.

Programs that focused on rapid re-employment, like Ontario workfare, are only useful for people who face few, if any, barriers to work. Increasingly, the population on social assistance in Ontario - and I believe you could argue strongly - in Nova Scotia, face far greater barriers. Single parents with child care needs and people with limited skills and education. In Ontario, I think it is fair to say, Mr. Speaker, that workfare can be considered a failure. No municipality could meet the unrealistic goals of workfare. Since we don't know the goals for Nova Scotia yet, how will we know if it is successful or not and how can we predict? What are the targets? What are the goals? In Ontario, it was found that it took too many resources and too much work to facilitate the placement of people in jobs. How are we going to avoid similar problems here in Nova Scotia?

Any success claimed by Mike Harris is only because some municipalities work within their communities to address the needs of people in their local communities. That is what we have moved away from, we have moved from the two-tier system into a single-tier,

[Page 7612]

provincially-driven system in cooperation with the three levels of government. Our information is, and we have discussed this with people who worked in that system in Ontario, that the only places that did have success in any of these programs were when the municipalities themselves were rich enough or had the resources or the will to address the programs, to build an infrastructure of a program that was realistic, to meet the needs of those persons. In Nova Scotia, there does not seem to be a community-based approach to the changes proposed in Bill No. 62. This is a provincially-driven system.

The Tories are ignoring the important theory in clinical psychology with Bill No. 62. Bill No. 62 is putting the cart before the horse. The Tories are trying to force people to become self-sufficient (Interruption) before they have satisfied the basic needs and the safety needs. Many people, Mr. Speaker, on social assistance do not feel that their basic needs are being met. The core services the minister speaks of being reduced, but we are going to top it up, we are going to do this. This is not clear. Is this discretion? Who has that discretion? Who determines case by case by case what those special needs are beyond those core services that we have seen reduced.

Is it any wonder, Mr. Speaker, that many people on social assistance do not feel that their basic needs are being met. We are talking about children here. We are talking about families with children. Basic needs are not being met, of shelter, nutrition, literacy and certainly and probably most importantly, that of personal safety. This has an impact on self-esteem. We speak a lot about self- esteem. The minister refers to that. It prevents them from becoming self-sufficient.

Mr. Speaker, that will conclude my comments on Bill No. 62. I will return to debate on another date, and I will leave the floor to the other honourable members. I want to thank you for the time I have used just within a few seconds of my allotted time, but we do want to see meaningful debate on this. We have grave concerns. I just hope and pray that there is more to this bill, that there is substantive program support, infrastructure for child care, transition to work into meaningful jobs, and that this is not a Mike Harris punitive-get them off social assistance, punish those people that are vulnerable and in need. If it is, we will hold this government accountable, and they will have to answer to the people of Nova Scotia. I thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, it is with mixed feelings that I stand and talk on Bill No. 62. As the minister has spoken about in the past year, as the member for Dartmouth East, the critic for the Liberals on Community Services has discussed, it is an important piece of legislation. In many ways the goals of it are noble and are important, and I don't think there is anyone in this House that would disagree. It is important that we give people the ability to move from welfare to work, for those who can, and treat with dignity those who cannot.

[Page 7613]

At the same time, it is with a sense of confusion and a sense of not really knowing where this government is going. The first thing that struck me when this bill came in, Mr. Speaker, when it was introduced, I got a copy of it down in the Uniacke Room when the minister gave his bill briefing, was how thin it was. I believe it is only six or seven pages long, and it is only 25 or 30 sections. I thought, this is a bill that this minister touts will dramatically and permanently alter the relationship of people and the government and the assistance the government provides to them, and yet it is only 30 sections long.

I remember talking to some of the reporters afterwards and saying, where is all the substance? Where is all the information? This bill is lacking so much, as the member for Dartmouth East noted. Now we are told it is going to be in regulations, that the regulations are where all the details will be held as to exactly what this government intends to do, but that begs a question. Mr. Speaker, in the past week the Minister of Community Services has talked glowingly about how this government is committed to self-sufficiency amongst those on welfare, of moving people from welfare to work, but here is the problem. If he is that committed, if he truly believes that he wants, in the long term, to break the cycle of poverty, what is he hiding? What is he not willing to tell us? What is he not willing to put in this legislation that may throw into question his true commitment to moving people from welfare to work, his true commitment to breaking the poverty cycle, his true commitment to ensuring that people on assistance have an opportunity for long-term full employment?

What is this minister hiding, Mr. Speaker, in order for him to believe that it is more important for him to bury all the details of welfare reform in the regulations to be released in the new year instead of actually trying to provide us with enough details so that we can do our jobs and that the other members across the way can do their jobs to truly understand what is wrong with the system, how this government has a vision for changing it and how this will truly help all Nova Scotians? What is this minister hiding? That is what the issue is with regard to Bill No. 62. He is hiding a lot and he will not talk about it. All he will say is, with a lot of platitudes about lifelong learning, win-win, go forward, and every other buzzword you can find in the book, but this minister is unwilling to provide us with the details of how he will indeed reform welfare, and that is what is wrong with Bill No. 62 from the start. He is hiding so much and he expects us, in good faith, to pass Bill No. 62 and give him and his Cabinet members the permission to pass full rules and regulations with regard to how they will alter the welfare system without any of us having an opportunity to see it openly and in an accountable manner in this Legislature.

I was elected, and the other 51 members in this House were all elected, Mr. Speaker, to have an opportunity to comment on bills just like this. We hear on the doorstep during elections, on an ongoing basis, how welfare reform is necessary, how people, depending on how they look at it, want to see this changed, but what we see is a government that is hiding its welfare reform. It is unwilling to provide us with the details and is more concerned with trying to quietly and behind the curtain of government and the curtain of a Cabinet provide the details of regulation before any of us have an opportunity to comment. That is wrong. It

[Page 7614]

is wrong for the people of Nova Scotia, no matter they be middle class, working class, or whatever group they may feel they belong to, everyone deserves the right to know how this welfare reform is going to take place, and this government and this minister is hiding it. I don't know why, and I would like to know what he is actually hiding.

Let me take a little time to talk about the noble goal. I have said from the beginning when this government announced they wanted welfare reform, that welfare reform means only one thing, real reform means breaking the poverty cycle, Mr. Speaker. It means laying down the rules and laying down a vision that will say that in 10 years, 20 years, maybe it is 30 years, but laying a vision and a plan that says in that time-frame we will deal with welfare reform, we will ensure that people who can work are given the opportunity with long-term full employment, their children are given the services necessary to break that cycle of poverty.

I have not seen this from this government. This minister has again only talked about short-term solutions. He talks about welfare reform. He talks about the need for this bill to pass so that he can have an opportunity to allow people to be more self-sufficient, I guess is the buzzword that we hear from him on an ongoing basis, but breaking the poverty cycle, Mr. Speaker, is not something that can be done in one year or two years, or as much as this minister may not believe it, it cannot be done between now and the next election. It is something that will take 10 years to 20 years for this government to be able, or any government to be able to break that poverty cycle. It will not happen overnight.

As much as this minister may want to click his heels together and close his eyes and hope that it will, it will not. All he will do, Mr. Speaker, is pad his statistics. This minister will ensure that he will push people out the door. He will push people off welfare, either by recognizing them as unemployable and, therefore, being provided with a different type of assistance, and it won't be considered welfare, or by taking people and saying, you are employable, go out there and find work, good luck, see you later, and shut the door behind them. That is how you do it in the short term. That is how this government can and it will say that it is fixing the welfare problem. But, in fact, that is not how it is done. All it will lead to is people being more desperately in the cycle of poverty, a deepening cycle of poverty in which the people, the families, the children and the parents do not have an opportunity to break out of that. All we are doing is condemning the next generation and the generation after that and the generation after that to be poor. That is not what any government should have as its objective.

[6:15 p.m.]

Maybe that is not this minister's direct objective. That is what he will accomplish, Mr. Speaker, because is he only looking at in the short term, in the next two or three years, how he can get people off welfare. He is not concerned about a long-term plan of breaking the cycle of poverty and ensuring that the people of this province, whether they be middle class

[Page 7615]

or working class are not going to be putting money into welfare assistance to the rates they are now, but are going to be helping people, giving that hand up to ensure that they can find the long-term full employment.

Breaking the poverty cycle is so important. It is the only way in which we can ensure that we will help those who are trapped in poverty in the welfare system. But that is not what this government wants. I go back to my original question, what are they hiding? Where is their vision? Where is their vision for ensuring that we will eliminate poverty, or at least drastically reduce it within the next 10 or 20 years. You know, Mr. Speaker . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. There are a few too many conversations taking place in the Chamber, and I would appreciate it if the members would take them outside. (Applause) The honourable member for Eastern Passage has the floor.

MR. DEVEAUX: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I guess I just want to say that what is really clear is that this government had an opportunity to provide a clear vision as to how they would eliminate poverty.

Let's go back 20 years when people at the federal level anyway, probably at the provincial level as well, talked about eliminating poverty among seniors. We used to hear the stories, you know, seniors having to eat pet food and the problems they faced because we weren't providing them with sufficient assistance to ensure they could live a decent life with dignity once they retired. Our society recognized that was a problem. We took the bull by the horns and said, we are not going to allow that to happen. What happened, Mr. Speaker, was in the last 20 years, we have drastically reduced the number of senior citizens in this country who are living below the poverty line. That is important. It was an important and noble cause that was recognized, was dealt with, and our country is better off for it.

We need that same vision in Nova Scotia with regard to poverty. We need that same recognition that this is a problem not only for those who are poor, but for all Nova Scotians. It is a black eye for our province to have the highest rate of poverty amongst children. It is a black eye for our province to have so many people who live below the poverty line. If we truly are to be recognized as a caring and compassionate society, that will only happen when we set as one of our goals, like we set a goal of eliminating deficits, like we set a goal of eliminating debts, that we set a goal of eliminating poverty for families in this province.

One in four children in this province live in poverty, Mr. Speaker. Why can't we set a goal to say we will drastically reduce or eliminate that so all Nova Scotians have the opportunity to succeed. It is that simple. That is not what we have in this province right now, and that is what this minister is lacking, and that is what he is not saying when he talks about what he wants to do with welfare reform. He doesn't care about 20 years from now. He is only caring about between now and the next election. That is why he is hiding everything in the regulations, because as much as he talks about platitudes and the right words, this

[Page 7616]

minister, is actually saying that we don't care about the children of this province, and we don't care about families on welfare. We only care about padding our statistics. That is wrong. I would hope this minister wouldn't be hiding behind regulations, but would actually be trying to provide us with the details so we can see exactly what he wants to do and this government wants to do with regard to welfare reform.

Breaking the cycle of poverty is the only way that we can address welfare reform. So, I want to talk a bit about some of the statistics, and I think this has been tabled before, but I have it here, Mr. Speaker. It is the Nova Scotia Child Poverty Report Card which came out late 1999. There are interesting statistics that in 1989 Nova Scotia was right in the middle of this country with regard to child poverty; 16.5 per cent of all the children in this province lived below the poverty line. By 1997, that number had gone up to 22.4 per cent, made us one of the highest in Canada. That was an increase of 35.8 per cent from 1989.

That is incredible, that is a massive increase in the number of children living below the poverty line. That is a concern and it is clearly an alarm bell being set off with regard to how we are addressing the needs of Nova Scotia citizens. When a child lives below poverty, they are not necessarily getting the food they need, they are not getting the appropriate shelter, they are not getting the clothes, they are not getting the ability to learn.

Poverty is one of those things, in fact it is the thing, that is so crucial in determining whether a child will be able to succeed, will be able to get a good education, will be able to go out and get long-term, full employment. As we have seen with the parents of those children, as we have seen with their grandparents in some cases, it all starts not with education, but dealing with the issue of poverty, facing it head-on and recognizing that we must go beyond the rhetoric, we must go beyond platitudes, we must recognize that we must break that cycle.

Yes, it will take a long time, yes it will take more than the next election or the election after that and possibly the election after that, but that all of us - no matter which Party we belong to - must recognize that as a commitment, and continue to fight to break that cycle. In 10 or 20 or 30 years we can look back and say with pride, we had that opportunity, and that is what this minister is missing today. That is why he is hiding everything in the regulations, maybe because that isn't one of his goals, and that is a concern of this Party with regard to Bill No. 62.

I want to talk a bit about why Bill No. 62 and the principles, the few that are actually enunciated in the bill, are not going to break the cycle of poverty, but is going to deepen the cycle of poverty for Nova Scotia families. It is going to create a much more dangerous situation. It is not going to create hope, it is not going to create success, it is not going to create opportunity, it is going to create failure. It is going to create families that are not going to be able to survive, let alone succeed. It is going to create a situation in which this government is going to be pushing people from welfare into the workforce without the skills,

[Page 7617]

without the supports, without the ability to succeed - they are set up for failure - so when they come back and fail, this government will say the cupboard is bare, the door is closed, good luck, see you later. That is our concern with how this government is treating the people on welfare, that is our concern with this bill.

I would suggest that is why this minister is hiding everything in the regulations, because it is in the regulations we will see exactly how he defines eligibility, the definition of a person in need; those sorts of things are not talked about in Bill No. 62. Why? Because he wants to deal with them in regulations so we, the people who are elected to be accountable for passing these laws, and every Nova Scotian will see the agenda of this government. They are hiding something and I am going to talk a bit about what I think some of the things are that they are hiding.

Let's start with what I think is an average family, but let me back up. We had two systems in this province: we had social assistance and we had family benefits. No one would disagree that there was a bureaucracy created because of the two systems and a bureaucracy that must be addressed, no doubt. Under that old system, if you were on social assistance, you were the short-term assistance cases, people who needed assistance up to one year. Many of them might be considered employable and they were given help, support at times to help move them from social assistance back to the workforce. It was sort of the final catch-all for those.

I know from having worked with people who were dealing with the Worker's Compensation Board, people who, for whatever reason were being cut off by the Worker's Compensation Board. In many cases, they landed on social assistance because they needed that help. It was the only resort they had that could help them with those circumstances. We saw the same thing with employment insurance. When the other systems failed, when the other social security systems, whether it be worker's compensation, employment insurance, CPP or others were not there, social assistance would be there to allow people to be able in that short term to know that there would be money to allow them to survive and try to help them get back into the workforce. It is that simple.

Family benefits, Mr. Speaker, are predominately for two groups: single parents and the disabled. Now the disabled is a broad group, and we start with the single parents, particularly single mothers. So, from time to time, I may say single moms. I speak generally of single parents. There are 8,000 single mothers in this province on family benefits, with children, at least 8,000, and in theory probably more because some of them are going to have two or three kids.

So, clearly, Mr. Speaker, there is a situation where we are going to have 8,000 to 10,000 or more children who are on family benefits and their mothers, or possibly fathers, who are going to be in a situation where they are now going to be out of family benefits and into the joint system. I will talk about that more in a minute.

[Page 7618]

Then you have the people with disabilities. They range from people, whom I have noted, are on Workers' Compensation, and are unable to find work and are long-term unemployable. Those people would receive family benefits. To those who have severe intellectual, mental or physical disabilities - high needs, I guess is the term - that would then require this on an ongoing basis. Some of them are able to go out, in some way to be productive members of society, others need the dignity to know that they are going to have an income to allow them to be able to continue.

That is what we had, two systems. It was a problem; it needs to be addressed. So what are we going to have? Oh, I should say, under the Family Benefits Act, Mr. Speaker, single parents with children and those with disabilities were not expected to go out and look for work; they were recognized as being long-term cases in which people should not have to be looking for work. That was the policy of the Department of Community Services for decades. Now we are going to put the two systems together and we are going to start talking about the need for everyone to go out to look for work.

Anyone who is employable must go out and look for work. What does that mean? That means a lot of people who are on family benefits, Mr. Speaker, who are disabled, are going to be told that they have to go look for work now. They might be in situations where they are not able to because of their disabilities; maybe because there are not the technical aids. I will talk about that a little later as well, but we are putting them in a situation where those people who aren't severely disabled, but have disabilities, are going to be told to go out and look for work. We are going to have single moms and single parents who are also going to be told that they are going to have to go out and look for work. They are going out the door, pushed out from the system and told to go find a job.

Well, as I said at the beginning, no one would disagree that moving people from welfare to work is an appropriate goal. It is not the goal, it is how you do it and what is the end result. Are we setting these people up for failure and then allowing them to fail, or are we going to set them up for success? The difference is in how this government details how they will help these people. Again, I go back to the point, Mr. Speaker, that this government has not addressed the details; it has not provided us with the details. Again, I ask the question: what is this minister hiding? What is he trying to not let us see about how he will deal with single mothers and those with disabilities who are now going to be forced to go back into a workforce? What isn't he doing for them? What is he not prepared to do to ensure that they succeed? What is he hiding? Is he hiding the fact that he is setting them up for failure? It could very well be.

Let me talk specifically, Mr. Speaker, about what I think is a classic case, a single parent with two children. Under the current system, there are benefits that are being provided to them under the Family Benefits Act. If Bill No. 62 passes, we are going to be in a situation where those people are going to be under the new system, the one system for everyone. That single mother with two children will be earning $227 less a month than she was under the

[Page 7619]

old system. It is pretty hard to succeed when you have trouble surviving. It is pretty hard to succeed when you are telling those parents and those children and those families that they are not going to have the money to be able to survive. That is a lot of money for a family of three. That money won't be there for them, and that is a concern of our Party.

I think, if anything, if we are talking about welfare reform, it starts by securing the foundation in which these people, they have to have the confidence. They have to have the belief that they can go out there with confidence and look for work and know that is going to be an opportunity for them. Mr. Speaker, the problem is that we don't have that. We are telling them that $227 is going to be cut from their cheque and that they are going to be forced to go out and actually have to look for work. It is almost, sort of the carrot and the stick. Are we giving them a carrot, to say here are opportunities, go get them, or are we saying here is the stick, get out the door, and we are going to give you less money while you are getting out the door? That is a real concern.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The honourable member indicated some rates for a family with two children. He indicated that they would be receiving $236 a month less. That is incorrect. If the member will look at the integrated child benefit, he will see that that number as blended and it is simply not correct for him to alarm people on social assistance that way, I think is unfair. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I don't really think that qualifies as a point of order.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage has the floor.

[6:30 p.m.]

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, that sounds like a dispute between two members, but I will just say this, I will have no problem tabling the facts as we know them. I don't have them here with me, but I will table them so that it does give the minister an opportunity to learn about his own department's opportunities for actually slashing the rates and telling people how they are supposed to be kicked out the door. (Interruptions)

Well, I find it quite ironic that this government is saying, fess up, when you haven't even told us the details of the bill. You haven't even told us what is going to be in this legislation. You haven't told us what the regulations are going to be, yet they expect others to be able to come forward. It is the old ferreting out the information. It is the same way they treated the budget in the spring, let's talk about you go out and ferret this information out, and if you find out anything, let us know, and maybe we will challenge you on it or maybe we hope it will actually be buried amongst tons of information in other ways. That is not the way to run a government, and the Minister of Transportation should know that, he has been in government for years. He knows.

[Page 7620]

My original point was that we are cutting the rates while asking people to go out and look for work. I suggest to you, if we are serious about welfare reform, it starts with the stability to know that these people are going to be able to survive and then they can succeed. It is pretty hard to be looking for work when you are having trouble putting food on the table. That is the real problem with regard to how this government is treating the system.

Let me talk a little bit about the employment incentives. This is the crux of the problem. If we are serious about welfare reform, it should be that when someone leaves welfare and goes into the workforce, they should be able to get a job and know that that job is going to cover their basic needs. There are a lot of disincentives, and I will give credit to the minister, please put this on the record, that the minister with the Pharmacare extension into the workforce and with the child benefit potentially has eliminated some of the disincentives. I applaud them for those moves. Of course, until I read the regulations, who knows exactly, but for now I will say that those look like good moves.

The biggest disincentive for single mothers to move from welfare to work is child care. This government has thrown pennies into the well, asking that we fix child care, 50 new subsidized spaces, an extra $100 onto the cost of child care. But let's be clear, a mother of two is going to be paying over $1,000 a month, almost $1,100 a month, $541.25 to be exact, at a rate of $25 per day per child to put a child in day care. That may not even be a licensed day care that the minister seemed to be so keen on talking about last week during Question Period. Maybe that is not a licensed day care, maybe that is just a family friend or the neighbour down the street. If we are serious about really breaking the poverty cycle, it has to include an opportunity for those children to be put in places where they know they are going to get care, with a capital C.

This government just says, well, here is some money, go, find someplace for them, but $400 doesn't cover it, not for one child let alone two. At $25 a day, five days a week, for a whole month, that is $541.25. The problem is that $400 doesn't cover it. They are supposed to be taking money out of their regular income in order to cover that extra child care. I know others do it in society, I understand that, but this is the disincentive. Here is where it really gets down to the nub, someone making $11 an hour, if they went off welfare today and then went into a job at $11, they would make less in their pocket than if they stayed on welfare and didn't have to put their child in child care. The extra costs of child care are a major disincentive for parents and single mothers to go into the workforce. That is a problem.

Now this government has thrown out a couple of little points that they think will address it but they do not. If we are serious about breaking the poverty cycle, if we are serious about giving mothers and parents an opportunity to go back to work, and to get a job of long-term full employment, it must include a clear plan for child care; child care that is affordable, is adequate and ensures that those children are being well taken care of while also ensuring that the parents are able to get the education, to get the training and to be able to work.

[Page 7621]

That is the disincentive and this government has done nothing to address it and nothing to ensure that child care will be addressed. Think about that, $11 an hour would not cover the cost of actually staying on welfare. That is a real disincentive, Mr. Speaker, and if this government is serious about actually trying to address welfare to work, to help with welfare reform, it would only happen when they reflect on the fact that with the changes they are making in Bill No. 62 and with others, will not encourage someone to go back to work because they have too many costs with regard to child care and other things that will cost more than it would to go to work. That is the disincentive.

This government seems to be denying that. It seems to be burying its head in the sand and again, without the details of the regulations, we don't know what he is hiding. We don't know what this minister is trying to do, but I can suggest to you again, Mr. Speaker, that if this minister isn't willing to tell us how child care will be addressed, if this minister isn't willing to tell us how that major disincentive is going to be addressed, then I can suggest to you that the details in those regulations are not good. They are not helpful. They are going to push people out. They are going to put them into the workforce without adequate child care, without the supports to ensure that their children are going to be taken care of and they are going to be forced to go into jobs that do not cover the cost of child care.

That is not the way of welfare reform. Welfare reform means breaking the poverty cycle. It means taking a family and saying we will help you. You do have an opportunity to go back to work, but it will not happen and it cannot happen unless the supports are there. It is an investment. It is a short-term investment and by short-term, yes, maybe I mean 10 years or so. It is a short-term investment in families that in the long run pays off. It pays off with more people who are productive, more people who are in the workforce, more people who have long-term full employment.

The minister, I remember looking at his face last Wednesday at the press conference when a simple question was asked of him - how are you going to create long-term full employment for people on welfare? The look on his face said everything. He could not answer the question. He could not answer that question, Mr. Speaker, because he does not have an answer and the regulations he is hiding, the details he will not tell us, he is not able to give us an answer or to how he is going to find long-term full employment for the people on welfare. That is what we deserve to give them. Like every other citizen in Nova Scotia, everyone deserves long-term full employment and this minister isn't giving it to them and that is a problem and one that is hidden and that is why he is hiding it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Again, there are a few too many conversations in the Chamber. I would ask the members to take them outside so we can hear the member speaking. (Interruptions)

[Page 7622]

MR. DEVEAUX: That is the other part I was talking about, long-term full employment, Mr. Speaker. There are two components to that - training on the one side for those who are on welfare and on the other side, jobs. You can train someone for all the jobs they want, but if there are no jobs out there, what is the use? There are two components that this government again has failed to address. Yes, the minister has the platitudes, oh, it is all part of our economic development plan, a plan I am not sure I actually have seen or understood, but this government seems to have one. We live in a province with a very diverse economic economy. In the Halifax-Dartmouth area the unemployment rate is quite low right now. Employment is booming.

On the other hand, Mr. Speaker, you have situations in other parts of this province, including Cape Breton, where the unemployment rates - the actual unemployment rates when you include those on social assistance, because they are not included in the unemployment rates - could be as high as 30 per cent. Officially it is 17 per cent. What are we going to tell people on social assistance, people on family benefits, you are now going to be given training and go out to work? There are no jobs there. The government has to have a plan for creating jobs. It has to have a plan for ensuring that people are going to be able to get long-term full employment, not short-term contracts, not work that is minimum wage, not able to cover the cost of living, but work that is long-term full employment and provides an adequate standard of living.

That is what this government should be doing. If it is building a partnership with business and with people in this province, it must ensure that that includes a plan for job creation in those areas and economic development in those areas where we don't have it and those people are not going to be able to find the work.

The minister came out last week with an announcement at one of his press conferences, Mr. Speaker. He talked about all the things that will be changed. Everything was very specific: Pharmacare, 12 months' coverage; child benefit, a very detailed analysis of how much per year and per age. Then it came to job training - I don't have that page in front of me - and the minister talks in very broad and nebulous language. He says, we will work with some agencies to find ways of helping people. That is it. It is one of the key components to this entire project of moving people from welfare to work. He must ensure that there is a plan and a detail on how people will get training, and training that will ensure long-term full employment. It is not there.

It again goes back to my point that if this government is serious about breaking the poverty cycle, it starts with a long-term plan that includes how we create long-term full employment for all Nova Scotians, but particularly in the case of Bill No. 62, for those who are now on assistance. That is what is necessary. That is what the government hasn't done. I will say it again. The fact that they are not giving us the regulations says they are hiding something. They are hiding the fact that they don't have a plan. They are hiding the fact that they don't have details on how they will create long-term full employment, and that's the

[Page 7623]

problem with Bill No. 62. That is the reason we have concerns. He is hiding something, Mr. Speaker, and it is not good for the people of Nova Scotia.

I talked a little bit about child care earlier, and the fact that this government isn't providing enough money to cover even one child, let alone those families that have two or three or four. Mr. Speaker, let's talk about the other two components of child care that are very distressing. First of all, there are not enough spaces in Nova Scotia to cover the current demand for child care, particularly subsidized spaces; 2,480 subsidized child care spaces in Nova Scotia. The total number of low-income children in Nova Scotia under the age of seven is, get this, 17,500 children. Now a rough calculation, that would be seven times more than the current subsidized spaces that are available. How are we going to get all those children into child care? How are we going to be able to put them in a position where they are going to get the child care they need so that parents can go out and get work? Those are the details we don't have. Those are the details this minister is afraid to expose, and that is what he is hiding in those regulations he won't give us. That is the concern. It is crucial to this province.

It is crucial to everyone in this province that we know how he is going to deal with child care. There is a lack of spaces. Saying in the last budget there will be 50 more spaces, isn't good enough, Mr. Speaker. We need a plan that ensures that there are sufficient spaces for those moms to send their children when they have to go look for work. This minister doesn't have that plan. He doesn't have the details, or he is afraid to tell us what is in them.

Let's talk about the fact, and I had a recent opportunity to meet with child care connections, I think the member for Dartmouth East probably had a similar meeting. Mr. Speaker, with regard to the issue of one of the biggest reasons and one of the biggest problems we are going to face in child care in the next 10 years: a lack of workers. The member for Halifax Needham put a motion forward today on that very point, that unless we start to pay a decent wage to child care workers, they won't and they are not, sticking around. They are moving on to other work. They are moving on to other provinces where they pay better. We have a situation where we are desperately short of child care workers. If tomorrow this minister announced we are going to increase the number of spaces for child care, we are going to increase the amount of money to cover child care, we couldn't do it, because we don't have the ability to pay the salaries necessary for those workers to be able to do the job. It is one of the most important jobs.

Years ago we recognized the need that teachers be paid an adequate wage so that they can teach our children, and we respect their ability to do that. Well, the job of teaching children between the ages of zero and five is not only of parents but it is child care workers. We are demanding that women go out in the workforce, not only under Bill No. 62, but we have for generations. Yet we don't ensure that our children are being properly taken care of while we get them into that workforce. That is wrong, Mr. Speaker, and that is a problem. We are not reflecting and respecting those who do the work because we are not willing to pay them a decent salary to ensure that they can do the job and be able to stay around and make

[Page 7624]

a career out of it. That is a problem with this government. It is a problem with how they are treating child care.

As a little aside, tangentially related to this, this government and the federal government are signing agreements with regard to a national children's agenda. That national children's agenda, Mr. Speaker, is going to deal with a lot of things, potentially. It is not a lot of money. It is some money, though. My guess is $9 million over five years. The minister may know better. Yes, he is agreeing with me.

[6:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, there are going to be a lot of people demanding to know where that money goes. I would just suggest that, maybe, if we did something to build up the infrastructure of child care, we would recognize the long-term benefits of that. When children are properly taken care of, in cooperation with their parents, when we treat those workers with respect we can, in the end, ensure that those children are getting the basic needs that they need for education between the ages of zero and five. That makes them better able to do well in school, better able to learn, better able to be productive adults and, again, what does it do? It breaks the poverty cycle. It is one more component that this govenrment is not recognizing, is not reflecting on, but seems more concerned with ensuring that, in the short term, they get people off welfare, but, in the long term, they won't break the poverty cycle. They are going to deepen the family poverty cycle. That is why, again, this government is hiding the details. They are not allowing us to see what they are doing in those regulations because they are not addressing the real causes of poverty or they are not breaking that poverty cycle, they are just padding their statistics.

I want to talk a bit about the other group that is directly involved and is on family benefits, people with disabilities. They have two particular concerns, Mr. Speaker, ones that need to be addressed. But if we are serious about moving those who are unemployable into the workforce, two things need to be done: technical aids and affordable transportation. This minister has recognized the need for more money for transportation and I applaud that. In Halifax and in Cape Breton there is accessible transportation although there are issues with how that works. I will give you an example. The Access-A-Bus in Halifax, you need to book in advance and there is no guarantee they are going to show up.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is 72 hours.

MR. DEVEAUX: It is 72 hours, I am told. Mr. Speaker, that is a problem. In today's workforce, in the global economy, as we are told, people are going to have to work late sometimes. People are going to have to work overtime. People are going to have to be flexible in how they work or employers are going to say, that person is not for me. If we are serious about ensuring that those who have disabilities are able to work and be effective and productive members of the workforce, then we have to give them the flexibility to know that

[Page 7625]

they are going to be accessing transportation. Access-A-Bus is a good step, but it doesn't go far enough.

Let's talk about the Access Cabs. In Halifax, there are, I think, three or four or five cabs, minivans, that are used for people in wheelchairs and people with disabiities. Mr. Speaker, those people are not allowed to actually access those cabs after 6:00 p.m. or on weekends. Many workplaces are going to demand that people work late, are going to work weekends, shift work. We are going to be telling them, no, you won't have access to ability to get to work. That is a problem. It is one that, clearly, is not being addressed and one in which the details aren't here for this government to tell us how they will address access to transportation for those with disabilities.

Let's talk about technical aids. Let's be honest, Mr. Speaker. If we are going to move people from welfare to work, if there are people with disabilities who clearly want to work, one of the biggest barriers for them, like child care is for single moms, is technical aids, things that allow them to do their jobs, wheelchairs and other things like that that ensure they are able to get to work, have the freedom and mobility to do jobs and to also have a dignity and a way of life that most of us, in our own way, expect.

That is a problem and, again, this government has done nothing to recognize the need for technical aids, to recognize the need for this government to say, if we are serious about moving people from welfare to work, if there are people out there who are employable and we are going to help them find jobs, it is more than just pushing them out the door, it is about giving them the opportunity. If we are serious about breaking the poverty cycle, if we are serious about ensuring that those with disabilities - and, let's face it, there are much higher numbers of people with disabilities under the poverty line than people without - Mr. Speaker, we must recognize that they must have technical aids and accessible transportation to ensure they can break that poverty cycle and be able to get long-term full employment. It is another component, like child care, like job creation, like job training. They are all major components in ensuring that we are breaking that poverty cycle.

Guess what? This government says nothing on it, and they have not given us the regulations. They are hiding the fact that they don't have a clear plan for breaking the poverty cycle. They are hiding the fact that they do not have a plan for helping people beyond just getting them out the door. There has to be more. There has to be a clear ability for this government to say, we are going to break that poverty cycle, it is not going to happen overnight, but it starts by investing in certain things that help people. I don't see that. This minister is hiding his regulations because he knows that he does not have that vision and that plan to make sure it can be done.

Let's talk about the flip side of all this. This minister, last week, said - and he had the gall, quite frankly, to say it to a couple of assistance recipients, when they said, I haven't seen my worker in two years - everyone will meet with their caseworker and have a specialized,

[Page 7626]

personalized employment plan. Well, here is the problem, I heard one person the other day say there are nine employment counsellors for 8,000 people right now on social assistance in the metro area who are attempting to get employment plans made for them. Those are people on social assistance. We are going to bring 8,000 single mothers, we are going to bring 39,000 recipients into the workforce, and we are expecting those caseworkers to be able to say we are going to deal with that? That is appalling.

There is not a person in this province who would say that is a realistic plan, unless you expect one of two things, either you expect to hire a lot more caseworkers and employment counsellors to ensure that you are going to be able to address that, or - and here is the rub - you privatize and you say that we are going to take this out of the public system and, much like they did in Ontario, use private-sector-for-profit corporations to help us in some way. Of course, they will get a little cut of the money on the side, but we won't talk about that.

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that if we are serious, again, about breaking the poverty cycle, we need to have that support. The support starts with someone who, at the other end of the phone, is able to answer your questions, is able to help you, is able to sit down with you in a timely manner, not in six months or a year or two years but in a timely manner, and say, you want to work, we want to help you work, here is what we can do for you. It is not there. This government, on a shoestring budget, is trying to create a system that, quite frankly, requires so much more. It requires an investment in so much more, and that starts and finishes with workers who are able to answer when their phone rings, and be able to say, yes, I am here to help you and this is how we can help you.

There are so many issues around the ability for people on assistance to understand what options are out there for them, what is there for them to be able to say, yes, I understand what the options are for me and what the programs are. It is the worker who is that in-take, who is that liaison, who is able to give them that information. If they have to wait years, literally years, in order to get that information, then the system falls apart. The caseloads are huge, and the workers are stressed out, and no one wins.

Mr. Speaker, again, if we are serious about breaking the poverty cycle, if we are serious about ensuring that families don't go into deeper poverty but are actually helped to ensure that they have success and have opportunity, we have to ensure that the workers are there, not privatized, that is not an issue, we are wasting government money then, but in a public system with workers who know what they are doing and are able to help. I don't see that. Do you know why? Because I don't see the regulations. This minister is hiding them, and he isn't willing to tell us exactly how he ensures that there will be workers in place for all those who need them.

What does this mean? Well, I have tried to lay out a bit of my understanding. This minister has clearly made the decision, before he introduced this bill, to not give us any details. I have asked what he is hiding, and I have tried to explain what I think he is hiding

[Page 7627]

in this legislation, what he is hiding in the regulations. He is hiding the fact that they don't have proper child care; they are not providing enough money to ensure there is proper child care for children. They are hiding the fact that there aren't enough subsidized spaces for children, or that we are not paying our child care workers enough. He is hiding the fact that they have no plan for dealing with job training, to ensure that people have adequate skills to get long-term, full employment. He is hiding the fact they have no plan to deal with the need for real jobs, not short-term contracts or make-work projects, but real jobs throughout all of Nova Scotia so all recipients have an opportunity to work. He is hiding the fact that people with disabilities need special help, technical aids, accessible transportation. Mr. Speaker, he is hiding the fact that we don't have the caseworkers to do the job.

Those are major holes. In fact, I would say that the holes are bigger than the paper that this Bill No. 62 is written on. We have a situation in Bill No. 62 where the details aren't in place and clearly there are holes in this bill. If we are to create a safety net that ensures that people are able to go out and move from welfare to work, we can't have gaping holes in which they will fall through. We must ensure that there is a system in place. Yes, we divert our money from assistance to investment because that is exactly what it is. It is an investment in the future. It breaks that poverty cycle and ensures that more people are productive in society and their children have the resources to learn and the food to not be hungry at school so they can learn.

All of that plays in together. Those are the holes that are gaping in this. These are the holes that this government hasn't filled in and quite frankly, if they did fill them in we would see the regulations. But we don't see them. We see nothing and because of that, I have major concerns with how this government has introduced Bill No. 62 and why we can't as legislators, truly deal with it until we see those regulations and know exactly what is in them because that is where the details are. That is where we know what the plan is and that is where we can have an opportunity for public consultation to provide the details and the input to ensure those regulations do meet it.

Maybe in the end, this minister will stand up and say he believes that we do need to invest. But I go back to my original point: if he truly believed in investing, not a little, not in the short term, not to pad a statistic, but to break the poverty cycle, then that means he must be able to show us those regulations so that we can see exactly what he is trying to do. He is hiding something and I am concerned about that.

What does this mean for Nova Scotia? What will it mean? Well, it means that people on assistance are going to be told - particularly single moms, single parents and those on disability who are employable - you have to get off the system. You have to leave, you have to go find work. Maybe you have child care issues, then here is a few dollars, hopefully that will help out, but you have to deal with it. Job training? Well, we may have some sort of plan, but do you know what, just go out and look for work.

[Page 7628]

Here is the big concern that this is only going to deepen the poverty cycle. Without child care support, without technical aids, without job training, without job creation plans, we are setting these people up for failure and when they come back and say they failed, what are we going to do? Well, without the details of the regulations, I can't tell you, but I will speculate. I suggest that we are going to say no. You are not eligible for assistance because you can work.

This is the same problem we have had in Ontario, we have had in Alberta and other provinces. You can work, so go out there and find a job and the system is not there to help you. That is a problem, one that concerns me, my Party and it is one that concerns every Nova Scotian because then what happens? There isn't the assistance there, there isn't the help. Maybe they pay lip service to it, but there isn't the real help, the real support to ensure that they can get from welfare to work and all we are doing is pushing people out the door and setting them up for failure. Then when they come back and there is no income or very little income, what do we do?

Well, we are going to start talking about other means. I am sure this minister will start talking about charity and individuals and communities working together to ensure that those who aren't on assistance, who have been kicked off and are not allowed back on, are given some help somewhere, somehow.

That is not how our society has worked for 30, 40, 50, 60 years. For this government to turn around and say that is how it is going to work now dismisses the fact that there are not those family supports in all cases, or in many. There are not the community supports, there isn't the ability for our society to cope with people in those circumstances because that is what a government is for. It is a collective that literally collects taxes and then helps disburse them in a way to ensure that people have an opportunity, so that they don't fall through the cracks, so that there is some basic income for them, so that they can survive and yes, succeed.

[7:00 p.m.]

I don't see that. I don't see that in this government, I don't see it in the details, what little details they have given. They are hiding the fact that these people are going to be pushed out the door without proper supports and then told, don't come back. What will happen to them? No one knows. In Alberta you hear, here is a bus ticket, move to Vancouver. If anyone has been to Toronto, it used to be homelessness was a small problem with those who were deinstitutionalized, mainly. Now, Mr. Speaker, you see families, you see mothers, you see fathers, you see children who are homeless because the system is not there for them and they have been kicked off and told, don't come back. Are these the things we are going to see here? I don't know, because the minister is hiding the details. He is not telling us how he will ensure eligibility is not going to be taken away but will be guaranteed

[Page 7629]

for those, where in Cape Breton, there are no jobs, or maybe they are not employable but have been wrongly recognized as such in Halifax or in other areas.

Those are the concerns with this legislation, Mr. Speaker. This doesn't break the poverty cycle. It deepens poverty for families. This is not only important for those on assistance, it is important for the middle class as well. It is important for all Nova Scotians. Why? Because the money we might save now by booting people off the welfare system is only going to cost us later, in 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 years, when we don't break that cycle, and the next generation and the next generation and the next generation all come forward looking for assistance of some form or another, whether it is directly in government handouts or government assistance or whether it is in charities that we are all asked to donate to. We succeed as a province, we succeed as a people when we ensure that all Nova Scotians have the opportunity to succeed and when we create the jobs and create the opportunities for everyone to succeed. That is not in this bill. That is not going to happen overnight. It is a long-term plan.

This government doesn't have a long-term plan. This government doesn't have the ability or the desire to create a long-term plan. They are only interested in the short term of getting people off welfare. That will only cost everyone in the long run. That is why it is wrong. We must invest in the short term, Mr. Speaker, invest in our children, invest in our families, and in the long run all Nova Scotians will be better off. That is really what we should be doing. Isn't that what our purpose is here, to really try to reflect on the big picture and how we can ensure that all Nova Scotians will be better off with every decision we make? I would suggest to you that Bill No. 62 doesn't do that. It is a short-term savings of money. Yes, there might be an investment. As welfare roles are reduced in the short term there will be money saved, but it won't help break the poverty cycle and it won't help people move from welfare to work. It will only reduce the statistical number of people on welfare. It will only ensure that people are hidden somewhere else and are falling through the cracks.

Mr. Speaker, this minister, as I said all along through this discussion, is hiding something. Those regulations are not there. Those regulations that tell the detail are not in place. They need to be there. Without them it is pretty hard for us as a government and as a people and as an Opposition to be able to say, this is the right thing to do, this is the way we should go. Like in the spring, I have to ferret out, we all have to ferret out where this government is going. I have tried to lay out what I think is going to happen and what this government is doing, but we need those regulations to ensure it can be done, that it can be done properly, and that we have an opportunity to debate and to discuss.

The minister says those regulations won't be ready until January. What is really necessary is that we have an opportunity to look at those regulations, that the people of Nova Scotia, all Nova Scotians have an opportunity to look at those regulations and to see what is the intent and how we will proceed and what are in the details and how people are really going to be moved from welfare to work. This minister is hiding something, and until he is

[Page 7630]

willing to bring them out and show us and expose his real plan, we can't support this legislation. In fact, it is important that there be a delay so we do get a chance to see those regulations. That is going to take some time. That is going to take an opportunity for all of us to put this bill aside and take a look at those regulations so all of us have an opportunity to be consulted and to be able to see exactly where this government is going.

Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I move a second reading amendment to Bill No. 62, The Employment Support and Income Assistance Act:

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

Bill No. 62, The Employment Support and Income Assistance Act, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence".

I so move, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member please provide the Speaker with a copy of the amendment. Thank you.

Order, please. The motion is in order. Do we have further interventions on the amended motion?

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I wish to rise and make a number of interventions on this particular amendment to hoist for a six month period. Given that we just received that information, I think having listened to the minister's comments and listening to some of the remarks by the previous speakers, it would seem rather logical that a six month hoist does not seem all that unreasonable because of the lack of information that is now provided, but we are a reasonable and responsible Opposition. Perhaps the minister at some point through the course of the debate would be willing to provide that information. That is certainly an option that the government and the Minister of Community Services have at their disposal.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think anyone would deny the fact that when you have a system in place for any extended period of time, 20 years and 30 years, without any substantive change to adjust with the economic and social climate within a small province such as Nova Scotia, that certainly some adjustment and some reflection on making the legislation better for people who are in need and also to provide the right incentives to help people become self-sufficient, self-sustaining and to have that sense of independence and pride in the fact that they are, wherever possible, very productive and contributing citizens to our province but,

[Page 7631]

Mr. Speaker, not all Nova Scotians have that good fortune. Not all Nova Scotians have that good fortune.

We have the mentally challenged. We have the physically challenged. We have those who through no fault of their own lack the educational skills and in short they do not have the tools to be able to go and find a job, given the fact if they are lucky enough to find a job. So, Mr. Speaker, that plus the fact that the Minister of Community Services has refused upon questioning in this House, has refused through the extent of the debate to date, to provide some rather substantive information as to how this will impact all citizens, taxpayers, businesses, employees, unemployed and, in particular and most importantly, those individuals who through no fault of their own are forced to have to resort to collecting family benefits or some type of a social assistance source of income.

The minister, Mr. Speaker, has an excellent opportunity over the next six months to provide that information as to how this new integrated system that he is proposing will impact on all the stakeholders here in Nova Scotia. The Minister of Community Services has indicated or pledged to transfer, from various divisions within the Department of Community Services, some $20 million to move towards this new integrated process, so that people who are ill-equipped and not prepared to be able to move into a process, as the opportunity allows because of the structure in place, whether that be by design or no fault of their own, the inference by the minister, as he is creating a process that will allow them to move from the old system that doesn't work into the new system that does work.

Mr. Speaker, there is a fundamental flaw in that process. If they are going to take $20 million out and put it into this, what happens to all those individuals and those programs that are now in need of that $20 million? He has not identified what the impact will be. Let's draw an analogy, similar to what happened under the previous administration on the new health home care plan. Everybody in this House of Assembly and, I am sure, all Nova Scotians would agree, that moving towards the traditional application of health care in Nova Scotia to the system where we are looking at more home care because citizens, seniors and those who are sick and confined to their homes are better off by receiving health care in their home, where possible.

Mr. Speaker, I don't profess to be an expert in some of the medical and all the technical language, but just, certainly, looking at it from a layman's point of view, that was one of the mistakes, I believe, that was made under the previous administration. It established an excellent system to move from the traditional methodology of health care towards this integrated process where home care became a major component, but the dollars were not put in place to allow for that transition. That, I believe, was a mistake. Pilot projects were established, upon discovering that mistake, and then the realization of how important that process is and the need to ensure the funding for that transition be put in place. That is a similar, if not identical, type of error that would be committed should this process be put in place without providing the sufficient dollars. We are dealing with those who can least afford

[Page 7632]

to fend for themselves. We are dealing with children, in many cases; single parent families who have no means to go anywhere should the government, by the design of this legislation, decide that it wants to take that $20 million and embark upon this new program.

[7:15 p.m.]

So, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Community Services has an excellent opportunity over the next number of months, unless he and the government would like to table that information so as to allow the Opposition not to be forced into a position of trying to ferret it out and, thereby, having this unnecessary clash of ideologies and philosophies and arguments over whose figures are right and whose figures are wrong, while those who are suffering the most continue to suffer. That is an excellent opportunity that is certainly worth noting through the consideration of this hoist.

Mr. Speaker, let's go back to the Tory blue book because they always love to champion the blue book every time they feel that they are making some headway. It is no different with this piece of legislation than it is for anything else. On Page 23 of the Tory blue book the government states that it will, "Ensure that front-line Community Service workers are fully briefed on all relevant changes to government policies and procedures. . ." Well, irony. (Interruption) The Minister of Finance says, they will on August 1, 2001. But the big flaw in that is that is after the fact. If they are that valued to the Department of Community Services, why wouldn't the government involve them in the consultative process in designing a piece of legislation that would be second to none in this country. They won't do it because that is the heavy-handed, dictatorial fashion that some governments employ.

Mr. Speaker, this is most critical, and this is most critical to the value of this legislation because this hoist would certainly allow the Minister of Community Services to reflect on the transitional role and the responsibility that is being put on Community Services' caseworkers. Now bear in mind not all caseworkers are social workers but, that aside, the government is now asking these caseworkers and social workers to become employment counsellors.

Heaven forbid, Mr. Speaker; anyone who tries to deal with the Department of Employment and Immigration at the federal level would certainly realize that this initiative is rather bold. It sounds very ambitious and like it would really work, but the first day on the job would make people realize that all you are going to be doing is calling more telephone numbers and getting more recordings. You think it is tough for individuals as an MLA or a Cabinet Minister trying to deal with this bureaucratic red tape, think how those front-line workers are going to be and the position they are going to be put in given the fact that they have a rather substantive caseload. I believe the Minister of Community Services would readily agree it is substantive, but he has taken measures over the last year to reduce the caseload for each of these caseworkers by employing additional caseworkers, not all social workers, and that is the difference.

[Page 7633]

That is the difference because, Mr. Speaker, I am speaking from experience on this one. In one particular case the constituent, with several small children, who requires some assistance through the Department of Community Services on a shelter allowance and income support is finding that they are being advised by their caseworker to either meet certain criteria or they get nothing or to go and to find certain employment prospects without being given the tools to go do the job. If you cannot afford to buy enough fuel for your furnace and you don't have enough money to provide proper nutrition for your children, how would you be expected to travel to potential private employers 10 miles and 15 miles away when you don't have enough fuel for your automobile and there is no provision for that?

A lot of poor people - I am going to use that in the general sense of the word - would love to be able to go and try for those employment opportunities, but if they take that money out of their food budget, they do not get any more because they go and they try and the opportunity is not there. That is even more difficult, Mr. Speaker, in an economically tough area. I am sure it is the same in some areas of Pictou County. It is certainly that in some areas of Cape Breton County, Cumberland County, down the South Shore, where the wage scales in the southwestern part of the province are certainly not as high as other areas of the province, and ironic as this may seem, not as high as in some sectors of Cape Breton, where the wages would be much higher than the southwestern part of the province. These are documented facts, Mr. Speaker.

There is a fundamental flaw in the minister's legislation that has to be examined, and there is opportunity to reflect on that. There is opportunity to reflect on that over the next several months unless the minister is willing to put some substantive information before the House so all members can at least come to some reasoned conclusion as to whether this is not a harsh right-wing agenda just to try to reduce the financial burden on the provincial government at all costs.

Let's not forget that we just eliminated close to 900 jobs in the Public Service, and we haven't seen that master plan of program review. We still have the same amount of office space being rented in metro despite the fact that we have hundreds of jobs gone. Now if we have less employees, and we have all these (Interruption) Well, yes, some of these leases go back. I believe the Minister of Transportation and Public Works could certainly attest to that because he was part of a government that saw them put in place for a long, long time, so it is a cycle. It is the cycle of life. He is back. They are back, and there is an opportunity for him to do something good to make amends.

Mr. Speaker, here is an opportunity for the Minister of Community Services with his colleagues, whether it be the Minister responsible for Public Works, the Minister of Economic Development, the Minister of Health, because they are all, as he is proposing, integrated. If we are going to eliminate all those jobs and save all this money, certainly we could put $20 million extra as a transition to be able to cushion the blow. That is an excellent proposal, I believe. Then you have excellent evidence as to why you should do it, because

[Page 7634]

of the miss with the home care program. It was an excellent program, but that was one fundamental mistake. That created the crunch. I am sure the Minister of Health would certainly agree with that, but we tried to catch up with it as best we could given budgetary things. I am sure the Minister of Health would argue that he is doing the best that he can, but this is an excellent opportunity not to punish those who are least equipped to fend for themselves.

Mr. Speaker, of the total number of community service recipients here in Nova Scotia, we have the third highest in Canada, the highest percentage. I believe the Minister of Community Services would agree with that. I know I have the figures here somewhere. We have the third-highest rate in Canada of all 10 provinces. Now, there is a rather unique thing that is happening here. In order to alleviate some of the pressure from the Department of Community Services, because in this proposed legislation, there is provision for the Minister of Community Services to transfer some of this responsibility to what would appear to be third parties or possibly the private sector. Now I may be wrong on that, but I think it is Clause 23. This hasn't really been analysed and proper detail hasn't been provided for the Opposition Parties or indeed those stakeholders most affected, to really understand what the impact is. So, if we are possibly looking at privatizing some of the facets of the Department of Community Services, my heavens, the people who least can afford to fend for themselves are really going to get it with a hammer, Mr. Speaker.

This is an excellent opportunity, this proposed amendment, for the stakeholders to come together and realize that this legislation is perhaps a little too right-wing for Nova Scotia. It may be okay in Alberta. That is the irony, we have the Alliance Leader running to be Prime Minister, and I respect his religious views, he doesn't canvass on Sunday, but yet he was part of a government with some of the most regressive labour legislation in this country that forced workers to work on statutory holidays, even Christmas and New Year's, they are required to work.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Order, please. The honourable member is clearly straying away from the motion before the House.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, thank you for drawing that to my attention. (Interruptions) I will take stock of what you say, because I think it is very important. That is the point I am making, this proposed amendment would allow the Minister of Community Services to provide the detail so that these legislators here today would not be forced to consider that there is some kind of a hidden agenda here. If we have that type of subtle language that is suggesting that third parties, whether it be private sector, non-profit or for-profit organizations, will take charge of some of the responsibilities, whether it be education, nutritional, family value seminars, money management or what have you. I am not sure of all of the dynamics of it. I know the Minister of Community Services would certainly have the right fixture on it.

[Page 7635]

Mr. Speaker, these are the things that we are concerned about, we are asked about, on a piece of legislation when the minister has not provided us with at least some tangible evidence as to the cause-and-effect relationship as he moves from one system to the other. Given the fact that we have over 80,000 Nova Scotians who are required, stronger words yet, forced, through no fault of their own to apply for and receive family benefits or some type of community services benefit, to start shuffling these individuals in a system, as if they are just arbitrary numbers, will wreak havoc of unmeasured proportion.

Here is an opportunity for the Minister of Community Services, through this hoist, over the next number of months to be able to explain to the stakeholders, to the anti-poverty advocates, to organizations such as LEO, and indeed the Halifax Regional Anti-poverty Network, the Community Advocates Network, and so on and so forth. All these stakeholders, including, I believe, a very important stakeholder, that is industry, because industry, who is a major contributor to the budgetary process because if they don't make money, they don't pay taxes, if we don't work, we don't pay taxes, and we use those tax dollars, in part, to fund those who can least afford to fend for themselves. That is what it is all about.

I believe that the Minister of Community Services has tripped on this particular issue. He may have fallen flat on his face, I am not sure. It is concerning; it is very concerning that the Minister of Community Services has not provided us with some information to be able to better analyse this legislation. It would be only reasonable to ask for some type of reprieve on this legislation. We have to ask ourselves what assurances the minister will give that no family will receive less money under the new rate structure. The minister at no point in time has stated that categorically and clearly that would be the case. The other day, the Minister of Community Services in his pronouncement about providing up to $150 transportation costs for those who need the Handy Trans system here in Nova Scotia. When you stop and think about it, that sounds pretty good considering that the government in the last budget cut it out, it went from $18 a month down to nothing and now he feels that he is doing a great thing by bringing it up to $150 under the old system - well, it works out to $66 less a year under the new system.

[7:30 p.m.]

It sounds like a pretty positive and grandiose announcement and by golly, $18 would hardly take you one trip. The Minister of Community Services has an opportunity through this reprieve, this proposed amendment, to be able to explain this unless, being reasonable Opposition as we are, we could certainly hold out the olive branch to the Minister of Community Services and say, if you are willing to give us some information to help us better analyse and understand how important this legislation is to making the lives of all these people on social assistance or some type of disability pension or some type of social assistance support system and that is better for the economy, that is better for the social and economic and the educational systems here in Nova Scotia and how it will benefit the Minister of Health. You know, I have heard the Minister of Health, even in his former life

[Page 7636]

as an Opposition member here, complain about how the high health care costs, people on low income are forced to endure because they are the ones least able to fend for themselves. So, it is amazing how his words have followed him across the floor.

We are talking this integrated system, it doesn't appear that it is going to be done in the fashion that it is being proposed by this legislation. Maybe this reprieve, maybe this hoist will allow the ministers in Cabinet to reflect on how their budget and all the facets of their department, for example, the Department of Health, whether it be Pharmacare, home care, or what have you, how that will impact their bottom line, or indeed, in helping make the lives of people in Nova Scotia better by the introduction and the adoption of this particular piece of legislation.

They are the types of things that really we have not been given anything other than a few platitudinal power point phrases and words by the Minister of Community Services. It is simply not enough to address the outstanding issues that are before us. We have to ask ourselves really what does the minister mean by workfare? What is a job? How do you define a job? Let us not forget most of those who, as I understand, on community services benefits, whether it be a single parent family or two parent family, they have limited educational skills; not in all cases, but many, I would suggest most. If I am incorrect on that, I am sure the minister will correct me, but perhaps the system that we have in place is a disincentive to helping them move on to the next.

You just can't change the system and throw them out to the wolves, because they will suffer even more and meeting a financial target, from one fiscal year to the next, will not meet it.

Mr. Speaker, as we know, just under the minister's own departmental figures, a child in a family that is receiving family benefits only receives less than $1.00 per meal per day for nutrition. I believe it is 96 cents, to be exact. How many members of this House could go out and feed themselves nutritionally, here in metro or, indeed, in many parts of Nova Scotia, for less than $3.00 a day, proper nutrition. Children are the ones that really need nutrition because they are in their developmental stages, they are going to school and they are learning. They are growing and they are in a very formative and vulnerable stage of their lives. It is very important and we are now going to put a system in place where the minister can't even give quality assurance that that same family institution would not receive an equal or greater amount.

If the intent is to give them less, then just say it. Be honest with them. Be honest that either we are going to be heartless or we don't have the money so we are not going to give it to you, but don't make people suffer unnecessarily. That is worse than knowing right up front where you stand. Because, Mr. Speaker, as we all know, it is as much a psychological thing as it is a real issue and it is a real issue, in every sense of the word. I believe the minister knows that.

[Page 7637]

Another important facet, Mr. Speaker, that certainly could be considered over the next several months, unless the minister is prepared to do it before we rise today or in the next day or two, is the issue of rent controls. Now we switch over to the Minister of Service and Municipal Relations. I am not sure, they keep changing the government titles over there, so I am not sure which department, but the observation is quite clear, housing. If you are going to give them less money, if we are going to give people who need our help less money, then shouldn't rent controls be part of the facet for those individuals? Because, by golly, anyone that is running a private business, apartment buildings or individual housing units or whatever, and I am sure there are some members here that may have some experience in that, they are not renting their homes or their apartment buildings out for a loss. They are renting them out for a profit. Their costs are rising because the price of fuel is rising. The price of electricity is rising.

What do you do? We just can't beat up on those that can least afford to fend for themselves. That is the fear I have. If we do that, Mr. Speaker, it will come full circle, because any of us who are fortunate enough to run our own business and to be successful, whether it be a large business, corporation or a small family business or just someone working for themselves with one or two employees, we will all pay in the end because the social costs will continue to rise because these people don't go away. They are our neighbours. They are our friends. They are fellow Nova Scotians and, in many cases, they are family members and they need help. So regressive legislation, in a general fashion, the way it is just rushed in here, is not going to answer a lot of the concerns that are out there.

Mr. Speaker, bearing in mind, the government is going to say, okay, what about value for the taxpayers? We have to be very prudent with the taxpayers' money. This is another excellent opportunity for the Minister of Community Services, and in particular the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Economic Development and, indeed, the chief statesperson for the government, the Premier, to stand up and explain how we are going to get value for dollar by adopting this legislation without putting all the cards on the table. If this legislation is to go in harmony with what has been happening over the last year, what we are doing is we are sending very conflicting signals out, not to those just on community service benefits, not to these 80,000 Nova Scotians, but also to the small, private businesses in Nova Scotia, because we are going to put more of a crunch on them. As we know, we have already gone, on a percentage of private sector investment growth, the GDP, from second place to ninth place in the last year because of the fiscal and monetary policies of this government. We have seen the Department of Economic Development slashed right to the bone. Actually, if we cut anymore, we are going to be into the marrow, that is how deep it is.

This is an excellent opportunity for the Minister of Community Services, with his colleagues, who represent and who speak for those departments directly affected, to show us this integrated plan, so that we will at least get some comfort level that what we have here before us is in fact a good piece of legislation. That is all we are asking. Certainly, the Minister of Education, what is more important than making sure all these individuals are

[Page 7638]

educated? If one of the biggest obstacles we have is the lack of education in enabling these individuals to have a job, the tools to go out into the marketplace, then certainly it would be a major concern for the Minister of Education. How does this legislation impact on her budget? How does her budget impact on the Minister of Community Services' department? And, how will it benefit any number of these 80,000 Nova Scotians, and ultimately those who are paying the bills, the taxpayers?

Mr. Speaker, what we are saying here in Opposition is, we are not saying no, but we are not saying yes, because the Minister of Community Services hasn't given us sufficient information. Surely he wouldn't expect us to approve a pig in a poke. If that is the intent, and I wouldn't expect that the minister would think that we would, but, again, if we have to go and ferret it out, I don't think the Minister of Community Services would really want to carry the torch too far in that direction.

Mr. Speaker, I think this particular amendment is a reasonable amendment. If six months is too long to wait, maybe the Minister of Community Services feels six days is too long to wait, or six hours is too long to wait, that we have to get going on this new legislation, this new direction for Community Services planning. Perhaps at some juncture the minister or one of his colleagues could explain in a little more detail how this is complementing the national program that was initiated several years ago. Even we, when we were part of government, embarked on that.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that I am concerned about is sometimes we can explain all these issues in generalities in pieces of legislation, very sophisticated terminology and languages, and referring to power point presentations, you know, like global budgets and the fact that we are getting a higher per capita income and so on and so forth, but the bottom line is what is happening on the front lines with those who are not getting the help they need.

[7:45 p.m.]

What has not been explained very clearly and perhaps if the Minister of Community Services could explain it, if not on the floor of the Legislature here, over the next number of weeks or months, or whatever time-frame the government so chooses because ultimately, Mr. Speaker, the government has the numbers and the clock is ticking, and there are only so many hours you can debate this legislation. The vote will be taken and if that is the way the government wants to put it through, it will go through that way, but the unfortunate part is, and I am using 1998 figures here so they may be a little more advanced, but not too much different, a family of four in 1998, as I understand the poverty level, would have been somewhere around $24,000 a year. I dare say there are not too many families in Nova Scotia receiving family benefits or any type of Community Services' benefits who earn or receive $24,000 a year. I dare say they do not.

[Page 7639]

As it is now, Mr. Speaker, we have individuals who are below the poverty level even at the present rates. This particular piece of legislation, if it were analysed a little more, perhaps it is an opportunity for the government to at least guarantee the rates, there will be no less money coming in, but at least the same and perhaps more. So that is the type of question that is before the House here.

Another thing is the amount of pressure that is being put on community organizations, charities, church groups, such as we have Loaves & Fishes in Sydney, and we have, across Nova Scotia, the St. Vincent de Paul Society. If we check the numbers with any one of those organizations, we will find a substantive increase in their caseload and the demand on their resources. They are very precious resources. I understand that one jurisdiction - and I prefer not to mention it - I know in one jurisdiction that St. Vincent de Paul does a tremendous amount of work, their caseload has literally doubled over the last three to five years, Mr. Speaker, so much so that they are not sure if they can continue to operate. One of the crushing factors is because Community Services' caseworkers are advising their clientele to go to organizations such as St. Vincent de Paul, to get the additional funds they need just to survive, because the criteria that they have does not allow them the latitude or the discretion to be able to help when the help is really needed.

So, Mr. Speaker, these are the types of things that the Minister of Community Services could certainly address, over the next number of months, to deal with the inequities that are before us. As well, these changes being proposed by the Minister of Community Services, this particular amendment allows the Minister of Community Services and the Minister of Health to answer some fundamental questions on healthy child development. They could do it here before the House or they could do it during this reprieve that is put before us, to allow the respective ministers to be able to go to the people of Nova Scotia, whether we want to reconvene some hearings in the Red Chamber, or perhaps maybe the minister would want to involve some of the staff that he indicated he would want to be stakeholders.

That is per the blue book, because the blue book is important. The government holds up that blue book every time it wants to champion a cause. It is right there in the blue book. This is what they said they were going to do, but they are not doing it.

Here is an excellent opportunity with this amendment, to involve the stakeholders, to take into account the expertise that is right at their disposal, but they don't seem to be wanting to do it, Mr. Speaker. It is very unfortunate, but there is an opportunity. There are a lot of questions. What do we do in terms of day care? That has been raised on a number of occasions so I won't revisit that particular issue. There is also the issue of how these employment plans that are being proposed by the Minister of Community Services and his colleagues will be developed. Certainly there is an opportunity for the government to explain what model will be used and how it is to be employed and how will they evaluate. How will they actually go about evaluating? Surely to heavens the government wouldn't expect the

[Page 7640]

caseworkers or social workers to become career councillors on employment matters because they are not qualified.

They will tell you that, because if you deal with any caseworker, Mr. Speaker, through your constituency work or what have you, if you have the opportunity, whether it be a constituent or not, to represent a constituent or an individual in need of community services benefits, you will find in many cases that problem is not even addressed, I would say 99 per cent of the time. Maybe that is another facet. Perhaps what the minister should consider is ensuring retraining all these individuals within the department before imposing this new plan because, again, that would be another problem.

It is like we have seen at the Workers' Compensation Board for years, the argument that was made by all members of the House, past and present, that one of the biggest obstacles we have always had is that the general practitioners of the board were always overruling the specialist. So, in reverse, we will be having caseworkers forced to give employment counselling to individuals when they don't have the expertise themselves. Giving it to those individuals that really need the professional guidance and direction, both from an educational and from an employment opportunity point of view.

Another thing that is very concerning, and this amendment would allow the government to do, is to explain as to the impact of this clawback that is proposed, that has been initiated by the government of the National Child Tax Benefit. Where are those dollars going if there are no dollars coming in and no dollars going out? The federal government has provided that benefit and the provincial government will take it away, so there will be no gain there at all. It is just part and parcel of the provincial Department of Community Services and, indeed, the provincial government working at odds with the federal government. The big losers here, Mr. Speaker, are the poor people, the people that need the help. They need that extra assistance to be able to get them out of that cycle.

By the minister's own admission, there is less than 2 per cent cheating in the system. So that means that the system that is designed to help people has a 98 per cent success rate, at least in terms of checks and balances. It is achieving the goal that it was set out to set out. Obviously, the proposal of the legislation is to reshape that and to make it better. But as it presently stands, less than a 2 per cent negative factor in the system clearly should indicate to all Nova Scotians - particularly those in business, those who enjoy the benefit of good job security, those families that, in some cases, have two people working with good paying jobs. It is not uncommon to see today, Mr. Speaker, some families with $80,000 or $100,000 because you have two relatively good income earners in a family. So they wouldn't readily be able to identify with some of the pain and suffering that is going on at this level. That is human nature. That doesn't make them bad people. That doesn't make them wrong for enjoying the securities and the comforts of what they worked so hard for all their lives. We are not saying that. What we are saying is that in a compassionate society, those who do so

[Page 7641]

well should be willing to share the burden with those that are accepting 100 per cent of the burden, in many cases, through no fault of their own.

That is what it is all about. That is what makes us such a rich province in so many ways. It is the people. I don't think any businessman in Nova Scotia or any individual, any person, indeed, in Nova Scotia that has the good fortune of having that type of security would want to turn their backs on those who need that type of help, Mr. Speaker. That is why I believe this proposed amendment, in failure of any other direction or indication from the minister that he is prepared to make some adjustment in the information that he has provided, or the context of this integrated plan that he has in his legislation, I think it is only reasonable that we do review this in some type of consultative process, whether it be publicly, around the province or, indeed, holding some hearings.

Mr. Speaker, I realize my time is getting slightly short. I have seven minutes. The question, as well, that has to be raised in dealing with that is one that has been raised by one of the advocacy groups and that is, will single parents on family benefits who lose their children's personal allowance on August 1, 2001 have those rates grandparented at family benefit or social assistance rates? Certainly, that would be an issue that the Minister of Community Services could give us some direction on. Failing that, back to the motion which I must commend is a really good motion, but there is still opportunity for the minister. I keep throwing out the olive branch to the minister here. I am getting lots of nods, but no paper flow coming yet. It is only fair and reasonable that the Opposition hold the government accountable on this legislation and ask if that substantive detail is not forthcoming because it is going to fundamentally change the way we view those who are receiving family benefits or social assistance benefits of any sort in Nova Scotia.

[8:00 p.m.]

This is as much a philosophical issue in that it permeates, it emanates from a government philosophy. Mr. Speaker, my concern is that we are adopting too much of the right-wing policy; too much, too quick. It may be the Alberta model. It may be the Ontario model, the Mike Harris model, but as we all know, the dynamics, the economic, the social structure here in Nova Scotia is much different. To try to put ourselves in that same situation could prove to be very counter-productive, because if the bottom line is just to put in a piece of legislation to make it more difficult for those individuals who are on social assistance now to receive that, sure, at the end of the day, the government can hold up its blue book, an updated version going into the next election and say, yes, we have reduced the total number of people receiving family benefits, and yes, we have reduced the payout on family benefits and social assistance, and yes, we have reduced the amount of money we had to pay out for travel allowance for the mentally and physically disabled.

[Page 7642]

What they don't tell you is what happens to them. The provincial government here spent so much time criticizing the federal government about the employment insurance legislation federally and how it had a negative impact on Nova Scotia, and how they are really supporting it, these amendments. Mr. Speaker, what is good at the federal level should be good at the provincial level as well. It is not right to say one thing in one place and something else in another place. They have to have some consistency in their logic. That is the problem.

That is the fundamental problem with this legislation. They are trying to sell it to the people of Nova Scotia as being the best thing since sliced bread; and it might be, but we don't have any evidence to support that, other than the fact that they have good spin doctors, and we have little information to argue either for or against it. In the absence of detail, it is only a reasonable and fair conclusion to draw that we would want to refer it for a future day's consideration.

Mr. Speaker, it is an opportunity for the government to consider this over the next number of hours and days. I realize my time has pretty well expired. I support this reasonable amendment given the circumstances that the government has put the Opposition, indeed, more importantly how it has put a lot of disadvantaged Nova Scotians - especially the mentally and physically challenged people of Nova Scotia are being punished. They are being punished unfairly, not only by the Minister of Community Services, but by the Minister of Health and the Minister of Education, but more importantly by the Minister of Finance and the Premier. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to rise to speak on the hoist amendment. I think there is no doubt that it is particularly difficult to have any understanding of the impact of this piece of legislation without having some knowledge of the regulations that go along with it and they have not been forthcoming. If the minister says that they will be ready in January, then I would certainly agree that some time to get the regulations for starters and then to review the regulations and see the real impact of this bill would be the first concern of all members.

I do have to say that my experience in dealing with Community Services' issues is what I have really learned in my two years as an MLA in my constituency. I think for the most part it centres more around the federal issue of Canada Pension disability and individuals who are claiming to be disabled. I have to admit that I am impressed with the government on the way they have spun out this legislation. I was driving to the city the other day and heard the minister on the radio. I thought to myself, you know, what I heard him say sounded pretty good so it worried me. So I really would like to know how the regulations that go along with this legislation will impact on recipients or people who should be recipients of social assistance.

[Page 7643]

I would think that if the government was really serious about attacking the problem of poverty in this province, the first thing they would do is analyse why it is that people are on social assistance and then try to come up with a strategy that would attack the problems that cause the need for social assistance. I don't see that this piece of legislation does that although the minister talks about dollars for retraining and if we consider that in the province roughly 15,000 to 17,000 people apply to the community colleges every year and about one-half that number are accepted, then where is it that this training is going to occur? How many dollars has the minister set aside for that training to occur, is he opening up new spaces for that training and is it going to be a case of wash your hands, we put this money in place, whether it is adequate or not is not relevant? People are told the training is there. If it takes you six months or a year or never to somehow find a placement to get that training, that is not our responsibility.

In the case of individuals who apply for Canada Pension disability, I know from the tribunal decisions that I have encountered, the tribunal makes a decision that the person does not qualify usually on the basis that their disability is not severe and prolonged and does not render them unable to do any job in a regular period, but that is it. The fact that the individual is not able to do the job they were doing and they say, well, that means you can do something else, but there is no retraining. There is no program there that applies to this person, nothing that allows them to get back into the workforce, Mr. Speaker. I think in those situations my fear is that that is what will happen with this present government and without some notion of how the legislation replies to the recipients and what the regulations are then all the more reason for the hoist of this legislation for six months until that is made clear.

I think it is important, and I will be willing to table this paper for any members of the government who are interested in seeing it, but I think it is important for all members to be aware how the poverty lines are drawn in Nova Scotia and this document was prepared by Dalhousie Legal Aid service. It looked at family size, poverty lines, family benefits and social assistance in this province and it goes in family size from one adult down to two adults and three children. For one adult, the poverty line in Nova Scotia is $14,613 and for two adults and three children it is $31,670. In all of these cases, family benefits and social assistance are roughly about half of those amounts. In other words, people on family benefits and social assistance in this province get about half of what the poverty line is.

It would seem to me that if the province was at all interested - and from this we know that by next spring, family benefits is supposed to disappear and everybody is on income assistance, so therefore we are only looking at short-term assistance for everybody; no long-term assistance, which is what family benefits is. So under that system I would think the government might want to look at a mechanism whereby you increase the incomes of people and allow them, if it is possible, to keep whatever income they can get. The minister talks about incentives for people to work, but I would think that if someone is receiving social assistance and could work and keep that income, then that would be a much greater incentive than clawing them back.

[Page 7644]

The example that was used earlier, in this country, slightly more than $7,000 would be the amount of income you could make without having to pay income tax, so for all these people that I have mentioned earlier who are at the poverty line - from $14,000 to $31,000 - they would be paying income tax on those incomes and that would be one area if the government wanted to ensure that people could somehow get a benefit then don't make them pay income tax - allow them to keep that income. What is it that the government thinks they are going to do with their money anyway? They are going to get out there and spend it on the things that they need and therefore the government will get its fair share of taxes.

It was mentioned earlier that a single mother using the new system, working full time at $11 an hour, would be worse off because of her child care costs than if she stayed on the system. I have to say to the minister first of all, how many $11 an hour jobs are there out there for anyone? If they are not at least $11 an hour, if people are poorer off by taking an $11 an hour job, then what about those who are going to get less than $11 an hour?

Is that supposed to be an incentive for people to get off the system and go to work. I would say it is not, it can't be. I think that we have good reason to be somewhat apprehensive of what governments do around poverty and the impact of poverty on children. In 1989, Ed Broadbent read a resolution in the House of Commons that passed unanimously by all members of the House to eliminate child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. Well, it is the year 2000 and child poverty has increased significantly. There seems to be no movement, even discussion during this federal election, of anybody willing to tackle that, of the three Parties on the right. I would say that considering the history of this Party, we cannot expect that child poverty is going to be dealt with in a significant manner, and this bill is not going to do that.

[8:15 p.m.]

There are some facts about poverty lines. Most of the attacks on Statistics Canada's low income cut-offs are ideologically motivated and ignore the four most basic facts about poverty and poverty lines. One is, all poverty lines are relative. In other words, how you determine what the poverty line is is somehow related to the country in which you live, the culture in which you live, so therefore what we might deem as a poverty line here or in one part of the country may not be the same poverty line in another part of the country or in another country. If we are assuming that poverty lines must have some relationship to the people in the country and their income capabilities, then it also has to be related to the time. In other words, what is poverty in the year 2000, certainly would not have been poverty a hundred years ago.

Poverty lines are arbitrary, they are based on data, and it is a question of what data you research or in the parameters that you use to determine poverty, and different researchers may use different information, so therefore, depending on what that is, that will have a different basis for what your poverty line is. Poverty lines are a research tool for measuring the

[Page 7645]

incomes of groups of people, not a measure of individual need, so therefore, you cannot determine poverty lines unless you are going to look at the needs of the people in your society.

If it is that difficult to determine poverty lines and people do it based on what their agenda is, what it is they want to tell people, then it may not address the particular needs that people have. Depending on the person's individual need, in other words, someone who has a mortgage compared to someone who doesn't, someone whose home is better insulated than someone whose home isn't, all of these things affect individual need. Some poverty lines are better than others but none are perfect, and certainly those that would focus on disposable income in hand would probably be one of the more accurate measures.

I would think that the minister's regulations, if we could see them, would form the basis on which we could establish what kind of a level playing field the minister envisions for people who are on social assistance. It certainly sounds as though once this legislation is in place that there will be no end to the advantages. The minister hasn't mentioned that Nova Scotia has about 2,500 subsidized day care spaces, the total number of low income children in Nova Scotia under age seven is 17,500. So how are we going to allow for parents to go to work and have their children taken care of in day care? First of all, we don't have the spaces, and the second thing is, we don't have the child care workers to take that on. One of the reasons for that is the low income they receive in doing the job. That is another point that hasn't been addressed.

I think one major issue hasn't been spoken to and that is the notion of where are the jobs? In the metro area I would say yes, you can probably find the unemployment rate to be quite low, but it is certainly not that in some of the rural parts of Nova Scotia. It is not that way in Cape Breton. We don't have the transportation network in place that would allow people who don't have cars or some other mechanism, public transit, to get to and from work, and yet, all of these people are going to be treated the same way by their case worker, who is actually not going to be a case worker anymore. These people are going to have to somehow become employment counsellors. I don't see from the individuals who come through my office that there is a lot to offer them out there as far as employment, and certainly, there are not a lot of $11 an hour jobs, which would still put them at a disadvantage.

Those who are disabled require aids that are not mentioned here. I would actually like to see what type of improvements the minister has in place, and what regulations he intends to bring forward. Actually I would like to know if the minister is aware of those regulations. In other words, are the regulations drawn up? Are they just not going to be available until January, or are there no regulations yet? That would be something that would be important for all the members of the House to know because if we have a piece of legislation that is drafted based on regulations, and we don't have the regulations even drafted, then that would tend to make us wonder what the relationship is between the regulations and the legislation.

[Page 7646]

I would say that Nova Scotians are certainly not going to buy this piece of legislation - at least we hope they are not going to buy it if we can do our job properly - without knowing what the real impact is and whether or not there is going to be an additional cost to Nova Scotians.

It is no secret that one of the cost drivers in health care is poverty. I think we are opening a door here that will only increase poverty in Nova Scotia. I would think this is something the Minister of Health would want to be concerned about. You can say right off the bat, well, look, we are not putting more money into health anyway, so we are not going to recognize it as a cost driver. But you can't escape that forever. At some point down the road, it will catch up. That is a cost you can't avoid. You are going to have pay that. The relationship between that cost and community services costs has to be factored in. If the minister is interested in reducing costs to Community Services, having a long-range plan that would allow for an investment in Community Services which would actually act as an incentive for people to get off community services that would stop the cycle of poverty. Also, if he factors in the cost to the health care system, then he would see that the dollars he should allocate to community services are dollars well spent that he is not going to have to spend in a great amount in the future.

My experience has been that people on social asisstance don't want to be there. This is not a choice they make as a career choice. There are real problems that people run into in their lives that forces them into this system. No one who comes through my office, who has a good paying job and a decent quality of life is saying, Mr. MacDonell, could you tell me how I could get on social assistance, on welfare? There is nobody walking through my door who wants to do that. So let's not assume that the people who are Community Services recipients, on social assistance, that they want to be there.

It has already been stated, I think by at least one other speaker, the fact that there is a very low level of cheating - if you want to call it that - in this system. Less than 5 per cent, usually somewhere around 2 per cent or 3 per cent, so that would mean that 98 per cent of the people there legitimately have a problem and need income assistance and those people are not there because they are passing up good paying jobs and think that this is the better way to make a living. That is not the case.

If we can offer them something better, they will take it. One of the best things would be long-term, good-paying jobs, in cases for those who are able to do that. My fear is that this will produce a system, and maybe I should congratulate the government for their ability to turn the public on those least deserving. In other words, we saw this during the 1999 campaign. If you could turn the mainland against Cape Breton, you could get elected. That works. Now we see the people who are well-to-do paying taxes. Make them believe that they are supporting people on community services and then you can sell an argument for getting people off community services. Whether or not that actually is going to impact the pocketbooks of people who are paying for those services in a greater way is not an argument

[Page 7647]

they want to get into. The fact that people who try, who are willing to have some of their tax dollars go to help others, are going to have to pay more of their tax dollars to do that under the system that the minister is bringing forward and is not a part of the argument they want to enter into.

All the more reason for the hoist. To allow more information forward, to allow the public to have some input and, actually, there is a word that is used a lot, but the process is not used a lot. I would say that it is a question as to where this agenda comes from, that if we consider the Voluntary Planning process, I think there was very little of that that was listened to by the present government. So they are certainly listening to someone and it would be great to know if that individual is even elected in this province.

I can only ask the minister that he would have the time. I think there is no rush to bring this legislation forward. There is no rush to impact people's lives more negatively and if he would be willing to bring the regulations forward, if they exist, so that all members of the House could analyse those to see what the full impact of this bill is, and therefore the reason for this hoist amendment. I know he would never believe it, but it might be a way for the Opposition to agree with some parts of this legislation, if we could actually see what aspects of the legislation are affected by regulation and whether or not the bill is what the minister tries to sell it as, or if it is something completely different.

We have heard analogies to the stick and the carrot, and certainly the approach that I would like to see the government take would be that the carrot approach so that people actually can be made to feel that they are part of the process, that people have some dignity in this process, and that recipients of income assistance know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and they are able to use the process to get them a better quality of life, to a better income to take care of the needs of their family and look forward to the day when they won't require income assistance. I think, without some real analysis of what the economic situation is in Nova Scotia, the government is missing the boat here. The good fortunes in the metro area do not expand much further, and there are some signals that the government should think about, especially right now with a downturn in the housing market in the United States which is affecting jobs in this province. Irving has just announced that they are going to lay off 80 workers at their Weymouth mill, so there is an example in rural Nova Scotia, a large employer who is laying people off. So the economy in rural Nova Scotia is still somewhat shaky and this is expected to possibly last for two years.

[8:30 p.m.]

So where are the jobs that the minister is talking about if he is going to force people off social assistance and into the workforce? I would say for starters they are not there and there is going to be a cry from those recipients for better treatment. Certainly anyone would know that in the past couple of years the treatment to social assistance recipients has deteriorated and this is actually no way to treat the most disadvantaged in your society.

[Page 7648]

In closing, I ask the minister to consider bringing those regulations forward, to listen to the concerns of the Opposition, listen to the concerns of the community who he thinks will benefit from this legislation. They are not actually praising it. So that would send him a message I would hope. Let's see the regulations, let's have some discussion, let's involve the stakeholders and see, for starters, if this bill is necessary at all and whether we can take it and actually implement a piece of legislation that really improves the lives of the people in Nova Scotia.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I wish I could say I was excited about standing here and speaking tonight, but I am not. By the look of some of my former colleagues over there, they are not too happy with being in here either. I find it a privilege to be able to stand here and speak on the hoist. I will start first by indicating what the minister has said is the most important bill to come from his department during his term of office. That makes me wonder why it is being presented in a piecemeal process.

I know the people I represent are certainly frustrated about a lack of information. People on social services out there are scared, they are nervous and they are very much uneasy. This government, I believe, is creating a great deal of stress, not only for adults but children who find themselves in a very difficult situation throughout the province. I think this government, since day one, has certainly acted much differently than how I envisioned government to work. I think when we just look at the impact already within the Community Services' budget and the many discussions I have with the residents throughout the province, they still do not know what kind of impact they are having from the last budget that was passed here in this House.

Many of the people have not felt the impact because the cuts have not really hit home, except in a couple of instances to which I would like to bring to the attention of the House. One of them, and I guess this is one of the main reasons why I support the hoist amendment that is put forth here, I have one resident who is in a wheelchair, she is being denied drugs, transportation, she is being denied everything that was provided for her previously. She finds herself begging every day, the lady has a severe illness which requires medical attention weekly - with no help, nobody to help other than whatever her family can muster. I visited that house last week and the stress that is within the home is unbelievable - it is unbearable. I wouldn't wish that on anybody and when I see children who are eight and nine years old asking me questions about where am I going to get lunch money tomorrow for school, or we don't have any bread and my mom can't make me any sandwiches to take to school, then that concerns me a great deal.

I think it should concern each and every one of us, not only the members on this side of the House, but members on the other side of the House. I remember a day in my municipal life when I used to see many of the individuals sitting over there today at UNSM meetings

[Page 7649]

and various committee meetings or whatever throughout the province or bump into them on the street somewhere and the conversation was always the same. They always felt they were the representative closest to the people and really the voice of the people. They were always the first champions, they were going to pick up the cause for the people in their communities and they did, very successfully I would suggest. That is why they are sitting here today. But I don't know what happened since last July. That is another reason why I feel that the six months' hoist is in order because I think it would give them time to sit down and clear their heads and come to reality. This simply is not funny.

I am not sure if the honourable gentleman across the way is aware, but I would suggest you pick up this pamphlet. I have it and I know all of my colleagues have it and I would hope that you would have it and I would hope that you took the time to read it. There are no more family benefits. This government already eliminated the program that was in place for people with disabilities, severe disabilities, and single mothers, single parents, which would include fathers and I do know many single fathers throughout my constituency who are struggling the same as single mothers.

They haven't had the impact of the rate decrease as yet. It won't take effect until next April and they are scared. They have been told these cuts are coming, there are medications coming off, transportation is being eliminated in many cases, they are taking approximately 10 per cent cuts. In Halifax, right here in this city, figures provided by the pamphlet that was prepared by Dalhousie Legal Aid so I would suggest the information is basically accurate or they wouldn't have put it in here, CMHC claims their figures indicate that an apartment in Halifax, a two bedroom, costs approximately $600 per month for heat and lights included. Guess what the new maximum is? This government is going to allow this family that requires a two bedroom, $569 per month.

Now I know this Minister of Finance is throwing his wand around. He is going to save Nova Scotia. He is a saviour, but I don't think he realizes that to people who live in these types of situations, $31 is a lot of money; $31 is a lot of money that they have to take from the money that is allotted for food so they can provide shelter for their children. Then they eliminate $31 not only from their food, they also, beginning in April are going to lose 10 per cent of their food costs. The last time I went to the grocery store, I didn't see any items there that were on sale for 10 per cent less. These supermarkets are not proposing any 10 per cent cuts in food. Wherever this theory came from that the poor people in this province can pay what this government is cutting, I can't understand the theory. I just cannot identify with it in any way, shape or form. I sat down and tried to reason myself around how anybody could suggest that they could give a family of four $569 to go out and rent an apartment that costs $600. Where are they going to collect the $31 from? Collect cans? Is this what the government proposes for the residents of Nova Scotia, particularly the people that are the most disadvantaged in the province?

[Page 7650]

The minister comes forth, and I am glad the minister came into the House. I know the Premier is in the House. He is not sitting there right now, but I know he is around here. I certainly hope he is listening, because this secretive Tory Government, coming in here with dribs and drabs. I can't believe this is occurring. That is why I am supporting very strongly, and I know my colleagues are supporting, the hoist amendment.

I ran into a lady just this weekend in my riding. Every Nova Scotian is aware that the government is proposing cuts. The lady said why are they proposing the cut. The reply, of course, I had to give her, was I don't know. She had a very hard time understanding why her representative could not obtain the proper information to provide to her. When I indicated that the minister did not table, did not provide the information about the bill, she could not believe that she lived in a democratic world. She couldn't understand why our forefathers and our grandfathers and all those people had no choice basically, but to take up arms and go and defend our rights, twice, and in many side wars. The woman was devastated. I don't think it is one bit funny, and that is why I support the hoist amendment, because I think the government should take six months and really present to Nova Scotians what they are proposing to do here.

As everybody can see, I am kind of a small guy. I think we all get bullied around the school yard from time to time. I don't really believe that anyone, anybody, no human being likes being bullied. That is what this government, Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, is doing to the people who are less advantaged than anybody else in this province: the poor people. They are bullying. They are driving them into lives of fear, stress, paranoia. They are destroying family morals. It is really unbelievable.

I know the minister stands here, and to be honest I don't know the minister personally, I don't hang out at the golf club with him because I don't play the game, but I can tell you one thing, he seems to be a fair and reasonable gentleman, anytime I have had a discussion with him. Why the minister would propose this, I would suggest, is that he doesn't know what the changes are yet. This minister, in all fairness, if he was honest with the people of Nova Scotia, he would indicate that he doesn't know what the changes are. I believe that he doesn't.

[8:45 p.m.]

There is only one person in this House today that I believe knows what the changes are going to be and it is the Minister of Finance. He is going to tell the Minister of Community Services where to cut, what to cut and when to cut. That is why we need a six month breather, so that we can allow the Minister of Community Services an opportunity to gather the information from the Finance Minister, so Minister Christie can then provide the proper information to the Opposition members so that we can analyse what these cuts are going to be and what they are going to do to the lives of everyday Nova Scotians in this province.

[Page 7651]

When I see things like cuts to basic needs, like food and clothing, miscellaneous items, essentials, rent and utilities, I mean, the last time I got my power bill from Nova Scotia Power, maybe I am not aware of anything, nobody indicated that I am going to get a 10 per cent cut in my electricity bill next month or next August. I would suggest, from what I have seen at least in the last 15 months, that by the time next April comes, there will be increases in electricity rates in this province because of the impact, economically, that this government is imposing on business in this province.

No more transportation. They are cutting out transportation costs. I had a call last week from an individual who has disabilities. His son had a doctor's appointment to see a specialist in New Waterford, from the Northside, and he was told he had to get there the best way he knew how. There is no transit system out in the rural area. It is a rural area. The only real transportation link is by taxi. When I approached the local Community Services office, they were willing to provide a bus ticket. We still have the problem, how do you get to one rural area inside the urban area to obtain the bus ride. No help. Hitchhike. Didn't get an answer.

Some medications have already been taken away. I received two phone calls this weekend. One individual with one lung, denied vital medication, went to the pharmacy to pick up his regular monthly medicine and was told by the pharmacist that most of his medication was no longer covered by the drug plan provided under the Community Services program.

How does this minister expect individuals in those types of situations to survive? That is what I want to know. I would really like to have a feel for that, so I could explain that to the people I represent. Co-pay went from $3.00 to $5.00; $2.00 may not sound like much to me, but to somebody struggling in everyday life who can't find a job, even able-bodied people that are out there. For me, I have been involved in politics since 1991, and I have yet to see an able-bodied person who was not willing to go to work. The problem, at least in my area, and I know it is in many areas of this province, is the unemployment rate. What we really need in this province is a job program before - you don't put the cart before the horse - to get these people opportunities available first. You don't just cut off and then drift away and hope you land on Paradise Island somewhere because that doesn't occur.

I realize the minister represents the Bedford area, probably the richest area in Nova Scotia, one of the richest areas. So I have to question what his knowledge really is about people who live in hardship each and every day in this province. That is why the hoist amendment is a good idea. It will give the minister an opportunity to go out and educate himself. Come to Cape Breton, Mr. Minister. I will invite you to my area, and I will take you to the doorsteps and let you see first-hand what the economic hardship is like down there. Yes, you can speak to individuals very clearly who will tell you, sir, that they are willing to go to work tomorrow morning if they can find the employment. The problem is, Mr.

[Page 7652]

Minister, there are no opportunities for employment anywhere in rural Nova Scotia. This government was well aware of that situation when it took over last July.

There are approximately 8,000 single parents in Nova Scotia - no consultation. They haven't been provided any assurance whatsoever, nothing. They don't know if they are just going to take my children, how am I going to get them to the day care. What they did in Ontario doesn't fit in Nova Scotia. It just doesn't fit. It didn't fit in Ontario. It doesn't fit here in Nova Scotia. The people don't live on social services in this province because they are poor and disadvantaged; it is not from their own choosing, sir. They have no choice.

According to the flyer - and I believe this information is correct - there are 38,213 individuals and families that need and were on family benefits in this province. Three quarters of those individuals are either persons with disabilities or they are children. Now, as I indicated before, I really do believe that the minister is fair, reasonable and honourable gentleman. I really do believe that, but I don't know if he realizes the impact that we are having here on the children in this province. We are not having the impact on rich children or middle-class children. No, they are not going to be hurt. But the children born into poverty are going to be affected by your bill. And you don't know how. I would suggest that is creating a great deal of stress in their lives. I certainly hope, and I would go on record to say that I firmly believe the minister is not doing it intentionally, but I do not know if he understands.

That is why the hoist, Mr. Speaker, is such a good idea. It will provide, as I indicated before, the six months, ample time. I have invited the minister and I am sure there are many other members of his own government, his backbenchers, my colleagues on this side of the House, who will go door to door with the minister so he can have a first-hand understanding of what poor people go through in this province. They do not have paved driveways. They do not have two cars in the driveway. They do not live in fancy homes. They struggle from day to day on less than $3.00 per day.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians will not see these regulations for Bill No. 62 until January 2001. That is when the minister has indicated he is going to provide the regulations. So we are going to put the cart before the horse and then we are going to turn around and tell people what we are going to do to them after it is done. That is not logical. That is not reasonable and I do not believe it is democratic. That is not what democracy is about. This government, although I acknowledge it is a majority government, you certainly do not have either the authority or the ability to change democracy. I mean democracy is democracy, but you live in it. It may not be perfect. I think Winston Churchill said it best. It may not be perfect, but it is all we have. It is all we have, sir.

[Page 7653]

I get many calls from young men who are willing to relocate to work, but I do not know where a young fellow who basically is sleeping in his car is going to come up with any funding to get him out west or to Ontario or anywhere else. There is no help. Nobody will provide any help. So it is hitch-hike, you know, the fugitive, I am on the run.

This bill is like the bogus budget that was introduced in the spring in my opinion, Mr. Speaker. It is a bogus bill and that is why I supported the hoist. I believe with the six months' hoist, the minister can educate himself. He could really use that opportunity. I believe the minister is fair and reasonable. Why not go out and speak to the children that this will impact and see first-hand how they live and what it is like to really visit a food bank in order to feed your children and perhaps, call St. Vincent de Paul Society because they need shoes for their feet and they do not have any money to buy any. That is the reality in this province.

As I indicated before, three-quarters of the 38,213 individuals are on that system because they are either disabled or there are children. They cannot help themselves. They cannot. It is not that they will not, they do not have the ability. They either have mental or physical disabilities and they are incapable of going out and doing the day-to-day things that you and I enjoy.

The six months' hoist, I think, if the minister really sits down and considers, I mean, what is the big rush? You are going to shove this bill down the throat of every Nova Scotian. You are going to go down in history as being the father of poverty. Nova Scotia is the third hardest hit province for poverty in Canada today. This will move it to number one. I am certain of that, Mr. Speaker. There are measures that should have been put in place, from the Economic Development Minister, in particular, prior to the presentation of this bill in this House.

[9:00 p.m.]

The six months will provide the minister the amount of time to gather the regulations, put them together and provide them to the Opposition members on this side of the House, because I cannot honestly stand here and say I am against this bill because I don't know what it contains. So how can I honestly vote yes or no on something I don't know anything about? It is totally amazing. Particularly when I stand here and I look across and I see my former municipal colleagues over there - and I know they care for people. I know that. I have known many of them long enough to know that their hearts are in the right place, but I don't know what happened to them - I can't understand what happened. I am glad I am not over there, because I don't think I would be here now, to be honest.

Those type of measures, you just can't ram things down people's throats and expect them to be accepted, especially when they have a very negative impact on the daily lives of the poor people in this province. Yes, I think, and it is fair for me to say, I speak for myself, and I say that I am concerned about the rising cost of community services. We all are. I think

[Page 7654]

every working person in this province is. That is fair to say that. I am concerned if there are people out there ripping off the system or whatever and we must deal with that. I agree, but, Mr. Speaker, we should not make people with disabilities and children pay for that element of society, in my opinion, at least.

I believe the hoist is an excellent idea, as I indicated. I would welcome the opportunity to take the minister to just a few homes in my area to speak firsthand with the residents. They are reasonable people. You don't have to worry about being accosted or being verbally assaulted. These people are concerned for their children and they are concerned for the way they live in this province. They are living below the poverty line now and this bill is going to hit them, right bang square over the head. Very tough. What do you tell a single mother? What regulation are you going to put in for my children? I don't know, but I am going to put it in anyway first and I will tell you after. Well, that is what we are doing here and it is very unfair. I am shocked, really.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member has indicated that people are not aware and we haven't introduced any rates. The honourable member will know that we introduced the rate structure. We introduced the increased rates and the integrated child benefit last Wednesday. I hope he has those particular pieces of information to share with his constituents who have concerns, so he can pass that information on to them. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I don't believe that to be a point of order.

MR. BOUDREAU: I agree with the minister and I do have the proper papers. We had them on file in my office and we are showing them, on a regular basis, to people who request them. What I was indicating, Mr. Minister, is the 10 per cent cut that you have already indicated people on social services will receive.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the honourable member is incorrect. We did not announce a 10 per cent cut last week. (Interruptions) We did not announce a 30 per cent cut. We indicated the May rates were only temporary and the rates we announced were not at 10 per cent or a cut of anything. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Again, I don't know if the honourable member meant that to be on a point of order. If it was I find it not to be a point of order. The member for Cape Breton The Lakes has the floor.

MR. BOUDREAU: I would suggest that it will be a point of order for the voters in the next general election in this province. I would agree with the honourable minister, no he didn't announce this last week, no he didn't. He imposed it on the people of this province last April when he passed the budget. That is when he did it. Many of the cuts, as he is very much aware, do not go into effect until next April 1st. Many of those people who are on basic

[Page 7655]

salary, regular benefits now, they are not even being told how much they are being cut. The minister is very much aware of that, I know he is.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Will the member allow for an introduction.

The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I know the honourable members opposite obviously needed a break. (Applause) Through you, to all members of the House I would like to draw your attention to the west gallery and I would like to introduce one of my constituents who I believe is probably here in the hopes of seeing some debate on the dairy industry bill, but a prominent dairy farmer in my area, Michael Scothorn. I would like you to give him the same warm welcome you would to all people coming here. (Applause)

MR. BOUDREAU: I will bring my comments back to the hoist. I indicated before that I support the six months' hoist which would provide an ample amount of time for the minister to educate himself about the poor people in this province because I believe he is out of touch with Nova Scotians, particularly the poor people in the province.

Bill No. 62 and the philosophy that is behind it, is based on a Conservative belief that everyone should be required to pay their own way. That is what Bill No. 62 really is about and this belief is popular with voters so this government believes. As Mike Harris has proved in Ontario. Copycat government.

The title of Bill No. 62, An Act to Encouragement the Attainment of Independence and Self-Sufficiency, et cetera. Sounds like a book - isn't it wonderful? What a title for a book? But you can't always tell a book by its cover, can you? Especially when it is blue. It is too bad that the reality of Bill No. 62 does not really live up to the title. They would like everybody to believe it does, but certainly it does not.

There are serious concerns that I have also with the requirement of the development and employment program. Imagine. Cut everybody off, gone on over there, stay there, stay in a corner, don't move, we will be back in a couple of months, you don't have to eat until I come back and don't go to bed. And, oh yeah, if you get cold, we'll get some street person to come down and throw a blanket on you. That is how we are going to deal with these people until we put the employment program in place. Insanity, I would suggest.

We don't know what the plan will look like and we don't know how it will be developed. Why not tell us? That is what amuses me more than anything, really. Why not tell the people of Nova Scotia what you have planned? Any reasonable, responsible, democratic government would tell the people in this province what they plan to do to the poor people, what direction they are going to provide to help people get off the system.

[Page 7656]

As I indicated earlier, Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons I support the hoist is not only to provide an ample amount of time for the minister to educate himself about poverty in this province, this six months would allow the minister the opportunity to provide the information, in particular to the Opposition members, so we can analyse it and see if it is really what people I talk to every day want from the system. They are not on the system because of their own choice, they are on there because there are no job opportunities. The only job opportunities that this government, to my knowledge, to date, have created are in other provinces at a cost to Nova Scotians.

It is not only the poor people and the people living in poverty who are confused, I believe the backbenchers are confused. I see some of them over there; they are not all smiling and laughing because I know they are concerned. They should be concerned, because wait until the impact hits and they start seeing first-hand what is going to happen to these people.

It is not just people that I represent, Mr. Speaker, in Cape Breton. If anybody in this House thinks that it is just people in certain areas of the province that are going to be affected, I am afraid they are dead wrong. The impact is going to be felt in ridings controlled by Tory MLAs as well as the Opposition benches.

I notice the minister moved; he couldn't watch me when I was talking about the children, he couldn't sit in front of me, he had to move way over to the side. But that is all right, he will run anyway before it is all over. You can run, but you can't hide forever.

What targets has the minister set to get people off social assistance? This is the kind of information we would like to see. How will we know if the changes are going to be a success if the regulations aren't provided? We can't really analyse them to see if we feel they are going to be a success or a failure. We don't know because there is nothing here.

I see the minister is back in his regular seat.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the honourable member is not supposed to say where people are sitting in the House. If that was the case, I would say that most of his caucus colleagues aren't in their seats, but I'm not supposed to say that either.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Finance is right. The honourable member is not supposed to refer to members, whether they are in the House or not in the House or in their seats, so I would ask you to refrain from that, please.

AN HON. MEMBER: The honourable minister shouldn't say it either.

MR. BOUDREAU: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will try my best not to.

AN HON. MEMBER: Not all of you are here.

[Page 7657]

MR. BOUDREAU: That is another reason that maybe the six months is a good idea; it may provide an opportunity for them to locate some of their people.

The changes to the social assistance system in Bill No. 62 seem to ignore the big picture of poverty. They don't want to believe that people in this province live in poverty. I can't understand how they are going to address the bigger problem, sir. I really can't.

[9:15 p.m.]

Developing an employment plan for people on social services, each and every person, is the understanding I have from many of the articles I have read. Everybody has to go to work. I don't know where they are going to go to work; that is what I want to see, the employment programs. I can see an all-out war, really. Previous governments have attempted to do this sort of thing, and they were met with labour unrest from labour unions and that sort of thing. You just can't take people out and allow them to do union work or anything. What is the plan? Why doesn't the minister be up front and honest with people, not only in this House but with the people in the province? Tell them what it is about.

Mike Harris did the same thing in Ontario. It was a failure, it failed badly. This government knows that. That is why they say, oh no, we are not copycatting, that failed up there, we wouldn't try that here. For some reason or other, the theory is they believe that just because it didn't work in Ontario, it can work here. Well, they better pinch themselves and wake up and smell the coffee. It is not going to work. My colleague from Cape Breton West indicated that the blue book indicates a consultative process be put in place for workers within Community Services. That hasn't happened. There is no intention of doing it. Why did you put it in your book? That is probably a better question for the Premier.

We can't intelligently debate Bill No. 62, in all fairness, until we see the regulations. If we don't have the regulations, we don't know what impact it is going to have on the children in this province. How are we going to analyse it? The Premier, on previous days, indicated it was the responsibility of the Opposition to ferret out the information. Well, I think this whole government should be ferreted out, right out of history and rolled off, just discarded, because I think this government is probably going to go down as not being very kind to the poor people in the province. That is obvious, particularly when you look at this and the previous one last April.

What scares me is what is coming next. It is like we want two classes of people in Nova Scotia, you are telling the Nova Scotians out there we want two classes of people. Middle class and rich, if you are poor, get, go live somewhere else and take your problems you have with you. Then, of course, that eliminates the problem for this government.

[Page 7658]

Mr. Speaker, in all fairness, it doesn't matter which part of the province, I am very doubtful that in hard economically depressed areas there are no employment programs, there are no jobs. Able-bodied people cannot find employment in this province. I would like to know how the minister feels disabled people with real disabilities and children are going to find jobs? There are no opportunities there. Is somebody just going to drop something from the sky and there is all this, you know, follow the rainbow and at the end of the rainbow there is going to be a job? I would suggest that the proper direction would be to create jobs and opportunities.

I stood here just the other day and discussed the e-commerce bill, 15 months into a mandate with an industry that is thriving in every province but ours and an industry that could create many opportunities for rural Nova Scotia and this government takes 15 months and comes in with half a bill that the previous government had ready to go when this government took over, basically. What happened in 15 months? If we are really serious, or this government is really serious about getting people off social assistance and being self-sustainable, then I would suggest that you go in the proper direction. You create the opportunities first. You tell the people there are going to be training programs. You tell the people you are going to go to school. We are going to help you go to school for two years to get a reasonable education so that you can go out there and be competitive to seek proper employment. Not this government, they sliced it, cut everything all off from underneath the tree and just left everybody dangling.

That is not the right thing and that is not the proper thing to do in today's society in my opinion. I believe that most members on both sides of this House will agree with that. I find it very hard to believe that this minister does not have a heart because I believe he does and I believe he cares for people and particularly people with disabilities and the disadvantaged and particularly children. I am sure the honourable minister has grandchildren at home or children at home. I do not know much about his background, but I am sure he raised a family and struggled just like every other ordinary Nova Scotian.

Life is the same in every area of this province and the people who are not rewarded with a job have a more difficult time, Mr. Speaker. They beg, borrow, whatever they have to do. They struggle. They really struggle. They do not have the extra money to be at bingo whenever they want or the tavern or Friday night out on the town stuff. That stuff does not occur with the people that I am aware of at least who are on social assistance. They are there because they need to be there, because they have to be there. It is not because they want to be there. It is because they have no recourse.

I hear it all the time. I hear them telling their social workers, please, help me find employment, I do not want to come into your office, I want a job. I want to be able to live with dignity, I do not want to have to beg. I have a little bit of pride and I want to teach my children the right stuff; give me the opportunity to work. That, in my opinion at least, is the direction that this government should have taken prior to introducing this bill. Yes, it may

[Page 7659]

save, it might do a little bit for the Finance Minister's deficit, his little card game with the deficit there. He is trying to throw a few more dollars in the kitty, but when we look at the deficit and I think our caucus is basically on record and I agree that we have to deal with the deficit, but why do we have to make the poor people pay it all?

I looked at large, rich corporations obtaining government assistance, tax write-offs from the province, just the other day, and I am not going to get in too deep with this, because there was . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Let's talk about the six months' hoist there for a few minutes. That would be good. (Laughter)

MR. BOUDREAU: That is fair, Mr. Speaker. I really believe it is fair because I believe it is important to remind the minister that he requires a period of time to educate himself on the real issues that affect Nova Scotians today, because this minister and this government, it is obvious they are out of touch. I don't know what drives their engine, what kind of fuel is in their engine, but certainly it is a turbine. I don't really know if they care. Really, it is just amazing to me.

Certainly, before, when I was a municipal politician, I didn't expect to be elected to the House of Assembly and come up here and witness this. This was not my idea of how government works for the people of this province. It is not. That is why I indicated before that I wouldn't sit over there, I would not be part of that particular government. That is why this minister needs six months and that the hoist amendment is a good idea.

If the honourable Minister of Community Services and his other colleagues and Cabinet are that far out of touch with the reality of life in Nova Scotia, then perhaps I could arrange to take a delegation to Cape Breton and, basically, I am certain we wouldn't have to go to Cape Breton if they didn't want to go. It is obvious that is not one of their favorite stomping grounds anyway. I would even allow them the opportunity to choose the area they want to go, other than Bedford, of course. I don't want to go to a rich area. I want to go talk to ordinary people. Perhaps we could go to Inverness. Perhaps we could go down and talk to the single parents in Truro or in the Valley. We could go to any part of this province. In any part of this province, people on social assistance struggle each and every day of their lives. The majority of those people are on the system, not because they want to be on it, they have no other option. It is survival.

Mr. Speaker, the six months would provide enough time for me to, perhaps, explain to the minister what it is like to see a grown man cry before your eyes because his children are still wearing winter boots to school in June. I don't really think that is funny and I know the members over there in that government don't think that is funny either. I experienced first-hand this year, a grown gentleman, on my doorstep, with tears running down his face because he could not buy his children sneakers. Really, this is a very serious issue and it is

[Page 7660]

a very serious issue for each and every member of this House, because each and every member of this House has disadvantaged people living in their constituencies. I am convinced of that.

[9:30 p.m.]

The six months would provide the minister ample opportunity to come out, learn first-hand, see it, feel it. Then he could come back and explain to his Cabinet colleagues what life really is like on the soup lines. There is another idea, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps the minister would agree to go and visit the soup lines. Let's go to the kitchen. Let's go. I know many people who rely on those daily meals. I know seniors in this province who rely on Meals on Wheels. They don't all live in Cape Breton The Lakes, because Cape Breton The Lakes has a very high average of people who work hard and live average lives. But we also have a large number of residents who require the social network in this province. It is not because they want the social network, but because it is necessary for survival. It is life.

Mr. Speaker, I know my time is getting short. I guess I will make one more plea to the minister. Please agree to an all-Party committee, and go out into Nova Scotia and visit first hand.

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

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: The issue in front of us is the proposal for a six months' hoist of Bill No. 62. I support the six months' hoist of Bill No. 62. There are a whole variety of reasons to hoist that bill and take our time and not rush through this very important piece of legislation. In fact, I would confidently predict that if a six months' hoist were to be adopted by this House, and we were to take the time for mature reflection, we would not want to adopt this bill at all.

There are a whole variety of reasons why it is that we should turn our minds to a six months' hoist. First is, of course, and most profoundly, that virtually all of the agenda that the government is pursuing merits a hoist, and this is certainly a good solid part of it that merits that hoist. There are other reasons. The next reason, of course, is that we know from the representations that have been made to us as individual members of the Legislature, for those who have come to sit in the galleries and talk with us, who have talked with us outside, who have shown up outside this building, that the anti-poverty community is very concerned about this bill. They were concerned about the changes that were made to the community services system as a result of the budget in the spring, and they have come to tell us again that they are very concerned about the negative impacts of what is proposed now through Bill No. 62. They need time to continue to make those points.

[Page 7661]

One of the things about the anti-poverty groups is that they represent a diversely located group of people around the province. It is not easy for them to communicate with all of those who are interested, and to muster the resources themselves in order to come to talk with us and to talk with the public at large. That is another reason why I say that a six months' hoist makes sense. It doesn't make sense to try to rush through something that is important to so many people, that is potentially devastating to so many people without allowing them the full opportunity to organize themselves and to bring forward their analysis and their thoughts. We are certainly getting some of their analysis and their thoughts now, but the more time we can afford them, the better it will be.

Both of those reasons that I have suggested immediately are reasons which I don't think other members have mentioned, but I will turn to a third reason, which I have heard other members mention. It is that more information has to be distributed and discussed, not just by members of this House but by the whole of the public of the province, so that they get the opportunity to think about what it is that is actually being proposed here. What I am talking about, of course, is the desirability of having the regulations brought forward in detail so that we know exactly what it is that the government contemplates, because when we look at this bill, it is obvious that a huge apparatus is yet to be designed and brought forward through the regulations. The bill talks about an appeal system, the bill talks about how it is that you recover overpayments, in fact it talks quite a bit about how you recover overpayments. But do you know what, the main thrust of this bill is to put in place a regulation-making power for the government, for the minister, for his department.

The minister suggested that he knows the direction in which he intends to move. The minister suggested that he already knows the details of what it is that he intends to do. If that is the case, then we ought to have the details drafted and available to us so that the whole of the province can look at them, look at them squarely and decide whether they are fair, whether, indeed, they make sense. It is not unknown for bills to come forward in the Legislature with the regulations attached. I am not saying they have to be part of the bill, I am saying that it is a well-recognized mechanism for facilitating proper debate of bills, to come forward with the regulations attached, so that we can look at them and we can say, this is a good regulation, this one needs tightening up and this one should be thrown out in its entirety.

This is what we want the hoist for. This is why a six months' hoist makes sense. If the minister is saying that he doesn't have his regulations drafted yet, well, then let him take the time and do it, because that information is the kind of information that the concerned members of the public are entitled to have, and if they don't have it, they are not in as good a position to be able to debate what it is that is proposed.

Do you know what, there are other reasons. There are other reasons why it is that a hoist makes sense. One of the most important is that as we understand the system that is being proposed by the minister, on the evidence of what happened in the spring through the

[Page 7662]

budget and on the evidence of what it is that he said publicly this week, as we understand the system proposed by the minister, there are much better alternatives. I think that one of the virtues of a six months' hoist is it would allow those alternatives to be explored.

It would allow people who have better ideas to come forward and convince the government opposite that they have it wrong. They haven't designed a system that will achieve their stated objectives. If alternatives are out there that are better alternatives, why don't we take the time and go out and look for them, go out and invite that commentary, go out and listen to them, go out and act upon them. That makes sense.

The bottom line is that upon more mature reflection the Nova Scotia Government can do better. The Nova Scotia Government can deliver a system that deals with community services, which is crucial, and a touchstone of the compassion of a government, a touchstone of the sense of a government. We know this government could do much better. Upon more mature reflection, which a hoist would allow, we could get there. We could actually improve the system that is proposed, as measured by the stated objectives of the minister.

The stated objectives of the minister are not what many people fear. The stated objectives are to help people out of difficult situations into easier situations. Now on the face of it, many of us would want to see that accomplished. In fact, I can't think that there is anyone here who wouldn't want to see that accomplished. I think everyone who has spoken says that the underlying stated objective, not necessarily the objective that is really at work, but the stated objective is certainly one that everyone here is prepared to accept, buy into, advance, work for, embrace, we would all wish to do that. But there is a problem. The problem is that Bill No. 62 as brought forward, is not about to accomplish that. Again, upon more mature reflection, which is what a hoist would accomplish, I think we could get there.

I started out saying - perhaps it was unkind - that the entire agenda of this government deserves at least a six months' hoist. I think it is incumbent upon me just to explain how I see the entire agenda of the government, so the people can understand that and are not left puzzled. It is not all that difficult to understand. The agenda of the government opposite is modelled step-by-step on the agenda of the first-term Mike Harris Government in Ontario. It is pretty obvious what that agenda was for Mr. Harris in Ontario, and it is immediately obvious what that agenda is for the government opposite. Here it is. First, you bring the budget into balance, but you do it, not by increasing revenues or by improving the economy of the province, you do it by cutting back on government services. You know what, anyone can do that. But that is the first step in the agenda. We saw that last year. We are seeing more of it this year. We will see more of it unnecessarily for the next couple of years.

The second step is to privatize everything in sight, as much as you can get away with privatizing, you privatize. We are seeing that right now. The third thing is to cause as much discomfort for the most vulnerable in society as you can get away with because they are not your friends. We saw that with Mike Harris in Ontario to the tune of a cutback of $21.6 per

[Page 7663]

cent in the rates of social assistance in Ontario. He did that in his first term. It is obvious that the minister doesn't think he could quite get away with 21.6 per cent cuts in Nova Scotia, but he is doing his best. He figured he could get away with about half that level of cuts. I don't think so, and I don't like it, and I think this whole agenda needs to be hoisted.

Oh, there was a fourth part I should point out, to the agenda of Mike Harris that is being imitated so slavishly here. It is that in the last year, you deliver a small tax cut, and you seek re-election. You know what? It worked in the 905 areas in Ontario, but it isn't going to work here. It isn't going to work in 902. Be clear. Be absolutely clear over there that this is not the agenda that Nova Scotians want. But, it is the agenda that is quite clearly being followed over there of which the example I gave now manifested in Bill No. 62 as the attempt to show that the government is being tough with welfare bums is an integral part. I reject that. I reject it on behalf of those of us who not only have in our constituencies people who are in receipt of community assistance, because that would mean all of us here - we all have such people in our constituencies - I reject it on behalf of those of us who are in touch with those of our constituents and who worry about those of our constituents who are in receipt of social assistance, and who need it.

We need a hoist so that the members opposite can actually get in touch with those people, because I have such people in my district. I know that I do. I represent, in the central part of the Halifax Peninsula, a very generally prosperous middle-class area. But, you know what? I also have in there a good-sized piece of public housing. Furthermore, spread out in the middle-class neighbourhoods in which I live and in which my friends live, there are people who are in receipt of social assistance and who need it in order to survive. But even at that, it is probably in the constituencies of the members opposite that there are more people as a proportion of their residents who are in receipt of community services. I cannot understand why it is that a Party that is anchored, that has its strength in the rural mainland areas of this province thinks that it can continue to beat up on its rural residents, and I think that a six months' hoist in which they got in touch and had honest talks with people in their constituencies would bring sobering thoughts to the members opposite about what it is that they are proposing.

[9:45 p.m.]

I suggest, that it was obvious, of course, with the Harris PCs in Ontario that they drummed up a lot of hysteria about welfare bums. It is muted here. It isn't what is being said, but it is what is being implied. I want to remind the members opposite that when they take the time during the six months' hoist period to think about what the reality is of poverty in their constituencies, they turn their minds to a few of the many myths about poverty. Let me start with one that might be fairly close to their own minds.

[Page 7664]

A lot of people think that if you are well-educated you never end up on social assistance. Not true; it is not true. In Canada, 11 per cent of the people who are in receipt of social assistance have attended post-secondary educational institutions. It happens to people because their industries are restructured and they are thrown out of work and they have built up debt. All of you over there will know that the middle class is carrying a lot of debt and they don't like it. A lot of you will know that the middle class is living paycheque to paycheque. Do you know what? If it happens that the breadwinner loses their job and they are facing mountains of debt, they could easily end up on welfare. Their families break up, they end up on welfare. Because unemployment insurance runs out after awhile, they will end up on welfare and they will end up in reduced circumstances. That happens.

I will give you another myth. Here is one of the myths that you might have in mind. You may think that there is a prejudice out there against single mothers. You may think that single mothers go out and have babies in large numbers in order to increase their welfare payments every month. Well, you know what? If you were in touch, you would know that this is not true and 51 per cent of the mothers who are on welfare have only one child, and another 30 per cent of the mothers who are on welfare have only two children. Do you know those numbers are exactly the same kind of numbers that you see in the population at large?

I hope that you are not carrying around this kind of myth. I hope that you don't believe that those kinds of myths can be sold to the people of Nova Scotia, because if that is what you think, you're wrong. I know that, reliably, if there is ever someone found who has cheated on their welfare or has run up an inflated claim and they are caught, it is in the paper in big, big bold headlines. But do you know what? No matter how much that kind of reportage shows up in the popular press, I think most Nova Scotians know that it is not truly reflective of the overall data about the hard reality of what life is like on welfare. If they want to know, if they want to follow criminal charges, criminal acts, criminal activities and the big rip-offs, they can turn to the business pages and they will find a lot more there than they will in terms of the hard reality of what it is that goes on in the welfare system, let me tell you, let me refer you to the Report on Business any day in The Globe and Mail.

I will give you another myth that people sometimes have in their minds, and I hope the members opposite don't have this myth in their minds. I hope the members opposite don't think that Nova Scotians have this particular myth in their minds. It is the myth that the disabled are an insignificant part of the people on welfare. That virtually all the people on welfare are completely able-bodied and quite able to get out and go to work. That isn't true either, it isn't even remotely true.

We know we have more disabled persons as a percentage of our population in Nova Scotia, but Canada-wide, at least 27 per cent of the households of people on welfare are headed up by people who have disabilities. That is 27 per cent. It is no wonder that many of them are not able, especially given the general absence of supports to get themselves out of the mire of the situation in which they find themselves and move ahead.

[Page 7665]

There are an abundance of myths out there and I suggest that a good reason for getting out during the time of a six months' hoist is partly so that the members opposite can educate themselves and partly so that the people of Nova Scotia will be educated out of any of the myths that some residual numbers of them may carry around in their heads. Because we don't want to be making public policy based on a populous that does not have the facts clear and we certainly don't want to be making public policy based on a government that does not have the facts clear.

I heard interesting words from the minister earlier when he spoke about his bill. He was talking about the desirability of ending the two-tier system. Here is what the minister said. He said that the two-tiered system was inequitable and hopelessly behind the times. I will tell you what is inequitable and hopelessly behind the times and it is not just the two-tier system. It is this entire proposal that we are seeing coming forward from this minister.

I hope I quoted the minister correctly. I see from his nods that apparently I have. This whole system is a major problem for the community that needs it. I wonder if the members opposite know this, just what proportion of the population of Nova Scotia do they think is actually on welfare? Do they think it is 50 per cent? They know it isn't. It is something less than that. What is the number? Do we hear it, do you know what it is? It is 7 per cent of the population of the entire province is at any one time in receipt of welfare payments. This is not an extraordinary number. This is not a state of affairs that is going to break the bank. This is not the place to attack the myriad of problems that we have in this province, it is just not the right place. Never mind that the approach is entirely misconceived.

It is not that we have a hard core 7 per cent of the population that is on welfare and never gets off, that is there generation after generation. That is not true, that would be another myth and that is another reason why we need the hoist so people can become familiar over time with the hard facts, with the true facts . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber. I would ask the members to take their conversation outside. The honourable member for Halifax-Chebucto.

MR. EPSTEIN: I do agree that poverty is a serious problem and I agree that intelligent measures are needed in order to deal with poverty. I do agree that it is within our grasp to do something to seriously ameliorate the situation of that 7 per cent and along with it to do something for all of us as a society. Not only do I think it is possible, I think it is absolutely incumbent upon us to do it. It is job one. Getting rid of poverty in our lifetime should be job one. It should be that the Minister of Community Services is seen as having a sacred trust to carry out the most important task that his government could possibly undertake and I only wish that he would take the time to do it right which is what a six month hoist would be all about.

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If the minister would take the time and have the backing of his Cabinet colleagues and have the backing of those who sit in the back benches, if they got truly in touch with the reality of poverty in their constituencies, then we might stand a chance of moving ahead on the agenda which has been recognized internationally through the United Nations as being central, important and achievable. In our country it is achievable. It can happen. It could happen, but it will not happen with this. It will not happen unless we take the problem seriously and take the time during the six months afforded to us by a hoist to actually figure out the right way to do this.

I want to draw the attention of the members opposite to some truly startling statistics. Do you know what it is that is keeping the system afloat in Nova Scotia? Do you know what it is that is allowing the government to continue to cheat people at the lowest end of the economic scale? It is the food banks. It is the food banks in Nova Scotia, well beyond the food banks in other parts of the country, as a proportion we . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member like to move adjournment of the debate?

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to move adjournment of the debate for this evening.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the House will meet tomorrow at the hour of 12:00 noon and sit until 8:00 p.m. The order of business will be the continuation of second reading on Bill No. 62. I move that the House do now rise.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

We stand adjourned until tomorrow at 12:00 p.m.

[The House rose at 9:58 p.m.]