The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House will resume on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Tue., Oct. 31, 2000

First Session

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
Speaker's Ruling on Previous Point of Order:
Statements made by member for Sackville-Cobequid^
(Point of Order by Mr. M. Samson p.7466)
Ruling: Disagreement of facts between members 7668
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Pinedale Sub. - Crosswalk, Mr. W. Estabrooks 7668
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Anl. Rept. of the Public Trustee, Hon. M. Baker 7669
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2919, Surette, Stan - Acadian Fed. (N.S.): Pres. - Election Congrats.,
Hon. N. LeBlanc 7669
Vote - Affirmative 7670
Res. 2920, Morykot, Donna - Young Engineer of the Year: Award -
Congrats., Hon. J. Purves 7670
Vote - Affirmative 7671
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 69, Denturists Act, Hon. J. Muir 7671
No. 70, Sydney Steel Corporation Sale Act, Hon. G. Balser 7671
No. 71, Psychologists Act, Hon. J. Muir 7671
No. 72, Dental Act, Hon. J. Muir 7672
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2921, Commun. Serv. - Welfare: Rates - Reconsider,
Mr. John MacDonell 7672
Res. 2922, Educ. - Curriculum Dev.: Freeze - Rescind, Mr. W. Gaudet 7672
Res. 2923, Sports - Sport Hall of Fame (N.S.): Induction Celebration
(2000) - Participants Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 7673
Vote - Affirmative 7674
Res. 2924, Fin. - Fuel Oil: Prices - Min. Approach, Mr. J. Holm 7674
Res. 2925, Morrison, Kevin - Sport Hall of Fame (N.S.): Induction -
Congrats., Mr. Manning MacDonald 7675
Vote - Affirmative 7675
Res. 2926, PC Party - Women's Assoc.: Service - Recognize,
Mrs. M. Baillie 7675
Vote - Affirmative 7676
Res. 2927, Culture - Girl Guides/Famous 5 Foundation: Exhibit -
Commend, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 7676
Vote - Affirmative 7677
Res. 2928, EI - Prog. (Lib.): Confidence - Express, Mr. D. Downe 7677
Res. 2929, Econ. Dev. - Michelin: Prod. Milestone - Applaud,
Mr. J. Carey 7678
Vote - Affirmative 7678
Res. 2930, Commun. Serv. - Child Poverty (17/08/88 on): Deficit -
Recognize, Mr. K. Deveaux 7678
Res. 2931, NSLC - Gov't. (N.S.): Priorities - Align, Mr. K. MacAskill 7679
Res. 2932, Young, Derek - Advanced Placement Exams:
Achievement - Commend, Hon. M. Baker 7680
Vote - Affirmative 7680
Res. 2933, Sports - Miles, Johnny: Accomplishments - Recognize,
Mr. F. Corbett 7680
Vote - Affirmative 7681
Res. 2934, Health - Col. Reg. Hosp. Staff: Victory - Congrats.,
Dr. J. Smith 7681
Res. 2935, Cooke, Heidi - Movie Industry: Employment - Best Wishes,
Mr. B. Taylor 7682
Vote - Affirmative 7682
Res. 2936, Health - Col. Reg. Hosp.: Slush Fund - Min. Transfer,
Mr. D. Dexter 7683
Res. 2937, Gov't. (N.S.) - Charity: Approach - Condemn, Mr. D. Wilson 7684
Res. 2938, Commun. Serv. - Welfare System: NDP Critic -
Info. Provide, Mr. F. Chipman 7684
Res. 2939, Henry, Cynthia - History of the Capitol Theatre:
Publication - Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 7685
Vote - Affirmative 7686
Res. 2940, Educ. - Take Our Kids to Work Day (Grade 9): Efforts -
Recognize, Mr. B. Boudreau 7686
Vote - Affirmative 7686
Res. 2941, Justice - Law Reform Commn.: Funding - Reinstate,
Mr. H. Epstein 7687
Res. 2942, Surette, Stan - Acadian Fed. (N.S.): Pres. - Election Congrats.,
Mr. M. Samson 7687
Vote - Affirmative 7688
Res. 2943, Serv. NS. & Mun. Rel. - Expenses: Downloading - Cease,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 7688
Res. 2944, EI - System: NDP MP (Dockrill, Michelle) - Changes,
Mr. M. Samson 7689
Res. 2945, Election (Cdn.) - Robinson, Svend: Honesty - Commend,
Mr. P. MacEwan 7690
Res. 2946, Election (Cdn.) - Plan (NDP): Nova Scotians - Effect,
Mr. P. MacEwan 7690
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 925, Health - Col. Reg. Hosp.: Paediatric Care - Cuts, Mr. D. Dexter 7691
No. 926, Health - Physicians: Recruitment - Status, Mr. W. Gaudet 7692
No. 927, Health - Col. Reg. Hosp.: Paediatric Care - Safety Ensure,
Mr. D. Dexter 7693
No. 928, Health - Med. Soc. (N.S.): Physician Recruitment - Status,
Dr. J. Smith 7694
No. 929, Health - Bone Densitometers: Funding - Refusal, Mr. D. Dexter 7696
No. 930, Health - Col. Reg. Hosp.: Clinical Footprint - Importance,
Dr. J. Smith 7697
No. 931, Health: Lillian Fraser Mem. Hosp. (Tatamagouche) - Cuts,
Mr. John MacDonell 7699
No. 932, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel.: Home Heating Fuel - Rebate Prog.,
Mr. W. Gaudet 7700
No. 933, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - C.B. Truckers Assoc.: Tender -
Rejection, Mr. F. Corbett 7701
No. 934, Agric. - Farm Loan Bd.: Chairman (Sproule, Donald) -
Qualifications, Mr. D. Downe 7702
No. 935, Commun. Serv.: Adoption Information Act - Status,
Mr. H. Epstein 7704
No. 936, Tourism - Resorts: Privatization - Details, Mr. K. MacAskill 7705
No. 937, NSLC - Surcharge: Reduction - Beneficiary, Mr. J. Holm 7706
No. 938, Educ. - Schools: Sydney - Construction Time-Frame,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 7708
No. 939, Commun. Serv. - Small Options Home (Duffus St., Hfx.):
Residents - Supervision Adequacy, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 7710
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 62, Employment Support and Income Assistance Act 7710
Amendment [debate resumed] 7710
Mr. H. Epstein 7711
Mr. D. Dexter 7716
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 7728
Mr. Robert Chisholm 7741
Mr. J. Pye 7753
Adjourned debate 7767
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Canada Post: Sorting Station (N. Sydney) - Closure:
Mr. B. Boudreau 7768
Mr. F. Corbett 7771
Mr. M. Samson 7773
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 62, Employment Support and Income Assistance Act 7777
Amendment [debate resumed] 7777
Mr. J. Pye 7777
Mr. F. Corbett 7777
Mr. J. Holm 7785
Mr. W. Estabrooks 7791
Adjourned debate 7796
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Nov. 1st at 2:00 p.m. 7796

[Page 7667]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, I am going to give a ruling on a point of order that was brought forward last week by the honourable member for Richmond.

On Thursday, October 26, 2000, the honourable member for Richmond rose on a point of order. He felt the member for Sackville-Cobequid was intentionally misleading the House by stating the member for Richmond had made comments which he denied being true. Upon reviewing Hansard, I note the member for Richmond had said, "Is Bill No. 60 going to do something that the constituents who vote in elections cannot do, and are we really prepared to have our conduct judged by Justice Merlin Nunn? I don't think that is appropriate. I don't think it is necessary." I also note that the member for Sackville-Cobequid stated, "I also have no hesitation in saying that I have confidence in a former Chief Justice of the Court of Nova Scotia even if this former speaker who happens to be a member of the bar doesn't, I have no hesitation whatsoever in that retired justice who is the Conflict of Interest Commissioner making fair unbiased decisions." He also stated further, ". . . I didn't say that he cast aspersions on the Chief Justice. I said that he did not have confidence in that person."

The member for Sackville-Cobequid stated what he felt the member for Richmond was saying. However, the member for Richmond denied this and clearly assured the House what he said and what he meant.

7667

[Page 7668]

It is my decision this is not a point of order but a disagreement of the facts between two members which have been clarified for the House and for the members. I have a copy of that decision for anyone who would like to have it.

Also, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Victoria:

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier has failed to defend the interests of Nova Scotia by remaining silent on the issue of the closure of the Canada Post North Sydney sorting station.

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

Order, please. We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a petition from 68 students, many of them who only can print their first name. These 68 young people are asking for a proper crosswalk at the busy Pinedale Subdivision. I have affixed my signature, both first and last name.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Finance on an introduction.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to your attention and to all members of the House, a former member of this House who has served many years and whose sense of humour has been appreciated not only by members but also Nova Scotia, the honourable Joe Casey who is in the east gallery. (Standing Ovation)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party on an introduction.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to you and to all members of the House, as well, sitting in the east gallery, accompanying the honourable past member for Digby, Joe Casey, is his wife, Vera Casey. We certainly would like to extend our welcome. (Applause)

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

[Page 7669]

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to table for the House the Public Trustee Annual Report for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2000.

MR. SPEAKER: The document is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 2919

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Monsieur le président, à une date ultérieure, j'ai l'intention de proposer l'adoption de la résolution suivante:

Attendu que la 32e assemblée générale anuelle de la Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse avait lieu cette fin de semaine passée; et

Attendu que Stan Surette de Pubnico-Ouest a été élu président de la FANE; et

Attendu que Monsieur Surette est un éducateur bien respecté qui contribue depuis toujours à la communauté acadienne;

Qu'il soit résolu que cette assemblée transmette à Stan Surette ses plus sincères félicitations et ses meilleurs voeux de succès durant sa présidence à la FANE.

Monsieur le président, je demande l'adoption de cette résolution sans préavis et sans débat.

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

Whereas the Acadian Federation of Nova Scotia held its 32nd annual general meeting last weekend; and

Whereas Stan Surette of West Pubnico was elected President of the Acadian Federation; and

[Page 7670]

Mr. Surette is a well-respected educator who has always been a tireless contributor to the Acadian community;

Therefore be it resolved that this House convey to Stan Surette its most sincere congratulations and its best wishes for a successful mandate.

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 Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 2920

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

Whereas Donna Morykot of Port Hawkesbury has received the Young Engineer of the Year Award from the Association of Professional Engineers; and

Whereas Ms. Morykot is the lead civil and permitting engineer for Sempra Atlantic Gas and is currently completing a Master of Engineering Degree in Hydrology at DalTech.; and

Whereas Ms. Morykot was recently appointed to the Nova Scotia Women in Engineering Scholarship Selection Committee;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate Donna Morykot for her commitment to her profession and for the honour bestowed upon her by her peers at the Association of Professional Engineers.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 7671]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, just before introducing the bill, with your permission, I would like to make an introduction. The bill is about denturism and representatives of the denturist profession are here today from the Denturist Licensing Board of Nova Scotia: Mrs. Blanch Keats who is the Chair; Mr. John Garroway, the Director; and Mrs. Heather Kugler, the Registrar. Also, from the Denturist Society of Nova Scotia: Mr. William Lloy, President; Mr. Ken Edwards - who is probably known to most of you - Past President; Mr. Art MacAulay, Past Vice-President; and Ms. Della Sangster, Director. From the Nova Scotia Dental Association: Mr. Don Pamenter, Executive Director. From the Nova Scotia Community College which will be introducing a program in denturism: Mr. Paul LaFleche, Vice-President, Academic Program Services; and Mr. Victor Henrikson, Department Head, Health and Human Services; and also, Mr. Joe Casey - who was already introduced. The reason he is here today, I would think, is because he was the MLA who first introduced legislation for the denturists back in 1973. (Applause)

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 69 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Practice of Denturism (Hon. James Muir.)

Bill No. 70 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Sale of the Assets of Sydney Steel Corporation. (Hon. Gordon Balser)

Bill No. 71 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Practice of Psychology. (Hon. James Muir)

[12:15 p.m.]

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

The honourable Minister of Health.

[Page 7672]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, before tabling this last bill, I don't know if there are representatives from the Psychologists Association or from the Dental Society here, but if they are I would like to introduce them and ask them to receive the welcome of the House. They were invited. (Applause)

Bill No. 72 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 3 of the Acts of 1992. The Dental Act. (Hon. James Muir)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2921

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 government's new welfare rates mean that families and the disabled will have less money, a single parent with two children will have $227 less each month; and

Whereas the government does not have real employment incentives; and

Whereas this government is not providing the level of childcare support required for single parents to enter the workforce;

Therefore be it resolved that this government reconsider this flawed and ill-conceived approach, which will leave families trapped in a cycle of poverty.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2922

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 Education Department's English program services director announced recent changes in spending rules for textbooks; and

[Page 7673]

Whereas as a result of these changes, the province will be spending $7.6 million on textbooks this year; and

Whereas the director says that $7.6 million is enough, given the province's two year freeze on curriculum development;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the Minister of Education to rescind the two year freeze on curriculum development so that Nova Scotia students will not fall behind other jurisdictions in preparing students for the opportunities of the 21st Century.

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 Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 2923

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame held its 2000 induction ceremonies on October 27th; and

Whereas the athletes and team inductees were Lawrence "Butch" O'Hearn, Donald "Chick" Charlton, Kevin Morrison, William "Billy" Hannon, and the 1948-49 Sydney Millionaires Hockey Team; and

Whereas Brian Langley, Kell Antoft and Al Yarr were inducted as Builders;

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate the directors, volunteers and staff of the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame on the excellence of their 2000 induction celebration and thank them for their ongoing enrichment of Nova Scotia's sport heritage.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 7674]

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. 2924

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 Minister of Finance stated in today's Chronicle-Herald that the OPEC cartel is to blame for rising fuel oil prices, but in the long run a free market system is "always the best for consumers"; and

Whereas the minister recommends that rather than expecting his government to do something about rising fuel oil prices, "this might well be the time to have your furnace checked to ensure you are getting maximum fuel efficiency"; and

Whereas the minister goes on to state that, "the people who are least able to influence these events are the ones who suffer the most . . . these people are individual Nova Scotians and all people who heat their homes with oil.";

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the minister for his do-nothing, laissez-faire approach to fuel oil prices which should provide cold comfort to Nova Scotians as we descend into winter.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[The notice is tabled.]

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

[Page 7675]

RESOLUTION NO. 2925

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

Whereas for six World Hockey Association and one National Hockey League season defenceman Kevin Morrison of Sydney was at the top of his game in a professional career that spanned 1969 to 1980; and

Whereas Kevin Morrison was renowned for his hard-nosed, rugged style that won the accolades of coach Don Cherry, and a career that included such exploits as assisting on Wayne Gretzky's first professional goal with Indianapolis; and

Whereas for Kevin Morrison's outstanding contribution to hockey he has been inducted into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate and honour Kevin Morrison of Sydney for his outstanding achievement in sport and for being named to the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame.

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 Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2926

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

Whereas women in the political Party system have long been a force for strong and effective organization; and

[Page 7676]

Whereas the Progressive Conservative Party's Women's Association just held its annual meeting in Bras d'Or, at which time they celebrated a year of hard work, planned ahead and honoured Edythe Bell, Alma Furneaux, Betty Hoegg, Ruth Hood, Rossana Liberatore, Ethel MacKenzie, and Rhondena MacLeod, with honorary life awards; and

Whereas this hard-working group of volunteers also roasted and toasted a dedicated PC Party worker, Jim David, who, along with his wife, has devoted years of service to the Party and province and continues to do so as executive director of the provincial organization;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the hard work of the women's association and its volunteers and their dedicated service to the democratic process of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 2927

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

Whereas on October 18, 1929, women were finally recognized as persons by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council of Britain; and

Whereas Emily Murphy, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Louise McKinney, Irene Parlby and Nellie McClung, are recognized as the Famous 5, the women who fought to have women recognized as persons before the law; and

Whereas these five great women are being honoured with a travelling exhibit ending at Parliament Hill later this year;

[Page 7677]

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend the Girl Guides of Canada and the Famous 5 Foundation for sponsoring this exhibit, that pays tribute to the Famous 5 for their legacy, on behalf of Canadian women.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2928

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

Whereas the New Democratic Party has a new-found interest in Employment Insurance legislation these days; and

Whereas in all likelihood this reflects the fact that Members of Parliament are not covered by EI under the present Employment Insurance Program; and

Whereas when the current Liberal Government of Prime Minister Jean Chretien is re-elected, it can be counted on to continue with the new EI legislation introduced before Parliament was dissolved;

Therefore be it resolved that this House express confidence in the Liberal EI program, but would caution against any amendment that might extend new coverage to large numbers of NDP MPs who may find themselves unemployed November 28th.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

[Page 7678]

RESOLUTION NO. 2929

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

Whereas tire number 150 million rolled off the Michelin production lines in Nova Scotia in October 2000; and

Whereas this great success is due thanks to the firm's hard-working and dedicated employees in Waterville, Granton and Bridgewater; and

Whereas beginning in 1971, it took 15 years of hard work to mark production of the first 50 million tires, it took eight years for the next 50 million and just six years to reach the current level;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House applaud Michelin's milestone in tire production in Nova Scotia as well as its 3,500 employees at its three production facilities who are committed to a quality product, their communities and a job well done.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 2930

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

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

Whereas since August 17, 1999, this Tory Government's first full day in office, 2,646 children have been born into poverty; and

[Page 7679]

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

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government start waking up to the health, education and social deficits faced by the 2,646 children born into poverty under this Tory Regime.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 2931

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 months of delays, the government finally released its report on the privatization of Liquor Commissions; and

Whereas this expensive study made few changes to the status quo except for making liquor available in a few more rural areas; and

Whereas it seems this government thinks that people deserve to live closer to a liquor store than to hospitals;

Therefore be it resolved that this government get its priorities straight and deal with more pressing issues instead of just giving the Minister of Tourism something to do.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

[Page 7680]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 2932

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

Whereas Derek Young of North River, Lunenburg County, received recognition for exceptional achievement on the college level advanced placement examinations; and

Whereas Derek is a graduate of New Germany Rural High School and now attends Acadia University; and

Whereas 700,000 students took the exam and Derek finished in the top 13 per cent;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly commends Derek Young on his achievement and wishes him all the best with his post-secondary studies.

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 Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 2933

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

Whereas Nova Scotians have a long and proud history of excelling on the world stage; and

[Page 7681]

Whereas the Boston Marathon is a sporting event that draws worldwide attention and was won twice by Johnny Miles, a native of Sydney Mines; and

Whereas yesterday was Mr. Miles' 95th birthday;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly pay tribute to Johnny Miles for his accomplishments and wish him a happy birthday.

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. 2934

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

Whereas despite road blocks from the Minister of Health, staff at the Colchester Regional Hospital have been able to delay cuts to the paediatric nursing team; and

Whereas even though their fears were dismissed by the Health Minister who is also the local MLA, hospital staff and local residents were able to make their concerns heard; and

Whereas despite an outcry of protests, the Health Minister said that the originally planned cuts would not cause any great problems;

Therefore be it resolved that the staff at the Colchester Regional Hospital and residents of the former, and I underline former, Northern Health Region should be congratulated for this small victory in making their voices heard by a government that does not want to listen.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

[Page 7682]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 2935

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

Whereas Brookfield, Colchester County resident Heidi Cooke is now using her exceptional motocross driving abilities in the filming of a $62 million major motion picture due for release next spring called Rollerball; and

[12:30 p.m.]

Whereas Ms. Cooke is one of the top 10 female motocross riders in North America and is being employed on the set of Rollerball as a stunt double, doing scenes mostly involving motorcycle jumps; and

Whereas Ms. Cooke has said she has overcome some real jitters, as this is the first time she has ever appeared in a motion picture;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs wish Heidi the very best as she continues to work in the movie industry and wish her every success in the future.

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 7683]

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2936

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

Whereas the Northern Regional Health Board's plan for paediatric nurses at the Colchester Regional Hospital has been altered but not reversed; and

Whereas the impact of the cuts will now be felt conveniently for this government when the House is not in session and when they will not have to face questions here on the floor; and

Whereas these cuts, no matter when done, will threaten patient safety;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health personally intervene and take the necessary funds from the government's slush fund to protect services at the Colchester Regional Hospital.

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 on an introduction.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, earlier today we introduced members of the Denturist Society of Nova Scotia. Mr. Ken Edwards, Past President, was introduced but he also has his business partner and daughter, Tasha Edwards, in the audience as well. They are both from Bridgewater, Lunenburg County, and I would ask members to welcome her - the better side of Ken, I might add. (Applause)

[Page 7684]

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2937

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

Whereas last year the Hamm Government took millions of dollars destined for charity and put it in the coffers of the province in what only can be described as a heartless act; and

Whereas this past weekend, volunteers at the Glace Bay Food Bank were trying to refill their shelves as the holiday approaches, efforts that could have been easier had the government not absconded with that money; and

Whereas now we find that Santa's Workshop in North Sydney is closing its doors after eight years of successful operation;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House soundly condemn the Hamm Government for its cold, calculating approach to charity at a time when food banks need help and Santa's Workshop is closing.

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 Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2938

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 member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage is somewhat confused, and contends we are hiding the positive changes we are making to this province's welfare system; and

[Page 7685]

Whereas to update the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, he should note that government is extending Pharmacare benefits to 12 months to those individuals leaving social assistance to go to work; and

Whereas the member should also be aware that government is increasing the maximum child care and transportation allowances, instituting a new wage incentive and implementing personal start-up and training incentives for those leaving social assistance and returning to work;

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP's Community Services Critic come forward and inform Nova Scotians as to whether he opposes these measures or whether he wishes assistance be provided to everyone and leave the system with no accountability.

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 2939

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

Whereas the Capitol Theatre held a prominent place in the past of the historic City of Halifax; and

Whereas during the past three years, Cynthia Henry undertook a thorough review of the Capitol Theatre, spending hours at the Nova Scotia Archives; and

Whereas this talented young woman and Sir John A. Macdonald High School graduate has compiled a wonderful history of the Capitol Theatre;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its congratulations and gratitude to Cynthia Henry on the publication of her book, History of the Capitol Theatre.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

[Page 7686]

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. 2940

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

Whereas on Wednesday, November 1, 2000, Grade 9 students from Thompson Junior High School in North Sydney will take part in the annual Take Our Kids to Work Day; and

Whereas students get the opportunity to participate in and experience life in the workplace; and

Whereas for the past four years, students from Thompson Junior High have participated in the program;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize November 1st as Take Our Kids to Work Day and wish the organizers, volunteers, students and employers continued success with this worthwhile project.

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 7687]

RESOLUTION NO. 2941

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

Whereas after nine years of excellent work, the Law Reform Commission is being forced by this government to disband; and

Whereas this closure is a shortsighted step by this government because the Law Reform Commission does very good work; and

Whereas this government is dedicated to an agenda of balancing the budget by cutting useful services;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Justice reconsider this foolhardy and narrow-minded decision, and reinstate the funding to the Law Reform Commission.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 2942

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Monsieur le président, par la présente, j'avise que je proposerai à une date ultérieure, l'adoption de la résolution suivante:

Attendu que M. Stan Surette, natif de la région d'Argyle a été élu comme président de la Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse pendant l'assemblée générale annuelle les 27, 28 et 29 octobre à Dartmouth; et

Attendu que l'assemblée généale annuelle est l'occasion pour les membres de la Fédération de se regrouper et de discuter des sujets qui concernent tous les Acadiens de la Nouvelle-Écosse; et

Attendu que la Fédération acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse (FANE) est un regroupement d'associations, locales et provinciales d'expression française qui s'engage à promouvoir le développement et l'épanouissement global de la communauté acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse;

Qu'il soit résolu que cette Chambre exprime ses félicitation et transmette ses meilleurs voeux de succès continu à M. Stan Surette et à tout les membre de la Fédération Acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse.

[Page 7688]

Monsieur le président, je propose l'adoption de cette résolution sans préavis et sans débats.

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

Whereas Stan Surette was elected President of la Federation Acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse; and

Whereas the election took place during the Federation's 32nd annual general assembly in Dartmouth over the weekend; and

Whereas the Federation Acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse primary mission is the advancement of the language, culture and survival of Acadians;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Stan Surette as the new President of la Federation Acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse.

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 West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2943

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

Whereas at the recent meeting of the UNSM, the Minister of Municipal Affairs announced that municipalities would be responsible for the cost of property assessment; and

Whereas assessments are carried out by employees of the Department of Municipal Affairs, a department of the provincial government; and

[Page 7689]

Whereas the only way the municipalities can pay for these assessment costs is through an extra taxation levy on their own citizens;

Therefore be it resolved that the provincial government stop downloading their legitimate expenses on the municipalities and accept responsibility for their own activities.

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 Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 2944

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

Whereas in a recent taxpayer-funded post-election call, socialist propaganda rag, MP Michelle Dockrill claimed that the federal government made changes to employment insurance based on her own suggestions; and

Whereas such an outstanding feat by a lone NDP member, without support or input from her caucus, is truly an amazing task suitable for induction into the House of Commons Hall of Fame; and

Whereas with such an outstanding Member of Parliament, there is hardly a need for a full NDP Opposition Party at all;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate NDP MP Michelle Dockrill for single-handedly changing the EI system, and for once again embarrassing her constituents through her unfounded ridiculous boasts.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

[Page 7690]

RESOLUTION NO. 2945

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

Whereas the latest to comment on the NDP's election prospects with insight and candour is the veteran MP Svend Robinson; and

Whereas Svend Robinson admits his Party is in trouble and was quoted yesterday as saying that it is crippled by the disrepute in which the B.C. provincial Government of Ujjal Dosanjh is held; and

Whereas Svend Robinson is but the latest to join those who agree that the NDP stands on the brink of national annihilation;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commends Svend Robinson for having been honest and forthright with the voters at the time of the upcoming federal election.

Since this is a congratulatory motion, perhaps I could request unanimous consent of the House and that notice be waived and we could vote on that matter without debate. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 2946

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

Whereas the NDP are all on the warpath nowadays hammering up signs on every vacant lot and flooding the airwaves with Alexa-in-Wonderland propaganda; and

Whereas we learn the NDP has a plan for Canada and that it is to, if possible, elect a minimum of 12 MPs to the 301 seat House of Commons; and

Whereas the purpose of this plan is to try and remain a recognized Party in Parliament, with all the perks and privileges attendant thereto, the same as the PC plan for Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that Nova Scotians deserve better than to be used as pawns by the perpetrators of these self-serving plottings.

[Page 7691]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Oral Question Period will begin at 12:42 p.m. and end at 1:42 p.m.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

HEALTH - COL. REG. HOSP.: PAEDIATRIC CARE - CUTS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Despite press reports this morning, the cuts to paediatrics at the Colchester Regional Hospital are going ahead. Medical staff wrote you a letter this morning demanding that you intervene. They have gone through all the proper channels and still no one is listening when they say that the safety of babies is at risk. They say that you are the only person who could do something at this time and that you could either be part of the problem or part of the solution. What is it, Mr. Minister, are you going to be part of the problem and place the safety and health of newborn children at risk or will you be part of the solution and have an external review of the northern board's decision?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure how to begin with that type of question, hardly a way to start off, well, perhaps appropriate on Hallowe'en.

Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member well knows, there is a protocol established in that hospital by which safety concerns are aired. Last night, the Medical Management Committee met and they listened to the concerns of the people, as the honourable member well knows. The Medical Management Committee at that hospital is made up, for the most part, of heads of departments and things like this. The person who will be making a report from that meeting is the Chief of Staff. To date that report has not been received.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister is a master of misdirection. As of last night, the plan is still to reduce the seven nurses off the paediatric ward and it is going ahead. The staffing complement will remain the same for the next 10 weeks because float nurses are being trained on the paediatric ward; float nurses who are replacing seven highly qualified and experienced nurses with more than 90 years of experience. When will the minister be open with the public and tell the truth that the nurses who used to work in that wing are gone and the plan to reduce staffing is going ahead?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I take great exception to the honourable member's implication that the people who are going to provide service to patients in the paediatric service will not be competent in their work.

[Page 7692]

MR. DEXTER: Again, perhaps the minister didn't hear the question. The situation clearly calls for the minister's intervention; 29 doctors at the Colchester Regional, with decades of medical expertise amongst them voted against the reduction because it risked the safety of children. I want to ask the minister, when will he order an external review of the board's decision in the interest of ensuring the safety of newly born infants?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there is probably nobody in this House who is more concerned with the safety of newborn infants and, indeed, all Nova Scotians and I would encourage the honourable member to let the process work.

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

HEALTH - PHYSICIANS: RECRUITMENT - STATUS

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. In May 1999, the Medical Society of Nova Scotia was receiving an average of 40 calls per month from Nova Scotians who were looking for a family physician. In May 2000, the Medical Society was logging close to 400 calls per month. This government and this minister promised the people of Nova Scotia on Page 7 of their blue book, that they would attract new doctors here in Nova Scotia. My question to the minister is does he not agree that the recent volume of telephone calls being logged by the Medical Society is an indication that his government is falling behind in terms of physician recruitment here in Nova Scotia? (Applause)

[12:45 p.m.]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as is not unusual for those groups on the opposite side of the House, his information is not quite accurate. I want to assure members of the House, and indeed all Nova Scotians, that the ability of Nova Scotia to attract physicians is equal to or greater than other provinces and territories in the country. I also want to assure people here that the ratio of physician to person and nurses to person in this province is greater than - or is less than, I guess, which is positive - the national average.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, this minister fails to recognize that these numbers of calls are coming in. I would consider these statistics as proof that this government is not honouring their commitment to the people of Nova Scotia. In fact, the volume at the Medical Society has been so great that they are now referring calls from people looking for physicians to the physician recruiter at the Department of Health. My question to the minister is were you aware that the situation at the Medical Society has gotten so bad that they are no longer able to provide to Nova Scotians the list of physicians who are currently taking on new patients?

[Page 7693]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would have thought the honourable member might have taken my subtle hint in my first response. The information he has is inaccurate and it is still inaccurate.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, our sincere thanks should be going out to the physician recruiter who is doing an admirable job under very difficult circumstances. My final question to the minister is when is the physician recruiter going to have time to recruit physicians when he is busy trying to help 400 Nova Scotians per month look for a doctor?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I will go back to my response to his first question, that we have been extremely successful in recruiting physicians to this province. Unfortunately, I do recognize that there are areas of the province where the physician complement is not where we would like to have it. We are aggressively trying to address that situation but I want to tell you - just as an example - about the success that we have had. Since January, we have recruited 11 family doctors to the metro area.

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

HEALTH - COL. REG. HOSP.:

PAEDIATRIC CARE - SAFETY ENSURE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Last night, doctors at the Colchester Regional Hospital met with the Medical Management Committee. The committee voted in support of a motion which says that as a group they do not support the administration's decision to downsize the number of pediatric nursing staff from 13 to 6 as it provides an unsafe environment for patient care. This is the last stop. The doctors still maintain that the cuts are unsafe. What is the minister going to do to ensure safety to infants will be maintained?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, one of the interesting things about this line of questions indicates that the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour is not willing to recognize the legitimate process to consider concerns. Secondly, he keeps referring to pediatrics as referring only to infants and that is a very limited definition of pediatrics and, indeed, the Health Critic should know better.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, that was a truly pathetic response. The minister has committed his government to ensuring that Nova Scotians have excellent health care. Family physicians, medical consultants and specialists have come together in an unprecedented manner at the Colchester Regional Hospital to say that the decision to cut pediatrics is not a safe one.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is wrong.

[Page 7694]

MR. DEXTER: Medical staff are saying that they will leave their practice if the decision goes through because they will not be able to deliver that service safely.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DEXTER: My question to the minister is when will you intervene to stop this from going ahead?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this is a rather serious issue and not one to be trivialized by such a line of questioning. The fact is, and I have explained it to all members of the House, there was a protocol that was to be followed if there were concerns. I mean I have to say that the position of the physicians, which I am told again happened this morning, was they went to the press instead of following the established protocol.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister is turning his back on doctors who are threatening to leave their practice at a time when Nova Scotia is facing a shortage of physicians and specialists and he is displacing nurses in their chosen field of work at a time when nursing morale is at an all time low. He wants to replace paediatric nurses with nurses on the end of walkie-talkies. Mr. Minister, the ball is in your court. Why won't you express your confidence in the advice of doctors and intervene in this decision and keep those nurses on the paediatric ward?

AN HON. MEMBER: Where is your commitment to health care?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the honourable member and all Nova Scotians that when people are admitted to the paediatric service at the Colchester Regional Hospital, they will receive care by competent and qualified individuals. For him to imply that that will not occur is probably not a good thing.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - MED. SOC. (N.S.):

PHYSICIAN RECRUITMENT - STATUS

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Page 7 of the Tory blue book contains a promise to consult with the Medical Society in order to attract doctors to underserviced areas. We have learned that the Medical Society has actually stopped providing information to people looking for doctors after the calls ballooned from 40 to 400 calls per month since the spring of 1999.

[Page 7695]

My question to the minister, will the minister admit that his initiatives with the Medical Society for doctor recruitment have been a failure? Given their frustration with the doctor recruitment process, is this the type of consultation with the Medical Society that the minister has promised?

HON. JAMES MUIR: The honourable member would be well aware, Mr. Speaker, that the Medical Society did not stop taking those calls because of what he has described as frustration. There was an agreement a year ago that the Medical Society would stop taking those calls and they would now come into the Department of Health. Simply because they had been providing the service and in the interest of continuity they continued to take some calls and at a particular point they decided to simply not take any more because it had been agreed that they would come to the Department of Health. This had nothing to do with frustration in the Medical Society, it was an agreement between the two parties.

DR. SMITH: I think the minister needs an update on that and maybe a definition of frustration. Without a family doctor many people are forced to emergency rooms and that is causing further strain on an already overburdened hospital. Does the minister, himself, have any feeling for, any idea, how many people have given up trying to find a family doctor in Nova Scotia?

MR. MUIR: About the only response I can make, because I can't give an accurate number, is that certainly there are fewer people looking for doctors since this government came to power than there were when he was running it.

DR. SMITH: To the minister, we have seen the calls of the Medical Society go from 40 to 400, and that has been confirmed this morning, that is an accurate number. The society must be congratulated, Mr. Speaker, for their commitment to doctor recruitment and they have worked hard at this initiative. However, perhaps out of frustration, the society's own website says, "The responsibility for the health care system, and physician recruitment and retention, lies with the provincial government." I have a copy here, Mr. Speaker.

My question is, since the minister's original plan for doctor recruitment and retention is not working, will he tell us here today about plan B and what plan B might be?

MR. MUIR: I just want to assure all members of the House and those people who may see or hear what is going on, that the physician recruitment efforts, indeed the whole health human resource recruitment efforts that we have in this province with regard to the Department of Health, are as good as any place in the country.

[Page 7696]

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

HEALTH - BONE DENSITOMETERS: FUNDING - REFUSAL

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, on November 18, 1998, the Premier, now over there, sat over here. I remember him saying with deep concern in his voice, we have fewer bone densitometers than any other province in Canada, the worst treatment program in the entire country. I want to ask the Minister of Health why he has refused a gift from the hospital auxiliary of $100,000 for a bone densitometer and $20,000 for a technician to run the equipment?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I thank the honourable member for that question, because one of the things it does is draw attention to the great contribution that the volunteer organizations like hospital auxiliaries and foundations make in this province, and like everybody else, we are very appreciative of their efforts.

I can tell you that in regard to that particular offer, quite frankly, the department has not gotten its program for that in order and we thought it was more appropriate to have our plans for that particular program finalized before we did a piecemeal approach. We want a coherent approach to this.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, on November 18, 1998, John Hamm asked the former Minister of Health to confirm that without bone densitometers it was impossible to treat brittle-bone disease within acceptable medical standards. On October 28, 2000 in an interview with the Truro Daily News, Dr. Hamm questioned whether densitometers were worthwhile and expressed concerns about the cost of maintaining the device. I want to ask the Premier, which is the real John Hamm? Is it the fellow who fought for health care services for seniors in 1998 or the fellow who sits over there making weak excuses and design to stall badly needed medical services?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): The member opposite is quite correct. We, when we were in Opposition, were very aware that the former government was not able to come forward with a comprehensive diagnostic and treatment program right across this province for osteoporosis. This government will do that. This government will do that, and this minister will respond to the very generous request from the Colchester County Hospital Auxiliary when, in fact, we have the terms and conditions of how we are going to implement that program from one end of this province to the other. We will succeed where the former government failed.

[Page 7697]

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, apparently they are going to save that promise for the next election, so they can use it again. This is a serious matter, Mr. Premier. You said in 1998 that without a bone densitometer you cannot treat this condition properly. You are a doctor, you should know. My question is, why won't you direct your troubled Minister of Health to accept the auxiliary's gift?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is quite correct. This is a very serious problem, and this government will develop a protocol that will enable the citizens of Nova Scotia to have a proper diagnostic system in place and proper treatment available from one end of the province to the other. We cannot necessarily do everything on the same day.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - COL. REG. HOSP.:

CLINICAL FOOTPRINT - IMPORTANCE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Last week the minister said the delivery of the clinical footprint was delayed because he is trying to do it right. Well, hospitals like the Colchester Regional Hospital are also trying to do things right, but they are met with roadblocks from the minister, who stalls all important decisions, pending the release of the clinical footprint. However, the decision to delay cuts to the paediatric nursing team at the Colchester Regional Hospital has been pushed back until January. My question to the minister is, does the delay of these changes at the Colchester Regional Hospital mean that the clinical footprint is not the important document for the decision-making process?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, part of that question contains some information which I would like him to table, the first of it if he would, because it is information that I haven't formally received and I don't know how accurate it is. Secondly, his question referred to the clinical footprint and the clinical services plan. We continue to develop that. As the member would well know, we are in the process of implementing the system of district health authorities. Indeed, last weekend we had an orientation for board members, and two weeks before that with chairs.

I am pleased to say this morning, I understand, with the cooperation of the Human Resources Committee, we have the final chair (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the member to table the document he referred to.

[Page 7698]

DR. SMITH: That was a preamble to my question. I didn't refer to a document other than the clinical footprint that nobody sees. They are supposed to have these business plans and nobody sees them. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the invisible footprint that is six months overdue. Through the freedom of information, last week I revealed that hospitals and health care providers have had no input into this elusive clinical footprint. They do not know what it is or how it will affect them. Will the minister commit to allowing care providers some immediate input into the clinical footprint in order to avoid another crisis at the Colchester Regional Hospital when the reprieve is up in January?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, again, I don't like to be technical, but he is making a statement in the preliminary part of his question, part of it is based on information that I, as Health Minister, really haven't had verified, so it is simply speculation. I just want to tell you, as I was going to do in the first part of the question, one of the reasons we are going through this process is in the formulation of the district health authorities, we want to involve them with this planning process. If they are going to be struck with the task of seeing that it is implemented and implemented properly, it is appropriate that before it is made public it is reviewed and understood by them.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to issue a warning to the minister today that he better not make that decision and allow that to go ahead with his department and cut the paediatric unit as is being proposed. This delay until January is just not going to wash. It is not going to wash and the people of Truro will know that.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

DR. SMITH: The minister is flip-flopping all over the place, like a mackerel on the deck of a fishing boat, reporting health care decisions. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: He did it in Shelburne, he has done it in Lunenburg and now he is doing it in his own riding. It seems like health care cuts are . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member put his question, please, question only. (Interruptions) Do you have a question?

[Page 7699]

DR. SMITH: Yes, my question to the minister is, how can the minister, who criticized doctors and nurses for not following proper protocol, say that he is making evidence-based decisions when it is obvious that these are political decisions with piecemeal solutions to major health care challenges, Mr. Speaker?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am astonished by that last comment. The reason that we are going this way, is we are trying to move our health care system to one that is based on evidence, evidence-based decision making, not on emotions and not on political expediency which has been practised in the past.

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

HEALTH: LILLIAN FRASER MEM. HOSP.

(TATAMAGOUCHE) - CUTS

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I will direct my question to the Minister of Health. The Lillian Fraser Memorial Hospital in Tatamagouche is going to see their acute care bed capacity cut by over 30 per cent. Dr. Glasgow has done the math and I will table the evidence here today. He says that the data used to support the Northern Regional Health Board decision is seriously flawed. Based on the board's evidence, a patient who presents themselves at the hospital with chest pains and who is admitted for one to two days to be monitored is an unjust admission. I want to ask the minister, Tatamagouche has a high senior population, the risk of heart attacks is a serious one, shouldn't a senior be able to expect to go to the closest hospital if they have a chest pain?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am glad the honourable member raised that question because I guess it is an illustration of our attempt to move things from political expediency into evidence-based decision making, and the changes that are being proposed for the Lillian Fraser Memorial Hospital will see the continuation of the excellent level of service it has provided there in the past. If the evidence indicates that 10 acute care beds will meet the needs of the population served by that facility, I don't think the honourable member in Opposition is saying that we should be paying for one and one-half times that.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am only saying what the doctor is saying. In Dr. Glasgow's opinion, "to actually practice medicine according to the board's principle would be to guarantee malpractice. He furthermore states that the bed closures and nursing reductions will not actually save the $100,000 they hope to save. It will cost more. Patients will be using more expensive beds in Truro and it will cost more to send them by ambulance." I want to ask the minister, why is he supporting a health care cut that will cost more money?

[Page 7700]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, one of the interesting things that the honourable member mentioned in his preamble is he used the word opinion. He didn't use the word fact, he used the word opinion and there are differences of opinion but I, for one, would not challenge Dr. Glasgow's professional competency or his knowledge. What I am saying is that the evidence that was used to support this decision was not opinion, it was hard data and that is where we are trying to go.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I tabled data for the minister to back this up. The only evidence that the minister is interested in is evidence that supports the government's budget targets. It is becoming increasingly clear that the decisions of the Northern Regional Health Board are coming under attack again. The board is losing the confidence of the medical staff. This is the second serious concern coming from the northern region.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: In light of the concerns raised both in Truro and in Tatamagouche, will the minister order an external review of the board's decision and restore public confidence in his ability, actually build public confidence in his ability, there is nothing to restore.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MUIR: One of the interesting things, Mr. Speaker, that transpires in the House, particularly when you are on that side of the floor and know everything (Interruptions) I know, I recognize that. Anyway I find it objectionable that people would try to erode confidence in our health system which is very good.

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

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL.: HOME HEATING FUEL - REBATE PROG.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Home heating fuel costs have reached record highs and Nova Scotians have yet to experience the coldest month of the year. My first question to the Premier, will the Premier commit to allowing for, at the very least, a low income fuel rebate program that people will receive automatically with a certain income?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite brings a very important issue to the House when he asks a question about the rapidly escalating fuel costs in the province. One of the things that we are doing, we are measuring the impact of the federal initiative to provide taxpayers with some kind of relief relative to the increase in petroleum costs. Last year we did as government, despite our limited resources, make available a program and once we

[Page 7701]

have had an opportunity to evaluate the effect of the federal initiative, then we will determine what our provincial response will be.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, this government can afford to give bar owners a $3.4 million break on their booze costs, but Nova Scotians are forced to bear the full brunt of high heating home costs. I guess what the Premier is saying is go to the bar and have a hot toddy if you are cold this winter. Well, that is not good enough, Mr. Premier. Will the Premier give average Nova Scotians a break on their home heating fuel?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes or no.

THE PREMIER: Unfortunately, by failing to be innovative the member opposite has simply asked the same question that will invoke the same answer. We are evaluating what the federal government is doing and then we will make the appropriate provincial response.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I think all Nova Scotians should get some relief on home heating fuel costs, but the government's priorities seem very misguided. Will the Premier show the same compassion for people with homes as he has for people who own bars?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer back to a comment made by a colleague earlier in Question Period. It is amazing that the current Opposition, now that they are across the floor, have answers for questions for which they had no answer when they were government. (Interruptions) This government will respond appropriately once we have had an opportunity to evaluate the impact of the federal initiative.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - C.B. TRUCKERS ASSOC.:

TENDER - REJECTION

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Last spring a group of truckers in Cape Breton County who had hauled salt for this province for over 15 years asked for a fuel tax surcharge to offset the skyrocketing cost of fuel. The minister refused their request for a surcharge and brought in a Halifax-based company. This caused tempers to flare and, indeed, there was a blockade. The minister punished these truckers further by saying that the salt hauling contract will in the future be tendered out.

The tender call went out this year, Mr. Speaker. The Truckers Association submitted the only bid, but their bid was rejected. The tender has been reissued. My question to the minister is, why should the Truckers Association, and in fact anyone driving the highways of Cape Breton County, not believe that the only reason this bid was rejected is the minister has a personal vendetta against the Cape Breton Truckers Association?

[Page 7702]

[1:15 p.m.]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: The tenders for hauling salt this year went out under 14 separate tender calls and the one that came in from Cape Breton was unacceptable and was rejected.

MR. CORBETT: Let me reiterate that the Truckers Association was the only bid submitted in response to tenders called. The association tells me their bid was prepared in accordance with the government's rate and schedules. This bid was rejected anyway. My question to you minister, what evidence is this minister prepared to table in the House to demonstrate the bid for Cape Breton Truckers Association was rejected in strict compliance with government tendering rules and not just because he does not like that association?

MR. RUSSELL: The Department of Transportation and Public Works, when they put out a tender, always add to the tender call that the lowest bid will not necessarily be acceptable.

MR. CORBETT: Since he is not very forthcoming, I would like to move to the Premier. The salt hauling contract puts groceries on the table for over 87 Cape Breton families, not to mention that the experienced salt haulers help to keep our highways safe. The Minister of Transportation and Public Works appears to have a grudge against this association, but he is also the minister in charge of the government tendering. My question to the Premier is, what steps are you going to take to ensure that the government tendering is properly carried out in an area where the minister obviously has some strong, personal feelings?

THE PREMIER: I believe the member opposite would appreciate the fact that the tender process was fair. It was made available and when there is only one respondent and if in fact the tendering is out of line with what was received from other parts of the province, then I think in the interests of the province the minister did the right thing.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

AGRIC. - FARM LOAN BD.:

CHAIRMAN (SPROULE, DONALD) - QUALIFICATIONS

MR. DONALD DOWNE: My question is for the Minister of Agriculture. In the past year, Mr. Ted Ueffing was dropped from the highly successful Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board as chairman. Today, at the Human Resources meeting, Donald Sproule who was vice-chairman of the Farm Loan Board was unceremoniously rejected by the Tory backbench and by the Tory members of the Human Resources Committee to the intervention of the Kings West member. The minister himself signed the papers stating that Mr. Sproule was the most qualified person for the job of vice-chairman. My question to the minister is, will the

[Page 7703]

minister confirm to the Legislature that Mr. Donald Sproule is still the most qualified person for the job?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: I thank the member opposite for his question. Today the decision was made by the Human Resources Committee which certainly is not a rubber-stamp committee that the applicant was not agreeable for the future direction of the industry and certainly the Human Resources Committee is the committee that makes the ultimate decision. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is very difficult to hear the question and the answer. I would ask the members to respect the other members when they have the floor. The honourable member for Lunenburg West on your first supplementary.

MR. DOWNE: The departmental senior staff have supported Mr. Sproule's application to go forward as vice-chairman of the Farm Loan Board. The industry supports him, and in fact the minister himself signed the document saying he is the most qualified individual for that job, and yet his own backbenchers stuck him in the back and stuck farmers in the back by saying no to Mr. Sproule. My question to the minister is, will the minister categorically state that Mr. Sproule is the most qualified person for the job, as he stated in a document signed to the Human Resources Committee, which the Tories voted against? (Interruptions)

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question. I would like to point out to the honourable member that there are many individuals in the agriculture industry in Nova Scotia who are qualified to be on the Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board. I signed Mr. Donald Sproule's recommendation for appointment to the Human Resources Committee. It is the Human Resources Committee's responsibility, because it is not a rubber- stamp organization, to decide if they want that individual on that committee or not. They decided they did not.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, let's set the record straight. The Conservative Government has a majority on the Human Resources Committee, and they, in fact, voted against Mr. Sproule, categorically denying him the position that the minister himself had asked for. The minister is allowing Tory politics to interfere with the operation of the Farm Loan Board to the farmers of Nova Scotia. Backbenchers are making decisions based on politics, while the minister has certified Mr. Sproule as the most qualified individual. My question is, what faith can Nova Scotians have in a process that dumps the most qualified persons on the whim of a Tory backbencher?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, again, I need to re-emphasize to the member opposite. There are many qualified individuals in Nova Scotia. It is my pleasure, on a number of committees, to recommend those qualified individuals to come forward. Unlike the Opposition, the Human Resources Committee is not a rubber-stamp committee, as they say it is. Today's

[Page 7704]

actions prove that. The Human Resources Committee discharged their obligations with diligence. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am not quite sure who was the loudest on that one. A good try by all.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

COMMUN. SERV.: ADOPTION INFORMATION ACT - STATUS

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. As he may recall, last year his government referred proposed updates to the Adoption Information Act to the Law Reform Commission. Now that his colleague, the Minister of Justice, has announced he will effectively cut the head off the commission by eliminating its budget, the future of the Adoption Information Act amendments is in question. My question to the minister is this, has this government abdicated its commitment to update the Adoption Information Act, changed its mind on the importance of this legislation, or simply forgotten about it altogether?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, and to the honourable member, no, our commitment is still to review that Act and to bring it forward in the very near future.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, since this government decided to refer the Adoption Information Act changes to the Law Reform Commission, I am sure they were deeply concerned for the future of the bill and wanted to ensure it received only the best expert feedback. Since the minister's colleague has clearly indicated he no longer sees the value in a commission that provides this expert feedback, I am unclear as to what message he is sending about the changes to the Act. Could he illuminate the House now, as to how much of a priority he now places on this bill? How much of a priority?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, we still place a high priority on that. I would ask the Minister of Justice to indicate the process with the Law Reform Commission.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of the members of the House, I want to make it clear that, in fact, what happened with respect to this matter was that it was referred to the Law Reform Commission. The Law Reform Commission chose to proceed with other priorities of their own selection, and not with that matter, but that in point of fact, as I understand it, the Department of Community Services in conjunction with other departments was, in fact, prepared to finance the Law Reform Commission to do the work in question, and that the Law Reform Commission decided to, in effect, wind themselves down.

[Page 7705]

MR. EPSTEIN: Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't know who the minister thinks is going to be fooled by that. The stated mandate of the Law Reform Commission is to review the law and legal system in Nova Scotia and to make recommendations for improvement, modernization and reform. Now that this government has clearly indicated it places a low priority on these things and sees the law of Nova Scotia in need of neither improvement, modernization, nor reform, will the Minister of Justice share with the House how a Justice Department with no spare time plans to address the needed changes to legislation such as the Adoption Act?

MR. BAKER: Again, I thank the honourable member for that question because I know he has genuine interest in the area of law reform. I want to assure the honourable member that the Department of Justice intends to put sufficient staff in the area of law reform and law development to ensure that our laws in Nova Scotia are modernized. I want to tell the honourable member that I don't believe any government in Nova Scotia in modern history has had as much commitment to law reform.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

TOURISM - RESORTS: PRIVATIZATION - DETAILS

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Tourism and Culture, and it is relative to the privatization of our provincial resorts. The government has sought a private-sector management team for the three Nova Scotia resorts, including the Keltic Lodge in Victoria County. There has been very little information regarding the nature of this arrangement, and the minister knows full well the suspense and fear the workers of the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission went through waiting for some news of the government when it was going to move. So I will ask the minister today, will he tell the House in some detail what are the immediate plans for the Keltic Lodge, Liscombe Lodge and the Digby Pines Resort?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, thank you to the honourable member for the question. We have retained the services of Colliers International during the summer. The RFP with regard to private sector management contract, in fact, will go out I believe either today or tomorrow. I will endeavour to get that information for the honourable member and give that to him.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his answer. The minister knows there are 400 people who rely on jobs with these resorts in rural areas of Nova Scotia where, for the most part, they have high unemployment. They are worried about their future, and I am sure the minister is aware of that. I ask the minister, what will he do to ensure these people that their employment will not be terminated at the whim of a private sector operator?

[Page 7706]

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member again for the question. The honourable member is jumping the gun. The first step in this was to get Colliers International. The second step is with regard to the RFP. I would be glad to set up a briefing session for the honourable member. I know it means a lot to him in his riding, as any other members that would be willing to come to a briefing session with regard to the private sector management contract.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, it is a short step from private management to complete privatization, so I ask the minister, will he ensure the House that further steps will not be taken for complete privatization?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, our intention is to have a private sector management contract only, Mr. Speaker. For example, Keltic Lodge, in his own riding, we couldn't sell it if we wanted to, it is owned by the federal government.

[1:30 p.m.]

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

NSLC - SURCHARGE: REDUCTION - BENEFICIARY

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister responsible for the administration of the Liquor Control Act. Last Friday when the minister made his announcement I pointed out the obvious, and that was that the government is more concerned about the surcharge that is charged on alcohol than the price that seniors and others have to pay in the way of high heating fuel, but I am going to deal only with the part of this minister's and this government's priorities and that is the cost of alcohol.

Mr. Speaker, the minister will know that one of the strong arguments put forward for reducing that surcharge was that tourists and other customers would be better served if the surcharge on wine and other products was reduced. There certainly was a very clear impression that that reduced surcharge would lead to a lower cost for the consumers. I ask the minister what steps is he taking to ensure that the lower surcharge on wine and other alcohol, since that is the government's top priority, will end up in the pockets of Nova Scotians and tourists instead of the licensed establishments?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. As the honourable member knows, the NSLC simply collects the 9.3 per cent surcharge which goes to the Alcohol and Gaming Authority. I am sure that the honourable minister responsible would be pleased to update the member.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question, and certainly he raises (Interruptions)

[Page 7707]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Agencies has the floor.

MR. MACISAAC: Well, it is their time, Mr. Speaker.

The honourable member indeed raises a question which Nova Scotians are going to want to watch with great interest in terms of how the industry responds to this opportunity. (Interruptions)

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, who's in charge, who's on first, and who's on second.

Before the government made their announcement, we didn't hear anybody making the argument that Nova Scotians should be paying the same price, or a higher price, when the surcharge is in fact reduced. But now that the government has made that announcement, then what we seem to hear is that that is exactly the position of those who are advocating that the surcharge be removed or reduced in the first place. Sounds good, but for whom?

I want to ask the minister, because he said Nova Scotians would like to watch, I would like to know what steps he and his department and his government are going to be taking to monitor the situation and will he report back to Nova Scotians who supposedly are getting the benefit from that lower surcharge, will he report back on who is actually getting the benefit?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, this is a situation where the industry is really the largest customer of the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission. In most businesses, the largest customer is treated with some respect. This is an attempt to treat that industry with some respect. It is also, as I indicated in my first answer, an opportunity for the industry in terms of their operations within a competitive environment, and it is an opportunity to provide them with a much better level of service. As I indicated, Nova Scotians are going to be very interested to see how that industry responds to this opportunity. I will certainly be watching it very carefully.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians would love to see a lot of respect from this government. Nova Scotians would love to see, for example, that the government is actually respectful of the consumers of this province who are being gouged even by this very government on home heating fuel and gasoline and other products.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. HOLM: Yet now, Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission said . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Question. (Interruptions)

[Page 7708]

Order, please. Order, please. Order, please.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, do you have a question?

MR. HOLM: Yes, I do.

MR. SPEAKER: Let's have it.

MR. HOLM: I am getting right to it, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: That is right, right to the point.

MR. HOLM: I would like to ask either minister, whichever one cares to respond, why it was that they pretended that consumers were somehow going to be benefiting from this when in reality they had no intention of even monitoring it?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is quite ironic how the honourable member now is saying something a bit different than his statement and the NDP is saying something quite different than he was saying on Friday. I will remind the honourable member he said, "I also have no difficulties with the idea that the surcharge amount that is being charged should be a proper amount to cover the costs. So those things I have no difficulties with whatsoever." I will table that, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

EDUC. - SCHOOLS: SYDNEY - CONSTRUCTION TIME-FRAME

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. The minister will be aware that 16 new schools were approved by the previous government under the capable direction of the former minister, the member for Clare. Two of those schools were to replace very old facilities in Sydney, namely St. Anthony Daniels, Sacred Heart, Colby and St. Joseph's, all elementary schools. In the case of Sacred Heart, that school is almost 100 years old. Can the minister inform the members of the House and the parents of school children in Sydney when these two new schools will be built?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as the member is well aware, the schools announced by his government after careful consideration were also announced by our government and those construction plans are proceeding on schedule.

[Page 7709]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we know they were announced by that minister after we announced them. I did not want to know that. I want to know when they are going to be built? I knew they were announced but, in any case, as my first supplementary, the minister will also know that the students of Sacred Heart are temporarily housed in another aging facility and that air quality problems have been identified in at least one of the other old schools.

Mr. Speaker, the minister has approved the construction of seven new schools to begin immediately. Why are the two elementary schools in Sydney not included when clearly Sacred Heart is in the worst shape of any of the schools you just announced to be replaced and construction to start immediately? Why is Sacred Heart not part of this original seven?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I have visited a number of schools in this province over the last year. I do not think that we should be getting into a debate in this House about which is in the worst shape because I can tell you many of the schools are in very bad shape. We are replacing them as quickly as we can with the resources that we have and the schools to which the member refers are going to be replaced.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that answer is light years away from reality. What is reality is that the students of Sacred Heart have been ordered out of Sacred Heart. It has been condemned. They have been ordered into a temporary facility somewhere and the minister is trying to tell this House that that is not a priority over other schools in this province? Those schools are needed now.

It is time to take Tory politics out of the construction of schools. The reason these two schools have not been announced is that they are in a Liberal riding in Sydney. These schools need to be replaced now. Mr. Speaker, she should instruct her department to begin the construction of these two replacement schools in Sydney now. My question to the minister is, the children in Sydney have an equal right to quality education facilities, and these schools are needed now. Why will the minister not build these schools now?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, the list of schools, with one exception, is identical to the list produced by the former government. I do sympathize with schoolchildren and students who are displaced because of poor facilities, but may I remind the member opposite that there are students at Halifax West High School displaced, there were students at Central Kings Rural High School displaced, there were students at Graham Creighton Junior High School displaced. Our government, as his government did, is proceeding to replace schools as quickly as we can afford.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

[Page 7710]

COMMUN. SERV. - SMALL OPTIONS HOME (DUFFUS ST., HFX.): RESIDENTS - SUPERVISION ADEQUACY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Community Services. Minister, in August residents of the Hydrostone area in my constituency raised concerns with your department about a small options home on Duffus Street. I want to ask the minister, what steps have you taken to address their concerns, that residents there were not receiving adequate supervision?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, we have had correspondence from the area councillor, we have had correspondence from . . .

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

The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to bring to the attention of the House this afternoon, two distinguished gentlemen in your gallery. One is the former manager of Little Narrows Gypsum and the other gentleman is the present manager of Little Narrows Gypsum. The former manager, Mr. John Fitzgerald, now works for SOEP, and of course Bruce is still at Little Narrows Gypsum. I would ask John and Bruce to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

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: At the time of adjournment yesterday, the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto had approximately 34 minutes remaining on the amendment.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

[Page 7711]

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, when we left off yesterday we were debating the motion to hoist Bill No. 62 for a period of six months. Observations that I and other members on this side of the House have made have supported the wisdom of the motion to hoist the bill for six months. I was reminding members that the opportunity ought to be taken by the government opposite to educate themselves in detail about the real needs of the people at the lowest end of the income scale in our province. That would be the main use that they could make of a six months' hoist period.

I ran across some extremely startling statistics. They have to do with the use of food banks by people in Nova Scotia. We all know that a lot of people in Nova Scotia resort to food banks in order to make sure that they, and especially their children, have adequate nutrition. Right around the corner from my constituency office on Parker Street, there is a food bank that is run by the local churches. Of course, that is not the only food bank around. All of us have had the experience, I think, in our constituencies of seeing food banks at work. All of us see the collection system; all of us have the opportunity to make donations; all of us, I hope, take the opportunity to make some donations.

What is particularly striking is that it is obvious to all of us, or it should be, if we have been listening to the people who administer those food banks, that the need, the demand for the services of those food banks is growing in our province. It is not static, it is not declining, it is growing. They have done a survey. They haven't just done this anecdotally. There is a national association that represents people who organize and administer food banks called the Canadian Association of Food Banks. I refer to an article that appeared in The Globe and Mail last year, September 29, 1999. The headline is, "Record numbers turn to food banks to cope, national survey shows" Record numbers; the numbers are increasing.

[1:45 p.m.]

Do you know what the statistics are for Nova Scotia compared to every other province in Canada? In Nova Scotia a greater proportion of our population uses food banks by more than a factor of two than any other province. In Nova Scotia, almost 7 per cent of the population uses food banks. The next closest province, well, there are three of them, Newfoundland, Quebec, and Manitoba are just barely at 3 per cent. I want the members opposite to think about this. More than 6 per cent, almost 7 per cent of the population in Nova Scotia uses food banks, whereas the next closest three provinces are at 3 per cent. This is a truly astonishing figure, the hard reality of which is bound to be reflected in their home constituencies.

I want the members opposite to take the time during a six months' hoist to acquaint themselves with the hard reality of poverty in this province, because I cannot believe that the members opposite can have an adequate appreciation of what it is that the grinding experience of being poor in Nova Scotia actually means, and yet allow themselves to reduce the rates and to bring in this kind of framework legislation that sets the stage for something

[Page 7712]

that is not going to help those people and will put them in a worse position. I don't want to believe that. I would think the members opposite would want to take the opportunity to find out whether this initiative might be mistaken. I would think that the members opposite would want to have a sincere and honest look at this problem which we in Canada could beat. We in Canada are placed, unlike many other nations in the world, to actually eliminate poverty in our lifetimes. This is the thrust of what it is that serious policy makers have been telling us we could do.

This really gets us to the main point about the hoist. There are alternatives to what is being proposed that the members opposite could learn about. I want to start by drawing their attention to an initiative that came forward in Quebec this year, just in April of this year. Now, the initiative that came forward there was a proposal to actually bring forward quite a different kind of statute. This proposal came from a collection of anti-poverty groups, labour movement activists, government employees who have dealings with the system, who administer the system in Quebec, and others who are concerned at the municipal level throughout the province of Quebec. They called themselves the Collective for an Act on the Elimination on Poverty.

They have actually suggested quite a different approach than we are seeing here, because when I look at this legislation I don't see that its stated aim is to eliminate poverty. I don't see that its stated aim is to take concrete steps towards that. I don't see a 1, 5 or 10 year agenda that lays out set targets the government says it is going to meet. There is an alternative, there is an alternative model. What I am suggesting is that the virtue of a hoist is that the members opposite could study something like this. Let me tell you what are the principles of the Quebec proposal. Three principles would guide the future actions of the Quebec Government. First would be that the elimination of poverty is a priority. The next would be that increasing the income of the poorest fifth of the population would always take priority over increasing the income of the richest fifth. The third principle is that people living in poverty and their organizations must always be involved in the creation, implementation and evaluation of government initiatives.

The scheme that they have devised is essentially a three or four step procedure over a 10 year period. The idea is that concrete steps would be taken to implement those principles. Here are a couple of examples. These, I should say immediately, are not all of the examples. I am not going to repeat every detail of what it is that is proposed, but some of them, the goals to be reached over a series of 5 to 10 years, including definite action plans for year one include certain emergency measures that ought to be put in place right off the bat.

One of the emergency measures struck me especially. It was that essential needs be implemented right away although phased in over three years. This means essential needs, aside from income, it does not just mean income. Everyone knows that things like prescription drugs are essential needs. Everyone knows that things like transportation are essential needs and you know what? If the stated objective is to try to get as many of the

[Page 7713]

people who are on welfare off of the system and into the workforce, then I am telling you that a telephone is an essential need for people who are expected to find work.

I don't know how the government can continue to define in Nova Scotia in this day and age essential needs as excluding a telephone. Never mind emergencies, if they want to ignore emergencies, if they think that people on welfare don't have emergencies and don't need telephones, they can think that. It is not true. A telephone is an essential need, but if you just accept for a moment the premise that the government has that they believe that there are plenty of jobs out there in the workforce for those who are in receipt of welfare, that they can minimize their time on it and move rapidly into the workforce, how do they expect people to find the jobs without access to a telephone?

I don't mean access to a telephone at an employment centre. I mean at home. You can't parcel out your life that way, especially if you have small children at home. It cannot be done. I see all of the members of this House wandering around with cell phones attached to their ears, I see members of this House rushing out all the time to use the telephones. They know how essential the phone is to getting the day's work done. Well, it is no different for people who are in the poorest fifth of society, or more accurately in Nova Scotia, the 7 per cent who are in receipt of welfare. They have to use the telephone as well and if the members opposite want them to find jobs, they should say, we will make an investment in an emergency need and recognize that they need telephones.

And you know what? The members opposite are saying to your biggest customer you give price breaks, they would be in a position to talk with MTT, now Aliant, and say we want 1,000 lines. We want 5,000 lines for people who are in receipt of social assistance because they need to be able to use the telephones. It would not be enormously expensive, it would be an investment in exactly the kind of thing that the government opposite is saying they want to accomplish. If they want to investigate it, then take the time of the six months' hoist and investigate this because it is a realistic alternative. It is the kind of thing that ought to be followed by the government. It is a the kind of step they ought to take, because if this government doesn't take these kinds of alternative steps, then we are never going to be able to accomplish what we, in our lifetimes in Canada, and here too - it doesn't have to be elsewhere, it doesn't have to be Alberta, it doesn't have to be Ontario - we could do it here too, we could eliminate poverty in our lifetimes, if they were serious. That is why the hoist makes sense.

What do we know about poverty? Well, we know that it is very intense here in Nova Scotia. We know that if you want to have an idea of just how poor people are and just what kind of difficulty they are in, that you want to study it and you want to gather the information. You want to look at such things as, the actual dollar rates that people are paid while they are in receipt of social assistance, and you want to compare that with what the poverty line is. There are well recognized measures of how it is that we decide, what the social scientists who study this terrible phenomena call poverty intensity. It is not just the

[Page 7714]

poverty rate, that is one measure; not just how many people in your population are poor. The other part of it is to look and see how far below the poverty line are the actual incomes. So, we know we have a significant number of the population in Nova Scotia who are poor; 7 per cent of them are on welfare, but we know that we can already count on many more as being very low income.

Let's look, if we want to get a feeling for what the poverty intensity is in Nova Scotia, at just how far below the poverty line the family benefits, the social assistance rates are. In fact, the social assistance rates are worse, and of course now they are the ones that will prevail. Here are the numbers in Nova Scotia. For one adult, if you take the social assistance rate that is paid to them and compare it to the poverty line, it is only 53 per cent. Never mind all the debate that we read in the newspapers back and forth between social scientists as to where you define or where you don't define the poverty line. I know there are sophisticated debates going on right now about where the poverty line ought to be drawn. But, let me tell you, if the social assistance rate is only at 53 per cent of the poverty line, no quibbling over where you draw the poverty line is going to have any impact on that. When you ask yourself about the intensity of poverty in our province, as I hope the members opposite would - if they followed our advice and went for a six months' hoist - they should be struck by those numbers.

I will give you the rest of the numbers, because 53 per cent of the poverty line on social assistance for one adult is one of the higher numbers. For two adults, it is at 50 per cent; for one adult and one child at 49 per cent; for one adult and two children 47 per cent; again, one adult and three children 47 per cent; two adults and one child 48 per cent; the same for two adults and two children; for two adults and three children 49 per cent. These numbers tell a very dramatic story. This information was tabled in the Legislature yesterday by my colleague, the member for Hants East, so it is available to all members who want to have a look. They should feel shocked. They should feel ashamed to realize that this is the system that they somehow think is acceptable. Well, it isn't and if they got out and spent the time actually getting in touch with what it is that is going on in their constituencies, they would come to realize that and they would come up with a recognition that there are alternatives out there that could be followed, that ought to be followed.

[2:00 p.m.]

I know that the main thrust of the thoughts of the government at the moment is to try to find ways, so they say, to get those on welfare into the workforce. I am sure they recognize that this cannot happen with everyone and if it cannot happen with everyone, they should recognize that and stop thinking of low rates as either an incentive or I would say, more accurately, a terrible disincentive to being on welfare. In many of the situations people find themselves in, incentives and disincentives have nothing to do with it. It is essentially irrelevant. People are going to be stuck because of the hard facts of their lives.

[Page 7715]

I know other members have already pointed out the regional disparities in the opportunity for work inside our province. That is very striking and I don't see anything in what it is that has been put before us that tells us now what it is that the government is even remotely thinking of doing about that. There seems to somehow be a blithe assumption that the jobs are out there to be had.

We know that there has been an improvement in the unemployment statistics in Nova Scotia, but you know what that has meant? It has mostly meant an improvement in metro and it has also meant that those who had given up looking for work are now drawn back into the labour pool. Never mind the people in receipt of social assistance. So the size of the labour pool grew at the same time as that opportunity for jobs grew. We still have problems in terms of an adequate number of jobs, even here in metro, because we have not used up the full reserve pool of those who had previously given up looking for work and who are now going back into the workforce. This does not take into account what is going on in Cape Breton where there are overwhelmingly large numbers of people unemployed even by official statistics and that does not take into account of many of the rural areas that many of the members opposite represent where there are large numbers of unemployed.

I hope that the economic initiatives taken by those who create jobs will be adequate to create enough jobs to eliminate unemployment here, but I do not believe it. It is going to be a long time before we are anywhere close to that. So there is no reason for the government to be sanguine about this. This is a problem and we do not have answers. That is why we want a hoist. We want the government to be able to say what it is that they will be able actively to do.

I know that the week before they came up with their first stab at an economic development plan for the province. We know this. We have had a look at it, but I think everyone over here who has had a look at it is extremely sceptical about how effective it is likely to be. A six months' hoist might give us some time to see whether that is actually going to have any beneficial effects because the government has actually tried to set itself some job creation targets, extremely modest ones let me say, way too low given what it is that the province needs, but six months would give us the opportunity to see if there is even any change in that direction. I do not think so.

Mr. Speaker, earlier I suggested that this was one of a range of initiatives that the government had adopted, modelled on what it is that the government in Ontario tried to bring in. Do you know what you have to ask yourself about Ontario? Has the situation in Ontario improved for those who are on welfare as a result of cutting the rates 21.6 per cent? Has the situation in Ontario improved for the poorest in that society? Has the model that the government here decided it wants to follow really produced beneficial effects for that poorest one-fifth of society in the Province of Ontario?

[Page 7716]

I am not talking about the 20 per cent at the top, or the 50 per cent or 60 per cent in the middle - varying degrees of a middle - I am talking about that poorest one-fifth, the poorest 20 per cent in Ontario. You don't have to look very far to find damning reports, every day, that tell us that in Ontario there has been no significant improvement, and in fact, a worsening, of the conditions of those who are at the bottom one-fifth of society in that province, under the Harris Government. Why is it that the government here has chosen to reach out to take this as their single model when there are alternatives available?

It is not part of the stated objectives of the Ontario Government, and it isn't yet part of the stated objectives of the members opposite, to adopt the elimination of poverty.

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

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: I welcome the opportunity to stand in my place today to address the amendment to this legislation, which is commonly known as the hoist amendment, an opportunity to set aside the legislation for six months in order for us to have a full opportunity to be able to examine it, to be able to discuss it, to be able to seek input from the stakeholders in the various communities, and in order to be able to suggest to the government what it is they might do in order to enable this legislation to be improved.

In this particular circumstance what we have also been asking for - and I don't think it is unreasonable to suggest to the Minister of Community Services - is during the six months that are available that he produce, for our inspection and for the edification of all members of the Opposition, and indeed his own Party, the regulations so that we might know what it is this legislation is truly about.

Mr. Speaker, I think I would like to begin by talking about the intent of this bill and the reason why we will need the opportunity to have the time to reflect on it. First of all is the stated intent, why we need the six months to consider what it is that is the intent of this legislation. The first thing that I wanted to say is - and I heard and have certainly picked up on all the phraseology, all of the hype around this bill - it comes down to a very simple concept and that is this: the minister says we want to help people help themselves. That is what it comes down to.

Mr. Speaker, that is a principle which is a fundamental principle of many organizations, of many organizations. For instance, it is a principle of cooperatives where people come together to help themselves and often the government puts in place systems of support in order to help cooperatives get off the ground, in order to help people help themselves.

[Page 7717]

In our case, the Party that I represent was also founded on that principle, that working people could come together to effect a political system to their own benefit, in effect to allow people to improve their station in life through the political process. They could put in place laws that would be fair and that would benefit them, essentially helping people to help themselves, so we agree, I must say, with that stated intent of the legislation. But, Mr. Speaker, what has to happen is what you do has to match what you say. This is the concern that my colleagues before me and others outside of this Chamber have been raising with the minister. We don't see the evidence that what you are going to do matches what you say.

Am I accusing the minister of being duplicitous? Well, I don't think I would go that far. What I am simply saying is that if you are going to bring forward this kind of legislation, you have to provide in concrete terms the evidence that what you are doing is actually consistent with what you are saying. We haven't seen the regulations. We don't know what it is you are trying to accomplish.

We do know that there are some things in this that have a positive effect. For example, I was looking at the one-time allowance, when people find work, this is certainly something we would be prepared to look at and to consider in the context of the entire piece of legislation. It is certainly something that we would like the opportunity to discuss with people around this province, if this amendment was successful. I believe it is $400 for someone who finds a full-time job and $200 for someone who finds a part-time job. Someone said it was almost like a signing bonus. Nonetheless, it is the kind of innovative thinking that is unusual from that side, but nonetheless welcome in this context.

We are not here as a caucus or as a Party to say that everything that you have brought forward is necessarily poorly thought out, not necessarily negative in its expression. The problem is, Mr. Speaker, that we just don't know. So we have asked for an opportunity through this amendment to set aside the legislation for six months. I think in some regard, it is because we understand the nature of those fellows over there. We have watched them operate now for more than a year, and we know in many pieces of the legislation that it is say and bring forward something one day and say and do something else the next. We have seen evidence of that time and time again.

We are prepared to consider the fine words of the stated intent, to help people help themselves, but the question we ask is, is this the Trojan Horse? What is on the inside? That is what we want to know. The minister and his colleagues, for whatever reasons, are not forthcoming with that information. As a result, there is a lot of deep suspicion among those who are going to be the most profoundly affected by this legislation, that far from benefiting from this new regime, they are going to be poorer.

[Page 7718]

[2:15 p.m.]

We know already that there will be a decrease for children 14 years and over of some $332. That is going to affect a number of families across this province. It is obviously a deleterious effect of the legislation. We want to hear how many families that is going to affect and in what communities and how it is that the government expects to treat all of these families equitably and equally.

As I have said earlier, it is not simply that we want to throw out all of this legislation. We have not said that. We have said that we are prepared to support good legislation. We are prepared to support legislation that will help people break through that cycle of poverty, that will allow them to gain the skills, the education, the background, the tools, to be able to go out and become contributors to our society in a more fulsome sense, to allow them to go out and achieve the goals that they truly hold for themselves. We are prepared to listen to the Minister of Community Services on these issues and we think if we had the opportunity that would be afforded as a result of this amendment, he would have an opportunity.

I know that this bill, of course, will be going along, as far as I suspect the members are not prepared to listen to our arguments around this amendment and they decide to vote it down, we know that the bill will go on to the Law Amendments Committee and I am sure at that time the minister will receive submissions from many groups who are concerned about not only the intent but the practice that will be associated with this legislation. We are already hearing from many people about their concerns in respect to the legislation and I would say, Mr. Speaker, it is not because they want to be alarmists. It is not because they want to undermine the initiatives of the Minister of Community Services. No, quite the contrary. I believe that what the advocates for people who live in poverty, for people who are the recipients of social assistance, what they are trying to do is to ensure on behalf of those people that when you bring forward this legislation, it is truly going to be of some benefit. I have to say there is a suspicion out there when they look across the country at other examples, whether it be in Ontario or Alberta, that really this could turn into, I suppose, or has the potential to be nothing more than a hard-hearted attempt to punish those who are already the poorest in our society.

You know, Mr. Speaker, and I have said this before, that it is my opinion that how we measure our success as members of the Legislature, how we measure our success as a society and we as the lawmakers of that society, is how it is that we extend the hand of compassion and understanding to those people who are the worst off, the most disadvantaged in our society. So when we look at the legislation, we look at it through that lens. We look at it through the lens of decency, of compassion, of understanding and so, therefore, it is incumbent upon us as legislators, it is certainly incumbent upon us as members of this Party who have long, I think fairly to be said, been seen as the champions of those who do not have a voice, those who are not the powerful in our society, those who are not in positions to be able to affect necessarily the course of events of their own lives, I think it is incumbent upon

[Page 7719]

us to take the opportunity to thoroughly investigate, to listen and to solicit the input of all of those anti-poverty organizations across the province.

I remember back, Mr. Speaker, when I worked at the Dalhousie Legal Aid clinic working with Jean Faye and with others around issues of substantial interest to those organizations which were not in a position to exercise any substantive power over the elements of public policy that were so profoundly affecting their lives. In fact, that is why they organized. They organized in order to be able to generate some way to articulate and to project on behalf of those people who are going to be most critically affected by the changes that are being proposed by the minister.

Mr. Speaker, we have heard a lot already; I thought, some very well-thought out submissions have been made in this House on this amendment to talk about the alternative theories in respect to this legislation. It is not just a matter of preparing people by simple income supports to say, here, now you are ready to go out into the labour force. We all know that is not true. We know that what has to happen is that in order for people to move off the social assistance system in order to allow them an entry point into the labour market, you have to provide them with more than just a bus pass, an opportunity to copy a résumé. That is not to belittle the need for a bus pass, because I can tell you, in order to get back and forth to places of employment, in order to get back and forth to interviews for jobs, that does become an important and practical structure within that. But it takes more than that. It takes in many cases a commitment to training. It takes a commitment to actually helping those people.

One of the things we hear is that the Community Services staff who are being asked to implement these kinds of policy decisions consider themselves people who want to help their clients. They want to help their clients, but their caseloads now are so large, that they are not in a position to provide the kind of assistance and support and help that their clients actually need. In fact, they are reduced simply to a policing function, where all they do is put the cases through the system and try to make sure the rules, such as they are, are being followed. That is not good enough, Mr. Speaker, and that is why - again I reiterate - we have taken this opportunity to move this amendment. We think this is the kind of thing that is worthy of some examination.

What is it that the minister intends to do with this legislation that is going to provide those kinds of opportunities, the kinds of opportunities that are going to prepare people for meaningful entry into a labour pool at a wage level that is going to benefit them and their families, that is going to benefit the system because they are not going to be coming in and out of the labour force which as the minister knows, is disruptive in and of itself, that they are going to be able to make a successful launch into the labour market and to find a successful career that is going to allow them to support themselves and their families over the long term.

[Page 7720]

We have watched in other provinces, and again I come back to this as part of the suspicion, these programs have been used to move people off of the government rolls but not out of poverty. We have watched in Alberta and in Ontario where these practices have been put in place to the great detriment to those individuals who are most disadvantaged, the poorest in the country. And yet, in a fashion that would certainly make George Orwell proud, the governments in those provinces come out and trumpet the idea that the welfare rolls have fallen by some great public policy initiative, and we know that any examination of that record proves that to be a falsehood. That is not true, in fact those people are worse off and I would suggest that it has damaged, not only in the eyes of other Canadians but certainly in the eyes of the world, the credibility that Canada has and the provinces have when they talk about the treatment of the world's poor. We cannot expect that people are going to believe what it is we say when they look at the conditions that exist in our own society and we have not taken it upon ourselves to improve the lives and the lots of those people.

So, that is why it is that we arrive at the position we have taken as a caucus here. A position that says that this legislation ought to be put aside for six months in order to allow for a real examination of the so-called employment incentives. We know, as I said earlier, the so-called signing bonus provision that would allow a one-time payment made, may be part of an answer. How do you know that unless you take the opportunity to consult with all of the groups who are going to be directly affected?

I think the minister has said in the past that he did consult, but we have not seen and we would certainly like to see and this would afford us the opportunity to see the results of that consultation both in sum and substance. We would like to see what information you received. The minister was holding up, I believe it was the report of the committee that travelled the province and there were a number of recommendations that existed in that. We are not sure that they are reflected in this legislation. In fact, I think there are some significant questions about how this legislation goes far off of the recommendations that were contained in that report.

We have also raised questions for the minister about where the jobs are going to come from. Where are the jobs we are going to be asking these people to fulfil? Is it simply that this is going to be a rotation in and out of the job market at the low end that is going to do nothing to establish a long-term economic standard for these people. How are we engaging them in that process? Again, I come back to the point that we are not trying to suggest to you that the stated intent of the bill is in error as I have said earlier. Helping people to help themselves is an appropriate intent, is an appropriate public policy initiative for a government to undertake, but we haven't seen the evidence, we haven't seen the internal structures that support that intent and what we are asking for, over the course of the next six months, is to see that evidence.

[Page 7721]

[2:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, you will recall - and if you ask us why it is that we are sceptical about this, why it is we need this opportunity to do this examination - that the members opposite, when they were sitting in our place, called for a repeal of the clawback of the child benefit, and had the opportunity as soon as coming into office to be able to do that, and decided not to, and in fact put it off for a considerable period of time until this legislation came forward. When we look at what they said when they were in Opposition and what they did when they became government, you can understand why it is that we are sceptical about the intentions of the (Interruption) Oh, I see that the minister has a reply. I thought Question Period was over.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour take a question?

MR. DEXTER: I would be pleased to entertain a question. It is not often it comes this way, so we will take the opportunity.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: I am wondering if the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour is suggesting that we should delay the implementation of the National Child Tax Benefit and our supplementary benefit, the integrated child benefit that we have announced for August? He has indicated that he thinks we should take six months to study it; he has indicated that he is concerned about the implementation of removing the clawback. I am wondering if he is really suggesting that we should not implement that National Child Tax Benefit integrated benefit on August 1st?

MR. SPEAKER: Let's see what the honourable member has to say.

MR. DEXTER: Certainly not. What I am suggesting is that that should have been done a long time ago, and the abject failure of this government to do what it said it was going to do is the reason why so many people out there are sceptical. They are sceptical of what you are saying now. If you had lived up to the commitment you made, then perhaps people out there who are treating this legislation so sceptically would be more generous in their consideration of what it is that you have to say. You built the cynicism; you built, out there, the mistrust, because you got elected on a program and then you refused to implement it. That is exactly what you did. When you see the people out here talking about the negative effects this legislation is going to have on the poor and the disadvantaged in this province, it is because you built the mistrust, you built the cynicism because of your failure to live up to your own commitments.

Mr. Speaker, by the way, I want to thank the minister for the question, so I could have the opportunity to address it and cast it in its true light.

[Page 7722]

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, and the time for Question Period has expired. (Laughter)

MR. DEXTER: I can understand the minister not having any more questions, having had the scales lifted from his eyes with my answer to that one, but I want to assure you that we have many more questions about this legislation that we will be examining as the opportunity arises over the next little while.

What about the incentives that the minister says are contained within the framework of this legislation? If you are truly going to provide incentives for people to move off the family benefits system into the workforce, if you are going to allow them to reach a standard of economic security that is acceptable, then you have to be prepared to put in place the kinds of infrastructure, the kinds of supports that are going to truly make the difference. We talked a little bit, and I heard my colleague talk a little bit yesterday about the whole question of support for the children of the recipients of family benefits and social assistance. The reality is that there is not sufficient allocation within this proposal around the provision of child care in order to allow individuals to go out and get the kind of employment they would need in order to cover the costs of child care. They are going to be worse off, not better off. Worse off.

We all want to promote the virtues of self-fulfilment through attainment of goals, whether they be employment or educational. We all want to promote that, but we all have to face the real practicalities of life which is that if you have children at home, you can't leave them there by themselves. You have to have decent, quality, affordable care in order to feel secure that when you go out to do your job that those children are also being looked after. If this legislation fails on that count, then I suggest to you that it fails in a major part of its initiative. I want to say, again, Mr. Speaker, that is not because we want it to fail, it is because it does fail. In fact, quite the opposite. I think you would find on this side of the House a great deal of support for an initiative that would truly allow individuals to move forward in their lives in a way that is constructive, in a way that allows them to break the cycle of poverty which we have talked about now on numerous occasions. But you have to do that by putting in place the kinds of provisions for the care of the children of those on social assistance to provide them with real security.

I know in other provinces that, in fact, has been done. I believe there is a program, and I know I attended the Canadian Parliamentary Associations seminar here in Halifax held in this very Chamber just a short time ago, where we were presented with some of the briefs from the Province of Quebec which has a comprehensive child care plan. It still has its critics, mind you, and it still has its shortfalls, but certainly they have gone a long way to examine that question and to put forward documents for debate that emphasize the importance of good quality, affordable child care.

[Page 7723]

That is just one of the basics we have to address in order to allow this piece of legislation to be successful, because I believe that you, Mr. Speaker, and the minister and the members of the government want to bring forward a successful piece of legislation, not just operate on the chaos theory that any change is good change and that as long as you cobble together a piece of legislation and throw it out there and use a lot of trite phrases, over worn, shopworn kind of platitudes about helping people get back to work, it has to be more than that. It has to be a successful piece of legislation so that it implements a program that actually benefits those in our communities.

It doesn't matter if you are Queens County. It doesn't matter if you are Kings County, it doesn't matter if you are in the Regional Municipality of Halifax, all across this province, we understand that there are many people out there who could use a hand up, as they say, to help achieve a position in the economic strata that will allow them to fulfil their personal goals.

I might say that in many cases the reason why people are captured in the system is not through any fault of their own. There are circumstances, as we know, in the course of one's life that lead you to a position that you might have wished otherwise to avoid. In many cases, and certainly people I run into in my constituency, and I am sure in many constituencies, what these people are really asking for or what they want to have is best summed up in the word "opportunity". What they want is an opportunity to improve and enrich their lives.

If this legislation is truly designed to do that, then what harm could there be in voting in favour of this amendment and taking the opportunity to improve the legislation so that what you are delivering in the end is actually a benefit; a benefit which although it will accrue specifically to the individuals who will be affected by the legislation, will also accrue generally to our province and to our society. That is what we are asking for, we are asking for you to take the time to make sure that what you are doing benefits not only the people who will be directly affected, but your community, whether you happen to be in Liverpool or Kentville or Guysborough. I do not think that is unreasonable; I do not think that the members of the public would see that as being unreasonable.

We know that when we are approaching legislation that we always do it with the understanding that each part of the bill, each concept has to be examined from all sides. I said before - and it bears repeating - that the Opposition, of course, is always referred to as the Loyal Opposition, because our job is to oppose, to be constructive, to point out the errors in the government's platform, the errors in the government's legislation so that it might be made better. That is what we want to do through this amendment. We want to set this aside for six months in order to allow the government to fully hear the analyses, the interpretation that we can bring to bear through not only the resources of our caucus, but of the caucus of the Third Party and of Nova Scotians generally.

[Page 7724]

I believe that people would say to you that that is not only good just for the legislation, but they would say that it is responsible. It is a responsible thing for a government, a little past the first full year of its mandate, to still be able to have had the foresight to say this is something that the Opposition has proposed that makes sense, gives us some breathing room, gives us an opportunity to consider the full weight and the full effect of all the proposed changes.

I think that there would be a fair amount of support around the province for a government that was prepared to say that we don't know all that there is to know about every subject and we are prepared to take the opportunity to listen to what the citizens of the province have to say, to what the Opposition has to say, so that we might bring forward legislation that reflects the desires, the hopes, and I was going to say dreams, but I don't think people really dream about a system of assistance. What they dream about is a way to fulfil their own lives and to have an income that is sufficient to be able to provide some security to their family, but certainly the legislation and the proposal that we are making would give you an opportunity to examine all of the options in this regard.

[2:45 p.m.]

My understanding is that the Department of Community Services really started examining some of this legislation back in 1997 and my bet, Mr. Speaker, is that there is a wealth of information that exists within the department that if they were forthcoming with the research that they did on these matters, we would be able to have a look at it and to see what it is that they received by way of information and what it is that they have brought forward by way of legislation and be able to compare the two, to see if they are following what would be the best practices with this kind of legislation.

Again, we know that people want to work and we see it every day in our own constituencies. Perhaps you, like I do, Mr. Speaker, get calls from people in your community who think, rightly or wrongly, that you can find them a job. You know, as I do, that as a member of the Legislature, what you really do is you act as a clearing house for information that you have access to. You act as a clearing house for things that are going on in the community and you try to help people by giving them leads and telling them who they can go and see. You act as a resource for those people, but the reality is, as much as you would like to be able to, at least on this side of the floor, you cannot just hand them a job.

One of the things I always do whenever people come to my constituency office is I sit down with them, I have a look at their curriculum vitae or résumé and make suggestions. I tell them I am not an employment counsellor, but I can give them the benefit of my experience in my community and let them know what is available. This is a small part of what you do in your position in your constituency office.

[Page 7725]

This kind of legislation, I will bring it back on to that, I saw you leaning forward there, Mr. Speaker, and I wanted to say that with respect to this particular legislation, being able to have an opportunity to fully investigate all of the options, one of the things that you might consider is the whole question of employment counselling, the kind of advice that goes to that whole question of how you find a job, what kind of analysis is going to be done or what kind of appraisal, what kind of assistance is going to be provided to an individual who has made the decision and who has said, what we really want to do is move off the system. If the caseworkers who are working today are saying that they have no opportunity to provide advice, they have no opportunity to provide support, that they are simply really processing and policing the files that they have, then is that going to make for a successful program? I do not think so and I do not think that the members on this side of the House believe that. I do not think that members on that side of the House believe it.

So here is a very substantive thing that we could undertake in terms of looking at the program from the perspective of what the caseworkers are going to require in order to be able to provide the kind of service that many of them tell me is truly needed in order to be able to serve and respond to the needs of the people they deal with on a day-to-day basis. I think you would find many of them would tell you that in the system, as it exists today, that opportunity just doesn't exist. They don't have the ability to provide the kind of assistance on a day-to-day basis that they need to be providing. We are not talking about dollar resources, we are talking about an opportunity to get to know the person that is on their caseload, know what their strengths are, know what kind of assistance they can use by way of training or education in order to orient them into a direction that will ultimately lead to a successful launch into the labour market.

Mr. Speaker, I know I am just getting going here, and I don't want to burn up all the time I have without . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member can go, if he uses his maximum amount of time, until 3:07 p.m.

MR. DEXTER: That gives me about another 16 minutes or so. Thank you. One of the aspects of this was the question of people who get employment initially and the supports that remain in place after they become employed. The minister pointed out that Pharmacare for example was an example that was used, Pharmacare for people who leave assistance for employment will be able to keep the prescription drug coverage, I think, as I recall, for up to 12 months after they enter the labour market and the workforce. I am not so sure that is necessarily a new thing. I think there were exceptions made routinely, assistance given to people. There was certainly an understanding that if you wanted to move people into the workforce, those kinds of supports were going to have to be available, at least initially, because, if not, they acted as a disincentive in the existing system for people to move on to work.

[Page 7726]

Now, I talked about child care as one of those employment supports that was required. We have had a little bit of an examination, and you may know, that everybody's child care situation is different in one respect or another. Some people require true full-day child care, others require after school assistance for their children. I know that oftentimes it is difficult to find programs. I know if you are in my position, I have a 10 year old, it is difficult to find someone who wants to look after a child for just a couple hours a day. It is not remunerative enough, so having a program that deals with questions like that, like after school child care as well as full-day child care would be an important aspect of an employment support. This is something that is not sufficiently addressed in this legislation.

It is not sufficiently addressed in the initiative as articulated by the Minister of Community Services. It is certainly, part of what it is that we would like to see a further examination of before we could support this kind of legislation. Indeed, it appears now that they way the system is set up, the proposal will actually act as a disincentive to move into the workforce because it just simply doesn't provide the necessary support.

The question of training allowances I have touched on a few times. I have noticed a tendency on behalf of the government to engage in what I call career stampeding. What they do is they find a sector that is hot and they provide training allowances that push people into that area until there is a glut. Oftentimes the program continues to go on for a number of years after the saturation point has been reached, instead of providing a firm foundation across the board that will assist people by allowing them to decide on the basis of what it is they want to achieve over the long term and providing sufficient training dollars to allow that to happen.

Instead of doing that, they will say that money is available if you want to do this but not available if you want to pursue an educational opportunity that, for whatever reason, is considered to be outside of the mainstream or outside of the mainstream for those who are the recipients of social assistance. We are quite tight in the guidelines of what we consider to be an acceptable opportunity for advancement.

Mr. Speaker, I have just recently had brought to my attention, the position of a young woman in my constituency who is going to Saint Mary's University and who chose to leave social assistance, and then applied for a student loan and was told that her living expenses would not be covered because they were already covered under family benefits, despite the fact that she had already filed with them a termination notice, proving that she had terminated the family benefits. She had to go through my office to literally refile that termination. I had an opportunity to raise it with the Deputy Minister of Education in the Public Accounts Committee. It was only through that that we were able to convince the Department of Education to come forward with the proper allocation for living expenses for her and her children while she attended university.

[Page 7727]

I now understand that they can't do that at all, as a result of some of the changes that have been made. I think that is unfortunate, that we would limit the support that we give for individuals who are attempting to move off the system, because it isn't going directly into the workforce, it isn't a short-term training allowance. Some of the best courses, some of the best training that is available out there takes a considerable amount of time. You can't expect to have everything done and every training course to last six weeks.

You have to be able to look into the future, into the long term, and say, if we want to effectively allow a recipient of social assistance to reach their full potential, we have to be prepared to invest some money in training allowances, some money in child care, some money in employment supports up front, in the knowledge that in the long term both the individual and our community are going to be better off, because in the long term they are going to find good jobs, they are going to contribute financially to the revenue stream of the government through all of the various ways that the Minister of Finance has to pick your pocket, whether it is through income tax or the goods and services tax or the tax on fuel.

If you allow a person to reach their potential and to get the kind of employment that is best suited to what it is they want to achieve in their life, then I think you would find that the return - if you wanted to look at it just in terms of an accounting procedure - to the government would be greater by making the investment early and seeing to it that the person achieves the best possible position for them and their family. That is why we have been asking the government to consider this amendment and to allow for that opportunity.

[3:00 p.m.]

One of the aspects that has been brought up and I talked about child care in a general sense, but I wanted to just mention that especially in rural areas it is seen that the communities lack the support structure at a very basic level to make this plan work. For example, there is a lack of licensed child-care spaces in rural areas. It is not an opinion, it is a fact and you can go as I did with our Leader, Helen MacDonald, around the province visiting many smaller rural communities. I certainly, as I always do, enjoyed the opportunity to go through Queens County and through Lunenburg County and the reality is that there are insufficient licensed child-care spaces in those rural areas.

So what does that mean? Well, it means that even with the meagre attempt of the government to put aside some money for child-care, that those people who take up that challenge will have to put their children in unlicensed child care centres, unlicensed settings. Is that fair? Is it even desirable that that would be the case and I would submit, and I think many of the members on this side of the House would say that is not a fair approach to take when you are asking people to commit themselves to get back to work, to find a way to generate their own income.

[Page 7728]

Mr. Speaker, I am sure you know as I do that the first priority that you have is your family and if you cannot feel secure in the knowledge that your children are being looked after, then what you are going to do is you are not going to allow them to go into a setting where they feel they are not being properly cared for. You are not going to allow that to happen and I do not think the government would suggest that you should. So if you are going to pursue this matter, I would say the first thing that you are going to have to do is to address the question of the security of that individual in the lead up to the move off social assistance, not only for them but for their children.

As you know, child care in Nova Scotia is really grossly underfunded. The situation has been for some time that what we end up with in Nova Scotia is really a patchwork of arrangements. I think that it is very rightfully being described as unstable, of questionable quality in many circumstances, and can lead to some significant problems for those who are looking for the opportunity to go back to work.

So how do we synthesize all this? Well, I think what we do is we bring it back to the position that I started with at the very beginning which is the stated intent of the legislation. The stated intent of the legislation is to help people to help themselves and we are in favour of that. We are in favour of helping people find a way to break the cycle of poverty and to move off the system. Indeed, as I said before, that is one of the founding principles of our Party. It is one of the founding principles of many other organizations in our society, that people should help themselves, to be part of their community, should support one another.

I see you are giving me the two minute sign there, Mr. Speaker. I realize I am coming to the end of my hour of debate on this amendment. I think the fortunate thing is that I will get another opportunity for another hour in the main debate and I certainly look forward to listening to the other members. I see the Premier is indicating that I should take the hour now. If he would be prepared to extend the debate for an hour, certainly I would take him up on that, but I don't see him jumping to his feet in that regard. Mr. Speaker, I am not sure who the next speaker is going to be, but thank you very much for the opportunity.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I think if there ever was a piece of legislation where the proper use of the hoist amendment existed, then this certainly is it, because to date what we have heard from this minister, I think, is only half the story. You have to ask yourself, does this minister really think we are going to believe that he is the first Minister of Community Services who has had the idea that social assistance is an area where he can introduce welfare-to-work provisions as a new idea? What I am saying is that this is not a new idea. This is a very old idea. It is an old idea that has been around for a long time and, in fact, it has been actively pursued in this province for many, many years.

[Page 7729]

Just to outline some of the things that have been done with respect to welfare to work in Nova Scotia, we can go back to 1983 I believe, when the Family Benefits Act was actually amended, at that time providing a career program for single parents on social assistance. I remember that change in legislation very well. I remember it was set up initially as a pilot project. The assumption was that approximately 60 single parents - women - in the Halifax region would participate in this program where they would receive an assessment of their educational or training levels, they would be assisted to find a training program or an education program that they could get into, or employment, and their benefits would be adjusted in some way to facilitate that.

At the time I believe they were given $200 additional per child for child care; there was some transportation money and there was money for books and educational supports if required. The then Director of Family Benefits in the province, Ivor Hambling, was very surprised when in fact more than 200 women came forward and wanted to participate in this program, and the department faced a situation where they had to hire additional workers in order to facilitate the participation in this new program that they had announced.

That program has continued for 17 years, and there have been many, many other measures taken by this and other governments with respect to facilitating the movement from social assistance into the labour force.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things we have not been told by this minister, we have not been given any information about what, in fact, the outcome of all the programs that we have in this province have been in terms of moving people from welfare to work. We, in this caucus, have been fully in support of a modern social assistance system that provides adequate benefits and good supports to help people escape poverty, be that welfare poverty or employment poverty. It is very important to recognize that any job is not necessarily a good job. There are lots of job opportunities that will do nothing more than continue poverty but in a different form for people in social assistance and our fear is that this is where this government is going.

If we had a six month opportunity to ask questions of the minister, to see those regulations, then we would have a much better understanding of where this minister is going. There are many welfare-to-work programs being adopted in this country and throughout the U.S. and anybody who studies these programs will be able to tell you that these programs are not all alike. There are essentially two kinds of programs. There are programs that use what are called carrots - incentives and real supports for people - and there are programs that use sticks and whips. Where you are able to identify which approach is being taken is not in a vague piece of legislation, but, in fact, the devil is in the details if you will, in the regulations which we have not seen and we want to know why we have not seen those regulations. What is this minister hiding?

[Page 7730]

I can tell you that there is a lot of fear in the community. In my community for example, the constituency that I represent in Halifax-Needham, ever since this minister introduced his budget last year announcing cuts in the benefits rates of social assistance, I have had a steady stream of telephone calls and visits. Many of those constituents of mine who have come to see me or talked to me are people who are disabled. Many of these people are people who, through no fault of their own, are unable to hold down a full-time job. They are scared to death about what they are going to be left with when already their benefits levels have been so low.

Nova Scotia, historically, lined up against all of the other provinces, has had the lowest rate of social benefits of any of the provinces. I think New Brunswick and Newfoundland have probably been marginally lower in some ways but we have been on the bottom and to further decrease benefits that have been historically inadequate is absolutely unconscionable.

I have to say that I agree with this government on one thing. The social assistance system in Nova Scotia is thoroughly unsatisfactory and for many years built into our social assistance system, especially our Social Assistance Act, have been assumptions about people who are deserving of assistance and people who are not deserving of assistance. There has been a huge amount of moralism to a certain extent built into the application of social assistance as well as the rates being inadequate.

It is true. When we had what we called the two-tiered system of municipalities delivering social assistance, we had 66 municipal units in Nova Scotia providing social assistance and generally speaking, the rates were all different in different municipalities. You had two programs - the family benefits, the longer-term program, social assistance, the short-term program. People did not understand, the system was so complex and so cumbersome; anything that can reduce that complexity is welcome. I think really when I look at and when I listen to what the minister has had to say with respect to what they are doing, they really missed an opportunity here to break from the past or to turn over a new leaf.

[3:15 p.m.]

This is an opportunity to address some ugly public perceptions about people who are on welfare; this is an opportunity for the minister to tell the truth about social assistance and social assistance recipients; this is an opportunity to modernize the safety net in this province; this is an opportunity, it should be an opportunity, to provide a humane and an intelligent approach to assisting people in need; this is an opportunity that this government may very well be frittering away. This is the first major restructuring or overhaul of a significant social program in our province in some time. What is being proposed here is a piece of legislation that leaves so many question unanswered, and they are asking for our support on this.

[Page 7731]

There has been some discussion and some debate in the past few days about single parents, who are primarily women, and about whether or not they should work. Should they be made to work, should they be required to work and what have you. I think this is a line of questioning we need to ask the minister because he has not told us anything about what his intention is with respect to this group of people. I had an opportunity this summer to go to a workshop on social policy, where many of the Stats Canada people who have been doing research in this area for a long time were. They talked about the four groups of people in this country for whom poverty is persistent and long term.

Single parent mothers are the number one group of people for whom poverty is persistent and it is long term. Single parent women are a significant group of family benefits recipients, and that program is about to disappear. People who are single parents with children will now be encouraged to go into the labour force. The question is, at what stage? When you have a two month old infant, when you have a two year old child, when your child goes to school? These questions have not been answered by this minister.

If you look at work-to-welfare programs across the country, the Province of Alberta requires that single parent mothers . . .

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Is the honourable member not supposed to be speaking to the hoist motion?

MR. SPEAKER: I recognize that the honourable member for Halifax Needham has been noting the fact that there is the need for a delay, and she actually has been talking about the fact that this is an opportunity to talk about it. I don't see this as a point of order. The honourable member for Halifax Needham can continue.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as we all know in this Chamber, when a bill comes to the floor of the House, there is no opportunity in the Question Period to ask the minister questions. In debate, we have an opportunity to raise some very valid concerns, which is our role as members of the Opposition, to raise concerns and to hold the minister accountable for legislation he is proposing. If we postpone the passage of this bill for six months, this will provide adequate opportunity for members of the Opposition and members of the public to ask and to have the minister answer all of these very important questions that need to be answered.

I would like to go back to some of the questions that need to be answered in the six month period of putting this legislation off. We need to know, for example, is this going to be an Alberta bill that requires women who have children six months old or older to participate in your program plans, or is this bill going to be more like Manitoba where, in fact, the provisions are quite different? At what point do single parents have to participate in your plan? We need to know this.

[Page 7732]

We need to know what provisions you are going to make for single parents who have children with special needs. What if a single parent has a child with a disability? Will they also have to participate in your plan, even if the disability of the child requires that that mom be there to take the child to physiotherapy or speech therapy or to do a variety of things with the child with respect to the child's development?

We need to know what happens to the families with children who have behavioural problems for example. Will there be room in this bill for any exceptions? You talk about flexibility in the legislation, but we see nothing. We see nothing that indicates whether or not this is going to be a one size fits all - because that is all I have heard, is one size fits all - or whether or not there is going to be flexibility, and how is that flexibility going to be built into this legislation?

We want to know how this piece of legislation is going to treat battered women. Many abused women who leave an abusive relationship, are still dealing with a variety of issues. They may be going through the court system. They may be dealing with counselling for some considerable period of time. In addition to all the things they are going to have to be dealing with in terms of establishing a stable and self-sufficient, independent life from an abusive partner, is the government going to require a whole other list of hoops that they jump through in order to get financial assistance? We don't know that. There is nothing that has been provided to this legislation that tells us how these people are going to be treated.

We have heard the minister say that Pharmacare will be extended for one year to people who go into the labour force. This would be a very good thing, but there are many questions with respect to how, in fact, that is going to work. If you go into the labour force on a minimum-wage job, and your Pharmacare continues for a year, that probably would be very good. If you go into the labour force for four months and it was a temporary job and you go back onto social assistance, then you get another temporary job for four months, is there any sort of a cumulative effect? Is it a 12 month straight period? How will this work in terms of the regulations? Will there be any kind of income test? If you got a full-time job making $35,000 a year, will your Pharmacare still follow you or will there be some kind of an income test at some point? There are many questions that need to be answered that have not been answered whatsoever.

For me one of the very serious issues with respect to the changes that are being promoted here is the whole question of education, the whole question of opportunity to upgrade, to train, to develop real qualifications in many respects. These questions have not been answered. They have not been addressed. The minister in his opening remarks talked about the harmonization of policies of the Departments of Community Services, Education and Economic Development. Yet we have not seen that. So if we hoist this bill for six months, we would have an opportunity to see how those pieces fit together because I can certainly tell you, Mr. Speaker, that based on what I see in my constituency right now, there is very little harmonization going on between departments.

[Page 7733]

One of the most rapidly growing groups of people in our country and in this province living in poverty are people who are 45 years old to 65 years old. Many of these people have been in the labour force. They have been in the labour force for many years and for whatever reason they no longer find a place for themselves in the labour force. That is because the labour force has changed and is changing. When they were young people, 30 years ago, they were able to get employment in the labour force with maybe a Grade 9 or a Grade 10 or even a Grade 12, but their skills, their level of education has not kept pace with what the labour force today requires and at the same time they have gotten older. They are not as fast and as agile as they were and many of these people have been cast out of the labour force.

I believe that most MLAs in this Legislature probably see people who are in this situation. They are between 45 and 65. They are unemployed. They have employment experience, but a very low level of skills with respect to the current requirements of the labour force and many of them may have suffered some minor disability, in some cases maybe a situational depression, a short-term mental health problem.

These people are, according to people who do employment counselling, very difficult to retrain and move back into the labour force and I would like to know how will the department deal with this group of people? How does this piece of legislation address the needs of this particular group of people because I believe, when I look at what the minister has had to say and I look at the legislation, this group of real people, are absolutely invisible in this legislation.

[3:30 p.m.]

Moreover, I think as legislators, we should have access to the analysis that the department has done with respect to the various groups of people in receipt of social assistance in the department. Mr. Speaker, this idea that people go on social assistance for life, in fact, will not stand up to scrutiny if you look at the actual cases, if you do some analyses. I believe that the department has that information, but has not released that information to the public or to members of this Legislature.

What I am saying is that, first of all, there is a very high turnover rate of people who receive social assistance. In fact, the department would be able to say how many people are on for three months, for six months, for nine months, for a year; in what categories, how many of these people have short-term disabilities, have longer-term disabilities, are single parents. In fact, many single parents go off assistance in a fairly rapid way.

The department can tell us who these people are, what their educational attainment is, for example: the more education you have, the more likely you are to be able to go off assistance fairly quickly; they will be able to tell us, the younger you are, the more likely you are to be able to go off assistance fairly quickly; and the fact that you have had previous

[Page 7734]

employment experience are all features of what makes welfare-to-work transitions more likely. Why haven't we seen that information, Mr. Speaker?

Why do you not know precisely how this program will work any differently with people who have persistent difficulties in terms of having to be on social assistance? What are the special provisions that are going to be made then to provide adequate supports to people who have a really tough time getting education and training, getting employment?

There are many reasons, and there are many questions, there are many things we need to know. If we hoist this bill for six months, we will have an opportunity to get some clarification around many of these issues and get the answers that certainly members of this caucus want, members of the public would want, members of the various anti-poverty groups would want.

It is very discouraging when you see this government in their statements, pandering to the most base (Interruptions).

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

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I think it is really important that in this process we avoid, and this government needs to avoid, pandering to the most base instincts in our society. Unfortunately, there has been a growing tendency to beat up on people who are poor. What is really tragic about this is that people who are poor don't have lobbyists, they don't have paid lobbyists who can trot down here and buttonhole the Premier or buttonhole the minister or the rest of us. They are not in powerful organizations, they don't belong to unions or professional associations, and they don't make financial donations to the Tory Party. So I think it is very important that we make a special effort to make sure that the various people who are going to be affected by this legislation have an opportunity to hear about it, to find out what it means for them in their lives, for their families, and for their children.

If we hoisted this bill for six months, that opportunity would be there; it would present itself. It would mean that the minister would have a chance to meet, I know the minister said he had consulted, with groups. I chaired the Standing Committee on Community Services back in 1998. We went around - and the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova was on that committee - the province and we heard many presentations from quite a few people with first-hand knowledge of the social assistance system. None of these people asked us to maintain the status quo. I don't remember any presentations, not one presentation, where people came in and said we have a wonderful social assistance system. Don't change one thing, keep it the same.

[Page 7735]

Quite the contrary. People came in and they said this system is broken; this system needs changing. This system does not provide adequate support to people for basics: food, clothing, and shelter. That is what they told us over and over again. We heard that from people on social assistance, we heard it from family doctors, we heard it from members of the clergy, and we heard it from social workers in hospitals. We heard it from every single solitary group that came before us. Without exception, people said that the social assistance system was an inadequate system. What does this government do in response to that? It reduces benefits. It will leave people worse off, and that is simply unacceptable. Simply unacceptable.

The assumption in this approach is that welfare is at the root of poverty. Everybody knows that welfare is not at the root of poverty. In many respects we need to do a better job in our education system; we need to make sure class sizes are small enough so that young people get the attention they need; and we need to make sure that there are special supports for students who need additional help. We need to look at the very high incidence of mental health and what we are going to do about that to help people stay healthy; and we need to think about addictions and how we are going to provide programs for people with addictions.

There are many, many problems that contribute to being in poverty. Welfare, social assistance, is a safety net when you fall into poverty, it is not the source of poverty. We have to keep that in mind.

So I think we need to take six months to do a thorough assessment of what it is that we have been doing in Nova Scotia, what has worked well, and what hasn't worked so well. We need to know about the career planning for single parents, that program that was introduced in 1983 that assisted single parents to get full-time or part-time work. Many, many single parents took advantage of that program. We should look at that. We should have that information here. How many single parents took advantage of that program, and where are they now? I know. I had students at the School of Social Work who were single parents, who were on family benefits, who did a social work degree, and they are working now. They are productive, employed, happy, contributing members of the society. This program actually assisted them to do this.

Under these new provisions, I understand that no longer will there be young people, a single parent being able to go into the social work program at Dalhousie, for example, to do this. That would be a real shame, Mr. Speaker. There are some other questions that need to be asked with respect to caseloads. We haven't heard anything from this minister in terms of what his plans are, in terms of managing caseloads, and we all know that caseloads have been way too high. The family benefits workers in this province have caseloads of 500, 600, 700. They were unable to do annual home visits. Home visits would happen maybe once every three years, if that. Well, with the elimination of the Family Benefits Program those workers will become workers in the new system, but what will their caseloads be. How will they be able to transform themselves from a family benefits worker into an employment

[Page 7736]

counsellor, someone who can do assessments, someone who can identify training programs and employment opportunities.

This isn't something that can happen overnight. We need to see a plan. We haven't seen any plan from this government with respect to employment counselling. There are still many unanswered questions about how this program is going to work and where it is going. I think if we hoisted this bill for six months, we would certainly have an opportunity to look at some of these issues.

When we went around the province to talk to people about reforming social assistance or improving social assistance I should say, because I believe that was the intent of the committee, we heard a lot about employment incentives. People talked to us about what would be required to make low-wage employment - let's be clear about this. There isn't anybody who doesn't want a good, high-paying job, but we all know that there are not enough good high-paying jobs to go around. In fact, the retail sector continues to be a sector that grows and requires workers, however, it tends to be a sector where the wages are quite low, $5.60 minimum wage. In fact, there has been a shortage in workers in this sector to the extent that employers are taking a lead and are paying even more than what the government has legislated as a minimum wage.

This proposal that has been brought forward by the government does not have the employment incentives that were envisioned by many presenters in front of the Standing Committee on Community Services. To such an extent that poor families are not going to be able to leave social assistance any more under this piece of legislation than under the previous Family Benefits Program. By saying that the incentives are there when they are clearly not, the minister has not been able to demonstrate that the incentives are there, then it is being less than forthright with the public, with people on social assistance and with members of this House.

[3:45 p.m.]

Show us the incentives. Show us clearly where the incentives are. That has not been done. If we could hoist this bill for six months it would give the minister an opportunity to maybe to try to get his act together to establish that there are incentives in this bill.

Other people have referred to the child-care provisions of this proposed bill. The minister has said that $400 a month will be provided for child care. Well, I would like to know from the minister where he thinks people are going to be able to find child care for a family, perhaps for more than one child, for that amount of money. It is just not in the cards, it is simply not possible to do that.

[Page 7737]

Child care is an absolutely critical piece of being able to go to work for a working parent, for a working mother, a working father. People do not want just any old kind of child care, they want to be able to leave their children with a child tender who is going to be able to provide good quality child care. We do not want our children to be at risk. There simply are not enough subsidized spaces in the province, and this bill does not address this problem whatsoever. So this idea that there is some sort of harmonization happening here between Economic Development, Education and Community Services is certainly not apparent. It is absolutely not apparent at all.

The other thing we have to talk about, and I am going to take exception to what some previous members have said. People have pointed out in debate that in some areas of the province there are not employment opportunities, there are high levels of unemployment. This is true in rural areas and in Cape Breton there are certainly high levels of unemployment and it may be very difficult to even find entry-level jobs. I have to tell you this idea that there are all kinds of entry-level jobs in the metro area just waiting for people on welfare to leave welfare and go to work simply is not true.

Anyone who knows the social assistance literature on this knows that race is a big issue when it comes to employment and poverty and welfare. We don't talk about that, why don't we talk about that? The minister has not talked about it, there is absolutely nothing in what the minister has had to say that addresses poverty and incidents of social assistance poverty among persons of colour in this province; the African-Nova Scotian community and the First Nations community off-reserve.

I would submit, Mr. Speaker, that both of these groups are over-represented in incidents of poverty and as social assistance recipients and that is for a whole lot of reasons that are not individual failings. This is because there is a lot of racial inequality, discrimination, prejudice and systematic racism built-in to our education system, built-in to our employment situation and it is an historical fact, it is an historical feature of life in this province that has to be overcome, that has to be addressed. To treat everybody in a one-size-fits-all kind of way without addressing the systematic inequality that persons of colour, Black Nova Scotians and First Nations people, especially First Nations people off-reserve, in the context of this bill, because this is social assistance legislation applied to this group, is a real issue. It is something that we need to talk about with the minister. We need the minister to tell us what his plan is to assist specific groups who have been over-represented in the social assistance system and who will have a very difficult time moving into the workforce.

Mr. Speaker, I go to high school graduations and I am shocked at the lack of young Black faces I see walking across the stage, graduating from high school. This is an issue that people in the Black community in my constituency are concerned about. They want their kids to succeed at school. They do not want their kids on social assistance. They want their kids to be able to get a good education and to be in the labour force, but there are specific measures that are required to be able to make those aspirations a reality and this government

[Page 7738]

has not addressed that. This government is ignoring it. This minister has buried his head in the sand on this issue and if we hoist this bill for six months, I believe this would give the minister an opportunity to reflect, perhaps go back to his research department and ask them to specifically look at this question and provide a very good detailed plan. Do some consultation with all of those groups and organizations that represent, that work with, that come from the African Nova Scotian community, for example, and find out what an adequate Social Assistance Program, that would realistically assist people who have been historically disadvantaged because of racism, what such a program would look like.

I believe that would be six months very well spent, Mr. Speaker, and that is something that needs to occur.

MR. CHAIRMAN: I wonder if the honourable member would allow an introduction? Thank you.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for yielding the floor for a moment. I would like to introduce to you and through you, Mr. Speaker, to all members of the House here a very distinguished young Nova Scotian, a constituent of mine who has just come back from Europe, travelling extensively through Sweden and other European countries experiencing as most young people should after graduating from university with his business degree, he is in our west gallery. His name is Robert Mahalik. I would ask if people would extend a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you and welcome to all our guests. I recognize the member for Halifax Needham who has about 11 minutes left.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I have not spent much time addressing the situation for people with disabilities, Mr. Speaker, and this is also a group that I think the minister is correct when he says that people with disabilities want to be included in this society, including in the labour force. Again, this is a group of people who historically have been disadvantaged because of discrimination that is systemic in our labour force.

If you are disabled, to go to work often requires special supports. It requires an employer who is prepared to accommodate disability. There are a growing number of employers who recognize that they have some social responsibility and have moved in a very good direction, in terms of recruiting and accommodating a very fine workforce of people who have disabilities.

[Page 7739]

It has not gone far enough. On the other end, we have a government that has cut education in a way that it is kids with special needs, kids who are disabled, who have been disadvantaged. These kids are going to grow up to be adults and are not going to have the skills to get employment, to participate in any of these employment programs.

It is somewhat ironic that on the one hand the Minister of Community Services talks about assisting people with disabilities into the labour force and the Minister of Education works against him, in terms of providing young people with disabilities the skills they need to get into the workforce. That is exactly what occurred. Just talk to the families who have kids with special needs, that is their biggest fear. Their biggest fear is that these kids, when they are adults, are going to be on social assistance, marginalized and not in the labour force because they didn't get the adequate education that every other child in this province is entitled to. That is what the issue is, Mr. Minister. So it is important that we recognize that all departments work together, from early childhood right up to adulthood. If you are serious about dealing with poverty, you need an integrated, comprehensive plan, not this piecemeal kind of stuff that panders to Mike Harris ideologues in the province.

The last thing I would like to say - I see my time is moving along here - I would like to talk a bit about the lessons that have been learned from other jurisdictions doing welfare to work because I think these are lessons that the minister could certainly learn something from if he took the next six months to examine work that has been done by several other groups on how to do these programs. It would give us a chance as well, I think, to advocate and make our case.

The Canadian Council on Social Development has been studying poverty and social assistance and income support for a long time. They are as good a source as any, Mr. Speaker, on this issue. They have found that in most jurisdictions the number of people who are on welfare, who sign up for employment opportunities, far exceeds the number of jobs available to people. So I think this is a really important thing to keep in mind; we have to be clear that we are not setting people up for failing scenarios.

Mr. Speaker, I have worked for many years with people who are poor. I have seen single parents go to more training programs than you can shake a stick at and never be able to find employment at the end of those programs. I will tell you, the disappointment, the devastation they feel after giving their heart and soul into a training program, making great sacrifice quite often to be able to participate in such a program, is very real, and we have to be careful that we don't perpetuate a kind of cynicism around training and education when there is no employment at the end.

[Page 7740]

[4:00 p.m.]

The minister has repeatedly talked about how his plan fits with the Minister of Economic Development's plan, but I am hoping we will have a chance to hear from the Minister of Economic Development, that he will get up and he will specifically outline what his plan is, what the targets are that he is going to be working toward to measure the effectiveness of what it is the Minister of Community Services says he is doing.

I think it is really important that while we work to help people become self-sufficient, and there isn't anybody who wouldn't want people to be self-sufficient in the long term - the goals of making people economically productive should not be the only goals we have as a society, as a community, as a Legislature. Social development is as important as economic development, and we shouldn't lose track of that. Our families, our children, our communities are important places, too; in fact, maybe they are the most important places. Sometimes I think we have gotten our values a little screwed up in this society, Mr. Speaker, to be honest with you. We spend all our time worrying about the economy, the labour market, economic value. Well, you can't put a dollar price on everything. Sometimes, there are other things that are really important, and we should keep that in mind.

The other thing I would say to the minister, just before I take my seat, is that there have been many workfare programs tried. They are not all the same. They have different features. Some of them are harsher than others. Some people would say, in fact, that we have had workfare in Nova Scotia for a considerable period of time, and they can point to programs where people have been required to participate in a particular work program in order to get their benefits. I would be happy to list those programs because they have existed in this province. It wouldn't be a new thing, if the minister was to go that route.

All of the research - and there is a considerable amount of research - indicates that workfare that is involuntary does not work. Workfare that is involuntary quite often displaces other workers in the labour force. We need to be absolutely clear that whatever this government does, it does not set in place a process that displaces existing workers in our labour force. That would be a very terrible thing to do. It would be divisive and destructive in communities and just plain wrong. That has occurred with workfare programs elsewhere.

We need to see what the minister's plan is. To what extent will this program be voluntary? How will it work? What are the specific features of this plan? What are they going to do with, as I said, abused women for example? What are they going to do with women who have young children? At what stage is it no longer acceptable to raise your child, to be a full-time parent? Is it when your child is six months old, is it when they are one year old; is it six months like it is in Alberta, or is it at a much older age - seven years I believe it is in some provinces - school age? We need to know these things and without knowing them, they are just asking this Legislature to trust them and to trust the minister. I have to say

[Page 7741]

anybody who would reduce benefits to people whose benefits were already too low, I do not trust right from the go.

I, like I think many people, have very good reason to be very concerned about what the real story is underlying what the minister is proposing here. The minister owes it to us, to the public and to people who are poor, people who are disadvantaged, who do not have paid lobbyists, who do not have strong unions, who do not have big powerful organizations and associations that speak on their behalf, or that can come and advocate for them, who only have themselves, who quite often are spending time trying to figure out how to scrape together the bus fare to get to the food bank.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise and speak on the motion before the Legislature today on Bill No. 62 which would provide that the said bill be hoisted, to be removed from the agenda of this legislative session for a period of six months. As others have said so well, including the speaker previous, I want to take the opportunity to try to cite why it is that I think that it is so important.

I think the minister himself when he introduced this legislation sort of said it best when he talked about how important this legislation was, when he talked about what an impact it would have on the social assistance system, on people on social assistance, on people living in poverty in general in the Province of Nova Scotia. I, simply for one, and I think my caucus feels likewise, that we should not be dealing with such an important piece of legislation without having a whole host of questions answered in terms of the impacts of that legislation before it is passed through this House.

Some have said why are we dealing with a hoist, it is a delay tactic. Well, it is a delay tactic for a reason, like a lot of the reasons that we have in this House for debating particular pieces of legislation. This is an opportunity for us here in this House to try to get some answers from the minister and from his staff while we are debating it because there is a lot of ambiguity in this bill. There are a lot of implied effects which we do not know the answers to. We do not know what is real and what isn't real. So the time we take in this debate and if we get the hoist passed, which is doubtful given the fact that it is a majority government, gives us an opportunity to seek out those answers. I think it is unfortunate that the (Interruption)

The Minister of Transportation and Public Works, or whatever he is the minister of now, he is the Government House Leader, the member for Hants West, says you will kill the bill. Well, do you know what? If the bill is a bad bill, then it deserves to be killed, right? That is what we need to debate here in this House. I mean surely the Government House Leader does not expect that if you bring in a piece of legislation that has the kind of impact that this appears to have and if we decide through conscious and constructive debate that the impacts

[Page 7742]

are so negative that it should not be passed, that we are not going to try to do whatever we can to stop that. This is still a democracy. I know that some members when they get on the other side, just because they have a majority . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I was not suggesting to the honourable member that he did not have the right to oppose the bill. I am just suggesting to him that the methodology that is being used is to kill the bill, not to amend it to make it better or anything else. To talk about the bill coming back in six months is nonsense because if a hoist passes, the bill does not come back to this place.

MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic has the floor.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: It is not a point of order but it is an interesting point nonetheless. Where does it say in the rules that if a bill is hoisted, then it would be dead?

AN HON. MEMBER: It is dead.

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: It is convention.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Well, it is convention, right. We have seen convention. The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova has destroyed so many conventions in this House, in his period while he was in the Chair, that he, indeed, should understand what convention means and doesn't mean. As usual, we are certainly appreciative of that member's input. But let me get back to the hoist motion (Interruptions) As I said, it provides us, in this debate, with an opportunity to try to get some details out of the Minister of Community Services and his staff and others who are learned in what it is that this bill is all about. I am frankly disappointed that the members to my right in the Liberal caucus have made a decision not to debate this amendment to hoist the bill. They seem to think that it would be better to just move it on right away to the Law Amendments Committee. But the point is . . .

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the records of Hansard will show that what the honourable member has just stated is not so. The Liberal members did indeed participate in the debate on this amendment, but perhaps not to the point of exhaustion.

MR. SPEAKER: Again, not a point of order.

[Page 7743]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, in contrast to the point of order that was attempted by the honourable member for Hants West, it wasn't even a good point, because the issue here is taking opportunities to debate the legislation in order to make sure . . .

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, if one, again, were to review the transcript of Hansard, we would readily identify the time factor that even the Leader of the socialist cause, whichever Leader it is, first, second or third, Leader pro tem in the House, didn't even use so much as half of his available time to deal with the filibuster on this particular motion. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That was not a point of order, and I would ask, please, for the members to take their private squabbles outside of the Chamber. Also remember that this Deputy Speaker is a rookie. The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic has the floor.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, perhaps a rookie but a fine rookie at that. (Interruptions) The point is we discussed the question of the hoist, why was an amendment to hoist the bill for six months introduced? I am suggesting to you and to other members of this Legislature that it was introduced for a couple of reasons: one, to try to get some questions answered from the minister. I know I am repeating myself, but perhaps you will give me some room, given the fact that I have been interrupted on a couple of occasions by nonsense from the members to my right.

The point is, number one, we want to try to get some information from the folks opposite who sponsored the piece of legislation. The other group that we want to try to get some information from is those people who are directly involved in the delivery of social assistance in the Province of Nova Scotia, the anti-poverty activists, the caseworkers in the system, the people who are dealing with the consequences of poverty throughout communities in this province. We want to hear from them on what they see as the true effects of this bill.

Mr. Speaker, they, like us, are going to have to be reading between the lines and getting some response, some reaction from the people who are dealing with their caseworkers. But that is important information. I think information, frankly, that the Minister of Community of Services should welcome. You would think he would be interested in hearing that before he entrenches in law something that will adversely affect women and men and children in the Province of Nova Scotia who are already living under very dire circumstances.

[4:15 p.m.]

So that is what we are trying to do. I know that our caucus has spoken with many of those people, whether they be recipients of social assistance, or whether they be people that work with those recipients, who have asked us, who have asked this caucus and probably the Liberal caucus as well, to try to slow debate down so they are able to analyse and consider,

[Page 7744]

in a more reasoned way the real impacts of this legislation. As the minister said when he introduced it, it is a very important piece of legislation. It is an important piece of legislation because of the effect it will have on the lives of women, men and children in the Province of Nova Scotia.

I think it is incumbent upon us to do that. Again I say, maybe for the last time, maybe not, in my intervention, that I wish the Liberal members, all of them, would participate as we have and will to debate this legislation and take every opportunity to try to slow down the progress of this legislation to enable those people most affected by it to be able to prepare themselves to present constructive information to the Law Amendments Committee when that time comes. But, I guess the members of the Liberal caucus are not going to be swayed by what I say, surely. But maybe people out there affected by this legislation can send messages through to the Liberal caucus to try to get them on their feet to debate the merits of the bill.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: On a point of order, I would just like to bring before members of the Assembly as it was already pointed out, we debated longer last evening than that group did. I don't know why the past Leader, if he is so energetic, wouldn't have had a better communication system with the current Leader in the House of the socialists. But, Mr. Speaker, I just want to say, on this point of order that we in our caucus are very concerned about this legislation. We have an agenda. We are not following the socialists. We are leading the way on this agenda, and that honourable member can get on with his business.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. It is not a point of order, and the member for Halifax Atlantic has the floor.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and let me just say that I don't ask the member for Dartmouth East or any other member of the Liberal caucus to follow what it is that we do, even though it is the right thing to do, because all we are doing is taking some advice and are listening to the people most affected by this legislation. I just think they should look deep in themselves and respond in a positive way to those people who are affected by the legislation who have asked us to slow down passage. That is all. It is just that simple.

I know the member for Dartmouth East was on his feet last night and had numerous things to say. He was a former Minister of Community Services, and I remember when he was that minister. We had a whole lot to say about his role as the head of that particular department and the problems he caused for people living in poverty. Maybe that maybe goes to the heart of why it is the Liberal caucus is making but a faint attempt to object to this particular piece of legislation.

[Page 7745]

Unless there are any other interventions, I will proceed. Let me move on and say this at the outset. What we need to hear from this government is - and the six months' hoist will provide us the opportunity - is it in fact the case that members opposite believe that people on social assistance are on social assistance simply because they are lazy or because they are ne'er-do-wells and that what they need is a good kick, that they need the pressure put on them to the extent that they will be motivated to go out and find a job? That is my understanding of what motivates this legislation.

That is wrong-headed. It comes from a government that is so completely out of touch with what is going on out there in communities throughout this province. It has never been a question of whether or not people wanted to work, they do want to work and those people take every opportunity and make all sorts of sacrifices in order to avail themselves of work. Like all Nova Scotians, people living in poverty are proud people, just the same as people living in this House, but the system is organized in such a way that the obstacles are mounted against some people in our society here in this province, and this piece of legislation does not deal with that reality.

Let me use an example. This government talked, in their first Throne Speech about education and about lifelong learning, and about how important it was for the economic and social development of this society that we have here in Nova Scotia, and for our progress, that we establish the hallmarks of lifelong learning from start to finish. Then what do they do? Then they cut and slash at education, they cut and slash special education; and they cut and slash away literacy programs, upgrading programs for people living in poverty, for adult learners and others who have been unable to complete their education. They have cut support programs for those people so that they cannot do that.

In my community, the community I represent in Spryfield, I have seen, over the past three years, literacy programs, GED programs, upgrading programs, bridging programs, particularly targeted at single mothers, slashed, gutted. Do you know that there is only one GED program for Grades 8 to 10 in all of metro? There is only one program that is being delivered at St. Paul's Church out in Spryfield. Only one. So what does someone do who lives out in Preston, or lives in North Dartmouth? What do they do, let alone the people who live here on the peninsula or live elsewhere in the former City of Halifax? What about people who live out in Sackville? Do you know that as a result of that, that program has about 8 to 10 people in it, and it was designed for 20. Now, somebody could come along to evaluate that program and say clearly there is no need, and undoubtedly that will happen and that program will probably be wiped out altogether next year.

It is set up to fail. It is set up to fail, just like so many other programs that this government has put in place to supposedly deal with issues of poverty. They are now replacing the shorter-term GED upgrading program with a program that is more intensive - which is good - where you are required to be present 25 hours a week or you can't take the program.

[Page 7746]

Now that sounds fairly reasonable, doesn't it? But what if you are a single mother with children and you cannot find care in your community - you can't afford care, let alone find it in your community, in order to enable you to set aside 25 hours a week to attend this program. What choice do you have? None, zip, it is gone.

That is wrong. This government should not be allowed to get away with that and there is nothing in this piece of legislation that deals with that issue, that problem. They talk about supporting people from welfare to work. All it is is rhetoric because the reality is that the supports are not there now. What is provided for in this bill is more onerous on people living on social assistance than it actually provides any relief. Mr. Speaker, that is wrong.

We must ask the minister in debate, perhaps in discussions in the hallway, what did he intend? What did he think was going to happen when he - if says the words employment supports that suddenly they are going to materialize and people are going to have access to them. Do you know, Mr. Speaker, that caseworkers across the province, here in metropolitan Halifax, are so overworked, in many cases if not most cases, people on family benefits, on social assistance, cannot get a return call.

I talked to a person the other day who is responsible for over 1,500 cases - imagine, right here in metro Halifax. Now they are expected, when that case comes before them, that person - let's not forget, these are people - when that woman or man comes before them they are expected to take time to try to access the appropriate resource and support to meet that person's needs.

The pressure on these workers is already unbearable. All we are doing is asking them to do more. Let's not forget, it is not a matter of pushing paper, it is a matter of making decisions which affect the lives of men and women and children living in poverty. That is what they are being asked to do.

Do you know what happens right now? Someone was telling me about a case, and this is not the fault of the caseworker, it is an example of the pressures that exist and the power that caseworkers have over the lives of these people they deal with. Two single mothers get admitted to J.L. Ilsley for upgrading. They have different caseworkers. One of them is told all about the supports available, all about the programs at J.L. Ilsley, all about ways they can be helped and assistance can be given. The other person is not given any of that information at all. So guess what happened? The person given the information is attending J.L. Ilsley, as we speak; the other one isn't.

Now is that the fault of the caseworker? I would say, Mr. Speaker, that it is wrong to fault the individual caseworkers but it is important to recognize that this is part of the problem that is created because of the burden these individual workers are being asked to carry and the responsibility they have and how extraordinary the consequences are to their decisions. Life and death consequences in many cases. It is not meant to overstate it, Mr.

[Page 7747]

Speaker. It is not meant to overstate it at the least, but members opposite must realize that this is a very - I know they understand it is very serious, they say it is very serious - but, let's look in the eyes of these women and men and these children that are affected by these decisions. Let's not look at them as statistics, let's not look at them as numbers, let's not look at them as cases, as clients, as files. Let's look at them as people that want an opportunity to raise their families if that is their situation. To realize their hopes and dreams, to make contributions to their community and to this province. That is who we are talking about.

[4:30 p.m.]

Those are the people that are being affected by this piece of legislation and why it is that it is unacceptable for this minister to bring in such an important piece of legislation with so many questions left unanswered. It is not fair, it is not right. The members of this caucus are doing everything they can to try to ferret out those answers.

The minister has talked at some length, Mr. Speaker, and if we take advantage of this hoist motion, this amendment, we will perhaps have an opportunity to get at some of the answers. When we say to the minister, but there are no jobs in many communities of this province so for anyone now to be able to qualify for social assistance they are going to be forced to take advantage of these employment supports and to find work. Well, what if the work is not there, Mr. Speaker? Well, the minister says, we have the answer, we are going to talk, we are working directly with the Minister of Economic Development. The same minister who presides over an agency that gives out loans willy-nilly to companies in this province that continually turn that money into vanishing paper - like MM Industra Ltd. How many businesses on that site in Burnside have gone belly up and cost the taxpayers millions of dollars? The minister supports all of the loan programs in the way that previous governments have handed out money. We need to revisit that issue.

I am getting a bit distracted here, but my point is, that the Minister of Economic Development and his department don't have any magic wand, they don't have any answers. They haven't come up with a new idea in 25 years. The job growth in the metro area is as a result of the offshore, as a result of the burgeoning IT sector, which is all private sector driven. This government, like the previous government, has not been able to do anything to deal with the chronic unemployment in Cape Breton, for example, other than shut down another employer. They have not been able to do it - many communities - people talk 30 per cent, I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that in many communities in industrial Cape Breton, the unemployment rate is in excess of 50 per cent. You know that and I know that. This minister's department doesn't have any answers about how to deal with that. So going to the Minister of Economic Development and trying to find answers, ain't gonna fly. The jobs are not there. The jobs are not there, it is just that simple. So, suggesting that you are going to force people to find work that isn't there is simply inhuman. It doesn't make any sense.

[Page 7748]

I think we need to examine more fully what is behind the minister's contention that the solution will be found by the Minister of Economic Development. I think on other occasions I heard him talk about other linkages with departments like Education. I cited earlier an example or a case where this government, since they have come into power, have contributed to a worsening of education for many Nova Scotians. For example, in the metro area, and I think that is probably the case throughout the province of Nova Scotia, but certainly here with the Halifax board, they have cut back Reading Recovery Programs. Reading recovery for young pupils who are having difficulty keeping up, being able to get some concentrated reading instruction in order to be able to improve their reading, catch up with the rest of their class and, therefore, be able to contribute and gain as much as they possibly can from learning in further grades. That is being cut. In other words, the people who are not getting a good start are going to be left in that circumstance, Mr. Speaker. So it doesn't take a brain surgeon to know that if you don't get the basics, you don't get the education, you are not able to learn in school, your ability to get a good job - to get a job, period - is going to be affected.

Why is the government doing that? We talk about linkages. Education is directly linked to the ability of women and men to be able to get jobs and to be able to work and make a contribution to their family and to their community. Direct action by this government is getting in the way of that.

What about the disabled community? This government has cut funding to the school boards who have in turn cut funding for special needs in our classroom, so the children who need a little extra support in order to be able to learn at the rate they should be able to learn in order to progress through the education system, are not able to do so. What is going to happen to them? What is going to happen to these children as they grow up? If they don't get an education are they going to be able to make a contribution? Are they going to be able to get a job? They are going to make a contribution, I can guarantee you that, whether they have an education or not. I know an awful lot of people throughout the province of Nova Scotia, regardless of whether they have an education or not, who make an extraordinarily positive, constructive contribution to their communities.

Whether they happen to be on social assistance through no fault of their own does not impair their ability to make a positive and constructive contribution to their community. I think members opposite should understand that. The fact that people, through no fault of their own require assistance, does not mean they are not important contributors to our society. The member for Halifax Needham was referring to that earlier. I know a number of people in the community I represent who participate on community boards, on fund-raising committees, in community activities in a number of different ways, to make their community a better place, and contribute by trying to help their children in school to try to avoid the obstacles they may have come across.

[Page 7749]

The point is simply this, what we are trying to do, hopefully, is remove the obstacles one has to avail themselves of choices. What we want to do is make sure that every Nova Scotian has an equal opportunity to access a quality education in the Province of Nova Scotia. That, unfortunately, is not the case and the problem is getting worse while this government is at the helm, Mr. Speaker.

The issue that has not been dealt with in this legislation, and needs to be dealt with - and I assume would be dealt with if we had the opportunity to suspend debate or hoist the bill - is to consider things like, what happens to someone under these rules - because it is not clear at all - what happens to somebody under these circumstances who goes out and gets a job, avails themselves of employment supports, and then, as a result of health and safety concerns, as a result of personal harassment concerns, as a result of very real problems that result on the job site, have to leave that job, have to quit. What happens to them?

Remember the changes made to EI back in 1993. It made it more and more difficult, in fact it made it impossible for people to quit their job, regardless of the circumstances. So people facing very life-threatening circumstances, in some cases, or personally threatening circumstances at their job, if they took it in their hands to leave they would be unable to qualify for EI. Now is that going to be the circumstance under this legislation? I expect it is. They can't qualify for EI; are they going to be able to requalify for social assistance? Mr. Speaker, I have my doubts.

The minister and his staff have to realize what the reality is out there in the workplace. People often - all of us - take on a job not understanding all of the circumstances of that job and we may find that the working conditions are such that they are a threat to our health; the way the work is organized is a threat to our safety; and/or, Mr. Speaker, you get into a situation where you are subject to personal harassment to the point where your very person is being threatened. Under those circumstances, you should be able to make the right decision for yourself.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Could I ask the members to please take their conversations outside the Chamber.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic has the floor.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, undoubtedly, there are members in this House who probably have not heard everything I have had to say. If we took the opportunity through the six months' hoist, I know they would avail themselves of Hansard, to review the sometimes thoughtful, sometimes less than thoughtful comments of myself and other members who are trying to argue that there are some serious flaws in this legislation and one of the ones that really troubles me is this predicament that we put people in. EI did the same thing and I remember arguing at the time and the members of the federal government saying,

[Page 7750]

no, no, if people just bring those concerns to us we will make sure that they can requalify for EI.

[4:45 p.m.]

That did not happen. I know of far too many appeals that were lost simply because the rules said that you were not allowed to quit and the extenuating circumstances and the definition of that were so narrow that people were put in a very difficult situation. Is there the flexibility in this system to accommodate those situations? I have my doubts because frankly, increasingly, it happened with the former government. We are now seeing it with this government. The system is being set up with so many penalties, so much punishment, that the burden on women and men who, through no fault of their own, are forced to apply for and receive assistance is such that it is almost, in many cases, intolerable.

The member for Halifax-Needham talked about women in abusive situations. We already see that now where women are torn, in terms of whether or not they leave an abusive situation. The option is do they leave the situation and live in poverty or do they try to make it work? In far too many cases, they are putting their persons and their lives in jeopardy by being forced to make that choice.

The supports are not there. Sufficient funding is not there for transition houses and women's centres and shelters and other programs to allow women and children to live in safety. There are very few, if any, transition programs in place to allow those people to then build a life for themselves and their family in new circumstances. I do not see anything in this legislation which accommodates those particular situations and if the legislation does not deal with that reality, it must and we need to hear something from the minister on that issue.

I will wrap up at this point as I will have an opportunity to talk in more detail about the merits or lack thereof of the legislation itself, but I want to touch on one last area that pertains to the need for a hoist. You may recall that in 1998 and 1999, a standing committee of this Legislature went throughout the province and consulted with Nova Scotians on the whole issue of welfare reform. They visited nine communities and had public meetings, entertained representations from delegations and presented a report with some very important recommendations. It wasn't just a report from the NDP caucus. It was a report that was agreed to by the three caucuses, Mr. Speaker.

I think Nova Scotians and particularly those people affected by this legislative regime expected that before changes were made that the government would come back to the community and discuss the kinds of changes that were going to be made. The minister and his staff wouldn't just take a bill that was making extensive changes to the system, and just plunk it down on the table and say, this is what we are going to do, without talking to people and answering their questions as to what the impact will be. People didn't expect that, and

[Page 7751]

surely, this minister and his government colleagues don't expect that people are going to accept this kind of strategy.

Surely the people who are directly impacted, the workers and the people who receive social assistance in its various forms, have the right to be treated with some dignity if this government would come back to the community with some suggestions on how to change the system and engage in a dialogue with that community as a way of trying to come up with reforms that are constructive, that are positive, that do make sense. That hasn't happened.

Our critic, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, said in his opening address on this bill that he couldn't believe how thin this legislation was, given the impact it has. The fact that it is thin means it doesn't have any information in it, and it doesn't have very much information.

It has been said that there are huge gaps in this bill as to what is going to happen and how it will impact on people on social assistance. The minister says, well, we will deal with all that detail later in regulation. We won't do it right away, but we will do it later. But as my good friend and long-time colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid always says, those regulations are going to be developed down in the bunker, behind, in this case, the blue curtains. The point is, they are going to be developed out of sight, apart from the people who actually have a stake in what those regulations say.

The women and men opposite, Mr. Speaker, are fair-minded individuals surely. They recognize that is not right, that is not fair, and people affected by this legislation deserve as much respect as the denturists or the other people affected by the bills that came in today that dealt with changes to the denturists and the dentists and the psychologists. They changed the legislation affecting the organization that regulated those particular professions. Those pieces of legislation went through extensive consultation.

In fact, in the case of the denturist legislation, it went through about 27 years of consultation. Imagine, the denturist bill, which affects probably several hundred denturists and other people who are going to get dentures, gets 27 years, seven years, even a year of consultation and all-Party support before it is brought in here, but a piece of legislation that affects thousands of women and children and men living in poverty, receiving assistance in the Province of Nova Scotia, doesn't get any time, Mr. Speaker. They weren't asked, what do you think? Here is what we have come up with a consultation out of our study, out our analysis, here is what we think needs to be done. Put it out there for consultation, for study, for feedback. Not a second of consideration was given to involving the people affected by this legislation and whether or not this bill deserves to be here in its current form.

I don't accept that; I don't abide by that. I think it is wrong. I think the government just believes that it is - I don't know. I think they believe there is a mean spiritedness out there against people living on social assistance, and that they are going to be able to just run this

[Page 7752]

sucker through without any worry of any problems. I will tell you, Nova Scotians are fair-minded people, they are compassionate people, they understand that there are times when everyone is faced with situations where they need a hand-up not a boot in the face. When they need an opportunity to bridge, when they need an opportunity to be treated with dignity and to live in dignity, to be able to contribute to their communities without feeling like they are somehow second-class citizens. That is what this government does. That is what this government continues to do, and that is wrong.

That is wrong, and I and members of my caucus are going to continue to fight against this strategy, fight against this government and its attack on the poor in the Province of Nova Scotia. Let me say, as I wind up, that we, as a caucus, have continued to recite the increase in child poverty in the Province of Nova Scotia since this government took office. Child poverty is not just a statistic, it is not just a problem that exists out there. We are talking about children, about girls and boys who have come into this world and deserve an opportunity, have the right to live a safe and healthy life with equal opportunities for education, to be able to contribute and make choices about the way they will contribute to their society.

When you have conditions of poverty in many communities in the Province of Nova Scotia, when you have the kind of barriers that exist, where children are not protected and they are not able to avail themselves of proper nutrition and proper education, that is a condition that needs to be rectified. It won't be rectified with pieces of legislation like Bill No. 62. I plead with members of this Legislature, members opposite, members of the Liberal caucus, to recognize that Bill No. 62 is an attempt by this government to deal with the problem as they have defined it. I don't agree with how they have defined the problem, let alone how they have decided to try to deal with it. I think it is an issue that needs some attention. We need to consider the impact that this legislation is going to have on real people's lives. Maybe then we can come together as a Legislature, members from all sides, and put the amendments into this legislation, put the details, put the substance into this legislation, which will give people living in poverty, people on assistance, the hope, the opportunity, the respect and the dignity that they deserve from a caring and compassionate society. That is one that I will continue to fight for as a member of this caucus.

Now, I will take my seat and give other members an opportunity to participate in this debate. I say to you, all of you, we need to slow down the debate on this bill. We need answers to questions, we need to hear from those people living on assistance. We need to hear from those people dealing with and delivering those service, in order to ensure that Bill No. 62 gets the changes that it so desperately needs. Thank you.

[Page 7753]

[5:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to stand and speak to the hoist of Bill No. 62; as a matter of fact, I don't even think the bill should be before this Legislature.

First of all I want to make some general comments, the reason why I am supporting this bill to be hoisted. There seems to be a general perception out there that it is okay to poor-bash; that it is okay to bash less-fortunate individuals, those individuals who will not come into this Legislative Gallery and express their concerns simply because they are embarrassed to be on social assistance. All those agencies out there that speak on their behalf, that are limited and funded by the provincial government, and have to go out there and provide the services to those individuals, also are unable to come before this Legislative Assembly in numbers and droves, simply because they are out there providing to those particular individuals the level of services needed.

I never dreamed that I would live in a country, the second largest in the world, with a population of only 30 million people, and in the Province of Nova Scotia with less than 1 million people, and I would be standing here debating an issue of social services, of providing services to individuals who are less fortunate. I know the reason many Nova Scotians are less fortunate, and that is because of the transfer payments that should be passed down to this province by the Liberal Government, which is now in power. That Liberal Government reigned over this country in such a way that 1.6 million children today now live in poverty.

Allow me to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that that in itself, one has to reflect on what is going on here, who is getting the ear of government and why. There is a very important issue here with respect to how we treat the less fortunate people in our society.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to go to Nova Scotia, with less than 1 million people, and tell you that this is the reason why I am supporting the hoist. I once attended a function, it was a Sport Nova Scotia dinner, there was a little brochure card on the table - and I will never forget this as long as I live - it implied that 44,000 Nova Scotians were too poor to participate in active sports. Now what does that tell you about the overall well-being of your children? Forty-four thousand children in this province are too poor to be actively involved in sports.

Not knowing what the number represented or reflected in this province, I decided to call Statistics Canada, and they gave me some information with respect to the number of children in this province. I asked, what is a definition of a child in this province? They said the definition of a child is a person between the ages of 0 and 14. I asked, approximately how many children live in the Province of Nova Scotia and they told me 176,000 children live in

[Page 7754]

the Province of Nova Scotia; 44,000 of those children are too poor to be actively involved in sports. That is 26 per cent of the population.

Now, Mr. Speaker, that is abysmal. There is absolutely no question and no reason why that should exist in the Province of Nova Scotia. When the Liberal Government came to power and it decided that it would do an exchange of services with the municipalities, and that exchange of services would be that it would take over social assistance, I want to tell you I was pleased. The reason I was pleased is because at that time we had 66 municipalities in this province that administered what was called the Social Assistance Program or the Income Assistance Program or the old Municipal Assistance Program.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that the minister will be very much aware of how abused that system was and how advantageous it was for some municipalities, including the minister's own municipality, to keep the rates lower than existing municipalities so people on social assistance and on income assistance would migrate or move to other municipalities in order that they did not exist there, causing burden onto the municipalities. There are people in the Department of Community Services who can attest to that because we have seen the numbers.

When the Savage Government decided that the total takeover of social assistance was important and that the province would come into a one-tier system over a graduated period of time, I felt comfortable simply because I had felt there would be no more poor-bashing, that in fact the provincial government would recognize the abuses of the old system. I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that this is one of the very good reasons why the hoist should be held, at least for a six month period.

I want to go back to a period of time when it was under the old Municipal Assistance Program, just to demonstrate a reason for this. I remember being in the Annapolis Valley, in a community when there was a harvest season. There was a 58 year old man, in the month of October, who was so debilitated with arthritis that it was impossible for that man to actually work or do anything. That man was out in the cabbage field on an October day when there was ice in the cabbage, cutting the cabbage in order to earn an income because he was told that he would not receive any assistance from the Municipal Assistance Program simply because there were employment opportunities for him in that community.

Mr. Speaker, that was in 1962. We are now moving back in time in which this Department of Community Services is now recommending that no longer is there this avenue of people who are considered to be on family benefits, these long-term individuals who really need the help and we all know how that is defined, but now they are moving to what is called the one-tier system called income assistance.

[Page 7755]

Mr. Speaker, I will say to you that if in fact this bill is allowed to go through, then there could be, and probably likely will be abuses in client services who rightfully deserve to receive social assistance in this province. I can tell you that it has not helped in the Province of Ontario and I believe this bill might actually have been written by some Ministry of Community Services in the Province of Ontario.

I want this minister and this government to know that Nova Scotians are a compassionate, caring group of people. I want you to know throughout every rural community every member of this Legislative Assembly represents, they know the notion of community, the definition of community. They know what community means to a lot of those people who live there. Every single member in this Legislative Assembly can tell you that the number one issue that comes through a constituency office is that of community services. If it isn't number one, I will bet you it is number two. That should reflect in this Legislative Assembly a very good reason why we need to hoist this bill. That means that this bill came in without public consultation, without support from the agencies and even the stakeholders who are the recipients of social assistance.

This came in, I can assure you without any input from any of those individuals but was devised in some corner of some office with respect to how best to get rid of this issue, knowing full well that public sympathy, because of the pressures laid on Nova Scotians and Canadians over the period of time, has been easier to slide by because they automatically assume that social assistance is part of the cause of the deficit.

I just want to go back to tell the minister, and the minister is very much aware of this, and he should be, I am sure, that in fact I saw a Daily News article of April 30, 2000 and that was when we were debating the budget estimates. It was from Parker Barss Donham and said that welfare payments fell a whopping 15 per cent in the last two years. Can you imagine? Welfare payments in the Province of Nova Scotia fell a whopping 15 per cent and in this year the Minister of Finance is very much aware that it is going to drop another 2 per cent.

So what they are doing is they are working on an agenda here. That is what that government is doing. They are working on an agenda to get re-elected in the year 2004. They are working on the agenda to get re-elected on the backs of the working poor, on the backs of poor Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I want you to know that the Minister of Community Services, who was a former Mayor of the Town of Bedford, has obviously come with experience. The minister is very much aware that when he comes with that experience, he knows the kind of problems that exist within the Department of Community Services.

This is the reason for needing the hoist, because we need to evaluate what this bill is going to do for those people on social assistance. I want you to know that we have looked at the people who are in fact on family benefits and the single moms and dads who are on

[Page 7756]

income assistance. It is very easy to tell Nova Scotians that those individuals are lazy individuals and they don't want to work and many people will become receptive to that simply because they are working poor Nova Scotians.

I want to tell you that I think the most sensitive letter I have received in some time was a letter that I received just about a month and a half ago. I received it from my constituents who consider themselves the working poor. They were drawing the analogy between themselves and those who are on welfare and they had felt that rather than the employer providing them with a decent wage, rather than the employer providing them with decent benefits, rather than the employer providing them with the kind of services like day-care facilities and so on that would complement their jobs, they felt that they were the deserving poor. Can you imagine in a nation where people who are working feel that they are the deserving poor? And that it is okay to take clawback money from the federal Government of Canada that was designated to every poor family in this province and to divvy it up in a pot and then to implement their own programs to help those who are working poor.

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this government and its blue book said that it would give back the National Child Tax Benefit in its entirety to Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians are still waiting for that National Child Tax Benefit clawback to come to them. Instead, what this government will do, this government will decide that it is going to integrate these dollars with the existing dollars from the purse of the government and they are going to talk about this money being spent of some $20 million within the Department of Community Services.

Mr. Speaker, that minister over there knows that with 36,000 families on social assistance, and another approximately 12,000, I believe, families on income assistance, that $20 million goes nowhere; $20 million doesn't address the real needs of providing the kind of efforts or work or, let's say, assistance to get people off of the welfare roll. The minister is very much aware that there is a great deal need of infusion. But who has the guts in this government to stand up and say, look, we are going to put in an infusion of millions of dollars, not $20 million, maybe an additional $100 million. People are going to have to be prepared to commit that for a five year period so that we can totally erase the kind of poverty problems that we have in this province. I am not only talking about those individuals on social assistance, I am talking about those individuals who are working poor, as well.

Mr. Speaker, it is a sad day when we have to stand in this Legislative Assembly and deal with Bill No. 62. You know the government had a better route in which to do this. The government had a route to say, we won't introduce legislation, but what we will do is we will bring in regulations and we will bring in policies that will benefit those people who are less fortunate. Then, after we have stabilized those programs and we have found that they have worked in consultation with the agencies and organizations out there, then we will turn around and we will introduce legislation that says now and forever and a day, no other

[Page 7757]

government will ever step back. It will continue to move forward on social assistance legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to talk about the clawback, as a matter of fact, while I do have the opportunity. I do know, and here is another example as a reason why there needs to be the hoist for a six month period. I remember a family down the Eastern Shore when in fact, the Liberal Government was in power. The Liberal Government decided that it would not pay out the clawback money to those people who were on social assistance. The individual was a 44 year old mother and a 49 year old father with three children who needed that money and it was clawed back from them, dollar for dollar. The mother had an educational deficiency. The father was disabled and was not able to go out there and seek employment, yet that money was actually taken from them to be introduced into another program to help children at risk, to help families get off social assistance. This family was left to fend for themselves. They had no increase.

Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, the federal Government of Canada decided that those poor families needed that actual National Child Tax Benefit Program. That is the reason why they were supposed to go do individual families and that is the reason why Newfoundland and New Brunswick decided that they would not partake in that kind of an activity and allowed it to go directly to those families who needed that National Child Tax Benefit.

I think it is important to recognize and, in fact, we recognize, as well, and I want you to know that our Party supports any legislation that allows people to gain a quality of life. But the choices must be the peoples'. It must not be the government. It must not be the government that introduces legislation that says, look, if you go out there and you get a job and maybe the training program that we will provide you with will be a job that is less than $5.00 an hour, maybe even $5.00 an hour, and you have to go out there and get that job, and help you if, in fact, you should quit that job because you can't handle it, or help you if you get fired from that job because you can't handle it, because then the Department of Community Services has a program whereby they won't pay you if you quit your job or if you have been fired from the job.

They will do a review and an assessment, and 30 days later they will send you out, they will give you an opportunity to appeal. You will appeal the decision and, lo and behold, because there are no opportunities beyond the appeal board of the Department of Community Services and because it is a policy decision, that individual loses; 9 times out of 10 that individual will lose, there is absolutely no question about that.

Those are the kinds of things that we want to know what this bill will do. That is the reason we want to know that the regulations have to follow with respect to the policies as well, have to follow through this Legislative Assembly. It is no good bringing in a piece of legislation where there is no detailed information that tells us exactly what the Department of Community Services is going to do.

[Page 7758]

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to speak to Mr. Ron L'Esperance when he was Deputy Minister of Community Services; I have known him for some time. I spoke to him with respect to a very serious problem surrounding the issue of trusteeship, where individuals were unable to handle the dollars that were coming in, and that in fact there would be a need to have a trustee program available to those individuals, by the Department of Community Services, to help them along, but at the same time train them and help them so that they are better able to spend the dollars that were afforded to them.

I must tell you that at that time, the Department of Community Services had no program for trusteeship. I want to tell you that I had the opportunity to call because I have seen families come into the constituency office who couldn't handle the allocation from the Department of Community Services. I was fortunate enough to have met Reverend Pembleton, and Lorna, and I must say that I have asked him if in fact he would assist in a trusteeship program for one family. He certainly appreciated that, and he did assist in a trusteeship program for that family, and that went well.

I also had the opportunity to provide a trusteeship with a cousin and an uncle of two other families who were able to help these families along. Now some of those families are able to manage and administer their affairs themselves. That is significant and that is important. I do know that part of that is within this legislation. I do know that there has been some consideration with respect to that.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to recognize the reason we need to have a six months' hoist on this bill. We talked about the opportunity of having people become independent, self-reliant, and that is all well and good. In my Party, we all believe that is important. That is important to the growth of families, it is important to the growth of individuals. They want to be self-reliant. They want to be independent. No one who walks through my door ever says they want to be on social assistance, but they do want to make sure that there is adequate funding so that they will be able to maintain and continue to provide for their children and their families the kinds of things that every other family provides, maybe not at the same level but they certainly want to provide that.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to go back to the notion that people abuse the social assistance system. I want to tell you that it is a myth, and the Minister of Community Services is very much aware that 5 per cent, or less than 5 per cent, of those individuals on social assistance abuse the system.

Mr. Speaker, when I was a member of Dartmouth City Council, and we were doing the budget for income assistance, we decided we would hire eligibility review officers. What we would do is we would bring those eligibility review officers in, and those eligibility review officers came in for a period of one year under the budget. They came in primarily to demonstrate to the Dartmouth City Council how many people were abusing the social

[Page 7759]

services system. They would continue to be employed if, in fact, there were sufficient funds out of the abuse of the system in order to keep them there.

Allow me to tell you, Mr. Speaker, and Mr. Minister - and the minister is probably aware of this as well - that in fact after year one there was no need for an eligibility review officer because less than 1 per cent of those on the system were abusing it. So what happened is that there was no need and there was a definite factor there that demonstrated and proved that no one on social assistance was abusing it. I want you to know that when we go back to this very issue, it is a myth that is put out there.

I represent a constituency in Dartmouth North that has more agencies and non-profit organizations than any other constituency in the Province of Nova Scotia. Those agencies are working themselves to the bone trying to provide the services that I firmly believe, and many Nova Scotians firmly believe, the government should be providing. I have never met a Nova Scotian, contrary to public opinion out there, who really believes that many people on social assistance are abusing it.

As a matter of fact, when you look at your community today, you see a community that reflects something different than what we had dreamed of as a Canada and as a Province of Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, we see individual food banks in these constituencies. We see clothing depots, and we see breakfast programs provided for children who are too hungry to learn, and service clubs doing the work of government, providing the volunteering free of charge and carrying out the services that government should provide.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to go to the issue of the Metro Food Bank. This again was just last year. If you want to see how much of an impact government cuts have had, and now the federal Liberals are running around down here in Nova Scotia with every Cabinet Minister you could possibly imagine and everything, trying to justify their existence and telling Nova Scotians, we know that you suffered a lot of pain. We thank you very much for suffering that pain, while somebody owns a shipping magnet out somewhere in a foreign country, rather than provide employment to Nova Scotians. (Interruptions)

To get back to the hoist, Mr. Speaker, (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I just want to remind the honourable member that we are talking about the six months' hoist. The honourable member for Dartmouth North has the floor.

MR. PYE: I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, that I am drawing that analogy to that hoist. That is the reason that there needs to be a six month assessment done here.

[Page 7760]

I just want to go back to the Metro Food Bank. This again was during the budgetary process. It said that up to 15,000 people each and every month in the Halifax Regional Municipality, and more than 24,000 across this province, rely on food banks for three to four days' supply of food. Can you imagine? I believe 1985 was the year when, in fact, the first food bank became a feature in Canada. Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker? Since then, despite all the welfare reforms, and the welfare reform in the Province of Ontario, there are more people going to food banks today than there were 10 years ago. Again, it demonstrates that government has not come to grips with the issue of social policy, and how to deliver social policy in a meaningful way, so that Nova Scotians can grasp it and endear it and make sure that this is the kind of policy we want to continue forever and a day.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, those are the kinds of things that we have to look at. Just think of the six months' hoist. Can you imagine if Sobeys came here and the government said well, look, you know that $3.5 million, we have to think about this for six months. I can tell you, there would be no more fishing trips; the fishing trips would be gone. The point is this, allow me to tell you that that is fact. The government coughing up $3.5 million, that doesn't happen only this year, that is compounded each and every year thereafter, depending upon the ability of the employer to provide the revenue that will, in fact, allow that to happen.

Also, Mr. Speaker, this government decided to fall back on some $15 million that the Michelin Tire Corporation didn't want. Can you imagine, $3.5 million and another $15 million added on to that, another $18 million added to the Department of Community Services' coffers.

HON. GORDON BALSER: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would like to clarify some of the points raised by the member opposite with regard to the $3.5 million payroll rebate. It is actually spread over five years, with only $900,000 the first year, second year, $700,000 third year, fourth year, the balance in the fifth year. No monies have been expended yet nor will they be, until the 140 jobs have, in fact, been created. So it is a misnomer to say that money has already been expended. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Obviously it is not a point of order but certainly enlightening for the honourable member who (Interruptions) It is certainly information that really is not pertinent to what we are discussing here tonight, the six months' hoist. So I would ask the honourable member to get back to the amendment which is before us at hand.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I guess you and I differ again. I guess we differed once last year as well. We differ again with respect to the intent of this part of the bill. It is drawing an analogy and the reason why a six months' hoist ought to take place is because of the kind of policies or legislation the government introduces for one sector of the province, versus that of another, and how government reacts to one sector of the province versus that of another.

[Page 7761]

Mr. Speaker, it is significantly important to remember that with that sector of the province there had been, at least, consultation, With the sector of your community now, with respect to Bill No. 62, there has been no consultation.

Mr. Speaker, I toured this province as a member of the Standing Committee on Community Services with some of those members over there. I just want to quote what the Minister of Economic Development, who sat on that Standing Committee of Community Services used to say. Now there is a good reason why you need the six months' hoist, because that minister, the honourable member for Digby-Annapolis, at the end of each session would say to those presenters, if you have one single choice, what would that be? That is what he would say, if you had one single choice, what would that be?

I could understand why and where he was coming from, after the sixth meeting it was clear, he was going to offer nothing, if at all possible. What those individuals said is we want compassion, we want understanding and we want people who know and have some knowledge of what Community Services is all about and the kinds of programs and services it should be providing to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I have to say that no wonder the Minister of Economic Development stood up in this House and challenged what I have said. After going through that, I can understand why. As a matter of fact, the honourable Minister of Health served on that Standing Committee of Community Services as well. (Interruptions) There is a very good reason why this hoist should take place for that six month period. It is because the minister, and now the Minister of Health, in fact brought forward the recommendations by the Opposition Progressive Conservatives at that particular time. A number of those recommendations are not listed in this bill, a number of them are not even talked about. I will tell you that the Minister of Health had some compassion at that time, as well as on the Liberal side, they made their recommendations as well. I want to know how much of the recommendations that the Minister of Community Services - how much thought he has put in to the recommendations from that Standing Committee of Community Services. I also want to know during this six months' hoist when he has the opportunity to consult with those agencies and organizations, if the minister is open and receptive to the reinstating of the Standing Committee on Community Services.

That would be an excellent move. Do you know why, Mr. Speaker, that would be an excellent move? It is simply because if the legislation introduced was going astray and it was not meeting the requirements of the clients of Nova Scotia who are on social assistance, then in fact those clients would have the opportunity to present themselves as witnesses before the Standing Committee on Community Services and let those issues be known. Hopefully the standing committee would be a standing committee of at least all-Party representation. (Interruptions)

[Page 7762]

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about the employment of individuals and the taking of individuals off welfare when there is not a sufficient day-care program available in this province. I represent a constituency where a number of people who are working poor have difficulty getting subsidized day-care spaces. I know that this government has made a commitment and previous governments have made a commitment to subsidize day-care spaces. As a matter of fact, in 1993 the federal Liberal campaign was about a national day care policy. That is what it was about, a national child care policy. It certainly did not happen, as a matter of fact. The previous government under the then Minister Francene Cosman decided that there would be an additional 50 seats a year added on to the existing seats in this province. It actually moved up to 100 for additional day-care spaces. I do believe, and I can be corrected by the Minister of Community Services, that there were 100 day-care spaces allocated last year; 100 day-care spaces is simply not going to address the issue for those single parents with children and those people on the present family benefits who this government wants to move into the workforce. It does not come anywhere near providing the spaces for these people to have in order to go out there and seek gainful employment.

Now, I know that the Minister of Community Services has said, we will allocate you the money, that these day-care spaces are transferrable. Can you imagine, they can go to a cousin, an aunt, an uncle or anyone else who has control when some child is at risk. Mr. Speaker, who has control? Will the government stand up when we find out somewhere down the line three or four children who were at some family's house were molested or something of that nature? Who will assume the responsibility then? Is the government off the hook?

You want quality day-care centres where professional people are employed who have professional programs, who can develop programs geared to the children. There are child enriched programs (Interruptions) There are many not-for-profit organizations that provide excellent day-care services in this province. There are some excellent private day-care programs in this province as well and I think that there is some logic possibly with respect to the transferability. We have to know and we have to be aware of who is responsible.

If the government hands over the dollars, is government then responsible for where those children are situated, or located while their parents are employed, Mr. Speaker? Good question. We do not know that; we do not see that in the regulations; we do not see that in policy; and we do not see that coming in this legislation. I think it is going to take us at least six months to deal with those agencies and to listen to those agencies make presentation and representation before this committee to see if in fact that can be done and what will be done.

Mr. Speaker, I want to go to the area of persons with disabilities. There are a number of persons with disabilities in this province. I think the average is some 23 per cent of people, and I can be corrected if I am wrong, but I think there is 23 per cent of Nova Scotians who have some form of disability in this province; many of them have severe disabilities. Those individuals are open and receptive to the notion of seeking gainful employment. As a matter

[Page 7763]

of fact, I stood in this Legislative Assembly during budget estimates and asked the department how many people with disabilities are employed with this government and what kind of a policy this government has encouraging Crown Corporations of this province to employ persons with disabilities. We have asked the ministers and they have come back saying that very little was done and that they meet the ratio within the government itself, and they said that there was room for improvement.

Mr. Speaker, that has been going on for as long as I can remember, the need for improvement. There are well-educated, qualified individuals, disabled persons out there who can have employment tomorrow if they have the services provided for them. I am talking about the services of technical aides. In this province prostheses are allowed to be covered under MSI for some 6,000 people. But do you know something? That is if you have an amputated limb, but if you do not have an amputated limb, then you foot the bill yourself.

For example, Mr. Speaker, if an individual needs a prosthesis to get around, a leg or an arm in order to help him or her out with employment avenues and to make them perfectly mobile - I should not say perfectly mobile - mobile human beings, then that is there but, for those individuals who need a wheelchair, it costs them some $11,000. As a matter of fact, that is their only means of mobility. That is their only means of independence. That is what allows them to have access to facilities, services, and employment the same as you and I do. Do you know what, Mr. Speaker? Those individuals have to go to agencies like the Lions, the Kinsmen, the Kiwanis, to cover up where government should be providing and to help them out, and they must come up with a portion of that money in order to get any assistance at all from the Department of Community Services, with respect to wheelchairs.

That in itself is a travesty, Mr. Speaker, and government has not said, rather it is prepared to introduce a program that will allow disabled people to get back into the employment field by paying for those technical aids. As a matter of fact, to the previous government, to this government, persons on disabilities have requested that in fact there be a pilot program with respect to technical aids. What they have requested with that technical aids program is they recognized, like many Nova Scotians, that here was an opportunity to save the government money. Do you know that there are people whose stays are extended in the rehabilitation centres simply because they do not have the technical aids? With in fact the rehabilitation centres, simply because they don't have the technical aids. With a technical aid program, where there would be a workshop so that those individuals could repair the equipment that they do now have, and so on, there would be an opportunity to expedite those individuals from those rehabilitation centres.

[5:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this, in itself, has been recorded, I believe, back in 1998, as saving Nova Scotians hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is not new. People with disabilities have been requesting this for some time. Also, I think it is important to recognize that, in fact,

[Page 7764]

there is another huge barrier and that is the barrier to accessibility by way of public transportation. Many municipalities, at one time, were refunded through a metropolitan authority or through an authority program by the province, or jointly funded by the province and the municipalities to provide a public transit service. As a result of that public transit service accessible services had become available, as well.

Do you know, today, in the year 2000, that many of the accessible public transit programs have been either eliminated or are running on a shoestring. As a matter of fact, some of them have been replaced. I am talking about Cape Breton Island, as well. Some of the public transits down there, in fact, have been taken away and then reintroduced again when it became an election year - quite appropriate and I hope it continues to stay and I hope that they continue to provide those programs. But, throughout Nova Scotia, there is a very serious problem with respect to providing employment and getting people who are disabled into the employment field, simply because of public transportation.

I know, Mr. Speaker, that you know about the Colchester pilot project. There are three pilot projects within Nova Scotia and each of those pilot projects has been having a degree of difficulty, simply because there is this waiting time. They can't meet appointments. They are restricted as to what kind of activities they can partake in. There are all these employment programs, as well, for those individuals who want to work shift work. After 6:00 p.m., there is no accessible transit available in some areas. On the weekends, when we talk about taxi services for the disabled, in fact, they are shut down at 6:00 p.m. and on weekends. There is no shift. There is no opportunity for individuals who, in fact, will be able to do shift work, like people who may work in hospitals, institutions throughout this province, people who would have the opportunity to be employed, people who would have the opportunity to earn good jobs, call centres. There needs to be a whole new picture of who the stakeholders are and who is involved there.

Mr. Speaker, there is a very good reason why there ought to be a hoist here. There ought to be consultation with the stakeholders who are providing services for persons with disabilities. There also ought to be consultation with municipalities on how they deliver building standards for disabled individuals, how they provide transportation service for those persons with disabilities, and how they are able to complement the provincial government and any program that it might offer to persons with disabilities. That is one very good reason why the six months' hoist ought to take place.

Mr. Speaker, you can look at this whole process of what is taking place. Many Nova Scotians that I have talked to believe that there needs to be a compassionate, understanding way of dealing with people who are less fortunate and disadvantaged. I can tell you, the bell is starting to ring in the Province of Ontario because the Ontario Government took the kind of action that I believe that this government is taking now. There are many agencies and organizations that are now coming out in defence of people who are homeless. There is another issue, the fact of getting people back to employment. We talk about the opportunity

[Page 7765]

to make people self-reliant and independent. You know, the shelter component is one of those.

Why doesn't the Minister of Community Services, who now has the portfolio of Housing, introduce a modest housing program for those people who are employed now and who are working poor and make sure that sufficient dollars are placed into that so that these people feel confident? They are self-reliant, they have shelter for their families. There is a very good program out there that many Nova Scotians are unaware of, many working poor Nova Scotians who earn less than $50,000 a year are not aware that they can take into place the modest housing program.

That, on a six months' hoist, might very well be an opportunity for them to save money, reduce the money that social services may have to pay them in supplement income because this is available to them.

We talk about the Pharmacare Program being extended to 12 months and we say that these things don't extend beyond that and we don't know where the Pharmacare Program or how much it is going to cover, or what kind of drugs. Remember, there are drugs in the Pharmacare Program that are excluded. There are also drugs that come on the market that are being tested that may very well help an individual out but because they have not been approved, the Department of Community Services or MSI does not fund. So, there is all that kind of thing with respect to Pharmacare that needs to be done.

In this province we are on the dawn of wealth. We talk about restructuring a social services program that does not enhance education, does not enhance transportation, does not enhance quality of life to those individuals who in fact are on social assistance. We are talking about approaching the federal Government of Canada to delay the clawback of equalization payments so that we at least on a 10 year moratorium will be able to have money in order to develop programs and policies in this province.

There are many Nova Scotians who are quite appalled that our wealth is going south of the border and yet our people are living in poverty. There are many Nova Scotians who believe that this six months' hoist would be a good thing to see what the financial picture of this province is going to be with respect to being able to deliver the programs that are needed in community services.

I sense this in my community and I know that each and every one of you who have talked to individuals on social assistance - they want to be a part of that wealth. They don't want to be left back in dead-end jobs that go nowhere; jobs in which they will turn around and be there for six or eight months or get their 720 hours in so that they can draw unemployment insurance and then the social services income supplements them. They don't want to be there. They want to have good, long-lasting jobs. They want to have the life skills that will empower them to continue on to not only increase their wealth, not only to have the

[Page 7766]

kind of wealth they need to exist now, but to increase their wealth and prosperity for their families.

We are in a province that is on the dawn of that wealth. We are in a province that can turn on the tap in a few years. Ten years we are requesting the federal Liberal Government freeze and we are also going to generate the revenue that comes in from the oil, from natural gas off of this province. We cannot come in with a comprehensive community services program that will look at the policies, the structures, the needs, the education programs that should be provided as well. We have to really reevaluate why we are here and we cannot come on with a program like that.

I stand behind me - there it is - Towards Prosperity. Can you imagine, Towards Prosperity? This government and the economic development program have put out reports Towards Prosperity. Another blue book and a certain sector of your society is going to benefit from that blue book.

Mr. Speaker, Towards Prosperity means for all. I would hope that this Conservative Government would learn a lesson after six years back, the author of Towards Prosperity. I wonder just how much the Department of Community Services has communicated with the Minister of Economic Development on setting up good programs. Has the Minister of Community Services spoken with the community colleges with respect to programs? Are people going to be trained into highly-skilled technical jobs that are going to reap the benefits of that natural gas that is coming in off this province, or are they going to get the jobs that are easy to roll them off?

Mr. Speaker, that Minister of Community Services has spent a lot of years in municipal government as a mayor. He also understands and knows the type of individuals in this province who need our help. When I look at the report, and it just slipped my mind with respect to the report, it was the economic report review which demonstrated that some 55 per cent of Nova Scotians earn $20,000 a year or less.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, in response to the comment across the way, I felt compelled to stand up and speak a bit about how the Department of Economic Development has engaged the Department of Community Services in terms of the strategy that was put forth in the Towards Prosperity document. I am so glad to see that members opposite have taken it upon themselves to try to understand what that document contains because it is truly a vision for the future. I would remind the member opposite that the current Deputy Minister of Community Services is, in fact, the former Deputy Minister of Economic Development, so certainly in terms of his training and background and expertise, when he came to Community Services, he brought with him a knowledge gained in the Department of Economic Development about how we can develop economic opportunities. So certainly that has been part of it. (Interruptions)

[Page 7767]

In terms of the department discussing with the Nova Scotian community colleges, obviously we have done that at great length as well. If the member opposite wants clarification around those issues, I would be more than happy to do so.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is not a point of order.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North, you have about two minutes before we reach the moment of interruption.

MR. PYE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. If, in fact, the minister's comments are correct, then you would have thought the Minister of Community Services wouldn't have provided us with a three page bill on independent self-reliance for community services, that the Minister of Community Services would have provided us with not only the bill but the regulations and the policies to accompany that bill so that we would have the details, so that we would know what that minister is doing. Instead, the Minister of Economic Development tries to defend the minister who has not provided this Legislative Assembly the detailed information that is needed to articulate this kind of legislation through this House.

Mr. Speaker, that is what is important, and that is the reason why I stand here and ask for a six month delay of Bill No. 62, so all those stakeholders and this community can have an opportunity to witness before the Minister of Community Services and before the Law Amendments Committee or other individual agencies or organizations, excuse me, not the Law Amendments Committee but agencies or organizations so that in fact they have the input that is needed and required to give direction on what kind of legislation should be brought before this House.

Mr. Speaker, I, along with my colleagues, want all Nova Scotians to know that we are not against reform, we are against comprehensive and tangible results of reform that come through this Legislative Assembly.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We have reached the moment of interruption. The honourable member will have two minutes left when we finish. The subject of this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Victoria who wishes to debate the matter:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Premier has failed to defend the interests of Nova Scotia by remaining silent on the issue of the closure of the Canada Post North Sydney sorting station."

[Page 7768]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

Mr. Speaker: The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

CANADA POST: SORTING STATION (N. SYDNEY) - CLOSURE

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise this evening and discuss this issue. This is an issue that is causing a lot of concern for the residents I represent right across industrial Cape Breton, in particular. It is also an issue I believe should be a concern for all Nova Scotians, and I will tell you why. We have seen a pattern from this Tory Government. In just one year the Tories have let other provinces push Nova Scotia around. Nova Scotia is getting a bad deal in Marine Atlantic, the Laurentian Sub-basin and Atlantic Loto, just to name a few. This Tory Government seems to be afraid to stick up for Nova Scotian jobs.

The previous Liberal Government believed that jobs in Cape Breton and Nova Scotia were worth fighting for. I am glad to see that the plans to close this postal station are now on hold. The original plan would have seen the postal station close on November 18th, but now Canada Post has promised to keep it going through the busy Christmas season, at least until the new year, and review the decision. I hope that Canada Post will use this time to really listen to the workers at this site and consider what they are proposing for that particular sorting station.

[6:00 p.m.]

Canada Post says this delay is only temporary, Mr. Speaker, and that is the vital point I am trying to make here. This is a perfect opportunity for this Premier to make a bold statement on this issue, but he hasn't opened his mouth. There is still a possibility that those jobs will be moving out of Cape Breton and this province and heading to both Newfoundland and New Brunswick.

What will happen if Canada Post goes forward with its plans? Well, I will tell you what will happen, 17 permanent, full-time jobs will be lost in North Sydney and the surrounding areas. Jobs moved to other postal stations will bump casual employees in other areas, plus these jobs will eventually be put out, entirely eliminated through attrition. Ten additional temporary employees will also be laid off, not to mention the other side effects such as the impact on cleaning staff, maintenance people, contractors and other spin-offs. The municipal tax base will also feel the impact, which means hardship throughout the region in that particular area. Canada Post says the closing of this facility means that mail will go to Newfoundland a day earlier. Well, Mr. Speaker, this may be true. The mail will arrive in

[Page 7769]

Newfoundland one day earlier, however that doesn't mean the customer will receive the mail a day earlier because when it arrives in Newfoundland it still has to be sorted.

Mr. Speaker, to make matters worse, mail coming from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia will now continue straight through to Moncton, where it will be sorted and returned, which means people in Nova Scotia will receive their mail one day later. With such a serious situation, I am curious why this government has refused to say anything - nothing.

On September 24th, I wrote the Premier of Nova Scotia to ask what he was going to do to protect these jobs. I have not received an answer in six weeks. I would like to table the letter to ensure that I did indeed write this letter. I will table the letter this evening in this House, Mr. Speaker. I am still waiting for the answer to that letter. I told the Premier that North Sydney can't handle the loss of these jobs. I have indicated that very clearly, that jobs in this particular area that is economically depressed are vital for the well-being of the entire community. We have crippling unemployment in that particular area and this government must - and I can't stress how important it is - recognize the effects this is having in that community.

I also told the Premier that postal workers felt that this action by Canada Post is another example of industrial Cape Breton paying a steep price for job creation in other provinces, Mr. Speaker. It does not make sense, since moving some of the North Sydney operation to Newfoundland will not improve the postal service. Mail may arrive in Newfoundland one day earlier, as indicated by Canada Post, but it won't reach the customers either. When it arrives there it still has to be sorted. There is no improvement to the customer service and that is accurate. I have not heard this Premier say a word on this issue, not one word. Once again it is up to the Liberals in particular to fight the concerns of residents of that area, particularly in that area.

My former Leader and the previous Premier, Mr. Russell MacLellan, was on the phone immediately. He approached the federal government, he spoke to the minister, he spoke to the President, André Ouellet. In fact he was on the telephone for well over an hour speaking to Mr. Ouellet, pleading on behalf of the workers to reverse the decision that they had made. As for myself, I approached the Minister responsible for Nova Scotia, the federal minister, Bernie Boudreau, Mr. Speaker. Minister Boudreau told me that the NDP or their MP, Peter Mancini, have not even placed a phone call to his office with regard to this issue (Interruptions) and here we see him in the newspaper down there trying to take credit for this. This is unacceptable.

If the NDP were that effective in Ottawa then this would never have come to pass to start with. This is what weak leadership brings the community, Mr. Speaker; weak leadership and weak representation. After November 27th Cape Bretoners will ensure that they have a strong voice in Ottawa to fight their concerns.

[Page 7770]

If anyone deserves the credit, Mr. Speaker - I am not standing here trying to accept any credit or take any credit - the workers and the residents in that community deserve the credit. They fought Canada Post and they sent letters and they put up the good fight. They were able to convince the federal politicians that this was the wrong decision for that particular area in our province.

The issue of these jobs in Nova Scotia is too important for this Tory Government to remain silent. It is terrible. That is why our former Leader and former Premier, Russell MacLellan went toe to toe with Brian Tobin. Brian Tobin, Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the Premier knows who he is. Russell MacLellan fought to ensure that Marine Atlantic jobs stayed where they were and were not taken out of that area. They were shared equally. He wanted equal jobs for both Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and this is what the priority of this Tory Government should be. This Premier almost let this arrangement get away, particularly the Marine Atlantic jobs.

When Marine Atlantic announced new ferry jobs between North Sydney and Port-aux-Basques, the Newfoundland government went right into action and they tried very hard to get all these jobs. It is no secret, media outlets in every part of Canada - they were attacked very gracelessly indicating that they wanted all the jobs, that they thought this was a Newfoundland service and it was their jobs and rightfully theirs. This government did nothing to ensure that these workers were represented.

My former Premier wouldn't back down, he never backed down, he fought the hard fight when it came to the Laurentian Sub-basin. The current Tory Premier, of course, has been afraid all along to take a strong approach, to stand and fight for Nova Scotia's shares of that wealth. When Brian Tobin stepped down just recently, this Premier of course was loud about the fact that he was happy to see him go to Ottawa. This Premier was glad that he left for Ottawa because he knows that he can't stand up and fight in the same manner as this Liberal Premier from Newfoundland. This Premier is obviously afraid of Brian Tobin, Mr. Speaker. He does not dare stand up to Newfoundland when there is a strong Liberal in charge in that particular province.

I must also give credit to the previous Liberal Minister of Finance, my colleague, the MLA for Lunenburg West, who made sure Nova Scotia got a fair deal when it came to Atlantic Loto. (Applause) because this Tory Government refused to take a stand for Nova Scotia, our problems are still . . .

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

[Page 7771]

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, it must be Hallowe'en with a story like that, Mr. Speaker. The member talked about the great deal of work they are doing to protect jobs so I want to table this here tonight because it comes from the workers and it says, "KEEP JOBS IN CAPE BRETON. CANADA POST AND THE LIBERAL GOVERNMENT ELIMINATE MORE CAPE BRETON JOBS. THE CLOSURE OF THE NORTH SYDNEY TERMINAL - 27 JOBS." I will table that.

The one thing in this debate I will agree with that member on is that this government has been silent on it and they are. When it comes to any job issue that does not include the Bank of Nova Scotia or someone like the Sobeys, they are silent and especially if any jobs come across the causeway, they are particularly silent. Mr. Speaker, to correct some of the things that the previous speaker said about the sitting members in Cape Breton, well, no, they did not speak to the appointed minister, not an elected minister, put forward by Prime Minister Jean Chretien. What they did is they went to the minister himself, the Honourable Alfonso Gagliano. (Interruptions)

We went there, Mr. Speaker, and see, this is what they want. This is what they want. They want us to go on bended knee to a senator who was appointed by them, who was not acceptable to them as their own Leader, so they are hoisting us off because they know he cannot get re-elected. (Interruptions) Listen to them. What are they doing to help those workers today? Where are they?

AN HON. MEMBER: They are working, are they not? No thanks to you.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, this guy gets some courage every once in awhile, I do not know where he gets it, but he gets some courage and he gets some misdirection.

Mr. Speaker, this week in this city the members of CUPW local and the regional people from CUPW will be here negotiating with people from Canada Post. These people, the people who represent these workers, will be doing the reasonable thing. They will be here trying to negotiate. November 18th, next month, was the date that that terminal was to be closed. It strikes one as a bit strange that they would get a reprieve and not a total cancellation of that order. One would wonder how connected that could very well be to the upcoming federal election.

Mr. Speaker, these people, particularly union leaders like Joe Petite, have been fighting for this and they have been talking to us about this. But what about this government? The provincial government has done absolutely nothing, I agree, but what has the federal government done? They are the ones who are cutting this. They are the ones that are causing the axe to fall. (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: Twenty-two minutes.

[Page 7772]

MR. CORBETT: Twenty-two minutes, isn't that unbelievable. Well, Mr. Speaker, are we . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: You are speechless.

MR. CORBETT: Yes, I am quite speechless over that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Just trying to eat your time up.

MR. CORBETT: Will you listen to that, Mr. Speaker? He gets one prepared text and he is Edward R. Morrow all of a sudden. So what are they doing? This government, the federal Liberal Government, is planning to close this. Yet it is everybody's fault except these Liberals over here will tell you, no, no, it is not us, we are different, we are provincial Liberals, we had nothing to do with that, but this is what they do. They try to separate themselves and the reality is, look, if they want to fight for jobs in Cape Breton, I agree with that. We should all be fighting for jobs in Cape Breton, but really these guys, they tell us they have the ear of the Bernie Boudreau's and so on. So I mean if it is like that, why don't they do that?

[6:15 p.m.]

It is not who represents you there. It is somebody who is the government in Ottawa says we are going to close that terminal, Mr. Speaker. But, what happens? That closure was done by the federal government. Let's start with that first. Yet, they don't want to accept that. Their own people, like Bernie Boudreau, who sit around a Cabinet table, have said, yes. We agree. We will close that.

AN HON. MEMBER: They said that?

MR. CORBETT: Yes.

AN HON. MEMBER: Bernie said that?

MR. CORBETT: Yes, he had to agree with it.

So why, all of a sudden, don't they want to take responsibility for this, Mr. Speaker? I would have been prepared today and agree with my Liberal colleagues to talk about how silent this government is when it comes to job creation in Cape Breton. They are quite right. These guys have done absolutely nothing. Whether it is a federal responsibility or not, they do have to stand up and be counted; they have to do that. Day in, day out, this government will not do that for the people of industrial Cape Breton. Whether they are trying to make them pay for not electing any provincial Tories in industrial Cape Breton, I am not sure, but they are extremely silent on this matter. Now if they wanted to get up and at least go to

[Page 7773]

Ottawa and talk about things, whether it is Marine Atlantic, whether it is the Laurentian Sub-basin or whether it is the closure of the postal terminal in North Sydney, that would be great, but this government, day in and day out, is silent on these matters.

So yes, on that level, I agree with the members over here, Mr. Speaker, when they say that this government is silent. But it has to be a shared responsibility; it was their federal cousins who decided to close that. The question has to be asked: whose decision was this? Was it just something they pulled out of the sky? Was it just something, as alluded to, that they wanted to give to the then Premier of Newfoundland? Was that a payoff for him? Was that an inducement for him to run? Was it a transfer of jobs to Moncton to look after inducements over there, and all the while forsaking Cape Breton?

These were decisions, Mr. Speaker, I have to reiterate, that were made around the federal Cabinet table. I think that you have to bear some responsibility for that. So I had wished, when I saw this coming in for late debate tonight, it would have been the type of thing challenging this provincial government to go forward and protect jobs in and around Cape Breton, but it wasn't. It became like a shotgun attack on anybody who ran against them in industrial Cape Breton.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to be taking my seat shortly and all I want to say is too bad that this was not debated in the way it was proposed, that it was a problem, that the silence of this government, when it comes to job creation, and indeed job stabilization in and around the industrial Cape Breton area, I would have wished that was the way the debate had gone, because this government does not have a leg to stand on when it comes to this. This is a real problem and I wish they had taken the debate in that direction. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There are about 10 minutes left in the debate and, if no other members want to speak, if the honourable member for Richmond wants to finish it off, if not, we will split it with another member if you wish.

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that there is no speaker on the government side to be able to address this very important motion and that they would speak to try to clarify on what they have exactly done to address this most important issue. Again, it is a sign of where the Tory Government has abandoned, I wouldn't say only Cape Breton but I would say rural Nova Scotia, and the issue of job creation has been absolutely and completely silent. It is the same Party that campaigned and said we are going to have such a better relationship with Ottawa than what those Liberals had and we are going to pour all this money into Intergovernmental Affairs and we will have a direct line into Ottawa and when things come up, when we need cash, when there are problems we are going to be able to take care of it. Tonight we see exactly what they have been able to accomplish.

[Page 7774]

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague from Cape Breton The Lakes for what he has done to fight for the people in his constituency, both on this unfortunate issue and on Marine Atlantic. He has been an extremely vocal advocate. He has not stood here and said it is everybody else's fault but the Liberals. At no time has he ever said that. What he has sought is the support of this Premier, the support of this government, the support of this House to move forward and fight on these issues as he has done. He has brought these issues forward to our Liberal counterparts in Ottawa and he has sought the support of this provincial government, this Tory Government.

If we are to follow the logic of the member for Cape Breton Centre for just one moment, his logic is well, the federal Liberals did this so you shouldn't even talk about it, you should only talk to them and not solicit anyone else's support on this issue; stay home, don't say anything because the Liberals did it, don't do anything. How silly and what a denial of your responsibilities as a member would that be if we were to follow that logic.

What the member for Cape Breton The Lakes has come here seeking is the support of not only the Premier but of all Parties, to fight on this issue. I attended the meeting Senator Boudreau was at. The member for Cape Breton The Lakes made it quite clear that this was unacceptable. He knew it was under a Liberal Administration this had taken place. He said this is unacceptable would ask you to review it, as he has done for Marine Atlantic. Today he has come to this House asking for the provincial government's support, asking for the support of the NDP Caucus. Clearly we have seen how they plan on playing with this issue, rather than looking at it as a legitimate issue; 27 jobs lost. They would simply rather play politics with these little riddles they come out with, and it has not worked on the exact issue.

Now we have seen how quick the member for Cape Breton Centre was to table a notice that came from the federal government public employees union, criticizing the Liberals. He then went on to say how the two NDP MPs on the Island had gone directly to the minister, but surprise, surprise, no letters to table, no evidence to show that they have done anything to refute what my colleague from Cape Breton The Lakes has said is their absolute silence on this issue and the fact that they have done absolutely nothing to work on behalf of these workers, to work with my colleague from Cape Breton The Lakes and to work with the community to say look, this is unacceptable, we need to move forward, we need to be united as a voice in opposition to this change.

What have the NDP done? They have played politics. Ha, ha, it is the Liberals. It is a Liberal seat provincially, the Liberals did this so ha, ha, we are not going to do anything about it. Well that is the representation we have come to expect in Cape Breton. It is proven in Cape Breton, we have seen that the NDP representation is completely ineffective.

Today one of the most ridiculous things, and I brought it to the attention of the House, was a mail-out last week, taxpayers' money funded this mail-out, where we had our good MP for Bras d'Or-Cape Breton, saying that I am responsible, not my Party, not the NDP caucus,

[Page 7775]

not the heroine Alexa McDonough or her Peter Mancini, but saying I am responsible for the Liberals revamping the EI system.

Now I thought before that she was silly, I really did, honestly, Mr. Speaker, I did. Now she has become absolutely ridiculous. So if this is the case then obviously what she has said is that her colleague, Mr. Mancini, from Sydney-Victoria had absolutely nothing to do with the EI changes, did not even raise it on the floor of the House and did nothing for it. Only she did this, according to her own words. With friends like that, Mr. Mancini doesn't need any enemies, clearly.

On this issue not one word has been said by the NDP MPs to bring this issue forward, Mr. Speaker, not one. We have had my colleague from Cape Breton The Lakes here in this House . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would a member of the NDP caucus like to finish the last five minutes of the debate, and if not, I will allow the member for Richmond to finish off.

The honourable member for Richmond, you have the floor.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, all that was missing from that request was a little white flag to say, we surrender. I think that they have seen the light. I think we have shown to them the ineffectiveness of their two federal members. Again, it is unfortunate we even have to get into politics, because the whole idea tonight was to seek the support of the provincial Tory Government who said they were willing to do so much and they were going to work so hard on these issues. My colleague for Cape Breton The Lakes came here tonight seeking the support from that side of the House, the government side, seeking the support from the NDP members from the lieutenant or corporal or deputy or whatever they are calling him these days, the member for Cape Breton Centre, asking him to be able to work with us, work with the member for Cape Breton The Lakes, and work for those 27 men and women and their families who stand to lose and stand to suffer because of this change.

Mr. Speaker, when you are in government, you can't do everything perfect. We all realize that. There are decisions that are made that sometimes have to be reviewed, sometimes have a negative effect. Clearly in this you have different forces that are pulling at these jobs. These are not jobs being cut, it is the possible jobs being transferred. What my colleague from Cape Breton The Lakes is saying that right now we are losing a battle to Newfoundland. Those jobs are getting on that ferry, going over to Port aux Basques and staying over there. So today the purpose was to say, look, as a province, the Premier, the NDP as Opposition and our caucus were to stand together in a united voice to tell Ottawa it is unacceptable to take the jobs away, not only from Cape Breton, but from Nova Scotia, and to send them over to Newfoundland. Those jobs have been here. I believe some of these workers have been employed by Canada Post for 10, 15, even 20 years at this particular

[Page 7776]

station. Those jobs are tied here to that community, and it is important for us to have fought together to be able to do that.

As I said, the government did not even provide a response to this resolution tonight. What we heard from the NDP was not fit to hear. It was just politics. It was a blatant and pathetic attempt to try to prop up their sagging fortunes of their Party and of their two Members of Parliament in Cape Breton, nothing at all to say we support what the member for Cape Breton The Lakes is trying to do. We feel he should be commended for trying to save jobs in his riding, and we will do what we can to support him.

That would have been the responsible thing for the NDP to say. It really bothers me. If I had heard it from the member for Dartmouth North or Timberlea-Prospect talking about abandoning Cape Breton it would have been different, but when I hear the deputy, the lieutenant, corporal, the chief honcho of Cape Breton for the NDP, the member for Cape Breton Centre saying this is just politics, he is not going to do anything to be able to assist his colleague in the House, the member for Cape Breton The Lakes to save these 27 good paying jobs to assist these families, it is just a disgrace. It is just another proof where the NDP cannot see past politics, where they would rather put people's lives, families, children all at risk to play their cheap political games. Tonight was just another example of that. It is a shame, Mr. Speaker.

I want to tell you again, this issue is not over. Our caucus is going to support my colleague for Cape Breton The Lakes as he moves forward. His criticism has not just been of the provincial government or of the NDP MPs in Cape Breton. His criticism has also been of the Liberal Administration. I was there. My colleagues were at meetings where he clearly said that this was unacceptable, the harm that was caused and regardless of politics, he placed his constituents, these men and women, their children and their families ahead of politics. For that, Mr. Speaker, he should be commended as a member of this House, and that is something which every member of this House should attain to do. The NDP mocks and says he should have a medal of bravery. No one is asking for a medal of bravery, but the fact is I have no doubt that my colleague for Cape Breton The Lakes can go there, look at those 27 men and women and say I fought hard to represent you.

What I would challenge the member for Cape Breton Centre is to go before them with the speech he gave tonight and see if he can say the same thing to those men and women. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted to the Adjournment debate has expired. I would like to thank the honourable members for taking part in the debate this evening.

[Page 7777]

[6:30 p.m.]

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING]

Bill No. 62 - Employment Support and Income Assistance Act. [Debate resumed.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North. You have two minutes left in the second reading amendment adjournment of Bill No. 62.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: In my summation for this hour on the bill to hoist, Bill No. 62. I just want to say that we are not against change, nor are Nova Scotians against change, but we, like Nova Scotians, want detail. We want details of the changes that are going to affect those people who are clients of the Province of Nova Scotia and Community Services. We don't trust this minister with the delivery of a bill that is only three pages long, that has no substance with respect to regulations, policies, and we want to make sure that we stand here and defend those Nova Scotians who are most vulnerable.

I also want you to know that Nova Scotians are concerned with what kind of legislation passes this Legislative Assembly whether it is for people on social assistance or whether it is for major corporations. Nova Scotians want to make sure that the best possible legislation that comes through this Legislative Assembly will stand the test of time. That that legislation will be enshrined and will be one that Nova Scotians can be proud of and, will, in fact, be a hallmark for other provinces across this great county of Canada in order to look upon with respect to legislation.

That is why we have decided that in our period of time that we would make sure that there was a hoist to Bill No. 62, so that all those stakeholders who play such an important role in this province with respect to putting their two cents worth, make sure that the proactive legislation passes this Legislative Assembly.

I will be looking forward to debating this bill once again at a future date. Thank you.

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: I too would like to get up and say a few words about the hoist for a six month period of Bill No. 62.

[Page 7778]

This bill, while it purports to be about changing the Community Services Act, really puts a rubber stamp, if you will, on this government of what it sees its role in history is going to be. What they have done has drawn a line and said we are going to fight our fight on the backs of the poor.

There are many types of poor in this province and the one that I believe this Bill No. 62 is attacking are the two groups. The ones that are in receipt of community services and the working poor. We have many people in this province who don't make a fair wage, who are out there working every day and are truly needy.

What do we do to support these people? What is this government doing in a substantive way to support these people, these working poor? Well, absolutely nothing. If they were really trying to come into a new shift, a new paradigm and say, okay, we are going to try to eliminate poverty in this province, what we would see is movement toward raising the minimum wage. We would see movement toward dropping barriers for the disabled. We would see real training programs. But no, what we see in front of us instead is Bill No. 62. For some of the reasons I just mentioned, we are asking for this hoist.

A six months' hoist would allow this government to put together a comprehensive package that could be of support to all the poor in this province because if it were, then that would be moving in the right direction and in that bill you would see things such as a revised minimum wage Act, you would see things about breaking down barriers for transportation for the disabled. You would break down things such as job opportunities for disabled people, but no, what this government decided to do was a version of the Harris agenda in Ontario, which is to attack people on community services because it seems in some places a hot button issue, an issue on which they can say that these are the people who are not doing anything, they are a drain on the economy and we have to stop it.

Well, Mr. Speaker, everyone knows that is not true, these people are not, and there is nobody that I have heard in this debate who disagrees fundamentally with the fact of trying to provide employment for people. That is, I think, a goal and it is a laudable goal. If we could create full employment it would go a long way to resolving what the poor face in this province. But Bill No. 62 as it now stands does not really do anything substantive to help the poor in this province; it moves some responsibilities around, but really does not go there.

I think we have to start looking at some of the things, Mr. Speaker. Let's look at retraining. What are we doing when we talk about retraining? What are we retraining people for in Cape Breton? Is the economy there? Are the jobs there? I do not believe there is right now. I think that I would like to call, not the Minister of Economic Development but the Minister for Industrial Estates, does not have an equitable plan when it comes to sharing the wealth of this province. So as long as we have huge pockets of unemployment in this province, the nice-sounding words of retraining and some re-education for some of these social service recipients, that it is going to help them move into the workforce, well, statistics

[Page 7779]

will bear us out - and I will talk about primarily, for the time being, industrial Cape Breton - that those facts just are not there. Those jobs are not there; they are not. Where are we going to move them? There is not the work for the people.

Look at the amount of people who are walking away from Sydney Steel and look at the amount of people who are walking away from Devco. They have some severance that will carry them for a year. Where is the economy going, Mr. Speaker? My colleagues I guess will allude to a call centre, but certainly even if that was to hit the most rosiest projections, it would not encompass all those people.

MR. DAVID WILSON: A good start.

MR. CORBETT: My colleague, the member for Cape Breton East, says a good start. Well, it is a start, exactly. What it is, it is a start, but what it does, Mr. Speaker, a lot of these jobs do nothing, as I was saying, to stop the cycle of poverty. That is what we have to be attacking here. It is not the Community Services bill or the delivery of community services. What we have to be attacking is the core, which is poverty, which is people who are working in poverty, people who do not have access when they are working in minimum wage jobs and have to try to find their own way back and forth home because there is not an available transit system for them. We are not talking about special needs people, we are talking about people who are, a lot of people would call able-bodied. They are working in low-wage, dead-end jobs, and that is causing poverty.

This Bill No. 62, which we believe should be hoisted for six months, in no way helps poverty. I would go so far as to say, Mr. Speaker, it encourages poverty because it is all stopgap. The old days of when they used to make people rely on the job grants, you would get a job for 12 weeks or 14 weeks, whichever, and that was to carry you through. It was another cycle. Did those people advance? Not particularly, Mr. Speaker. It was cyclical and I would suspect that a lot of them stayed on that track and found it very difficult to get off.

When it comes to job opportunities, whether it is for people in receipt of social assistance, or whether it is for people who are working today, where is the help to move forward? Where is the livable wage? We are not going to create wealth at $6.00 an hour. It is as simple as that, Mr. Speaker.

You look at some of these numbers in this bill, and you wonder where they came from. You wonder what analysis was used to arrive at these numbers, and it scares me. I think that is another reason for the six months' hoist, because I think what we have to think about here is, where did you get those numbers, and where can we verify them? There is absolutely no rhyme nor reason to them, but they are all very interesting numbers by themselves.

[Page 7780]

If you look at it, the new system has not provided the level of child care support required for single parents to enter the workforce; $400 a month per family does not even cover the child care costs of $525. So, Mr. Speaker, where would you arrive at that number? What mathematical equation would you come up with when you are still $125 short? You have to quarrel with these numbers, these numbers should be sent back and studied for another six months to see, quite honestly, if they can be verified and why they are used. Why this number?

We have a real problem here, too, because again we are talking about moving people off of welfare into work, and we are talking about putting their children in a day care. Now, getting children into day care is admirable, it is a good idea, but again, there are too few spots. What are we going to do? We had an awful fight here last year, if you remember, when the Minister of Education said it was okay to put 50 kids in the classrooms. So, Mr. Speaker, we have problems with that.

We have problems with the job ghetto. For the people who work in certified day-care centres, why are the salaries so low? They are caregivers, Mr. Speaker. Why are their salaries so low? Why aren't we looking at things like that? Those people who would be looking after these children in the day-care centres are the working poor themselves. So while the government may say we are getting some of these people off "our books", they are putting them in another black hole, one which I believe will be very difficult for any of these people to get out of. So why aren't we talking about some form of employment standards that would give these people a working wage? Why are we condemning them to these low wages?

[6:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, one of the other aspects of Bill No. 62 is the 12 month Pharmacare carry-over when they get a full-time job. What happens after the 12 months? Does it go down the drain? What happens? Can they double-dip, if they get a job that after six months they get Pharmacare coverage? These are things we don't know about. These are things that I believe, if we are given six months to study, we may have an answer for. Right now we don't and neither does this government, I believe.

You know, Mr. Speaker, young families that come in and out my office, many of whom are in receipt of community service benefits, their biggest concern is the access to their Pharmacare privileges. Because most of them live in substandard housing, many of them do not have the amount of money to buy the most nutritious food for their children, their children end up being sick more often. Now with that comes the necessity of having access to that Pharmacare card because many of them have Pharmacare bills of $500 and $600 a month. They are living in older, draftier homes, some full of mildew and so on, and through that comes related bronchial problems. Many of these drugs are expensive and yet we are asked, say, we will give you 12 months and you are off it although you will be living

[Page 7781]

on a wage somewhere around $5.00 or $6.00 or $7.00 or $8.00 an hour. Maybe $8.00 would be a bonus for some of them, I am sure.

To merely put a statement out there and say 12 months and you are off, while it is better than what is probably there now, it still doesn't go the route to answering the question of how do we support these people with increasing drug costs. Do we start looking at a province-wide Pharmacare Program for people not earning a certain amount of money - below the poverty line, if you will, Mr. Speaker. Should that be there?

That goes to the heart of what we are after here, Mr. Speaker, and I think the government is being less than forthright because they don't want to talk about the poor in this province. They want to talk about getting people off the welfare rolls. What does that do to grow this province? What does that do? Is it something that you put out in a brochure and say we have x amount of people off the welfare rolls, come invest in our province, it is a great place, you won't be tripping over welfare recipients.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think that is what we want to put on brochures. I would think what we would like to say is we have a higher level of average income here in this province. That is what we need - to be serious about helping the poor, not about some kind of track record that says we have cut so many people off the social assistance rolls in this province. What we need is to say that we have employment in this province and here is the average yearly income of Nova Scotians. That is what would make Nova Scotians proud, not the idea that we are down and proportionally we are as good as Mike Harris. That is not what caring and compassionate Nova Scotians want to do. They want to go working day and night, day in and day out, they want to work. They don't want to sit home and receive substandard monies and just exist.

Mr. Speaker, I say to you that Nova Scotians want to live. They are not living on the pittance they are getting now from community service. From time to time people will come into my office with a particular problem and they will say things like, well you know if I was on welfare, I would get that. I have a standard answer for most of those and say, try and live on welfare. You try and live on welfare and you think if you can get this, you are dead wrong. Some people in this province and some columnists in particular like to vilify welfare recipients as people who are there because they want to be there not because they have been driven there through circumstances, family matters, an abusive relationship, the loss of a job, the closing of an industry. No, some people would like to purport - and I say again that it is a small minority but sometimes they get their voice heard - about how these people are ruining the fabric of Nova Scotia because they don't want to work.

That is not a fact. The fact is that they want to work and in many areas of this province that luxury of a job is not there. We are talking about new entrants every day into the social welfare system of this province and they are not there because they want to be there. It is their last stop, it is their last hope. They have so many problems out there, but I know in the

[Page 7782]

area I come from, the largest problem that faces them is one of employment. We need a Minister of Community Services who would work in conjunction with the Minister of Economic Development, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Education, and come forward with a bill that would certainly be much wider in scope than this, that would truly speak to the needs of the poor.

Not this bill that is guised as a document that is to help the poor, but merely, it is a signature piece to say to certain groups that they are pandering to that we are tough. We are tough on these welfare people. I think that is wrong for a whole lot of reasons, not the least of which I believe it will backfire on them come election time because most people in Nova Scotia are reasonable people. So don't see these people as gouging the system, but as ones who are needy, that is the whole foundation of this province.

I look across the way and I see the rural members in particular and I think of that rural philosophy of neighbour helping neighbour in this province, and this province is not one big urban setting where you don't know who your neighbour is. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, I would go so far as to say that most people in this province know their neighbours very well and have come from small towns and indeed, have grown up with those people who are their neighbours so there is a genuine concern by Nova Scotians for their neighbours.

I think the government has misread this. That is another reason for them to go back and contemplate a six months' hoist, that this could be restudied. What we don't need here in a lot of ways, or solely, is a bill to reform Community Services. We need, in this province, a bill that is going to eliminate poverty. That is what we need, Mr. Speaker. We need a bill that will help eliminate poverty. This Bill No. 62 does absolutely nothing to eliminate poverty. That is what we need. We need a system where these people can go to work. We need a system where we can help with day care. We need a system that our education services are responsive to. We need a health care system where they can be cured and put back together in one piece. This is what we need. This is exactly what we need. We don't need a bill that kicks the welfare people when they are down.

We have a long way to go, Mr. Speaker, in this province before we eliminate poverty, and I know that. I know we can't do it over the six month period of this hoist, but if we were to take this time to study this bill and look at it and say that it does nothing to help poverty, to help people away from poverty in this province and that it is more of an omnibus bill, if you will, to help the working poor, the people that need an extra leg up getting an education and an extra leg up getting health care, providing employment. Those are the things we need, not these one and two catchphrases about, we are going to provide you 12 months Pharmacare premiums while you are working.

[Page 7783]

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, where does that lead? What does the 12 months give you? Is there a plan in place that we could help with the children of this family member who is receiving the Pharmacare, to help them with a better way to add nutritional value to their foods and to cook nutritional meals and to buy nutritional meals. There is nothing there. It is thrown out. The one group that could probably help in this is the people that actually work in community services. But these folks are overworked now. Now they are going to be dumped on some more and told, now you have become an employment officer for your client.

Mr. Speaker, these people are asking to be all things to all people. It is not fair to those workers to be burdened again like that. I believe that should be realized, that this goal should be to get more people, probably, working in community services so that these people wouldn't be having such a workload, as opposed to keeping their workload and compounding it with more responsibilities. If the caseload was smaller, I would suggest to you, that maybe this legislation wouldn't be necessary at all because the caseworkers would have the time to do what they are supposed to do. But because their workload is so great and is going to get greater, if this bill is to go through, then it is going to prevent them from doing their job properly. That is one segment of the working poor.

My friend, my colleague, the honourable member for Dartmouth North, can speak on this subject much better than I can, Mr. Speaker, but I want to say a few words about this and that is disabled persons. It is hard enough, where I come from, if you are able-bodied and working full time, but if you put added barriers of a disability, it becomes even more onerous to find full-time work. There is really no mention in this bill about trying to support these people with an added transit system or something like that. You know yourself that in many of the more rural communities, public transit is non-existent in this province. Yet, they are supposed to go and find work out of this. It is an extremely hard burden to put on these people that already have a disability of some form or another.

In this bill, Bill No. 62, Mr. Speaker, there is no mention of that; there is no mention of how we are going to do that. That is, I think, one of the large reasons, again, why we ask for a hoist of this, to give us six months to look at this and to say, give us some answers here. How are you going to get this person in this area to their employment and back, assuming that there is even employment there? It is quite perplexing when you see what they are doing to the disabled and, yet, they are telling us, oh no, this is a bill about community services and helping the poor. Well, I see absolutely nothing in here, in this bill, that helps the poor. The poor in this province, as I said earlier, just don't show up in the welfare lines. A lot of them are working 40 hours and 48 hours a week in this province and they are just barely getting by, yet, this province is not doing anything to help them. There is no real tax relief for them. There are no real incentives for them to get involved in anything.

[Page 7784]

[7:00 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: There is no relief in the heating costs.

MR. CORBETT: There is no relief in the heating costs, Mr. Speaker. It is all just kind of left up to the market system. The very company that this government here is helping, the Sobey Corporation, which has its fingers in a whole lot of pies, a lot of their employees are at or near minimum wage. They have got a lot of these young clerks working in Needs Stores and Green Gables and so on that are owned by that corporation.

So, where are these people, what are we talking about those people? We give the subsidies to the owner, but we do not want to give the subsidies to the worker. Do you think that if we gave subsidies to workers which would equal the amount that you are going to give directly to the Sobeys, if we gave that directly to the workers, do you think any of that money is going to go offshore? Do you think that a vast amount of that is going to find its way to a bank account in the Grand Cayman Islands? No, Mr. Speaker, I will go on record as saying that that money will be spent right here in Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind the honourable member he is speaking to the amendment, if he would bring himself back to the amendment, please.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, thank you for that, but I thought I was doing pretty good coming back to my six months' statement every once in awhile but, you know, it would not take us six months to see how those increased wages would help the economy of this province. If they were giving it to them, we would not need a six months' hoist. We could see it in a couple of months. That money would funnel right back into the economy because you would see them buy goods and services. They would go to the grocery stores, the clothing stores and we would see it returned in this province. That is why I think the six months' hoist would be necessary.

So, Mr. Speaker, are we really doing anything with this bill other than trying to put a stamp on this government that says, this is what we are. We are tough on these welfare people. I think that is what this bill says, but I would like to see it hoisted for six months and come back with a bill that would help the poor of this province, everybody. The poor need our help. The poor did not get it when Scotiabank was helped. The poor did not get it when Sobeys was helped. This is a chance for this government to come clean and truly help the poor, not do something that befits the Harris-style Government in Ontario and divide this province into haves and have-nots.

Mr. Speaker, I will be taking my seat, but I want to reiterate that I believe we should support the six months' hoist and that will give us the time to study this bill and, I think, see what this bill lacks and see the true meaning of it. (Applause)

[Page 7785]

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, again I want to start off just talking about a few figures. Let's put things in perspective about what we are talking about. The number of children living in poverty in Nova Scotia has increased by 36 per cent over the last 11 years, 36 per cent. We have the highest child poverty rate in the entire country - some record; the highest poverty rate for children in the entire country. Think what implications that has on education, I say to the Minister of Education. Think what the health care cost implications of that are, I say to the Minister of Health.

One out of every four children in this province - one out of every four - is going to experience poverty as a child. That is 25 per cent. If I was back in the classroom teaching that means that if I had a class of 32, you know that eight of those children either are or will be experiencing abject poverty. Great equal opportunities for learning when you have such inequalities. Out of the First Nations people, 42 per cent experience poverty. For children with disabilities it is 39.5 per cent. Since this government took office a little over a year ago 2,646 Nova Scotia children have been born into poverty, 2,646 and growing.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the government members opposite who are listening or those who will some time maybe possibly be briefed by staff about what was said, what in this piece of legislation, Bill No. 62, An Act to Encourage the Attainment of Independence and Self-sufficiency through Employment Support and Income Assistance, what in this bill is really aimed at addressing those kinds of horrific statistics? Do you know, over a period of time - so that I don't offend the Minister of Health - with proper evaluation, like six months, maybe people like the Minister of Health, who has an education background, and who I think has in him - maybe a little buried down now, because he is a member of the callous Tory Government - but if he scratches back a little bit I know that that sensitivity and concern for children and his fellow person is there.

Over a six month period of time, maybe members in government benches can look at what they are doing - can actually come up with a vision of how we try to move forward to attack the fundamental problems, which are poverty, rather than coming up with some kind of knee-jerk reaction legislation which they have done - they have got the spin doctors out there, they have got the lingo down, they talk about things like self-reliance. They talk about things like self-sufficiency and they want to help those who are on assistance become self-reliant, self-sufficient.

I wonder, Mr. Speaker, why they don't apply that kind of philosophy to Sobeys. Why don't they apply the principle of self-reliance to the Bank of Nova Scotia. I feel sorry for those two corporations; the profits for the Bank of Nova Scotia are only in the billions and the Sobeys in the tens of millions - good God, if they can't be self-reliant or self-sufficient. The government doesn't talk about cutting them off, doesn't tell them that if you don't come up with a program of self-sufficiency we are going to come down on you.

[Page 7786]

Seven of every 10 children living with a single parent in Nova Scotia live in poverty. Most single parents who receive income assistance are on family benefits, long-term assistance which will no longer exist after the province moves to a single tier and lower rates. If one takes a look at the rates that people get in Nova Scotia, and you look at what is considered to be the poverty line, you see already that those who are receiving assistance are living well below the poverty line.

Mr. Speaker, I look at this legislation. There are some improvements, I don't deny that, I acknowledge that fully. There is no reason why we cannot move forward with positive changes, none whatsoever, nothing that stops us. People in our caucus fully support, totally support - we have been calling for it for years, for programs that are genuinely going to be assisting those who are receiving assistance, provide help to them to help themselves so they can become more productive, in an economic sense, in society. I say in an economic sense because many of those who are receiving assistance are, in fact, making tremendous contributions to our society right now. My colleague, the member for Halifax Atlantic made that point very well this afternoon. They are contributing members of our society, but there are circumstances beyond the control of many people which means they are not able to find full employment or to find employment at all.

I look at this legislation and I listen to the flowery good words of the minister. You take a look at the press releases that come out, the well-manicured releases by the high-priced public relations officers who work in the back rooms, to come up with the (Interruption) no, they don't get in the bunker, I say to the honourable member for Dartmouth East. They are the ones whose job it is to be the wordsmiths, to come up with the image-making to make this government look compassionate. Do you know what? They are pretty capable people. They actually can sometimes put a little bit of a shine on the rusty old ideas and lack of vision coming from this government.

[7:15 p.m.]

When one looks at this legislation, here we have a bill, Mr. Speaker, that is going to have a major impact on about 7 per cent of the population in this province. It is a group that flows in and flows out because many of them are on assistance, many people then are able to get off. I tell you, over my years in this House, I have found very few people, very few, who say they want to be on assistance and they want to stay on assistance. I have had many people, and it is, in my office, I have no hesitation saying, the number one call we get has to deal with families in need. That is the top issue and it is hitting real people, not statistics, not somebody who has a case number, it is not a social insurance number, it is a real, living breathing human being. Somebody who can think, somebody who can feel, somebody who can have aspirations, can have dreams for themselves and their children, the same as everybody else in this House can. They are people.

[Page 7787]

I heard the government earlier talking about respect. Well, let's start to show a little bit of respect for those who are in need as well. I know it is popular sometimes to bash those who are receiving assistance. We turn around, and governments like to blame them and say, we have this major debt, and they like to spread that those who are on assistance are the reason. I want to ask you, Mr. Speaker, how many people, how many families would have to be abusing the system to eat up the $3.5 million that you gave to Sobey's?

The reality is, Mr. Speaker, that yes, there probably are a very few number of people who are, and I think the percentage is 4 per cent, and I defy you to find or to do an evaluation and find out what other system has a lower rate of abuse. It would be interesting, I think, Revenue Canada might like to know, too. How many of these certain large corporations have found creative ways to avoid paying taxes? (Interruptions) Under the counter, the member for Dartmouth East is bang, right on. Courtesy increased because of the HST, which has increased dramatically the amount of under-the-counter business, under the table. And it is not justified.

Mr. Speaker, if the metro chamber of commerce came along to this government and said, we want you to delay a bill for a few months so that we can consult our membership because it has a major impact upon us, don't you think that government ears might open slightly? Do you think they might say, oh, we best listen to them.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I was just listening with great interest to the member for Sackville-Cobequid's speech and he was saying that if a chamber of commerce would ask, we would listen. This is the same member that says we are supposedly in their hip pocket, but this is the same group that said we should move much faster in deficit reduction. We should do everything today, and we have decided not to follow that. That flies in the face of what you are saying, that we are not listening to everything that the chamber of commerce says. You should probably put that balance into that debate and I think it would make your speech basically a little more pertinent.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order. The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I have been around long enough and had enough discussions with my friend, the Minister of Finance, to know that when he gets up on a point of order, he has no intentions of making a point of order, he is just trying to make a weak point. We have been around this place long enough that even I have been guilty of doing the same thing, I freely admit.

However, Mr. Speaker, what the minister isn't saying, yes, indeed, they are calling for us to cut the deficit even faster, no question about it, but you are very definitely following their directions of cutting and slashing rather than paying attention to the social deficits that are facing this province; 2,646 children born into poverty since you, Mr. Minister, became

[Page 7788]

Minister of Finance. You talk about deficits, well, let's start talking about putting in place programs that actually cut deficits.

Mr. Speaker, I cannot go into a detailed debate on the bill and we are not into clause by clause discussions, but what we have here is a very skinny skeleton. (Interruption) Well, this one has been cooked. It has been put into the broth and everything has been removed. It is a 10 page piece of legislation - actually not even 10, 9 and a bit - 29 clauses, but the real meat is Clause 21. The Governor in Council may make regulations, as I say, down in their bunker behind the closed curtains where there is no public input. That is where the main meat of this legislation is going to be flushed out.

The government will say this bill is going to go on to the Law Amendments Committee for public discussion, public debate and input. Well, you tell me, Mr. Speaker, how can somebody make comments about this legislation when it is not here? What we are being asked to do is pass a piece of legislation prettily packaged by the media people for the government, that will give them permission to go downstairs behind the locked doors and basically write whatever they want with zero input, and this would not be the first time it has been done if the government were to do it. This bill has been in preparation for a long time. Supposedly the regulations are going to be available in January.

Mr. Speaker, I say hold this piece of legislation and I tell you I think the members in this caucus would agree - I am sure they would - that we pull back from the debate on a six months' hoist if the government would agree to leave this legislation sit on the table until January let's say, at which time the government would also then lay on the table the regulations that go with it. We have had, even from the Liberals, on occasion, important pieces of legislation where the regulations that go with the bill have been tabled so that you can look at the bill, you can look at the regulations and then you can figure out what they are really trying to do. That was done with the old Education Act. It was done with the new Environment Act, and do you know that speeded up the process. It also made it far more meaningful.

Being asked to vote on, and asking those who are out there across the province who are going to be affected by this or who are working as advocates and trying to assist those who are on assistance, trying to help them to be able to move forward to become more self-reliant and off assistance, how can they make responsible comments? Well, no, I take that back, they can certainly make responsible comments, but how can they make informed comments when the government is unprepared to lay the cards on the table. I can just imagine students at university or in school, even an elementary school, being asked to do some kind of a project or to give their opinions on something, they would be smart enough to say to the teacher, we can't give you the opinions if you don't tell us what we are supposed to give an opinion on.

[Page 7789]

There are 25 areas or 21 areas of regulations, the Governor in Council. We don't even know how they are going to define who a person in need is, or who qualifies to be a person in need. It is not here. There is nothing in the bill but it is going to be done by regulations down in the bunker. I say to the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, how do you go back to your people in your constituency and say that you voted for something when, for example, you don't even know how there is going to be any determination about who is or who isn't going to be eligible for assistance or any program services provided to this Act. All decided by the bunker team. As the Tory caucus had to hire a liaison person, somebody who would run as a go-between, between the backbenches and the front benches because - doing the ferreting out of information for them - obviously they don't get much information from the front benches either, but you are being told to vote for it. There is nothing in here, it is going to be decided about how appeals are going to be done. It is going to be decided in here what powers an appeal board will have. Everything is in the regulations.

What are we doing to assist in terms of poverty? What are we doing to address the education crisis? Do you think for one minute if we don't address education problems in this province that we are not going to be fostering future generations of those who are going to have to go on assistance? You tell me, Mr. Speaker, when your class sizes are blooming, when you are cutting out reading recovery programs, when you are taking these resource teachers out of the schools or cutting back the amount of time that they can spend, when the demands for education are higher, how they are going to able to be as successful in the future. You tell me, Mr. Speaker - not you, but through you to the government is what I am trying to say - how it is that somebody is going to be able to be self-reliant on the paltry $5.60 minimum wage that we have in this province?

There are some good things in this legislation. For example, the Pharmacare Program will last for up to a year after somebody is able to get off assistance and get back to work. What happens to that individual, and their children, who has managed to get back to work; making $5.60 an hour, or maybe making $7.00 or $8.00 an hour - still well below the poverty line - and their year runs out and their children are sick. What happens to Pharmacare then? It is gone, isn't it? It appears to in this legislation. So, somebody who has a disability or a family member with a disability or an illness, how are they going to be able to go out and work if they aren't going to have those kinds of programs provided to make sure that their children or their loved ones are going to be able to receive the medical attention and the drugs that they need?

[7:30 p.m.]

It is not in this legislation. We don't know how that is going to be addressed. What happens to the person who gets out to work and all of a sudden it is cut back to half time? Are they going to treat part-time workers, even permanent part-time the same as full-time employment? We have seen by the rates that were introduced by this government that the primary focus is on cutting costs. Well the best way to cut costs is to offer a genuine helping

[Page 7790]

hand to those who need it to help them become self-reliant and that is not through the whip, it is not through punishment, it is providing the child care that is needed.

We don't have a fraction of the subsidized child care spaces in this province that we need. Because of the wages that are paid to child care workers, it is going to be darn hard to get the qualified child care workers sufficient in numbers to provide that child care because certainly government on the rates of money that they provide to those centres that provide subsidized child care spaces, they don't provide enough money to pay those very valuable workers a decent living wage.

We don't have the child care spaces. We don't have the training programs. It is all well and good to say get out and get a job - $5.60 an hour. Lose your benefits after a year. If you quit your job when your Pharmacare runs out at the end of the year because you have ill children - boom - can you get back on assistance? It is in the regulations.

Workers' compensation, a worker has a doctor who says that worker is unable to work. Workers' compensation gets their own doctors and they often override the decisions that have been made by the specialists who had treated that worker. Is social services going to hire their own battery of doctors to say that somebody is capable of going back to work?

AN HON. MEMBER: It is in the regulations, John.

MR. HOLM: It is in the regulations, I am being told by my learned colleague.

What we need is a vision. What we need is a commitment and a goal, not to make just the rich richer, not to increase the gap between the haves and the have-nots, we must have a vision, we must have a goal that is aimed at putting an end to poverty in this province. No, we can't do that overnight. No, we cannot expect that tomorrow we can come up with all of the monies that would be needed to solve all of our problems and money alone will not do it. I acknowledge that. It takes time, you have to develop programs, but you also have to acknowledge the fact that there are many who will never be able to work, through no fault of their own. If we want members of the disabled community to be able to get back into the workforce, there are all kinds of things that are needed like technical aids, transportation and maybe a government that will take a leadership role and set an example by actually hiring people with disabilities to give them a chance.

We have to have a vision, we have to have a goal and we have to work towards that. Instead, we say we cannot afford this, we have to cut the money off. My colleague, the member for Dartmouth North talked about how much the money that was spent on assistance was cut a year ago and that it has gone down by another 2 per cent. This at the same time that all of our offshore gas, valuable natural resource which has gone up in price by 40 per cent, most of it is just trucking on by us right down to the States while we collect 1 per cent of the profits; a pittance. Peanuts. You know those big oil companies, their profits are skyrocketing.

[Page 7791]

Last year their profits were up by over 500 per cent; this year it is expected to be even greater. Exxon Mobil, Mr. Speaker, I saw the third quarter report that came out about a week ago. Poor fellows, their profits only went up, I think, to about $5.6 billion from about $2.whatever billion. They have these kinds of profits, and of course they invest and buy a whole bunch of other things so their profits got down. They have ways of hiding things. All of this - because they are the major players in the offshore - our royalty structure has that money just trucking on by, not just courtesy to the Tories, and we don't have money to put in place programs that are compassionate and are actually aimed at ending the cycle of poverty in a respectful way.

There is something wrong. Nova Scotians, that is not their vision, I really don't think it is. I don't agree with the reformers or the reformed Alliance that Nova Scotians are all lazy and looking just for a handout. Those are not Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians are proud people, including those who are on assistance. They want to work, they want a hand, they want a chance.

Mr. Speaker, the way to give them that chance is not what is done here. I say to you - or through you to the members of the government benches - please reconsider your course of action; please consider laying the bill, as you have done on other pieces of legislation, saying that the legislation is going to stay on the table until after Christmas. During that period of time, in that period alone, the government would have a chance to put its regulations on the table and it would have a chance then to have meaningful input from all sides about what they are doing. They would still have plenty of time, if they were to follow 0that course of action, to have the legislation passed and come into force before the August 2001, date. No sweat whatsoever.

So it is a question of will: will you or won't you? Will you be respectful and consultative or won't you? Will you be open and accountable to the people of this province or won't you? The choice is yours. You have the majority; you have the numbers. We can pester you, we can hold you up a little bit, but the choice is yours and you will live with it. But unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, so too will thousands and thousands of Nova Scotians, men, women and the children, the 2,646 who have been born into poverty since this government took office in July 1999, not very many months ago.

With those brief words, Mr. Speaker, I will resume my seat for the next speaker and look forward to coming back and speaking on this legislation again in the next few days. Thank you.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say, as I traditionally do, that I look forward to making these comments on this particular piece of legislation; such is not the case. This hoist legislation, however, is necessary. This hoist amendment is

[Page 7792]

necessary so that we can clarify some of the issues and some of the questions that this caucus has about this proposed piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, you are probably well aware of the fact that I am a proud member of Lions International. I can tell you that it is a constant issue with Lions Clubs throughout this province that we as a service club are continuously being asked to do the work of government when it comes to dealing with social service issues. Community services is a challenging position and the current minister has brought forward a piece of legislation that has just too many questions and gaps.

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to refer to a specific clause, but a definition in a bill is always of some consequence. So I point to "a person in need". Now, that is an important definition when you talk community services. "A person in need", according to Page 2 of the bills, "means a person whose requirements for basic needs, special needs and employment services as prescribed in the regulations . . .", and there you have it. That alone says to me that this is a bill that is sadly flawed.

There are members opposite, the Minister of Economic Development, the Minister of Health and the Speaker, the member for Cumberland South, they were members of that important Community Services Committee that played a vital role when they toured this province during the days of minority government to allow Nova Scotians to have their say on this issue. Let's make this very clear to Nova Scotians. We in the NDP caucus agree that there has to be changes, but these changes have to be well thought out. These changes have to make sure that the people who have the most to lose, the poor, the people in need, those people have to have their say.

I want to point to members of the Liberal Party, and I do not want to get into this particular advantage of the Law Amendments process, but when and if this does go ahead to the Law Amendments Committee and we are not listened to on this matter, I want you to know that it is quite an intimidating process for people to come to this House, to come into the Red Chamber, to sit there and make presentations to us as legislators. This is the sort of piece of legislation that we have to take to the people. This is the sort of legislation that people in Dartmouth North, people in Lakeside, people in New Waterford, would like to have their say on because some of the questions that we ask as legislators, they have asked of me as the MLA.

Mr. Speaker, I have a number of constituents who regularly watch Legislative Television and a number of constituents who, when a piece of legislation that they are interested in comes forward, ask me for a copy of the bill. There is a constituent of mine in Timberlea-Prospect who asked for a copy of this bill. So the other night on the way home I dropped it in his mailbox and I have a message on my constituency phone which I checked today and he said in return, is this all it is, 30 sections?

[Page 7793]

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Pass the bill.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I hear from the member for Preston, pass the bill. Is this going to be an act of good faith? There are too many questions, Mr. Speaker, that Nova Scotians have, that that constituent who lives on the St. Margarets Bay Road has, about this important piece of legislation. This piece of legislation has been called a cornerstone piece of legislation important to this government. Well, if that is the case, where is the depth, where are the details, where are the points that Nova Scotians all want to know about?

Mr. Speaker, my constituency office is next door to the Community Services office in Timberlea. I can tell you that on a daily basis I have the opportunity to listen to caseworkers who deal with the constant needs of people in my community. These social workers do not belong to your previous profession. Your previous profession, as a police person in the Town of Springhill, these caseworkers, they truly want to help the people who come before them in need. These people want assistance, and a caseworker has to evaluate whether they are suitable for assistance or not. These caseworkers, these social workers, they are not policemen, they are not policewomen and many of them will dispute the fact, the myth, that there are people out there who are on, and forever will be, social assistance.

[7:45 p.m.]

I heard my good friend, the member for Dartmouth North, point out his experience when he served in municipal government in the City of Dartmouth, when a by-law enforcement person was hired to look into this myth that there were all those people out there abusing the system. Caseworkers make tough decisions every day. They make them on the basis of need. They make them on the basis, Mr. Speaker, of what they say is the most important way to take care of the needs of people put in those situations. I know there is no one that comes into my office who wants that handout forever, but they want that hand up when the need is there.

I can point out a couple to you. I am certainly not going to get into names. What do you say to a single parent, in this case a single mother, who wants to register her young son for minor hockey? The answer would be from some Nova Scotians, she is poor, she is a single parent, then her kid doesn't get to play hockey. Mr. Speaker, is that the kind of caring, compassionate society we are? So in turn, where does that mother turn? The caseworker has to make that tough decision. The caseworker has to make sure that he or she can justify where he or she is using those limited dollars. You turn to the service clubs, is the answer. You turn to them and they will help that particular mother and that particular young fellow so he can play hockey. Did you hear those statistics earlier? There are 44,000 young people in this province, according to Sport Nova Scotia, who are too poor to participate in extra-curricular activities. That is a statistic, just another number that we conveniently bring forward in the midst of this discussion.

[Page 7794]

Mr. Speaker, I have another personal example for you and it is something that I want to avoid when it comes to details. But you know, that limited budget includes the fact that people who are on social assistance are looking for jobs, and what is the number one tool that they can use when they are at home to try to get a job? Yes, if they get a bus pass; yes, if they get some help in transportation, but, as you well know, there are areas all across this province where there is no Metro Transit. In rural Nova Scotia people must rely upon others to get in for a job interview or to check out one particular place of employment or another. What is that number one tool? That tool is the telephone. That woman that I mentioned earlier, that single mother, she has to make that decision. If I can arrange payments with my minor hockey association, and it is important enough to her young fellow to get into hockey, I will give up the phone. She will give up her phone because she wants to have the opportunity to make sure that that young kid has a chance to play hockey. Now, does she even get a phone with these particular tough decisions ahead?

Mr. Speaker, you can say, from welfare to work. We want them all back to work. We saw on the evening news tonight the story of the young woman who was told that she had to go pick apples this summer. There was a certain member of the Liberal caucus who will remain unnamed at this time. So that reminds me of the southern United States where the poor are forced to justify their existence. This is not the southern United States. This is Nova Scotia. This is not Ontario, Mr. Speaker. This is a caring, compassionate society, and we want Nova Scotians to be aware of the fact that this is a piece of Mike Harris legislation that has been so conveniently transported to this province; transported so that Nova Scotians can be pitted against Nova Scotians, so that Nova Scotians can question other people who, for reasons, at times beyond their choice, are asking for help.

There are a number of myths when it comes to the poor in this province, and the myths are surrounded with the fact that these people are lazy and do not want to go to work. Mr. Speaker, from the people who come into my office, from the people who ask me for assistance on the matters of community services, they want a job. The want to contribute to this economy. They want to have the worth that they know they have, called self-esteem. And they need our help.

So when you see the bill or you read the title to this bill, the skeleton analogy comes to mind, An Act to Encourage the Attainment of Independence and Self-sufficiency through Employment Support and Income Assistance. The wordsmith who concocted that one must have been hammering it out with the blacksmith's tools late at night, because this bill does nothing when it comes to employment assistance. Employment assistance is not one of the matters addressed in this bill. It sounds good, and we are on trust to allow this to go ahead. If this is such an important piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister, where are the details? Allow us to discuss these details so that we can debate the pro and con of these particular things, and therefore the need for the hoist.

[Page 7795]

May 1st, six months from tomorrow. If Nova Scotians throughout this province had an opportunity to express their point of view on this piece of legislature, I am sure this government would benefit from the experience, and I am sure that MLAs who participated in the process would benefit. We would go to Nova Scotians on the matter. I know members opposite and members of the Liberal Party, we are going to get it into the Law Amendments Committee, and they are going to come in and they are going to talk to us. Mr. Speaker, I remind you, will anybody travel here from Springhill? I hope they do. Will anybody come here from Cape Breton? I hope they do. Instead, we will have limited resources for the people who really want to come forward and speak on these issues. I encourage them to come. They don't have to have a great prepared text. They don't have to come in with something that is all written out and typed.

When the time comes - because the hoist is not going to work by the sounds of things - we want to hear from Nova Scotians. But I encourage them also when it comes to looking at this bill, you are not going to get much detail. You are going to come in with a lot of questions, and those are the very questions we should be asking individual Nova Scotians. We should be out there, going to them. We should be going to them, because there are so many gaps in this piece of legislation. There are gaps there because the details are going to be hidden from Nova Scotians.

I want to congratulate my young learned friend, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. In his opening comments, he said, the minister must have something to hide here, because this piece of legislation doesn't deal with issues, it doesn't deal with details. That, Mr. Speaker, is the major concern we have with this piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, the minister had a previous life. He was the Mayor of Bedford. As the Mayor of Bedford I wonder - and I would be interested to hear, when you were the Mayor of Bedford and you were dealing with those numerous constituency complaints about the need for social assistance - how is he going to explain the fact that based upon this bill, those people in Bedford-Fall River are to trust their MLA?

Now, let us look at a couple of those myths that might not be in Bedford, that might be in Dartmouth North, that might be in Timberlea-Prospect, that the poor in this province are taking a kicking here. What isn't taking a kicking? The issue of poverty. That is the issue. As legislators we looked forward to seeing this bill. We knew it was coming. We looked forward to reading this bill, we were looking forward to the fact that there would be some leadership from this particular minister and his Department of Community Services.

I have heard the member for Digby-Annapolis talk about the deputy minister and the fine job he has done in Economic Development. My question, Mr. Speaker, and this is not question and answer, but the previous Deputy Minister of the Community Services Department, well respected in his days in that particular position, so conveniently is now the

[Page 7796]

Deputy Minister of Economic Development. I am sure he would look at this legislation and say there are holes in that bill you could drive a truck through.

I think the member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley would be the first one to admit that. Those are the sorts of issues that Nova Scotians are concerned about. Those are the sorts of issues that pit one Nova Scotian against another Nova Scotian because there are people in this province who are saying this government is reneging on their responsibility. They are reneging on their responsibility and they are not showing the leadership which we expect on an important issue such as this. Leaving things to regulations says to all of us there are too many questions, not enough answers.

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

MR. ESTABROOKS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I would move to adjourn the debate until we sit again to discuss this matter.

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, I will defer to the honourable New Democratic Party House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow being the New Democratic Party's Opposition Day, our business will be two resolutions, Resolution No. 2908 and Resolution No. 2918, both of these resolutions have been told to the House Leaders of the other two Parties already. We will sit from the hours of 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again at the hour of 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon.

MR. SPEAKER: We stand adjourned until 2:00 p.m.

[The House rose at 7:58 p.m.]