The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Wed., Nov. 3, 1999

First Session

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 1999

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Health - Goals: Commitment - Reaffirm, Hon. James Muir 1402
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 444, Health - Dr. Mahmood Naqvi (Med. Dir. C.B. Healthcare
Complex): Award (Healthcare Manager Mag.) - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Muir 1404
Vote - Affirmative 1405
Res. 445, Transport. (Can.) - Hfx. Internat. Airport: Auth. Takeover -
Work Acknowledge, Hon. G. Balser 1405
Vote - Affirmative 1406
Res. 446, Abor. Affs. - Micmac Friendship Ctr. (Hfx.): Anniv. 26th -
Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 1406
Vote - Affirmative 1406
Res. 447, Educ. - NDA School (Cheticamp): Message Against Drinking -
Award Congrats., Hon. J. Purves 1407
Vote - Affirmative 1407
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 14, Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act,
Hon. M. Baker 1407
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 448, Justice - Minority Lawyers: MANS Conf. (Community Voices:
Providing Directions) - Attend (Min./Premier),
Mr. Robert Chisholm 1408
Res. 449, Nat. Res. - Forestry: Christmas Tree (Boston) - Growers
(Anne & Luke LaLiberte-Lapland, Lun. Co.) Thanks,
Mr. D. Downe 1408
Vote - Affirmative 1409
Res. 450, Housing & Mun. Affs. - HRM Deputy Mayor: Councillor
John Cunningham - Congrats., Mr. T. Olive 1409
Vote - Affirmative 1409
Res. 451, Justice - IBM Prog.: Cancellation - Condemn,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1410
Res. 452, Environ. - Wilderness Act: North of Smokey Commun. Group -
Dialogue Continue, Mr. K. MacAskill 1410
Vote - Affirmative 1411
Res. 453, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Councillor Sharon Church-Cornelius:
Election - Congrats., Hon. J. Chataway 1411
Vote - Affirmative 1411
Res. 454, Health - Hepatitis C: Promises Meaningless - Cease,
Mr. D. Dexter 1412
Res. 455, Housing & Mun. Affs. - HRM Deputy Mayor: Councillor
John Cunningham - Congrats., Dr. J. Smith 1412
Vote - Affirmative 1413
Res. 456, DFO - Yar.: Emergency Helicopter - Provide, Mr. R. Hurlburt 1413
Res. 457, Gov't. (N.S.) - Communications (Bds.): Press Use - Cease,
Mr. H. Epstein 1414
Res. 458, Mar. Premiers: Activities - Recognize, Mr. W. Dooks 1414
Vote - Affirmative 1415
Res. 459, Educ.: Take Our Kids To Work Day - Recognize,
Mr. H. Epstein 1415
Vote - Affirmative 1416
Res. 460, Environ. - Envirothon (School Comp. [N. Amer.]):
Wolfville Hosts (01-06/08/2000) - Recognize, Mr. D. Morse 1416
Vote - Affirmative 1417
Res. 461, Mar. Premiers: Work Positive - Recognize, Mr. T. Olive 1417
Res. 462, Justice (Can.) - Crime Control: Expenditure - Increase,
Mr. B. Taylor 1418
Res. 463, Educ. - Hockey (Millwood HS Team): Brent Gallant -
Star Recognize, Mr. B. Barnet 1418
Vote - Affirmative 1419
Res. 464, Econ. Dev. - Kings Co. Bus. Awards: Recipients - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 1419
Res. 465, Educ. - Dal-Tech: Eng. Scholarship (Women [N.S.]) -
Ms. Navpreet Singh (Hfx.) Congrats., Ms. M. McGrath 1421
Vote - Affirmative 1420
Res. 466, Nat. Res. - SW Nova Biosphere Reserve Comm./Queens RM:
Kejimkujik Promotion - Congrats., Mr. K. Morash 1421
Res. 467, Educ. - Maple Grove Mem. Club (Yar.): Remembrance Day -
Commemoration Acknowledge, Mr. R. Hurlburt 1421
Vote - Affirmative 1422
Res. 468, Richmond - Neglect Avoid: MLAs (Exc. Richmond) -
One Hour Donate Weekly, Mr. M. Parent 1422
Res. 469, Culture - Bridgetown Hist. Soc.: Work - Commend,
Mr. F. Chipman 1423
Vote - Affirmative 1424
Res. 470, Richmond MLA - Constituents: Rep. - Attempt, Mr. J. Carey 1424
Res. 471, Health - Bridgetown Area Health Ctr. Soc.: Success - Wish,
Mr. F. Chipman 1425
Vote - Affirmative 1425
Res. 472, Educ. - Westville HS: Production ("Bye Bye Birdie") -
Congrats., Mr. J. DeWolfe 1426
Vote - Affirmative 1426
Res. 473, Tourism: MVTC - Congrats., Mr. B. Taylor 1426
Vote - Affirmative 1427
Res. 474, Tourism - Cape George Trail: Volunteers - Recognize,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 1427
Vote - Affirmative 1428
Res. 475, Culture - Music: CD ("A Pictou Co. Christmas") -
Fund-Raising Involvees Recognize, Mrs. M. Baillie 1428
Vote - Affirmative 1428
Res. 476, Sports - Special Olympics (N.S.): Prog. Involvees -
Gratitude Express, Mr. J. DeWolfe 1429
Vote - Affirmative 1429
Res. 477, Culture - Music: ANSMA & Participants - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Hendsbee 1429
Vote - Affirmative 1430
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 190, Justice: IBM Program - Policy, Mr. Robert Chisholm 1430
No. 191, Econ. Dev. - Shearwater: Purchase - Condition,
Mr. R. MacLellan 1432
No. 192, Health - Taxation: Tobacco - Policy, Mr. Robert Chisholm 1433
No. 193, Econ. Dev. - Shearwater: Purchase - Conditions,
Mr. R. MacLellan 1434
No. 194, Health: Dep. Min. - Hiring Process (Dr. T. Ward),
Mr. D. Dexter 1435
No. 195, Health: Dep. Min. - Inducements (Dr. T. Ward),
Mr. R. MacLellan 1436
No. 196, Fin.: Hfx.-Dart. Bridge Comm'n. - Illumination, Mr. J. Holm 1437
No. 197, Health - Dep. Min.: Advice (Dr. T. Ward) - Heed,
Dr. J. Smith 1438
No. 198, Econ. Dev. - Shearwater: Purchase - Price, Mr. K. Deveaux 1439
No. 199, Health - Commun. Bds.: Legislation - Intro. Date, Dr. J. Smith 1440
No. 200, Sysco - Closure (31/12/99): Business - Negativity,
Mr. F. Corbett 1442
No. 201, Justice - Minority Lawyers: Employment -
Comm. Membership Link, Mr. R. MacLellan 1442
No. 202, Sysco - Sale (31/12/99): Orders - Feasibility, Mr. F. Corbett 1443
No. 203, Justice - Minority Lawyers: Employment - Comm. Rules Change,
Mr. R. MacLellan 1445
No. 204, Sysco - Sale: Steelworkers - Involvement, Mr. F. Corbett 1446
No. 205, Fin. - Atl. Lottery Corp.: Profits - Fair Share, Mr. D. Downe 1447
No. 206, Justice - IBM Prog.: Comm. - Difficulties, Mr. Robert Chisholm 1450
No. 207, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Laurentian Sub-Basin - Jurisdiction,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1451
No. 208, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: User Fees - Policy, Mr. W. Estabrooks 1452
No. 209, Communications Nova Scotia: News Release - Use
(PC Caucus [N.S.]), Mr. D. Wilson 1454
No. 210, Econ. Dev. - Mac Timber: Investment - Wisdom, Mr. D. Dexter 1454
No. 211, Environ. - Baddeck: Sewage System - Status, Mr. K. MacAskill 1456
No. 212, Exco - Citizens Comm. (Dept. Appointment): Selection -
H of A Comm. (HR) Refer, Mr. D. Dexter 1456
No. 213, Educ. - P3 School: Canning Site - Unavailability, Mr. W. Gaudet 1458
No. 214, Agric.: Min. Stat. (26/10/99) - Non-Delivery,
Mr. John MacDonell 1459
No. 215, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Marine Atl. HQ: North Sydney -
Relocation, Mr. B. Boudreau 1460
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 13, Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act 1462
Mr. H. Epstein 1462
Hon. M. Baker 1465
Mr. M. Samson 1469
Mr. Robert Chisholm 1473
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 404, Bus. & Cons. Serv. - Gasoline: Pricing Predatory Ban -
Legislation Intro., Mr. J. Holm 1475
Mr. J. Holm 1476
Hon. N. LeBlanc 1479
Mr. B. Boudreau 1483
Mr. H. Epstein 1485
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. R. Russell 1489
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE (5):
MLAs - Governance: Responsibilities - Recognize:
Mr. D. Morse 1490
Mr. H. Epstein ^^^Mr. P. MacEwan ~ 1494 1492
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Nov. 4th at 12:00 p.m. 1497

[Page 1401]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 1999

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. Brooke Taylor, Mr. Wayne Gaudet, Mr. Kevin Deveaux

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The draw for the late debate this evening was won by the honourable member for Kings South:

Therefore be it resolved that Members of the Legislative Assembly recognize their responsibilities as elected members within the government structure.

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

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party on an introduction.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, in the gallery opposite, I would like to bring to the attention of members, the former MLA for Preston, a person who is now working for the Centre of Excellence for Women's Health, a very important program that is funded by the federal government, looking into important issues around research and wellness for women in this province. I would like to ask the former MLA, Yvonne Atwell, to stand and receive the warm welcome of members of this House. (Standing Ovation)

1401

[Page 1402]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre on an introduction.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, also in the gallery is a member of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality's council, Mr. Vince Hall. Vince represents the areas of Reserve and out through Sydney-Glace Bay highway and parts of Mira Road which is in my riding and the other part is the riding of the member for Cape Breton Nova. I would like Mr. Hall to stand and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens on an introduction.

MR. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce my niece, Ansley MacPherson. She is here today with me as a part of the Take Our Kids To Work Day program. I would ask the House to wish her a warm welcome if she would stand to receive our appreciation. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in this House today to announce that our government has reaffirmed its commitment to achieving Nova Scotia's health goals. Just a few minutes ago, I joined Premier Hamm and Chairman of the Provincial Health Council, Mrs. Barbara Hart, to re-sign these goals.

At this time, Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce the members of the council who are with us today. They are in the Speaker's Gallery and I would ask them to rise: Barbara Hart, who is the chairman; Tom Bird, who is the vice-chairman; Leona Brown; Bev Coulson; Vivian Farrell; Joan Lay; Merle MacDonald; Dr. Mahmood Naqvi; Sharon Rudderham; Doug Shatford; John Dow; Bill McKee; and Louann Scallion Morine. I would ask the House to extend a warm welcome to them. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, we are committed to promoting and improving the health of all Nova Scotians, making Nova Scotia a safe and healthy place to live, supporting the efforts of individuals, families and communities to lead healthy lives, ensuring that the resources needed

[Page 1403]

to support health care are managed wisely and fairly, involving Nova Scotians in decisions affecting health, and ensuring that all Nova Scotians have the opportunity to achieve health.

Health is affected by many factors beyond the scope of the traditional health care system. These goals highlight the need to address the wide range of social, legal and economic issues which can affect the health of Nova Scotians. The Provincial Health Council developed Nova Scotia's health goals through broad consultations with the people of Nova Scotia. While these goals were endorsed by the government in 1992, they lapsed when a previous government allowed the Provincial Health Council to become dormant. Reaffirming our commitment to these goals is our government's first step in strengthening and supporting the role of the Provincial Health Council. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise. I didn't get a copy of the minister's statement in advance so I can't comment on it in that regard, but I would like to say that we are at a time in the history of this province when the health care system is undergoing a great deal of stress and strain as a result of changes that have taken place over the last number of years. So if there was ever a time that we needed to reaffirm those goals, it certainly is now and I am pleased to see that the government has made the point of doing that at this juncture. I look forward to following through on meeting those goals over the next number of years. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would have appreciated advance notice. I would like to tell those responsible that they should extend the courtesy; I think this is number five now that we have not received advance notice in Statements by Ministers. I think it is common courtesy that could be extended. I know the minister has expressed his regrets but I just think it is not a good way to do business.

It is important what the minister has said here today in recognizing the Provincial Health Council. I know this government has been very attached to health goals. They are very important to them and they were very disturbed when we didn't give them prominence. However, as this Legislature has gotten together and the Provincial Health Council has been renewed, I am very pleased again to thank all the people that responded to our request to serve as members.

The minister mentions consultation. I think it is extremely important. You have a great vehicle there with people who know Nova Scotia and know the needs of the people of Nova Scotia. But I would point out to the members of this Assembly that all the consultation in the world isn't going to do good if you go and cancel without notice the volunteers of the regional health boards that were chopped without notice, Mr. Speaker. So the people who

[Page 1404]

were donating their time were told they were no longer needed and the bureaucracy is still in place.

We will be looking and holding the government accountable on those initiatives. I think certainly we must have goals; that is commendable and I just want to really wish the Provincial Health Council well and again thank them for their commitment to the people of Nova Scotia. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre on an introduction.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, in the gallery today, I would like to introduce Bob Burchill, International Teller of the United Mine Workers of America; his friend Susie Parsons; and Susie's daughter, Amanda Fraser. Amanda is here as part of Take Our Daughters To Work Day and she had the foresight to come all the way from Cape Breton. I wish them to stand and receive the welcome of the House, please. (Applause)

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I have the very distinct privilege this afternoon of introducing two constituents from the gorgeous riding of Cumberland South. I would like to introduce in the gallery opposite Mrs. Barb Gilbert and Mrs. Ruth Morris. Barb is in town now with her husband Ernest who is a county councillor in Cumberland County. Ruth is in town with her husband James who is a county councillor. Both councillors are attending the UNSM meetings in Halifax which are very important. I would like to ask the two visitors to rise and receive the usual warm welcome from the House. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 444

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

Whereas Dr. Mahmood Naqvi, Medical Director of the Cape Breton Health Care Complex is the recipient of a Who's Who in Healthcare award from the Canadian Healthcare Manager magazine; and

Whereas the honour is in the hospital administration category, one of seven categories recognized by the national magazine; and

[Page 1405]

[2:15 p.m.]

Whereas this award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated leadership and innovation in the delivery of health care across Canada and their community;

Therefore be it resolved that this House take the opportunity to congratulate Dr. Mahmood Naqvi for this excellent achievement and thank him for his outstanding contributions to our health care system.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 445

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

Whereas an agreement that will see Halifax International Airport Authority take over the management of the airport in February 2000; and

Whereas the province recognizes this has been a long and difficult negotiation; and

Whereas it is good news to have Atlantic Canada's major airport in the hands of its own community;

Therefore be it resolved that the province acknowledge the hard work of the members of the Halifax International Airport Authority and offer our support to this significant economic and transportation link.

Mr. Speaker, I would seek waiver.

[Page 1406]

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 Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 446

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

Whereas since 1973, the Micmac Friendship Centre in Halifax has been providing valuable services to the Aboriginal community, in particular in its role of helping Aboriginal people adjust to life in a larger urban setting; and

Whereas the friendship centre holds a number of events each year designed to promote a better understanding of the Mi'kmaq culture; and

Whereas the centre is accredited as the first Mi'kmaq Community College in the province and recently marked its 26th year of service;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate all current and former directors, executive and staff of the Micmac Friendship Centre for their guidance and dedication.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

[Page 1407]

RESOLUTION NO. 447

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

Whereas the NDA School in Cheticamp has received an award of $15,000 from the federal government for an anti-drinking video; and

Whereas the 80 minute video began as a project in the school's drama class and involved more than 50 students, the RCMP, the ambulance service, teachers and a local funeral home; and

Whereas copies of the video with scripts will be sent to all Acadian schools in Nova Scotia and to each Ministry of Education in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the NDA School for their accomplishment and for sending a strong message against drinking, and drinking and driving.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 14 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 5 of the Acts of 1993. The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. (Hon. Michael Baker)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

[Page 1408]

RESOLUTION NO. 448

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

Whereas yesterday it was made public this Tory Government has decided to ignore a plan that would encourage law firms in this province to hire more Black and Aboriginal law student graduates; and

Whereas the committee members who were working on this plan learned of the government's position through a student newspaper; and

Whereas the Multicultural Association of Nova Scotia is currently hosting a conference, titled Community Voices: Providing Directions, which includes workshops on systemic discrimination and implementing equity policies;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Justice and the Premier attend this conference to learn about the difficulties faced by minorities in society in the hopes that they will reconsider terminating this program.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 449

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

Whereas each year Nova Scotia provides the City of Boston, Massachusetts, with a Christmas tree to commemorate that city's response to the Halifax Explosion; and

Whereas this year's selected white spruce was grown in the balsam fir Christmas tree capital of the world, our own Lunenburg County; and

Whereas Anne and Luke LaLiberte of Lapland, who grew the tree on their family lot, will soon travel to Boston for the lighting of the tree at the start of Boston's holiday season;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its thanks to Anne and Luke LaLiberte of Lapland, Lunenburg County, for growing our province's gift to Boston and for their efforts as ambassadors for Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

[Page 1409]

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 South.

RESOLUTION NO. 450

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

Whereas last night Halifax Regional Council elected Dartmouth Centre Councillor John Cunningham to serve a one-year term as the HRM Deputy Mayor; and

Whereas Mr. Cunningham, who has been involved in municipal politics for the past 12 years, brings a wealth of knowledge to the council; and

Whereas the Dartmouth Centre Councillor replaces Larry Uteck, a well-respected individual, council member and deputy mayor who served HRM and its residents with tremendous dedication;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating Mr. John Cunningham on his new role as Deputy Mayor of HRM and in applauding the hard work, dedication and commitment provided to the citizens of HRM by Mr. Larry Uteck.

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 1410]

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 451

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

Whereas this Tory Government has taken a big step backwards by cancelling a program that would require law firms to hire Black and Aboriginal students; and

Whereas we need to fight racism and prejudice wherever it exists in this province; and

Whereas law firms in Nova Scotia have a long way to go in their hiring practices when it comes to Black and Aboriginal people;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the actions of the Minister of Justice and the Premier in cancelling this program.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 452

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

Whereas the decision of the government to proceed with the new Wilderness Act has created some nervousness in the north of Smokey; and

Whereas the memory of the expropriation of land for the Cape Breton National Park still haunts many people; and

Whereas the former Minister of the Environment, the member for Richmond, began dialogue with a community group to work out a management plan;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of the Environment in charge of the Wilderness Act continue that dialogue in the best interests of the government and the communities involved.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

[Page 1411]

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 Human Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 453

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

Whereas a municipal by-election was held in Chester Municipal District 7 on October 23, 1999; and

Whereas two candidates, Sharon Church-Cornelius and Wally Zinck, offered to represent the good people of the Chester area; and

Whereas Sharon Church-Cornelius was the successful candidate in the by-election;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Ms. Church-Cornelius on her win and congratulate both participants for taking part in this important public process and their interest in representing their community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

[Page 1412]

RESOLUTION NO. 454

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

Whereas in November 1998 the Premier, as Leader of the Third Party in this House, introduced a resolution on hepatitis C compensation; and

Whereas this resolution stated, "Therefore be it resolved that Nova Scotia's Premier and Minister of Health follow in the footsteps of the Harris Government and be the next province to undertake a commitment to do the right thing by way of settlement for its residents whose lives have been irrevocably changed by the mismanagement of the blood system."; and

Whereas when questioned in the House on this matter, the Premier said, "This government takes every commitment that it has made to the people of Nova Scotia very seriously and we will be delivering on all our commitments.";

Therefore be it resolved that this Premier stop making meaningless promises and do as he has stated he would do and deliver on his commitment to hepatitis C sufferers.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 455

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, it is somewhat similar to the honourable member for Dartmouth South, but I had written it and it is a bit different. So with your indulgence, I would like to submit this.

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

[Page 1413]

Whereas last evening, Dartmouth Councillor John Cunningham was elected by his colleagues as the new Deputy Mayor of the Halifax Regional Municipality; and

Whereas Councillor John Cunningham has been involved in municipal politics with the Halifax Regional Municipality and the former City of Dartmouth for 12 years; and

Whereas the dedication and enthusiasm Councillor Cunningham displays for his constituents will go a long way in ensuring that his term as deputy mayor will be one of inclusiveness and professionalism;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Deputy Mayor John Cunningham and wish him well and all the best in the times ahead.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Yarmouth.

RESOLUTION NO. 456

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

Whereas the fishing industry is the heart and soul of the economy of southwestern Nova Scotia; and

Whereas fundamental to the safety of those who work in the industry is a local emergency helicopter service; and

Whereas despite repeated efforts by both provincial and federal Progressive Conservative area representatives, the federal Liberal Government has still not made a commitment to the future of the Yarmouth-based emergency helicopter;

[Page 1414]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House demand the federal Liberal Government, through its federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, do the right thing once and for all and make a lasting commitment to the safety of the people of southwestern Nova Scotia by securing the future of the Yarmouth-based emergency helicopter.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 457

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

Whereas the committee set up to distribute gambling proceeds in this province learned, through the press, that they had been cancelled by this Tory Government; and

Whereas the committee set up last February to establish employment equity guidelines for law firms that want to receive government work learned, through a campus newspaper article, its recommendations would be ignored by this Tory Government; and

Whereas community health boards also learned of their demise through the press;

Therefore be it resolved that this House remind this Tory Government they should not be using the press to communicate with their own boards, and that the people who volunteer for these boards deserve better treatment.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 458

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

[Page 1415]

Whereas the Maritime Premiers have taken a proactive and positive position in speaking to Ottawa with a common voice on matters that have significance to all residents of this region; and

Whereas the Maritime Premiers recently committed to continuing dialogue with the federal government to protect our interests on World Trade Organization issues; and

Whereas the Premiers further committed to working together on a regional basis to monitor the WTO developments and to jointly influence negotiations;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the value of the steps being taken by the Premiers of all three Maritime Provinces to jointly address our needs and represent the concerns and interests of the Maritime region.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 459

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

Whereas since 1994 the Take Our Kids To Work Day program has grown into a nation-wide project involving over 200,000 Grade 9 students; and

Whereas across this province, 83 schools are participating in this national program and the number of students getting an up-close-and-personal glimpse at the working world is expected to double; and

Whereas 1999 marks the second year that Oxford School will participate in the program, and we have here students attending our proceedings as part of that program;

[Page 1416]

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize and commend all the parents, volunteer hosts, and students for participating in Take Our Kids To Work Day.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice and passage without debate.

[2:30 p.m.]

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 Kings South.

RESOLUTION NO. 460

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

Whereas next summer, Wolfville will play host to North America's largest high school environmental competition; and

Whereas Envirothon, a problem-solving competition in which teams of high school students are tested on their knowledge of natural resources and a current environmental issue, will be held at Acadia University from August 1 to August 6, 2000; and

Whereas the environmental focus of this competition, being held for the first time outside the United States, will be on wetlands;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize this unique opportunity for the Town of Wolfville and the Province of Nova Scotia to display its natural wonders and thank the organizers from Acadia University and Canon for making this event possible.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1417]

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 South.

RESOLUTION NO. 461

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

Whereas the Premiers of the three Maritime Provinces last week held a meeting of the Maritime Council of Premiers to ensure a strong and united voice is now cultivated to deal with the federal government over matters of mutual concern; and

Whereas among the numerous issues of significance that were discussed at this meeting was an agreement to direct their Ministers of Health to continue to work together to improve organ and tissue donation rates in this region; and

Whereas the Premiers also jointly called upon the federal government to fully restore the Canada Health and Social Transfer funding and to ensure that funding keeps pace with cost and demand pressures;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the positive work being done by all three Premiers of this region in promoting affairs of mutual concern for the betterment of the people of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[The notice is tabled.]

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

[Page 1418]

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, during the course of my introduction I was very delinquent in that I didn't mention that the guest Barb Gilbert resides in your constituency .. . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. TAYLOR: . . . resides in the beautiful community of Athol and Mrs. Morris resides in River Hebert. I think it is important to have that on the record because those are beautiful communities.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 462

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

Whereas in August, during their annual meeting in Regina, Saskatchewan, the Canadian Police Association expressed scepticism over the effectiveness of the new Firearms Act, saying the system is costly and filled with errors; and

Whereas the Canadian Firearms Centres in Montreal and in Miramichi, the RCMP, the Solicitor General, Customs and Immigration, provincial Justice Departments, and police forces are required to make costly and necessary changes; and

Whereas the true costs to the taxpayers could easily exceed $1.5 billion;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature request the federal government to get its priorities straight by spending more on real crime control and less on a questionable and costly but ineffective Firearms Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is too long.

[The notice is tabled.]

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 463

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

[Page 1419]

Whereas Brent Gallant, a Grade 12 student at Millwood High School, was recently recognized as a rising star for being a key member of his high school hockey team; and

Whereas Brent was also a member of the provincial under-18 rugby team that won the Eastern Canadian championship this past summer, proving his athletics extends beyond the rink; and

Whereas Brent hopes to continue playing hockey next fall, possibly at the Junior B level while attending university;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize Brent Gallant as a rising star in the game of hockey and wish him good luck in his future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 464

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

Whereas the 5th Annual Kings County Business Awards Night sponsored by the Berwick and Area Board of Trade and the Kentville and Area Board of Trade was held over the weekend; and

Whereas Country Stoves and Sunrooms of Aylesford, Vaughan's Convenience Store and Gas Bar in Coldbrook and Absolutely Fabulous Bed, Bath and Linens of New Minas all received awards; and

Whereas Allie Craswell of Avon Foods in Berwick was named outstanding business person and both Tracy Simmons of Dial-a-Maid in Aylesford and Michael Leschied of Peppercorns Grill and Pasta Bar were named Entrepreneurs of the Year;

[Page 1420]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating all those who received awards at this prestigious event, as well as the Berwick and Area Board of Trade and the Kentville and Area Board of Trade on sponsoring the 5th Annual Awards Night.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is too long.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 465

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Women in Engineering Scholarship was established by the Province of Nova Scotia in December 1994; and

Whereas the $5,000 scholarship is awarded yearly to a woman entering her third year at Dalhousie University in a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering and is renewable for one additional final year for the winner's next year if the academic criteria is maintained; and

Whereas the 1998 winner of this prestigious award was Ms. Navpreet Singh of Halifax and Ms. Singh has had this scholarship renewed for a second time for the year 1999-2000;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in recognizing and congratulating Ms. Navpreet Singh for her outstanding accomplishment in receiving the Nova Scotia Women in Engineering Scholarship for a second time and wish her continued success in her future plans.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 1421]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 466

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

Whereas the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve Committee recently made an application to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organizations to set up a biosphere reserve in Kejimkujik National Park; and

Whereas the region of Queens has offered its support to the committee in moving forward with this unique and significant project; and

Whereas the project would facilitate ecological research and monitoring studies at Kejimkujik and would serve to promote the area for its research and educational opportunities as well as for its tremendous attraction as a tourist destination;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating both the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve Committee and the region of Queens for their hard work and foresight in promoting Kejimkujik as an area with significant educational value as well as a unique tourist destination.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Yarmouth.

RESOLUTION NO. 467

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

Whereas the theme of the Maple Grove Memorial Club's annual Remembrance Day Services is, "Our Veterans and seniors, a century of sacrifice and of accomplishments. Let us honour and respect them."; and

[Page 1422]

Whereas the memorial club consists of more than 200 students and actively endeavours to preserve the memory of Canadians who lost their lives while serving their country and express their appreciation to veterans who are still living; and

Whereas in addition to their school service to be held on November 8th, the memorial club members will also assemble at the Cenotaph in Yarmouth on November 11th for the Remembrance Day vigil;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House acknowledge the efforts of this group of young Nova Scotians who, as members of the younger generation, are doing their part to thank and remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 468

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

Whereas the member for Richmond stated in this House on several occasions that he would take care of the constituency needs, not only of the Cabinet members, but indeed of the entire Progressive Conservative caucus; and

Whereas PC members outnumber both the NDP (Applause) and the Liberal members combined; and

Whereas even if by some superhuman feat the member for Richmond was able to fulfil his promise, he could only do so at the expense of neglecting his own constituents;

[Page 1423]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Legislature, with the exception of the member for Richmond, donate an hour of their time each week to ensure that the good citizens of Richmond are not neglected by their MLA.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 469

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 James House Museum in Bridgetown, Annapolis County, was recently designated as a provincial heritage property; and

Whereas at present, the James House Museum is one of approximately 235 provincially registered heritage properties located in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas research is still under way by the Nova Scotia Government which, in a working partnership with municipalities, is now inputting information on 15,000 heritage buildings province-wide on their computer database;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature commend the work of organizations such as the Bridgetown and Area Historical Society who are working in conjunction with the province under Nova Scotia's Heritage Property Act to enhance this province's bountiful heritage.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1424]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 470

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

Whereas rumours are plentiful that the Nova Scotia Liberal Party is unofficially seeking the services of a new Leader; and

Whereas the member for Richmond, with what he describes as vast experience in this Legislature despite having served the constituents of Richmond for less than two years, is making it known that he could be interested in the position; and

Whereas the member for Richmond, during debate in this Legislature, has extended his services to various constituencies across this province, even though people in those areas soundly rejected his Party at the polls on July 27th;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Richmond not be so eager in his drive for the yet-to-be-advertised Liberal Leader's job, slow down his pace and do the job he was sent here to do, attempt to represent the constituents of Richmond County.

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

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party on an introduction.

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure today to introduce, in the gallery, a former MLA of this Legislature and a Minister of Agriculture, a man who has been friend to all of us, some days more of a friend to some others on the other side of the House than others, but I think a person for whom we all have a great deal of respect. I would like to introduce the honourable Edward Lorraine. (Standing Ovation)

MR. SPEAKER: In regard to the member for Kings West on his resolution. I will allow the notice.

There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

[Page 1425]

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 471

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 residents of Bridgetown and surrounding area continue their hard work towards raising $100,000 for the establishment of a local health centre; and

Whereas the Bridgetown and Area Health Centre Society has already received substantial donations from the Bridgetown Lions Club, the Soldiers Memorial Hospital Foundation as well as the Bridgetown Pharmasave and the Western Valley Development Authority; and

Whereas door-to-door canvassing, already proven to be a huge success, is expected to conclude Friday with their fund-raising target having been met;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature wish the Bridgetown and Area Health Centre Society every success as they prepare to not only open the clinic by the middle of the month but also welcome a long sought after additional physician who will begin practising from this centre at the end of this month.

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 Pictou East.

[Page 1426]

RESOLUTION NO. 472

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

Whereas the Westville High School Drama Club is holding their annual fund-raiser beginning tomorrow evening at the DeCoste Entertainment Centre in Pictou; and

Whereas last year's fund-raiser involved a play entitled Oklahoma and was performed before a large and appreciative audience; and

Whereas this year's play is called Bye Bye Birdie and will run through to and including Saturday night at the DeCoste Centre;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Legislature extend our best wishes to all students, teachers and everyone connected with the Westville High School Drama Club in their 1999 fund-raiser.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 473

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

Whereas the Musquodoboit Valley Tourism Committee held their annual meeting on October 28th at the historical Bicentennial Theatre; and

Whereas the Musquodoboit Valley Tourism Committee sponsors the annual 50 mile yard sale, the Giant Pumpkin Contest, and consistently promotes the beautiful Musquodoboit Valley and area; and

[Page 1427]

Whereas the Musquodoboit Valley Tourism Committee is a valuable component of the Eastern Shore Tourism Association;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the Musquodoboit Valley Tourism Committee and wish them every success in the future.

[2:45 p.m.]

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 Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 474

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

Whereas three years ago, Peter Jackson of the Antigonish Hiking and Biking Association started mapping out a plan for a 33-kilometre-long hiking trail along the Sunrise Trail in back of Cape George, Antigonish County; and

Whereas 12 historic communities are situated along the trail which could expand to 300 kilometres some day based on the initial work undertaken by Mr. Jackson; and

Whereas a member of the North Shore Development Committee believes the Cape George Trail will only serve as a model for future trail development in the area;

Therefore be it resolved that as the community volunteers work toward raising the final $20,000 to pay for the completion of the Cape George Trail, members of this House recognize the significant contributions being undertaken by volunteers and wish them every success in their future fund-raising endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1428]

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. 475

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

Whereas A Pictou County Christmas is the title of a very special collection of holiday music produced completely in Pictou County by Pictou County artists; and

Whereas the album contains 12 Christmas tracks, 9 traditional and 3 original compositions; and

Whereas all proceeds from the CD and cassette will be divided equally between the Pictou County Christmas Fund and Calmeadow Nova Scotia, two organizations that help Pictou County;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the important contributions being made by the artists, producers and all involved with this unique project.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

[Page 1429]

RESOLUTION NO. 476

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

Whereas the annual general meeting for the 1,500 Nova Scotians involved in the Nova Scotia Special Olympics Program was recently held in Pictou County; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Special Olympics organization is the fourth largest of its kind in Canada; and

Whereas across the province there are 13 districts comprised of individuals involved in the Nova Scotia Special Olympics Program;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature express their gratitude to those involved in the Nova Scotia Special Olympics Program as they continue their meaningful and worthwhile efforts in the promotion of wellness and fitness.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 477

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

Whereas ANSMA, the African-Nova Scotia Music Association, was formed in May 1997 as the official representative and spokesperson for African-Nova Scotian musicians; and

Whereas ANSMA's theme, Making Music Making Waves, has made a significant impact on the entertainment industry by elevating the profile and talents of the African-Nova Scotian community and has created numerous opportunities by this initiative; and

[Page 1430]

Whereas sponsored by ANSMA, the second African-Nova Scotia Music Association Awards were held on the evening of Saturday, October 30th in celebration of one of Canada's most vibrant and talented music scenes;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating ANSMA and all participants in this prestigious event, especially recognizing these talented individuals: Marco Simmonds, Shane Colley, Jeremiah Sparks, Jamie Sparks, and various members of the Nova Scotia Mass Choir who hail from the great constituency of Preston.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time is 2:49 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

JUSTICE: IBM PROGRAM - POLICY

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the honourable Premier. Yesterday in this House we heard two different stories from this government on the issue of employment equity for minority law students. On the one hand, we have the Minister of Justice making it pretty clear that this government is backing off on any kind of contract compliance. He wants it to be voluntary.

On the other hand, the Premier said that contract compliance is still on the table. The Premier said, we have not backed away from our commitment. I want to ask the Premier, today, which version - the minister's or the Premier's - is the real policy of this government on this question?

[Page 1431]

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that there is only one version. The committee that was set up by the previous government will be reporting to me, perhaps as early as in two weeks time. We are anxiously awaiting that report. It would be unfair for me to comment about the report, not having seen it.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: At least the Premier is aware that there is a committee now which is a start. My first supplementary, Mr. Speaker, the Premier outside this Chamber, to the members of the IBM Program, said, "We have had a great number of issues on our plate and not all of them have been thoroughly researched. This is obviously one of them.".

I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, will he explain to Nova Scotians why he would permit the Minister of Justice to make changes to this important equity initiative if it hadn't been thoroughly researched?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, no changes have been made. The committee has continued to function. The committee will be reporting and we will accept the report, so no changes have been made.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, this government went after charities. It took money from a trust fund. Then they went after the disabled and they took on our paramedics. Now the Minister of Justice is defending the interests of the downtrodden downtown Halifax law firms.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: My question to the Premier, Mr. Speaker, is, he had a choice. When he was faced with a decision about whose side he was on, he could take the side of the downtrodden downtown law firms or that of the minority law students. Would he explain why his government decided to side with the downtrodden downtown law firms?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite really has selective hearing. He really only wants to hear what would lead up to what he thinks would be an effective question. In reality, the government is prepared to be fair to all Nova Scotians, including those who are in the IBM Program, all Nova Scotians. No decision has been made and the government is simply saying that we will be looking at this with a great deal of interest when we receive the report. We have not yet received the report.

[Page 1432]

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

ECON. DEV. - SHEARWATER: PURCHASE - CONDITION

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The former Liberal Government was in negotiations with the federal government about purchasing two pieces of the Shearwater property. These two pieces were upper on the property and almost inaccessible. These two pieces were to be purchased for a price, but the criteria and the conditions of the Government of Nova Scotia were that the Province of Nova Scotia would have right of first refusal on the rest of the Shearwater property and have access to the property. Can the Premier tell us whether those conditions have changed and, if so, how have they changed?

THE PREMIER: The previous government rightly did show interest in the Shearwater property and we have continued that interest. There are about 1,078 acres that apparently at this point are available. There were 24 conditions that the Province of Nova Scotia put on a sale. At this point, 22 of the 24 have been satisfied. The two that the Leader of the Liberal Party brought to the attention of the House, the right of first refusal and access to the harbour, those two conditions have yet to be resolved.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding from a source that the province is thinking about waiving those two conditions and, in fact, buying those two pieces of property without securing, first, the right of first refusal on the rest of the Shearwater property, and access to the water. Is that correct and, if so, why?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, rather than answer the question, I would suggest that the Leader of the Liberal Party get a new source.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, why would I know if I needed a new source if he doesn't answer the question? This is extremely important, because this is the last major piece of property in Halifax Harbour that can be developed for the Halifax Regional Municipality and, indeed, all of the Province of Nova Scotia. To allow this property, if the federal government isn't going to use it, to fall into the wrong hands and be used for purposes other than those that will benefit this area would be a travesty.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: Why will the Premier not tell us if he has waived those two conditions or not?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Liberal Party was quite right when he opened negotiations with Ottawa a year ago in September. I can assure members of the House that no conditions have been waived and the issues that the Leader of the Liberal Party

[Page 1433]

brings to the House are still part of the process. How that is resolved will have a strong bearing as to whether or not there is a deal.

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

HEALTH - TAXATION: TOBACCO - POLICY

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to go to the Premier with a question. Yesterday the Premier refused to provide information about how he will deter young people from using tobacco products. He insisted that it was a taxation issue that we raised yesterday. Five months ago, this Premier stood before this House and made a speech in which he called the use of tobacco the single, greatest health hazard we face. I would like to ask the Premier, why has he now changed his mind and decided that tobacco use is a financial hazard and not a health hazard?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the New Democratic Party, again, likes to play with words. The Leader of the New Democratic Party knows full well the commitment of this government to curbing the use of tobacco, particularly among young Nova Scotians. The issue has been clearly outlined by the Minister of Finance who said he is not going to pre-empt, in this House, any notice of taxation until the government is prepared, on that day, to act.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, in the same speech the Premier encouraged the government to initiate a province-wide forum on smoking in order to create a comprehensive tobacco strategy aimed at young people. The blue book, of which the member for Dartmouth North has a copy, contained a promise to take measures to deter youth from smoking. I would like to ask the Premier, would he explain why, after criticizing the former government for their lack of action, he is now backing down from his anti-smoking commitments?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that the government is prepared to act and will be keeping that commitment. We will be doing exactly what the blue book says; we will be holding the appropriate consultations and we will be putting together a program to deter young Nova Scotians from smoking.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, on the issue of taxation and smoking, I cannot understand the Premier standing in his place and suggesting that we refer this matter to the Minister of Finance. When he was a family doctor, I am sure that he did not send sick patients to an accountant for treatment. I want to ask the Premier - this is a very serious matter that needs to be dealt with immediately by this government - where is his multi-year plan in order to deter young people from smoking? Where is it and why isn't it in this House right now?

[Page 1434]

THE PREMIER: I can assure the member opposite, Mr. Speaker, that the program to which he refers is going to occur and it will be occurring very soon. I understand the impatience of the member opposite because he, like every member in this House, understands what a serious health hazard tobacco use is by Nova Scotians. We will be addressing that. It is a difficult situation, but this government is prepared to address it. (Applause)

[3:00 p.m.]

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

ECON. DEV. - SHEARWATER: PURCHASE - CONDITIONS

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I want the Premier to know that this Party supports the government completely in its attempts to buy the Shearwater property, as long as they get the right of first refusal for the rest of the Shearwater base and access to the water. I would ask the Premier, why would he consider backing off from the federal government, because there are interests that are just waiting for the Province of Nova Scotia to back off if they don't get what they want at first blush? Why will the Premier not continue to hold fast with the federal government and demand that the right of first refusal for this property be given to the Province of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it was approximately three and one-half minutes since I answered the question, we haven't backed off. I can assure the member opposite that there has been no change in policy in the last three and one-half minutes.

MR. MACLELLAN: That is not what the Premier said, and if he would care to examine Hansard, what he said was, that will determine if there is a deal or not. There has to be a deal. There has to be the ability of the province to take that over if the federal government doesn't want to do it anymore. We are not getting a fair shake from the federal government. We are being asked to pay a sizable sum of money for two lots without the rest of the base . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: . . . when Prince Edward Island got Summerside for $1.00. Why won't the Premier hold fast and demand the same deal for Nova Scotia as Prince Edward Island got for Summerside?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that if we were prepared to compromise there probably would be a deal now. We are not prepared to compromise. There isn't a deal now. We are going on, we are looking for satisfaction of the 24 conditions that have been put in place, including the two that are so important to the member opposite and are so important to all Nova Scotians.

[Page 1435]

MR. MACLELLAN: The Premier said 22 of the 24 have been met, the other two have not been. It is essential that those two be met and that the right of first refusal and access to the water be granted to the Province of Nova Scotia. When is the Premier going to contact Ottawa again and tell them that the Province of Nova Scotia will accept nothing less than the right of first refusal for the Shearwater base and access to the water? When is he going to contact them?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, to the member opposite, the Leader of the Liberal Party, those conditions are being adhered to and are part of the package that we consider essential, and there is to be another negotiating meeting this month.

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

HEALTH: DEP. MIN. - HIRING PROCESS (DR. T. WARD)

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating the Minister of Health on hiring a new deputy minister, but I have a question about the hiring process. I understand that at the time the minister hired his new deputy, Dr. Ward was in final negotiations with the QE II to become their new Vice-President of Medicine. What I would like to know is why did the government enter into a bidding war with one of its own hospitals to attract the new deputy minister?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I wasn't aware that there was any bidding war between the Premier's office and the QE II for Dr. Ward.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, Dr. Ward will be paid approximately $180,000 to be the Deputy Minister of Health, that is almost twice what deputies in other departments are paid, and almost twice what Dr. Kenny was making as Deputy Minister of Health. That doesn't include moving expenses, severance packages and other perks. Will the minister confirm that the amount offered to Dr. Ward was increased to $180,000 solely to lure him away from the QE II?

MR. MUIR: No.

MR. DEXTER: I am not sure if he is just saying he won't confirm it or it didn't happen. Taxpayers have spent a good deal of money on health administrators recently. We have paid two Deputy Ministers of Health at the same time, we have paid out huge severance packages, and I would like to remind the minister, since the government seems a bit fuzzy on the rules, that the Freedom of Information Act states that the contracts of public officials can be disclosed.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

[Page 1436]

MR. DEXTER: Will the minister, today, release the details of Dr. Ward's contract so the taxpayers know exactly what they are paying for?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am not entirely sure how to respond to that because, as the honourable members in the House know, it is not the Department of Health that hires deputy ministers. It is the Premier's office.

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

HEALTH: DEP. MIN. - INDUCEMENTS (DR. T. WARD)

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, it has just been a week since the government opposite nickel and dimed the paramedics, trying to beat them down from an income which they rightly deserve, only to pay a deputy minister $180,000 a year. I want to ask the Premier, in light of what has come forward, what other inducements were made to this person to come to this post in Halifax; what moving expenses, what cars, what other expenses, and what would the total be, the grand total, that will go to this person for taking this position?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I can assure the member opposite that we are only going to have one Deputy Minister of Health. The member opposite knows full well we have had eight Deputy Ministers of Health in six years. The details of that contract, I will make a commitment to the member opposite that I will reveal all aspects of the contract which I can legally do so.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I thank the Premier for that and we look forward to getting that as soon as reasonably possible. This is a major increase in the remuneration of deputies. Does this, Mr. Speaker, and I ask the Premier, signal an increase in the salaries of deputy ministers in the Province of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I can say to the member opposite is, what this signals is that in order to attract somebody that we felt confident could do the job for the people of Nova Scotia in developing a Department of Health that was effective and affordable, that we had to be competitive. We had to come up in competition with what this person would get in the private sector. It resulted in a very expensive contract. This government, and certainly this Premier, does not like expensive contracts, but we know we need the right person for the job. We feel we have found that person.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, there are those who would be more cynical than myself who would say that that money was necessary to get anybody to take the job knowing what is going to happen in health care in Nova Scotia with this government, but I want to ask the Premier, there are a lot of good officials in the Department of Health who are not making half of what this deputy minister is making. What was he planning to do for other deputy

[Page 1437]

ministers and senior officials in the Department of Health to bring their salaries to where the new Deputy Minister of Health's salary is going to be?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that the government will be treating all employees fairly. We will certainly be looking at all government employees and trying to bring an element of fairness to their remuneration, but it is not at this point the intention of government to open up negotiations with deputy ministers. We believe that we have found the right man to bring stability to the Department of Health, who has the background and the capability to do the kind of job that is required in our Department of Health. It is an expensive contract, acknowledged, but it will be money well spent if the job is well done.

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

FIN.: HFX.-DART. BRIDGE COMM'N. - ILLUMINATION

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister responsible for the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission, the Minister of Finance. The Chair of the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission, Larry Doane, when defending the commission's decision to spend $600,000 to light up the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge, dismissed potential critics by saying, and I will quote, "I say they don't have any imagination. I say to heck with them.". My question to the Minister of Finance is, if you don't share Mr. Doane's imagination, what have you done to turn the switch off on his less-than-illuminating idea?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, in regard to the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission, the member brings up a good point, that Larry Doane is the Chairman of that. He took over that facility and he has done some excellent work. We have brought about some stabilization, especially of the costs, and also some of the work that was done on the bridge. I think most people enjoyed it last Sunday when it was opened. With regard to the specific concern that he brings up in regard to lighting, I would like to take that question as notice. I am not as fully briefed as I should be on that one, but I will say to the member that I will talk to the Bridge Commission and try to understand it and will be more than prepared to answer questions subsequent to that.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the government appoints five of the nine members to that commission. The government says that they have absolutely no money for essential programs and services; everything is under review. The minister stands up over and over again saying how we are going to be asking the question. If that program doesn't already exist, would we initiate such a program? So my question to the minister is quite simply this, is he telling us that neither he nor his department has reviewed that $600,000 proposed expenditure and, if it has, will it produce a copy of the review process that says, in fact, it has passed such a test?

[Page 1438]

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I don't think the member listened to my first answer because I told him I would look into the matter and report to the House. I can't be any clearer than that. He brings up a good point, and when I am briefed I will be able to answer his question.

MR. HOLM: The minister is admitting that he doesn't know what is going on with the responsibilities that are under his jurisdiction. The minister of course will know that the debts of the Bridge Commission are part of the total net debt of the Province of Nova Scotia and that the Bridge Commission has, as well, a $30 million line of credit from the Province of Nova Scotia. So my question is, how can this minister, even today, admitting that he hasn't done his homework, square the fact that there is an expenditure for $600,000 for a legacy of lights when your same government doesn't have the money to provide for the accessibility program for the disabled in this province?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious the member has a problem with honesty. I was honest with him, I told him I would find the answer, and I want to say here today that the member he refers to with such disdain, Larry Doane, did some excellent work on that Bridge Commission. I want to stand here today and I will give him (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. LEBLANC: . . . credit for bringing about some stability to that Bridge Commission. He has done some excellent work. We can play all the games you want here today, and the members can keep harping like they are, Mr. Speaker, but I gave him a commitment that I will find the information and I will give him the answer. I can't be any more honest than that and, if they can't accept that, I am sorry.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - DEP. MIN.: ADVICE (DR. T. WARD) - HEED

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. We were speaking about the unheard of salary for a deputy minister, but he does in fact seem to have a great deal of the experience. I researched some of his background and of late he has been a senior consultant with Strategic Planning and Policy Development within the British Columbia ministry. My question to the minister is, it appears that the government doesn't have a plan for health. Could the minister please confirm whether he and his government, in fact, will be open to take the advice from this very well paid senior civil servant?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, clearly we hope that we have brought in a person who will provide the needed stability to this province's health care system which the previous government was not able to provide in any form for six years. As a matter of fact, I am surprised they would even raise that. However, yes, we hope that the new deputy minister will

[Page 1439]

provide the leadership, and we are confident that he can, to take us in the direction that we wish to go.

[3:15 p.m.]

DR. SMITH: Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, I am less concerned about the advice that he can give, I am concerned about whether this government will take advice from anyone in their stubbornness. This gentleman has worked in British Columbia at the regional health boards. There are 11 regional health boards, there are three to four community health boards with seven community health services councils, as they are called there. So he has great experience with regional boards.

My question to the minister, Mr. Speaker, would the minister please indicate whether the appointment of Dr. Thomas Ward is indicative of a change of heart this government is having with respect to the regional health boards after unceremoniously disbanding them recently?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Dartmouth East for that question. We have stated our intention with regard to the restructuring of the health care system on a number of occasions and we intend to proceed with that.

DR. SMITH: Whatever that is, Mr. Speaker. Given that this $180,000 a year plus whatever is coming, and whatever buy out might be there if necessary, he was involved in directing a government that, in fact, adopted a regionalized system in health care in British Columbia. Would the minister reconsider the OIC slip-up, mistake that he made and restore the powers of the regional health boards so that in fact when Dr. Thomas Ward does come as deputy minister, he will at least have a familiar reference point from which to start.

MR. MUIR: No.

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

ECON. DEV - SHEARWATER: PURCHASE - PRICE

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. It has been reported that the Premier intends to purchase land on behalf of the government, or hopes to purchase land at CFB Shearwater, in my riding. It is our understanding that before the Liberal Government was in negotiations hoping to purchase that land for $1.00. My question to the Premier is, why is he intending to purchase the land at Shearwater at fair market value when in P.E.I., Summerside was purchased for $1.00?

[Page 1440]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite seems to want to get into the negotiations between the province and the federal government. I would ask the Minister of Economic Development, who handles the file, to make comment about the negotiations.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the negotiations are ongoing between the department and DND and we are working through that process. In the words of the previous member, we don't negotiate deals on the floor of the House.

MR. DEVEAUX: Where have I heard those words before, Mr. Speaker? Back to the Premier. Shearwater is an active air base, still. It has an active naval diving unit. It has a NATO jetty that can't be moved easily. My question to the Premier is, for what purpose would Nova Scotia be buying all or part of CFB Shearwater when it is still being used as an active Armed Forces base?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is aware that the Shearwater property is some 2,500 acres of which 1,078 right now are available. This is a very attractive piece of property and I think it is in the interest of the province that we have control as to how that property is developed. As the Leader of the Liberal Party has pointed out, access to the harbour is a key part of the value of this piece of property and it is one of the conditions that has yet to be met at the negotiating table by the federal government.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, this province has said in the past few weeks that it has no money for charities, no money for the disabled and no money for paramedics. So the question is, why is this government spending good tax dollars on a functioning air force base when it doesn't have money for people in need?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite realizes that if the province can make a good deal for this piece of property that, in fact, the province will benefit and revenues will grow. We will have the money to do all of the social programs that Nova Scotians are expecting us to deliver but part of our mandate is to grow revenues. Part of our mandate is to look for opportunities such as the one that is provided by the federal government and its interest to dispose of the Shearwater property. We cannot afford to be away from the negotiating table on this one.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - COMMUN. BDS.: LEGISLATION - INTRO. DATE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is again to the Minister of Health. This minister has stripped away all community involvement with respect to the delivery of health care and that is where we stand in this province now that the regional health boards that were making local decisions were removed from their volunteer positions. My question is, when

[Page 1441]

does the minister plan to table the government's much anticipated community health board legislation?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it is a good question from the member for Dartmouth East. I will confirm that we are working toward that. There has been a plan developed about the future of the health care system in Nova Scotia, which is very much towards the end of completion and it has been developed with the input of people who are in the system now and community health boards are referenced in that document.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I guess what you can take from that is that it is really not going to be tabled this session of the Legislature, I would think. The promise made by this government was to have that legislation in place at the same time of their promised dismantling of the regional boards. So now we have no community health board legislation at all.

My question, Mr. Speaker, is, given the major slip up with the minister's OIC in dismantling regional health boards, how will he ensure that community involvement is the central focal point of the delivery of health care until such time as he legislates community health boards? How long is it going to be out there with nothing happening at that local level? Is he prepared to tolerate that situation?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I can tell him that the community health boards are still active and still providing input into health care decisions in the province. I will agree with the minister (Interruption) Sorry, with the former minister, the member for Dartmouth East, I apologize, sir, for laying that one on you. Anyway, the proposal for the new structure and moving towards the new structure has a very defined role for community health boards. They seem to be comfortable in that and the legislation needed to make that happen will be forthcoming as soon as we finalize that document. Hopefully it will be this fall.

DR. SMITH: My final supplementary will be to try to pin the minister down. We have a deputy arriving from a jurisdiction that really the community health boards were functioning quite well in a integrated system and recognized legally, which they are not now. It was always the intention to immediately bring that in. With the community health board legislation, will the minister make a commitment to table this prior to the official start of the deputy minister on November 15th so that once again his deputy has a point of reference that he can start from to which he can operate and be part of the health care system?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we will not likely table that prior to the arrival of the deputy. One of the things that the new deputy will bring is a wealth of experience in community-based health, and it would only make sense that we do avail ourselves of his experience and knowledge before coming to our final conclusion.

[Page 1442]

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

SYSCO - CLOSURE (31/12/99): BUSINESS - NEGATIVITY

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister responsible for the Sydney Steel Corporation. As the minister knows, it stands to reason that telling people you will close the Sysco steel plant on December 31st, if it isn't sold, is going to make it difficult to get new orders. I want to ask the minister, have you ever been told by Hoogovens that the actions of your government are having a negative effect on attracting new business to that mill?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for the question. In fact, just the opposite is true. This is the first time that everyone has been very clear on the direction of the government with regard to Sysco. In fact, in speaking to Hoogovens and looking at the order book, it is pretty well on target with past years. It is unfortunate that production has fallen short of Hoogovens' management plan, but it is on target with previous years.

MR. CORBETT: That was not the question, so I am going to be slower and clearer here, hopefully. At a board meeting on October 19th of this year, were you or anyone else on the board informed by Hoogovens that the December 31st closing date is having a negative effect on new business orders?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, there has been no indication from Hoogovens that, in fact, the position of this government has had any impact on their ability to find orders.

MR. CORBETT: It certainly sounds like a no, but that just can't cross his lips, so I am going to be a little slower this time with him. I would like to ask the minister, have you ever had indications from any party - Hoogovens or otherwise - that the Tory promise to shut Sysco down on December 31st is hurting business at the mill and, therefore, making it more difficult to sell?

MR. BALSER: No.

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

JUSTICE - MINORITY LAWYERS:

EMPLOYMENT - COMM. MEMBERSHIP LINK

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Justice, who has made some revealing comments about his depth of understanding of the committee established to ensure that minority lawyers are given an equal opportunity with law firms.

[Page 1443]

How could he not know what was transpiring with the committee when the Department of Justice has two people on that committee?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I would like to thank the member for the question. In fact, I knew what was going on at the committee. The issue seems to have arisen that this government has indicated that we want to bring other people into the process to make sure there is a workable plan to make sure that minority people in this province have an opportunity for jobs.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, other people have been brought into the process, that is why the committee is so representative, with Justice, aboriginals, Blacks, the Bar Society and law firms all represented. What I want to know is, why is this government going so far out of its way to try to deny minority law students their rights within our society and within the law firms of Halifax?

MR. BAKER: The member opposite misunderstands. On the contrary, this government is committing to make sure that minority people, in any and all professions, have access to jobs. He completely misunderstands the issue.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I don't think any of us have misunderstood anything, because the Minister of Justice has said that he doesn't want to interfere, he wants it to happen naturally. Well, there is going to be an interim report, as the Premier has said, in about two weeks. Will the Minister of Justice give his personal undertaking to make that interim report public?

MR. BAKER: My understanding is that report would be to the Premier, but I can indicate to the honourable member that our government will be looking at the report, as the Premier said.

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

SYSCO - SALE (31/12/99): ORDERS - FEASIBILITY

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development. It has been reported that the Reserve group is making a low-ball offer for Sydney Steel because it is seriously concerned about Sysco's declining order books. Mr. Minister, we want to ensure that Sysco is sold as a going concern with as high a value as possible; that means, they need orders. I ask the minister, do you think it is feasible for Sysco

to drum up new orders if your government is saying they may not be around after December 31st?

[Page 1444]

[3:30 p.m.]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. One of the things that this government has done consistently is tell people very clearly the course of direction and they know full well that if, in fact, it can be sold as a viable ongoing operation, that is what we put as our number one priority so we are working with them to ensure that good orders do come in and are filled.

MR. CORBETT: There are 59 days left as of today. I say to the minister that his government is driving the cost of Sysco down. We know that Stelco, in Hamilton, wants to place substantial orders with Sysco, but they will not do it because of the uncertainty caused by this government.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CORBETT: The question is, I ask the minister, major steel makers like Stelco are being scared off because of your politically motivated deadline, will you retract the artificial December 31st deadline and give Sysco a real chance to develop some new business?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, we are in fact working with Hoogovens, with the management at Sysco, to ensure that good orders, orders that are profitable, do go ahead. In fact, we have written letters of support around orders that were being placed to ensure those buyers that the orders would be filled. So we are working with the management, with Hoogovens, to ensure that they do have the opportunity to proceed.

MR. CORBETT: This minister says one day, I am involved and the next day, I am not involved. It is ABN Amro's, it is not my fault. So I will have to go to the Premier. Mr. Premier, you said yesterday you were not interested in a fire sale at Sysco and I am glad for that opinion, but you must know that if are were scaring off business, you are making it tougher for a serious operator for the long-term plan for the mill.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CORBETT: I ask you, Mr. Premier, to get rid of the December 31st artificial date and let the people at that plant get on with making steel and getting new orders. I ask you to get rid of that date today.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I understand the member opposite's concern for Sysco, a very important employer in his part of Cape Breton. What I can say to the member opposite because he seems concerned that bringing a determination to the Sysco file is somehow working to the disadvantage of Sysco, what we have been told as a government is that since we have taken over, since we have strengthened the board, since we have taken a hands off

[Page 1445]

approach, the depoliticization of the sale of Sysco is working to the advantage of Sysco and its employees. (Applause)

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

JUSTICE - MINORITY LAWYERS:

EMPLOYMENT - COMM. RULES CHANGE

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice is quoted as saying that government should not act as big brother by imposing hiring rules. Yet Douglas Ruck, the chairperson of that committee, has not received any notification from the Minister of Justice that the mandate of the committee, which is to prepare and develop those rules, has been changed. Why has the Minister of Justice not talked to Mr. Ruck to talk about where this committee is going and about the rights of minority law students?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I want to make this perfectly clear. I have made it clear to Mr. Ruck and I want to make it perfectly clear to the honourable member, whom I know is very interested in this issue, this government is committed to minority lawyers, to make sure that they have an equal opportunity. We are clear. What I am interested in is making sure that there is a real, permanent opportunity for these individuals and that is what this government is interested in.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice is quoted as saying and I quote, "We're prepared to sit down with law firms of all sizes to try to work out a plan to ensure that people in minorities are properly represented in those firms.". That is not the same thing as the committee. The committee is developing the terms of reference, the qualifications and the criteria.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: They have to be allowed to do it.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: Why is the minister changing the thrust of the committee before he has even had a chance to read the interim report?

MR. BAKER: The honourable member I do not think is hearing the answer. The answer is that we want to make sure that minority lawyers have an opportunity to access jobs wherever they live in Nova Scotia, no matter whether they are interested in working for large firms or small firms and, quite clearly, whether or not those firms do business with the government. What we are interested in is making sure that there is opportunity for every Nova Scotian. Frankly, the question of opportunity is not a question of whether or not the

[Page 1446]

business does business with the government, it is a question of making sure that everyone has opportunity.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, to my knowledge, there hasn't been a Black lawyer hired in a major law firm in Halifax since 1966. Now, yet, the Minister of Justice wants to take away all incentive and sanctions to make sure that this is changed. I want to ask the Premier, when the interim report is tabled in two weeks, will he make that report available to all Parties in this House? Yes or no. Will he give us the information we should have?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, to the member opposite, I will be receiving the report, I will have a look at the report and at that point, obviously, there will be a final report. I can assure you that the report that the committee files, the committee that was struck by the previous government, that that report will become public information.

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

SYSCO - SALE: STEELWORKERS - INVOLVEMENT

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. He was going on at great length when he answered my last question about people were telling him things. Well, there are people being left out of this loop, Mr. Premier. The previous government gave a commitment to the steelworkers that they would be involved in the Sysco sale process and you gave your commitment also. Well, customers are showing up to kick the tires and these groups aren't involved.

My question to you, Mr. Premier, when will you live up to your commitment and bring the steelworkers back into the loop on the sale of Sysco?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the member opposite, it would be a strange thing, indeed, if, in fact, the workers would not be requested by a potential purchaser to be part of the process. But, yes, the workers at Sysco will play a role in determining who the new owner of Sysco will be.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, any prospective buyer is going to bring forward a plan for the plant and it has to be decided whether that plan is realistic or not and who better to be involved than the steel plant workers. The union has a right to be part of this process, for example, in determining whether or not a buyer is going to make layoffs or whether they can hire the new workers.

Mr. Premier, will you commit in the House today to ensuring that steelworkers are given full access to details about the shortlist of prospective buyers and any offers they put on the table?

[Page 1447]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I know the member opposite is well intentioned but in his zeal to involve people and to have information spread, he himself may be generating a situation that may, in fact, impede a sale. It is imperative at the initial stages that those who are interested in purchasing the steel plant receive some kind of protection before they actually make up their mind as to whether or not they are really interested in signing a contract to buy Sysco. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. CORBETT: . . . to that Premier to tell the people of Cape Breton that they shouldn't ask questions because they may cause a problem with the sale is hogwash and you know that. You know that is hogwash.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CORBETT: We want to know from you, will you instruct ABN Amro to include the United Steel Workers Local 1064, as a representative in the confidentiality agreement, so that they will have full access to details which will affect the rest of their lives? Will you do that? Will you promise it today on the floor of this House?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite read so quickly that it is impossible to understand what it is that he was trying to get at. I wonder if we could ask him to repeat it, but read it slowly.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order.

Would the honourable member repeat the question, please. The question only.

MR. CORBETT: With pleasure, and I will do it really slowly so this Premier will not be offended. When will you instruct ABN Amro to include the USWA as a representative in the confidentiality agreement so they will have full access to details which will affect the rest of their lives? Did you hear that?

THE PREMIER: That process will start the minute we have somebody who indicates they want to buy Sysco.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

FIN. - ATL. LOTTERY CORP.: PROFITS - FAIR SHARE

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The government should be commended in regard to its action against the Sheraton casino in the Province of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotians are entitled to their money. It is a part of the

[Page 1448]

agreement. On the other hand, this government has been playing dead, absolutely dead, on the issue of sharing the profits of the Atlantic Lottery Corporation. Nova Scotians are losing $4.5 million every year by their inability to make a decision with regard to the partners of Atlantic Lottery Corporation. I think the Government of Nova Scotia . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: . . . is in a position to need that money. My question is, will the minister take a stand for Nova Scotians so that they receive their fair share of the Atlantic Lottery Corporation's profits and jobs for the people of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, yes, we took a stand. We took a stand at the Premiers' Conference. We are awaiting the results of that stand. I would ask the minister responsible for the Atlantic Lottery Corporation to enlarge on my answer.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, in regard to the honourable member's question, where he refers to the fact that we deserve to have better agreements in regard to the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, I agree with the member. I know that the previous administration was not able to change the profit-sharing arrangement. At the present time, we are reviewing the decision of the previous administration to bring about a withdrawal of the Atlantic Lottery Corporation. That study is ongoing, and once that study is complete, we as a government will have to make a decision as to what direction we will be taking with the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation and its involvement with the Atlantic Lottery Corporation.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this government has had a great deal of time, some 70 days to review this particular deal. The issue continues, that we are losing $4.5 million a year. It took them only days to decide to claw money out of the individuals and charities and other organizations, and yet they have not gone ahead with this particular review in the way that they should have.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: In fact, I know the review is already completed, they have to read it to make a decision.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member please put the question.

MR. DOWNE: On one hand, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member please put the question.

[Page 1449]

MR. DOWNE: How can we expect to get a fair share on this particular deal when the Premier is currying up to the favour of the Tory Lord in New Brunswick. Instead of being a patsy, is he prepared to stand up and fight for the rights of Nova Scotians and deal with it now? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable member for Lunenburg West to retract that word patsy, please. It is unparliamentary. (Interruptions)

MR. DOWNE: I will try the word daisy, Mr. Speaker. (Laughter)

THE PREMIER: The only thing that the question of the member really brings to mind is the fact that we have been in power for 75 days, and it is going to take us a little longer than that to fix what happened over the last 2,190 days that the member opposite was a member of government. (Applause)

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this government has looked at reviewing the HST issue and agreement, without consulting with the other provinces, they are doing it all on their own. It appears that the Premier is prepared to go ahead on the issue of tobacco taxes without the cooperation of the other Atlantic Provinces. Why is this Premier claiming that Maritime cooperation is so important to him, at the same time, in the case of Atlantic Loto, he is not prepared to show Nova Scotians that a fair deal is important for the people of this province? Why can he sit over there and not do his job?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance is working on that fair deal, that exercises the member opposite, and I would ask him to answer the question.

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, between the ramblings, I was trying to see whether or not there was a question there somewhere. I will say . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable minister realizes his ramblings are unparliamentary; please withdraw that and rephrase it.

Order, please.

MR. LEBLANC: All right then. Between the confusing statements that the honourable member inserted into his question, it was difficult to find a question in there. But I will say one thing. The member brings up a very good point that the previous administration had no ability to come to any agreement with the other Maritime Provinces, whether it was the ALC,

[Page 1450]

the Veterinary College in P.E.I., the Police Academy. It went on and on. I guess, he is stressing the point, why there is a change of government today. (Applause)

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

JUSTICE - IBM PROG.: COMM. - DIFFICULTIES

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. I am trying to get some clarification of exactly what this government is doing with respect to the minority law graduates and the IBM Program and whether they are going to get an opportunity to get hired by downtown law firms. The minister has said that he feels that the committee that was set up to implement contract compliance needs to be reviewed, needs to be changed in some way, to consider whether they properly reflect something - I don't know exactly - but I would like the Minister of Justice to explain to members of this House what is the problem with that committee that he has identified and how has he determined that there is a problem with that committee?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I thank the Leader of the New Democratic Party for the question. Very simply, the concern is that a plan is not going to be complete until it addresses the real potential for opportunity for these individuals. We have to make sure that these firms and all firms of all sizes offer opportunities to visible minorities in this province. (Applause)

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the issue of racism in the justice system received a fair bit of attention in an inquiry called the Marshall Inquiry. The Minister of Justice may be familiar with the report. The IBM Program spun out of the recommendations of that inquiry. The committee was set up to implement contract compliance because it was determined . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . . that that was the tool necessary. Is the Minister of Justice now telling us that he does not believe that contract compliance is the way to ensure that minority law graduates will be hired by downtown Halifax law firms?

MR. BAKER: What I am saying is that the very best system of making sure that there is equality of opportunity is to make sure that employers buy into the system and employ people on a proactive basis.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am just writing that down, employers buy in. It was exactly the fact that employers hadn't bought in that the Marshall Inquiry recognized that there was such rampant racism in the justice system. It was also recognized that graduates from the IBM Program were not being hired because downtown law firms were not voluntarily hiring those graduates.

[Page 1451]

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Contract compliance was the only tool. I want to ask the Minister of Justice to explain why it is that his government has decided now that contract compliance will not be carried forward by this government to ensure that downtown law firms hire these minority law graduates?

MR. BAKER: I will repeat the answer again. We have not determined that. We have simply said that the preferable method is to make sure that employers offer equal opportunity to all Nova Scotians. That is what we are committed to, making sure that every Nova Scotian has an opportunity. (Applause)

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

NAT. RES. - SABLE GAS:

LAURENTIAN SUB-BASIN - JURISDICTION

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The Premier is aware that Nova Scotians will continue to reap benefits from the Sable Offshore Energy Project for years to come. Besides additional exploration off Sable, the next big push for exploration is off Cape Breton in the Laurentian sub-basin. As the Premier is aware, we are having a dispute with the Newfoundland Government over this jurisdiction. Will the Premier indicate to this House what strong action he is taking to claim jurisdictional control of the Laurentian sub-basin, as you had promised in the 1999 election campaign?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings up what is a very important point. We have hired very effective counsel to make our presentation to Ottawa when the arbitration process comes. It is the position of this government that the line that was established in the agreement of August 1986, that had been referred to in previous agreements, is the line that the Province of Nova Scotia insists is the line that divides our interests from the interests of Newfoundlanders.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the need here is to resolve this dispute quickly so that Cape Breton and Nova Scotia can maximize benefits in terms of jobs and growth of GDP. Mr. Premier, given your recent bargaining stances regarding CFB Shearwater, Atlantic Loto and Marine Atlantic, how can Nova Scotians have faith that you will serve their best interests in such an important matter as the control of the Laurentian sub-basin?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that this is a very important issue, as the previous government realized. It is of tremendous importance to the people of Cape Breton and we are pursuing this as aggressively as is possible. I would hope that we will have eventually a determination that the line as established in the agreement

[Page 1452]

signed in August 1986, signed by the Prime Minister of Canada and the then Premier of Nova Scotia, will be the line to separate the interests of Newfoundland from the Province of Nova Scotia. We are not interested in a negotiation. We are only interested in establishing our right to determining that is the line.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that still is not the answer that I am looking for and Nova Scotians are looking for. What we need here is strong leadership from this Premier.

AN HON. MEMBER: And a clear course.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: And a clear course to where the Premier is going with this, as he promised in the election campaign. (Applause) The Leader of the oft-referred-to Third Party in this House is very helpful and I would like to thank him for that.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the Premier if he would give a commitment today to contact Premier Tobin as soon as possible to sit down and discuss this matter Premier to Premier and, hopefully, resolve it very soon?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am really surprised that someone with the experience of the member opposite would suggest that. Premier Tobin has put in question a line that is determined by an agreement signed by Ottawa and Nova Scotia. I am not interested in negotiating with Premier Tobin, because negotiations could only result in an advantage for Newfoundland. I am not interested in giving Newfoundlanders an advantage. I want every advantage for the people of Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. I want the line established where it is by way of the agreements that have been signed by the Prime Minister of Canada and the then Premier of Nova Scotia. I am not interested in negotiating anything with Newfoundland.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: I know where the line should be. I know where the line . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect. (Applause)

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.: USER FEES - POLICY

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: I will stand in my place more often during Question Period for a response like that, Mr. Speaker. The Progressive Conservatives, like our Party, like Premier Binns of P.E.I., Premier Lord of New Brunswick, like the federal Member of

[Page 1453]

Parliament for Cumberland-Colchester, has come out strongly opposed to user fees on any kind of toll highways in this region. I was wondering if the Premier could share with us, as members of this Legislature, what he feels and tell us about his stand on toll highways?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the member opposite that he could borrow the blue book that the member for Dartmouth North has because the position of this government on toll highways is very clearly outlined. We are not going to be building toll highways. (Applause)

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn then to the part-time Minister of Transportation. In late September, this minister joined with his colleagues from across the country for a meeting in Saint John, New Brunswick and among the topics discussed were toll highways. I want to ask the part-time minister, what discussions did you have about the elimination of toll highways at this conference?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member opposite for the question. Obviously toll roads were very much a part of the conversations. We were looking at trying to put in place a national strategy and when you do that, you have to include all the provinces and territories, each with their own concerns. The Honourable David Collenette was very anxious that all the provinces would come to some agreement around toll roads. The position we put forward was that we are opposed to any additional toll roads, but the existence of the Cobequid Pass has serious financial implications for this province if we were to extract ourselves from that agreement.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, at that conference, in fact, I am under the impression that the Minister of Transportation and his colleagues discussed a statement that spoke of eliminating current and future toll highways. I think the people of Nova Scotia would be interested to hear this Tory, the part-time Minister of Transportation, explain to us why he refused to join other Ministers of Transportation in the support of that statement and to make it public here for Nova Scotians?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the only province to clearly articulate their position as being opposed to any toll roads was the Province of Newfoundland. In fact, New Brunswick spoke in support of the situation that exists in Nova Scotia. That is that any national strategy that included the existence of toll roads as having to be eliminated, would eliminate the ability of Nova Scotia to go forward financially as part of that plan. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

[Page 1454]

COMMUNICATIONS NOVA SCOTIA:

NEWS RELEASE - USE (PC CAUCUS [N.S.])

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for Communications Nova Scotia. Yesterday the minister refused to answer questions about the government's abuse of Communications Nova Scotia for Tory Party propaganda purposes. Now official Province of Nova Scotia news releases issued by Communications Nova Scotia are showing up on the Progressive Conservative caucus website. The department contact names on those releases have been replaced with the name of Kathleen Cameron, a Tory Party spin doctor. My question is, why is the minister allowing the Tory Party to plagiarize official government documents?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that is the most ridiculous statement I have ever heard. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a document issued by Communications Nova Scotia and putting it on the Liberal website, if you wish.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, a month ago, Dale Madill, the senior Tory PR person with Priorities and Planning, sent an e-mail across government. Dale Madill's e-mail said departmental communications staff would not brief Cabinet because they felt uncomfortable doing political duties. So my question to the minister is, does he feel it is appropriate to force departmental communications officers to perform partisan political tasks?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, unlike the previous government, this government does not use Communications Nova Scotia as a propaganda machine.

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, this is the same Tory Government that tries to circumvent free speech by sending out important news releases at 4:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon. (Interruptions) Honest. Will the minister commit to reassuring government communications officers that they will not be forced to act as Tory Party propagandists?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the Liberal caucus office has a web page which is linked directly to Communications Nova Scotia.

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

ECON. DEV. - MAC TIMBER: INVESTMENT - WISDOM

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I was truly disappointed today to learn that the Department of Economic Development has learned nothing from its association with Mac Timber. A senior official from the Economic Development Department told the Public Accounts Committee today that the department's investment in Mac Timber was a wise

[Page 1455]

choice. I want to ask the honourable Minister of Economic Development whether or not he shares the opinion of this failed investment and whether he thinks it was a wise investment?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, obviously with the wisdom of 20/20 hindsight, it was not a wise investment.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, today a top official in the minister's department made an important admission. He finally admitted that the Department of Economic Development knew of the lawsuit and the allegations of breaking the Softwood Lumber Agreement against Mac Timber and its owners, but the department went ahead with the investment in Mac Timber anyway. Yet the testimony of your official shows that the department has learned nothing from the fiasco.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DEXTER: My question is, why have you failed to make changes at the Department of Economic Development to ensure that you won't cost taxpayers and small business suppliers millions of dollars?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the department is currently reviewing all its policies and practices. We obviously are attempting to learn from mistakes. When you invest in businesses, you take risks. We try to ensure that the taxpayers' money is placed at minimal risk but obviously, when you have over 1,000 files, you are going to make some mistakes. It is unfortunate but it is fact of doing business.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, that member sat on this side and he demanded answers on Mac Timber and now I am demanding answers of him. I am going to ask the very same question that you asked the former minister, in your own words:

"Mr. Speaker, I guess it has been said that we need to learn from our mistakes. What lesson has your department learned from the Mac Timber fiasco? What steps are going to be taken to ensure that next week taxpayers don't face a similar problem?"

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, that was a very good question. Obviously we need to look at all the programs and policies. We are reviewing them as we speak and we are looking at how we can position Nova Scotia to be the best place in which to do business, or how we can grow the economy and that is what the main focus of the department will be and should be. (Applause)

[Page 1456]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

ENVIRON. - BADDECK: SEWAGE SYSTEM - STATUS

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the honourable Minister of the Environment. The government has indicated that tourism is a priority and has created a new Tourism Department with a minister at the helm. According to this Tory platform, roads would not be repaired unless it can be proved that tourism will benefit.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the Bras d'Or Lakes are a tourism tool in Nova Scotia. It is common knowledge that the Baddeck sewage treatment plant is discharging untreated sewage into the lakes. Could the minister please provide for the House today an update on the status of the upgrades to this overworked facility?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I cannot, at this time, give that commitment, however, I can assure the member that there is a very active discussion going on between the federal Department of the Environment and the provincial Department of the Environment to take care of many concerns, particularly in the Bras d'Or area with raw sewage going into the lakes and in other areas.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister, but the minister, I am sure, is well aware of the potential harm to industry and the economy in general around that area is very serious if this situation is allowed to continue. Would the minister please provide for us what consultations with the community have taken place to this date?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can give the honourable member that commitment, and I will endeavour to have the department prepare a paper for the honourable member.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, again I want to thank the minister. What he is telling me today is that the minister will commit today to following through on giving some information to the House as to the status of the upgrades to this facility?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, yes.

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

EXCO - CITIZENS COMM. (DEPT. APPOINTMENT):

SELECTION - H OF A COMM. (HR) REFER

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this government said they were going to do something about patronage. (Interruptions) We heard those platitudes from the Savage Government, and just like the Savage Government, this government is off to a bad start. The so-called Citizens Committee that will vet applications for appointments are themselves

[Page 1457]

secret. The government is asserting that the members of these committees do not have to be selected in an open competition, and in fact, the names don't even have to go forward to the Human Resources Committee. My question to the Premier is, why won't you order that appointments to the Citizens Committee be vetted by the Human Resources Committee?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, to the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, the so-called Citizens Committee or Selection Committee, it is called that in other provinces, are named by department officials, they are not named by the political wing of the government. (Interruptions) The process should be completed, perhaps as early as the end of this week, at which time those committees will be made public.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the member for Kings North has written op-ed pieces printed in the newspapers around this province, and I want to quote "selections to be made on merit and merit alone". What this government doesn't seem to realize is that secrecy is the mortal enemy of merit-based appointments. If members of the public can't verify the government's claims that the best people were selected, the selection system loses its legitimacy.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Question.

MR. DEXTER: My question to the Premier is why haven't you made public the terms of reference for the Citizens Committee?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. I would ask the honourable member to table that document please.

THE PREMIER: The member opposite asked how the committee got appointed, I told him. He asked who would be on the committee, I said we will tell him. I am really at a loss to understand the difficulty that the member opposite has. It would seem that the greatest difficulty the member opposite has is he is worried that the process will work. (Applause)

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this government's promise of open and accountable government has once again been revealed for what it is, hollow hypocrisy. (Interruptions) Only in Nova Scotia would a government claim that it is running an open government while setting a series of secret selection committees for public jobs.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Question.

MR. DEXTER: My question for the Premier is, why is the government going back to the good old days of jobs for the boys, when you had a chance to make a real difference?

[Page 1458]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the positions on the Selection Committee or the Citizens Committee, they are volunteer positions, they are meant to represent stakeholders for the departments, and the lists will be public. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

EDUC. - P3 SCHOOL: CANNING SITE - UNAVAILABILITY

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. It was announced in yesterday's paper that the deal for the site chosen for the new P3 school in Canning had fallen through and the developer would have to look for another site on which to build the school.

On Tuesday, September 7th, the Minister of Education said that she backed the Canning site for the school. My question for the minister is, when did she find out that the property in question was no longer available to the contractor who is building the school?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, it was on Thursday and Friday of last week that we first learned that there were difficulties between the builder and the owner of the land and there was a meeting scheduled on Friday for Monday between lawyers - that was cancelled Monday night. It became apparent earlier this week that we would have to look for another site.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the MLA for Kings North stated on September 9th that there might be a better way to educate the students from Kentville than sending them to a new school in Canning. My next question to the minister is, is the minister aware if any influence was brought to bear by the member for Kings North to cause the owner of the selected site in Canning to withdraw the offer to sell the property to the contractor? (Interruptions)

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of any such thing. (Interruptions)

MR. GAUDET: It is my understanding that an agreement of sale between a property owner and a purchaser is a legally binding document. My final question to the minister, Mr. Speaker, through you, has the minister requested that lawyers from the Department of Education investigate this mysterious, last-minute withdrawal of an offer to sell by the property owner and what is she going to do to have the air cleared on this matter?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear. (Applause)

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as I am sure the former Minister of Education is aware, as all these site selection processes and P3 processes were set up under his direction, the Department of Education is not buying the land. This is a private deal or non-deal between

[Page 1459]

the developer and the owner of the land and it remains a problem to be worked out by two private parties and does not include the Department of Education at that stage. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

AGRIC.: MIN. STAT. (26/10/99) - NON-DELIVERY

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to address my question to the acting Minister of Agriculture.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who is that?

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I would like to address my question to the Premier, please, Mr. Speaker, since this is Opposition Day.

I received a copy of a ministerial statement, Mr. Premier, that I expected the Minister of Agriculture to present to this House on October 26th. He did not. My question is, why didn't he? (Interruptions.)

THE PREMIER: That would be a question that would perhaps be very difficult for anyone other than the minister to answer. My understanding is the minister will be here tomorrow and you could address that question to him tomorrow. (Interruptions)

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I will address my first supplementary to the Minister of Finance. The minister should be aware that the dollars announced in the statement are not new dollars for the agricultural sector, but are previously allocated dollars that are now available over three years, rather than five. Is the minister going to add new dollars in order to put the programs back to the five year plan?

[4:15 p.m.]

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I don't intend to speak on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture, but the member brings up a very good point, that the Federation of Agriculture asks whether or not we, as a provincial government, would move the funding up to deal with the especially difficult drought position they have today. The member is absolutely correct. We listened to what they asked for and we came through and we put it in this year's budget. As to what will occur in future years, obviously the Minister of Agriculture should be the one to answer that question, but in regard to this one specific budget I am prepared to answer the question. That is what happened in this fiscal year and the member is correct in what he has heard.

[Page 1460]

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the 10 per cent grant for three years on the principle of loans taken out in 1998 is just that, a grant, and not a loan. Is the minister willing to provide grants to those who sold assets in order to prevent borrowing, so that they can replace those assets?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the question is a serious one and I am not prepared to speculate on such a serious issue. Really, the question can be asked to the minister. Today, for your information, the minister is in Sydney at the Cabinet Office representing the provincial government, giving access to that area.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - MARINE ATL. HQ.:

NORTH SYDNEY - RELOCATION

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Last week, in this House, I asked the Minister of Transportation and Public Works about protecting jobs in the Marine Atlantic Terminal in North Sydney, and I was disappointed by the reply that I received. The minister said the only plan the Tory Government has is to watch very carefully any move to relocate the head office and react at that time. My question to the Premier is, why isn't your government prepared to act now to keep those jobs from going to Newfoundland, instead of waiting and reacting at a later date? (Applause)

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I believe I heard the question. I did have some difficulty. I believe the question had to do with the jobs in North Sydney. The member opposite brought this matter to my attention. He had heard that there were negotiations going on between the Government of Newfoundland and Marine Atlantic relative to moving the control office of Marine Atlantic to Port aux Basques. I made inquires and was able to find out that, in fact, those meetings were not occurring, but the member brings up a very good point. There are a number of good jobs in North Sydney that, historically, have been in North Sydney. They belong in North Sydney and it is the position of this government that they will stay in North Sydney. (Applause)

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it is quite well known within the community that the Premier of Newfoundland is very busy lobbying Marine Atlantic officials as well as the federal Transportation Minister, David Collenette, to make that office move to Newfoundland. I am proud to say that the former Premier and my Leader, Russell MacLellan, negotiated a deal that benefited North Sydney. My question to the Premier is, what is he doing to protect these jobs?

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

[Page 1461]

MR. MARK PARENT: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wanted to raise a point of order because I think that the member for Clare accused me of influence peddling and I would like some clarification on this.

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

MR. PARENT: I would like some clarification on what exactly he said, and I would like clarification on what the honourable member for Clare meant. I wondered if he was accusing me of influence peddling in his question. I would like him to withdraw that comment if that is what he meant. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, on that point of order, maybe the member for Kings North can clarify whether or not he did make this statement. On September 9th, the member for Kings North said there might be a better way to educate the students from Kentville than sending them to a new school in Canning. Did he say that - yes or no? Is he in favour of the Canning site or is he in favour of his friend, the Mayor from Kentville. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. When the honourable member for Clare asked the question, I was speaking with the Clerk. I missed what the question was, but I will review Hansard, look at the question and I will rule tomorrow whether I feel it is a point of order.

The honourable New Democratic Party House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, if you would not mind adjusting the times for each of the debates, . . .

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, it was quite obvious, to me at least, as a member of this House, there was clearly 90 seconds left in Question Period.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, I don't think so.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I marked 4:19 p.m. The honourable New Democratic Party House Leader said 4:20 p.m., not me. I said 4:19 p.m.

The honourable New Democratic Party House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, you are correct.

[Page 1462]

MR. SPEAKER: I know I am.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, if I might suggest that the times that I distributed to the caucuses be adjusted slightly because of the time going into the order of business, Opposition Members' Business. So there would have to be two minutes added on the start times or later times for each of the persons speaking.

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable New Democratic Party House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Private Members' Public Bills for Second Reading.

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable New Democratic Party House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call for debate Bill No. 13.

Bill No. 13 - Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, we are here for second reading of Bill No. 13 and I move second reading of Bill No. 13 which is An Act to Amend Chapter 5 of the Acts of 1993, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. In moving second reading, I wish to make a few observations with respect to this bill.

Mr. Speaker, members will know that Nova Scotia was the first province in Canada to have a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Our first Act to that effect was passed in 1970. Although widely recognized as being flawed in many respects, it was an advance over all the other provinces since they did not have any legislation at all, but since the bill was widely recognized as having some flaws, there have been numerous suggestions over the years for improvements and changes to be made to it. That, indeed, is the thrust of the bill that we bring forward to the Legislature and are discussing today.

The bill that we bring forward does not come forward without specific, immediate, history. Members will know that the weaknesses of the bill having been identified early on were the subject of a study. This study was completed in 1996 and we have the report of the Advisory Committee on the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The committee is often referred to as the Jobb Committee since it was chaired by journalist, Dean Jobb. The committee did thorough work in its examination of the Act as it existed at that

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time. It held public hearings; it received submissions; it heard from municipalities; it heard from journalists; it heard from all of the entities that were excluded from the bill but which were being considered for inclusion under a new Act. Indeed, that was a specific part of the mandate of the Jobb Committee - to consider expansion of the mandate of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

In addition to that specific piece of its mandate, the Jobb Committee had a general mandate to look at any measures it considered appropriate to improve the existing provisions of the Act.

The report came forward in 1996 and very little occurred with respect to changes to that bill in the intervening years. In wondering whether anything ever would happen, I suppose the journalist in question must have been looked to for having the patience of Job. There has been a flurry of activity in recent days. In fact, when we introduced Bill No. 13 the other day, we did so based upon a predecessor piece of legislation that was introduced last year, Bill No. 44. We had identified every one of the 65 recommendations of the Jobb Committee and incorporated them into Bill No. 44 last year. Bill No. 13, this year, likewise incorporates each and every one of those recommendations.

The flurry of activity around freedom of information has, no doubt, been prompted by some of the recent difficulties surrounding the question of whether there is a loophole in the Act having to do with the possibility of ministers learning the names of applicants. I think there has been widespread recognition that this is a flaw in the bill.

Today a separate bill was introduced, also with the same title as Bill No. 13. So the members of the Legislature have in front of them two different bills, introduced virtually back-to-back, with the same title, approximately the same length, and dealing obviously with the same subject. So the real question that the members have to grapple with is which of these two bills they find preferable.

It is important in considering the first of the bills, Bill No. 13, to understand where or in which respects it differs from the bill that was put in front of the House by the honourable Minister of Justice today.

I have not had the chance in the last two or three hours to go through every detail of the new bill, but I have identified a number of significant differences. It is on the basis of those differences that I commend to the members of the House Bill No. 13, rather than the bill that was introduced today. The most important, significant, difference has to do with the applicability of the bill. Bill No. 13, our bill, makes the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act applicable to self-governing bodies, which is not, I believe, the case fully with respect to the government bill. (Interruptions) If I hear the minister correctly, he is suggesting that is not so.

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It is my understanding that whereas our bill does, I have not seen that his does. Ours includes a full Schedule B, listing the self-governing bodies to which our Act would apply. I believe the list in Schedule A and Schedule B in Bill No. 13 is a much more extensive list, in any event, than is offered in the government bill.

There is a second part to the question of applicability. Our bill, you will be interested to hear, Mr. Speaker, makes its provisions applicable to your office. The Office of the Speaker of the House of Assembly is specified in our bill. I don't see it specified in the government bill, so I believe the intention can only be to exclude the Office of the Speaker. Our intention in our bill was to respect the recommendations of the Jobb Committee.

[4:30 p.m.]

There is a second aspect in which we want to respect the recommendations of the Jobb Committee. This has to do with strengthening the independence of the office now held by the review officer, Mr. Darce Fardy. Our bill provides that incumbents are to be appointed to that position by the Governor in Council, but only after a resolution of this House. Likewise, there are saving provisions with respect to not removing from office this person who should be independent and be clearly seen to be independent.

That kind of independence is not provided for in the government's bill. Indeed, given the fact that the incumbent, who is widely seen as doing an excellent job, has never been appointed as anything on a basis other than an Order in Council appointment with payment, I believe, on a per diem basis. The government had the opportunity to declare its faith in the incumbent, when it brought forward its bill today, and say that it was going to make that position a long-term position for the benefit of that incumbent.

Given that there has been recent controversy surrounding that office involving Cabinet Ministers, I have to say that it was a big disappointment to hear the minister say today that there may be a competition for that position. Now I have no problem with a competition for that position at some point in the future, but I think it is only fair to the incumbent that there be now a direct statement that the incumbent will maintain that position for a sufficient length of time to guarantee him independence.

The last point of difference that I want to highlight is the important matter of the protection of the name of the applicant. On this matter, the Minister of Justice was completely clear today that there is nothing in the government's bill that would prevent a repetition of the events of the last two weeks in which a Cabinet Minister was informed of the name of an applicant and then took action to speak to that applicant. There is nothing in the government's bill that would prevent that.

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I have to admit that our bill is not completely clear on this either, and I think that that in fact is a flaw of ours, but I have to say that we are willing to see our bill amended to strengthen that part of it whereas the government has been clear that it is not interested in making those changes, and that is the essential point. In Clause 4(4) of our bill, we began to make moves in that direction, but we were not aware when that was originally drafted of this one possible loophole. I want to stress that we are prepared to see it strengthened and amended to fill that loophole. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on Bill No. 13. It is particularly appropriate that we have brought forward our legislation today that deals with this very subject matter as was promised in questions earlier in the House. I commend the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto with respect to the issue, because I know that the honourable member, like members from our Party, has long been interested in improving the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

I should begin by saying that with respect to the issue, our Party is committed to this subject. We brought forward a bill today, and we look forward to having our bill debated. As I indicated earlier in the questions from the press with respect to our bill, we welcome any amendments that might be suggested by Opposition Parties. We are prepared to look at those amendments to determine whether those amendments are in the best interests of Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, this issue is all about openness and accountability. That is what the Freedom of Information bill is all about and we have addressed that fact in our legislation. Let me give you some examples. One of the amendments proposed is a requirement that the administrator contact the applicant if the request put forward is too vague. The minister would also be required to assist the applicant in putting forward a more specific request, keeping reasonable costs in mind.

Mr. Speaker, this is common sense. It is also the current practice. If we proceed, as the honourable member is suggesting, we would be legislating changes that could and, in fact, should be handled through a more practical administrative approach. Simply put, some of the amendments of Bill No. 13 are better handled through more diligent attention to policies and procedures. We do not have to legislate the administrators' every move. We do have an obligation to ensure that administrators are properly training. We do have an obligation to ensure that policies and procedures are clear so that they might be consistently and fairly applied.

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The amendments that we see from this honourable member boil down to an attempt to legislate common sense. Another amendment would see the scope of the Act expanded. Been there, done that, Mr. Speaker. In fact, municipal units are now covered by the Act. They have been since April 1999. Unfortunately, the bill that was introduced is simply a regurgitation of the bill that was brought forward in the last session without recognizing the fact that legislation was passed with the support of all Parties in the spring session of the Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, our legislation immediately extends the Act to cover hospitals. The reason for that is simple. Many of the hospitals are currently covered under the existing Act. They are also quite familiar with dealing with matters of confidential patient information. This type of information and how it is disclosed is already handled appropriately and we include them now. We do extend the bill to school boards and universities within one year. That is simply to allow time for the proper training to take place. Again, adequate training is the key to consistent application of the Act. We intend to assist with the training process.

One of the fundamental flaws in Bill No. 13, Mr. Speaker, is the implicit view that all their recommendations put forward in 1996 should be implemented. The approach does not recognize what has been done since that time and suggests the Act is not working. That is not the case. The number of individuals using the Act is steadily increasing. We have every reason to believe the trend will continue. In fact, the average number of applications received annually has doubled since 1993.

The advisory committee made several recommendations that dealt with the independence of the review officer. Both the advisory committee and Bill No. 13 call for the creation of an office of the information commissioner. Mr. Speaker, the experience of other jurisdictions clearly demonstrates that that is an expensive option but not necessarily the most effective option. By appointing the review officer on a full-time basis for a minimum of five years, by providing a separate budget vote and a clause that ensures the review officer can only be removed during good behaviour, we are protecting the independence of that office.

I might say by way of information that I agree with the honourable member that the independence of the review officer is a very important issue. We agree with the honourable member that that is a very important issue. I would suggest that the bill that I had introduced earlier today guarantees the independence of the review officer. We also recognize that the current review process works. In fact, just as the review officer himself said this morning, he noted there is no indication that government does not respect the decision of his office based on the high compliance rate.

One of the other areas that greatly concerns me, Mr. Speaker, is the one that deals with solicitor-client privilege. If we were to adopt Bill No. 13, we would institute a ban on the use of solicitor-client privilege by government. We would be the only jurisdiction in Canada to do so. It would be wrong and it would defeat the ability of government to deal with litigation issues.

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Also, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of issues that were raised by the honourable member in the course of his discussion. One of them deals with self-governing societies. The only province in the country that includes self-governing societies is British Columbia. Frankly, I don't think it would be an advantage to the public of Nova Scotia to include self-governing societies.

With respect to the issue of the Speaker's Office, Mr. Speaker, no province in Canada includes the Speaker's Office. The Speaker's Office is accountable to the members of this House. That is the proper way of maintaining its independence and it is vital that the independence of the Speaker be maintained. The Speaker is not a part of government; that is not the way the Speaker is supposed to be operating. I would suggest that it would be inappropriate to suggest to the public that the Speaker is part of the government, as I am sure the Opposition Members have long been taking the position that that is not the case.

I believe I have only a minute or so to go. What is my time?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member finishes at 4:46 p.m.

MR. BAKER: I have lots of time. Thank you, very much. Frankly, I don't understand the thinking behind the amendments. Surely the honourable member opposite can see the need to protect the confidentiality of legal opinions. As a lawyer I am sure he understands that, even if the client happens to be the government. While there are many amendments pertaining to this bill, there are other things that are missing. The legislation that we have brought forward today provides several amendments that will improve the administration of the bill. As in any piece of legislation, there is always room for improvement, Mr. Speaker. We have recognized that; we have acted on that; and we will continue to act on that.

The reason that we are bringing forward these amendments is because we recognize the importance of amendments. As I indicated earlier in my discussion in the House, it is critically important that we have a dialogue with Opposition Members, from both of the Third Parties (Laughter) to make sure that the bill is a good bill. I am certainly not ruling out discussions with the honourable member opposite on how the bill can be approved, but I do suggest that there are certain fundamental philosophical differences between our bill and the honourable member's position, which we cannot support.

On the question of detail, I am very interested in hearing from the honourable member, as I am sure I will hear from the honourable member in the course of debate on our bill; in fact I would be extremely surprised if the honourable member was not his usual eloquent self in debate on the bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: You mean you are not supporting this one?

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MR. BAKER: No, Mr. Speaker, unfortunately we cannot support this bill because of the number of fundamental philosophical differences between this bill and the bill that we introduced. I can indicate that I would appreciate the honourable member's approval in the principle of the government bill and I would be prepared to work with that honourable member, as with the members of the Liberal Party, to make sure that the bill that comes forward is the very best bill possible.

Mr. Speaker, we brought forward the amendments that will not only broaden the scope of the bill and enhance the powers of the review officer, they will go a long way to providing Nova Scotians with open and accessible government. We are committed to that; we indicated in our platform that we were committed to that. In fact, the bill, as we brought forward, contains provisions dealing with the so-called P3 agreements, which will go a long way to answer, I think, the concerns of the honourable member opposite on P3 contracts. Clearly that has been a major issue for members of our caucus and for members of the New Democratic Party caucus, having access to those contracts.

I think we can agree, Mr. Speaker, that both Parties fundamentally believe that those contracts should be disclosed to the public in a timely fashion. There is no question that with respect to P3 contracts, the previous administration made a very determined effort to hide those contracts from Nova Scotians. Clearly, we have made it a record that we are not in favour of that approach. What we are in favour of is disclosing those agreements to Nova Scotians. The list of exclusions is very minimal with respect to P3 contracts, things like intellectual property and so forth and protection of safety.

For example, one of the issues that I am responsible for, Mr. Speaker, is the correctional facility. Clearly, we are not going to be disclosing the security arrangements at the correctional centre, as that might be contrary to the public interest to do so, but I think the honourable member would agree with me that those very limited exceptions do not take away from the fundamental agreement we have in principle, which is that P3 agreements ought to be disclosed to the public because, really, I know the honourable member, and members of the Liberal Party, will agree that it is of fundamental importance in this province that we disclose to the public, public business.

[4:45 p.m.]

I think that Nova Scotians can see that the system needs improving. We have dealt with the issue of much excitement lately which is the loophole in the law and this bill will make it perfectly clear that the name of an applicant or a third party will not be disclosed, Mr. Speaker, without their consent. I think we can agree, again, fundamentally on the importance of that principle. I look forward to working with honourable members opposite in bringing forward our bill. I hope for their support and I expect that a bill can be passed in this session. Thank you.

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

MR. JON CAREY: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to acknowledge two members of the Kings County Council that are visiting with us in the gallery, Mr. Wayne Atwater and Mr. Glen Joudrey. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak on Bill No. 13, an Act to Amend Chapter 5 of the Acts of 1993, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. I want to commend my colleague, the member for Halifax Chebucto, for bringing this bill forward. I think in many ways that his bringing this bill forward has helped prompt the Minister of Justice and the Tory Government to answer to this issue. I also think that our Party's questioning and the New Democratic Party's questioning in the last few days has also prompted the minister to bring forward these changes. (Interruptions) The minister says he intended to do it anyway. Well, it will be interesting to see how much more of their legislation will be coming forward as a knee-jerk reaction to the diligence of the Opposition here in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, one of the main issues that Nova Scotians are asking themselves today and are wondering about this Act and what it is going to do is; are these amendments going to prevent the situation we had last week where a Minister of the Crown approached a member of the media, indicating that he was aware that that member had made a request for information.

AN HON. MEMBER: Now who might you be talking about?

MR. SAMSON: Well, you know, Nova Scotians well know that it is the Minister of Human Resources. I think one of the issues that hasn't been raised in this, and I think which raises serious concern is that the request by that member of the media was made to the Premier's office, not the Minister of Human Resources and not to the Department of Human Resources, yet the minister was advised by the Premier's staff and told who the applicant was, the nature of the application, what information was being sought and then that information was given to the minister, which he used personally and went out and spoke to that particular person. I am not trying to be making accusations or anything but we are left to wonder who else was told of this application by the minister. That has never been made clear and I don't think in the minister's answers has he ever indicated to us that he has never discussed this with anyone else other than the individual he personally approached.

So what we are looking for today in the bill brought forward by the member for Halifax Chebucto, and also this morning - ironically, the bill briefing by our good Minister of Justice, it is so ironic that it was this afternoon just before the House sat and where we would be discussing Bill No. 13. I am sure it is all just irony. What we are looking for in both those

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pieces of legislation, which is not there, is a guarantee to Nova Scotians that when they do make application under this Act that their identity will not be revealed unless it absolutely has to; if they are requesting personal information in regard to their own file. Unfortunately, we don't see that in Bill No. 13, as the member for Halifax Chebucto alluded to himself, that that loophole has not been blocked, nor do we see it in the proposed bill brought forward by the Minister of Justice today.

That is the one thing, the one thing Nova Scotians were looking for after Question Period, after the press statements of what the Minister of Human Resources had done, what the Premier's staff had done, they were looking for that one assurance that this would never happen again, and it didn't happen, not in Bill No. 13, it is not in the proposed bill from the Minister of Justice. Yet the Minister of Justice basically in his statements is saying, I know, we haven't covered that loophole, but I am willing to listen to the Opposition and maybe make some amendments. But I have to ask myself, why? Why would the minister not cover that loophole? Is it an admission of guilt? Is it them saying, yes, we have done wrong and we are going to make sure it doesn't happen any more? Or, is he waiting and saying, well, no, I don't believe that we have done wrong, but if the Opposition really feels this way, in the spirit of cooperation and openness, then I will be willing to look at this amendment.

It is unfortunate that, once again, we see a lack of leadership from the Minister of Justice and from this government where they are again unwilling to admit they have done wrong, unwilling to say that they have violated the spirit of the Act, unwilling to say, we are going to make amends for our mistakes. They are again unable to say that. And for the Minister of Justice to have a bill briefing today for amendments to the Freedom of Information Act that do not prevent the situation that we had last week again shows the arrogance and the unwillingness to admit that they have done wrong. The minister tries to hide behind that by saying, well, I will listen to amendments from the Opposition - if you are really determined that ministers not be aware of the identity of the applicants, I would be willing to put that in, out of the spirit of cooperation.

The minister now says he hasn't said that, but I will tell you now, Mr. Speaker, that I figured that that would be the answer from the minister and I must say, I do not share his optimism that his bill in its current state will be passed in this session unless there are significant changes made to what is there, so that never again do we have Ministers of the Crown or any member of the government or employee of this government going around and telling people that they are aware of applications they have made under this Act, regardless of what their intentions are, that this should never happen again. Those guarantees must be made.

It is interesting that when the Minister of Justice was asked, how can you guarantee that none of your ministers will do this again? What is in the Act making sure that this will not happen? The minister said, well, there is nothing in the Act but, he said, if there is anything from last week, I think that we have learned and it shouldn't happen again. What that told me

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is that the minister went to the following Cabinet meeting and he said, listen up, boys and girls, I have got one statement to make. Listen carefully - loose lips sink ships - don't do it again. Well, that is very little comfort for the people of Nova Scotia, because we have seen time and time again that this government has, in many ways, done actions which were contrary to what Nova Scotians felt was just. They did it in disbanding the regional health boards, they did it in taking the money from the charities, through the Sydney casino and they did it again last week with the Freedom of Information Act.

Once again, that is a commitment that we will look to get from the Minister of Justice and from his government. I must say I do share the Minister of Justice's concerns, as does my caucus, with the attempt by the member for Halifax Chebucto to include the Speaker's Office in these bodies and I have to ask, what is the real intent of doing this? I must question why - as the Minister of Justice indicated - the Speaker's Office, which is an independent body, which is not part of government, why is the NDP determined to have this office fall under this Act so that all inquiries about this independent body can be answered? I cannot help but question the motive behind that, and I am sure we may have the opportunity, that the member for Halifax Chebucto will be able to further discuss that, should we have cooperation in the

House today in regard to this particular bill.

The other statement by the Minister of Justice in regard to Bill No. 13 is, he talks about P3 and that P3 will now be open and that unlike the former Liberal Government which was trying to hide everything, we are going to open everything up and we are doing that by including that in this Act. Well, with all due respect, Mr. Minister, there is an easy way to live up to your commitment, which you are trying to argue here in this House when attacking the former government. Simply open up the books on P3. Have a bill briefing or have some sort of a big announcement. Bring in the books, darken out what you don't want known and drop them on the table.

Why wait for the Leader of the New Democratic Party or the member for Richmond or a member of the media to request this information? If you are so willing to make P3 information open after condemning our government, open up the books. Why force Nova Scotians to have to make the freedom of information request on this information that the minister and his government are so intent on making public? Why does the Minister of Education not walk into this House and table all relevant information in regard to P3 leases?

If you are sincere about what you say, why the 30 day delay in getting this information? Why not just walk in here, say, we are an open and accountable government, we feel this should be open, bad Liberals, bad Liberals, here, we are going to make it better. Instead, they go so far in their commitments and then they pull back, and they say, no, open and accountable only go so far if you are a Tory in the Province of Nova Scotia. We will take you so far and then when you get there, we will put up a few obstacles and delay your path to getting this information. That is what they have done again today.

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As much as they try to justify their actions and make Nova Scotians believe they are this new open and accountable government, nobody is buying it. Certainly the Opposition is not buying it, our Party is not buying it and Nova Scotians at home aren't buying it. If you really mean what you say, table the information with the House. Table it with the media, table it with Nova Scotians. Don't make them have to go through bureaucratic red tape to be able to get at this information. That should be open to them.

The other serious issue that I have is in regard to this Act applying to hospitals. I think we all agree with the spirit of the Act, that as much information as possible should be made available. I think of Richmond County and I think of St. Ann's Nursing Centre and the Strait- Richmond Hospital, they are maxed out. They do not have the resources for a Freedom of Information officer. My question is, is this government willing to put more money into assisting these hospitals with this, or is it going to mean bed closures or other services cut back because of the added bureaucracy that is being put in? I know that is in Bill No. 13, and maybe the minister can clarify whether that is part of the bill he has brought in today.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, in response to the question asked by the honourable member. In fact, in the government of which he was a member, regional health boards were covered under the existing Act so that, frankly, the hospital of which he just referred, which is part of the hospital system of the regional hospital boards, was covered under the existing Act. In answer to his question, in fact, just a matter of information for the member that the issue that he brought up was taken care of by his government when they regionalized health care.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time for the honourable member for Richmond has expired.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I am wondering if the Minister of Justice would be so kind as to introduce to the members of this House the obvious source of information that he has here in this gallery, who has so diligently provided him with this information for him to hide behind, once again, behind an answer. I am wondering if he could just introduce that member for the House so this mysterious informant, in the sense of openness and accountability and the fact that we are discussing the freedom of information, I would ask if he would be so kind as to introduce his informant here with us in the House today.

MR. BAKER: First of all, as a result of my previous briefing by the mysterious gentleman in the gallery, I already knew that. In any event, there is a saying, I look into the heavens, whence cometh my help. (Laughter) But for the benefit of the gentleman opposite, Mr. Doherty is with the Department of Justice, and is very learned in this subject and has therefore educated the minister.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to get to my feet and speak a bit on Bill No. 13. For those members new to this House, who wonder how things work, you have just gotten an indication of how Opposition Day tends to work from time to time. We brought in a bill yesterday, in this House. The government said, we are going to deal with

freedom of information, we are going to introduce amendments to the bill any day soon. Not that we questioned their commitment or their timetable at all, but we thought in the interests of trying to get it done that we would bring such a bill in this week and ensure that, in fact, if we could push the government ever so slightly to respond by bringing in a bill, we would do whatever we could. I think it is fair to say that that is exactly what has happened in this case.

[5:00 p.m.]

We are here to deal with, basically, amendments to the Freedom of Information Act, and call it Bill No. 13, whether it is the bill that we are talking about today or whether it is the bill that the government introduced this afternoon, trying to pre-empt us, it doesn't really matter to us. We want to deal with changes to the Freedom of Information Act and the Minister of Justice is being oh so coy to try to point out what he referred to as fundamental philosophical differences between Bill No. 13 and the bill that they introduced, and he himself couldn't prevent himself from smiling when he said that because clearly that is nothing but mere theatre, Mr. Speaker. The bills are similar; there are some differences and those differences will be dealt with in debate.

Essentially the point is this: In 1996, an important committee representative of people who were learned in the need for access to information from public bodies, took the opportunity to study the question of freedom of information as it existed across the country and came up with a number of recommendations, 65 to be exact. It was a unanimous report and it was hailed by all Parties at the time in this Legislature. It was a clear-headed look at the whole question of freedom of information, a way to make the business of government more transparent and more effective, and these were not people who didn't understand the workings of government and the fact that some things would be subject to confidentiality rules. They believed, as do many Nova Scotians, as do many Canadians, as do members of this House, that many aspects of the way this government worked need to be dealt with in a manner much more transparent than what exists in the current situation. So our Bill No. 13 was an attempt to deal with some of these.

The honourable member for Richmond, when he was speaking earlier, mentioned some concerns about why the NDP is trying to bring in the Speaker's Office, and thought maybe we had some nefarious intent to do that, but in fact we were simply responding to Recommendation No. 20 of the Jobb Committee's Report that ensured that the Speaker's Office was subject to the Act, with certain conditions. They felt that would be important; the

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Speaker's Office was a public body. It doesn't have anything to do with the independence of the Office of the Speaker from government, it has to do with the fact that it is a public body and the information under its control should be made available to the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of things that I want to make sure I do address and underline. We raised some concerns last week about the operations of the Freedom of Information Act as it pertained to the confidentiality of applicants. Now the Premier and others, I would suggest, have been trying to hide behind the lack of clarity in the Act, although I think the spirit of the Act is quite clear. I think the information commissioner has been quite clear in some of his decisions about the need for the applicants' name to be held in confidence.

I refer back to a decision by the commissioner in 1998, actually September 30th, where he said - and I would be happy to table this - "Again, the name of the applicant is irrelevant and should be known only to those public employees who process the application and/or must contact the applicant." He goes on to say, "Human nature would suggest that knowing the identity of an applicant could influence the reaction of a third party notified of the application as well as influence the public body's response to an application.". As he points out, applicants have a right to protection under Section 20.

When we discussed that issue in this House as it pertained to the Premier's Office releasing the information to the Minister of Human Resources and then him approaching the applicant, I was asked if I thought the minister intimidated the applicant. I said that is not even the issue, whether he did or whether he did not. That applicant said at one point he did not feel intimidated, but what I suggested is that the very fact the minister approached that applicant, that the applicant understood the minister knew this application had been filed by this individual, raised some concerns.

I will point out the problem that I was getting to in my comments. I said that this knowledge and the fact that this information was not being held confidential would put a chill on applicants filing these requests. I would say to the Minister of Justice that we have had a call this week from an individual, a public servant, who has made an application under the Act and when he heard about the issue that we dealt with at the end of last week, it caused him some considerable concern. He was beside himself that his job would be in jeopardy because he made this application and if, in fact, his name became known to the minister or the Premier's Office, that that would cause some concern. Had he known that, he would not have filed that application. That is exactly the point that I am trying to make and the member for Halifax Chebucto was trying to make in his comments earlier today, confidentiality needs to be strengthened, Mr. Speaker.

The minister said earlier that we do not need to legislate administrators' every move and that may be well and good, but I think we have seen an example of the fact that we do need to be more clear about what the expectations are of administrators and what their

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responsibilities are. I mean administrators of the Freedom of Information Act, because clearly in this case the people who were given the responsibility of administering this Act did not understand, or failed to properly follow the guidelines of the Act and, therefore, problems arose. It is not simply a matter that we need to ensure that administrators are properly educated and informed of these issues, that is not going to deal with it, we have to strengthen this area, Mr. Speaker.

The other issue was the independence of the commissioner and I say, again, to the Minister of Justice, I believe that the current commissioner should be given the first option of being grandfathered into this new position that is going to be set up for five years. This commissioner has toiled, on a part-time basis supposedly, for a number of years and now on a more regular time period and I believe that he has shown not only a deep understanding of freedom of information and the Act itself, but the way to administer it. I think it would be in the province's best interests, and it would be fair that given the fact that the current administrator understands his responsibilities and has carried his duties out well, that he, in fact, should be the individual who gets this appointment.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker - you have indicated my time is running out - I want to say that Bill No. 13 was nothing more and nothing less than an attempt to get this government to deal with necessary amendments, as recommended by the Jobb Committee, to the Freedom of Information Act. I do not care whether they do it through Bill No. 13 or through their own bill that the Minister of Justice tabled here today, let's get it done. Let's follow through and make sure that in this session of the Legislature we debate and pass amendments to the Freedom of Information Act once and for all. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable New Democratic Party House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Motions Other Than Government Motions.

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable New Democratic Party House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 404.

Res. No. 404, re Bus. & Cons. Serv. - Gasoline: Pricing Predatory Ban - Legislation Intro. - notice given Nov. 1/99 - (Mr. J. Holm)

[Page 1476]

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to bring this resolution forward and I am looking forward to anticipated cooperation from the government on this matter as well. Certainly we brought forward a resolution a couple of weeks ago dealing with the lobbyists registration and the government made a commitment that they would introduce legislation to address that. We pushed on amendments for the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, with regard to both Question Period in this House and the introduction of legislation. Now we have a commitment, in fact we actually have a bill, that is going in the right direction.

What I am proposing this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, is something which also had previously, during the summertime, anyway, when the Premier was responding to questions about the prices that Nova Scotians are having to pay for gasoline products, appeared to have the support of the government and we certainly want to move this forward. The resolution that I have introduced is pointing out that Nova Scotians have suffered for many years from what is called predatory pricing practices, which I will explain in a few minutes. These are practices that have been used by the big oil companies to discipline anybody, mainly the independents, into what is called price compliance, in other words, charging the same retail price as the big boys charge at their points.

Mr. Speaker, I was in this House, and I have no hesitation in saying that I objected, very strenuously, to a move by the previous Progressive Conservative Government to end the regulations of the gasoline industry. When the Cameron Government had deregulated the industry and removed from the Utility and Review Board the ability to set the maximum prices that could be charged for gasoline and home heating products, the arguments that were put forward, at that time, were partially correct. What they argued was that by deregulating the industry, it would make it easier for others, primarily independents, to get into the business. That, we all, even at that time, acknowledged was a good thing and that that would happen as a result of the deregulations.

We were also told that Nova Scotians would benefit by having lower prices because of increased competition as a result of these independents coming into the market place. Of course, as the logic would have it, the more suppliers you have, the greater the competition and, therefore, the better the deal for consumers. So on that logic, certainly, Mr. Speaker, that made some sense. But herein lies the problem. We can go out, whether it is to purchase your home heating fuel or your gasoline when you go to fill up one of your vehicles, and we can go and choose a number of different sites that we will order our product from. But those who are selling the product to us, those who are pumping the gas into our gas tanks, or whose facility we drive into and pump our own gas, they don't have the luxury of being able to purchase from many different sites. We only have one main refiner, unfortunately, in the Province of Nova Scotia. Those companies have agreements.

[Page 1477]

So, for example, if the Esso Refinery here, the Ultramar people would be purchasing, in another area, the gasoline products from here, I should say, maybe let's say from the Esso Refinery and Esso would purchase from an Ultramar Refinery in Quebec to distribute in those areas. They have agreements that they charge each other the same price. (Interruption) The member opposite says there is nothing wrong with that, that member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. You are absolutely right. There is nothing wrong with that and I have no problem with that. But the problem is that independents do not have choices and they do not buy gasoline, the ones located in Nova Scotia and Quebec.

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, a few years ago we had a price war in Nova Scotia. Here is the problem. We had a price war where a couple of companies decided that they wanted to increase their market share by shaving their profits and charging less for their petroleum product than the competition, which was great. Then what happened was that the big boys decided that they would discipline those independents. What they did is they said okay, fine, you want a price war, we'll have a price war. You want to drop your price - let's say down to 46 cents - we'll drop ours down to 44 cents. You have to buy the gasoline that you sell from us to resell at your stations. We provide it to everybody. They sell it to themselves for 46 cents a litre, they can sell it, make no loss when they sell it out of their own flag stations, but then they sell it to the independents for 48 cents, but they have already dropped their price, so that the situation was that those independents, for every litre they sold lost a penny or two per litre.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Shame! Shame!

MR. HOLM: The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley agrees with me. That is a shame, because what they were forcing those independents to do was to sell at a loss because the big boys controlled the wholesale price of that product. So those independents were faced with a choice, we either agree that we will be price compliant, so whatever price the big boys set, we will match them. They can no longer have competition because if they try to reduce their price below that charged by the large players, then, Mr. Speaker, in a price war where they have to buy their product from the competition, they are bankrupt.

What we are proposing is not a complicated thing, it is not something that will be costing the government money, Mr. Speaker, and it is not a new and novel idea. This is done in many of the U.S. states. What it would state is simply this, that the refinery and any of those who are doing wholesale would have to post their price. They would have to publicly post what the price is that they are selling their product for. Then they would have to sell their product to the independents and any others who are buying that product for resale for exactly the same price that they would sell it to their own flag stations.

[Page 1478]

In many U.S. states, if a company violates that, the fines are extremely heavy and their executives can actually go to jail. If that were done, if the independents could buy it at exactly the same price as the flagships for the refineries, then you will have true competition in the retail market because then those independents will be able to complete. If they are able to be more efficient and keep the price lower and deliver the product to Nova Scotians at a lower cost, we all win.

I also want to remind you, Mr. Speaker, that for every one cent, every cent that is spent on gasoline products, higher than we have to, that is $12 million annually out of the pockets of Nova Scotians. So if we bring forward legislation that requires fair competition, we will be providing the opportunity for competition and the savings of millions of dollars across this province. That's dollars in the pockets of each and every one of your constituents and dollar savings for all of the businesses that depend on petroleum products. It's big bucks.

The solution is not complicated. You post the price. Anybody who is then buying it will know what the price is that is posted. They will see the price that they are being charged and they can be assured that they are paying the fair market price for it. Mr. Speaker, should the government believe, and I know because we had some of this discussion with the Minister of Business and Consumer Services in his estimates. The concern was, well, maybe then what the companies will do is just crank up the wholesale price at the refinery and charge more there.

Mr. Speaker, it is not too difficult, and the prices are posted all the time, across this country as to what the wholesale price is at the refinery gates. The government has one other major club. (Interruption) I am not now because I know there is no chance that this government would agree with it anyway, but the government does still have the ability to regulate the maximum prices through the Utility and Review Board. If the government was to discover that the companies that run those refineries are acting improperly and by charging a higher cost at the wholesale level than can be justified, compared to the prices being charged across the rest of the country, the government has the ability to tell them you either treat Nova Scotians fairly or we return to a regulated system, the kind of system that still exists in Prince Edward Island, where, as a result of that, people from P.E.I. have benefited from lower prices than we have.

Mr. Speaker, what we are saying is put in place a system that will ensure that there is a level playing field in the purchasing at the wholesale level. Then you can have true competition and each and every Nova Scotian would benefit. As I take my place, I don't even think that that disagrees with what I am saying, with the so-called philosophy of the Progressive Conservative Party of saying that we should have free and open and fair competition in the marketplace. In fact, I believe it supports that principle.

[Page 1479]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to say before I make my comments that I respect the opinions of the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid in regard to this issue. (Interruptions) No, no, there is no "but". I say on this issue because we have had differences of opinions on many other ones, but on this one here it is an issue he has brought up in the past. I think even when I used to be in Cabinet in my previous term, these are some of the things he brought up at that time and he is doing it again, so I know that he is sincere in his comments. I will make that observation before I begin my comments.

Gasoline prices is obviously something that is very much in the eyes of the people of Nova Scotia, especially in the last three to six months there have been some major increases in gas prices, some huge swings in the way that prices, especially in Nova Scotia, have changed. People are concerned about it.

There are a lot of things we don't understand, Mr. Speaker. Part of it is that for a long time prices in Halifax were much lower than they were in your area and in my area, and even then there were still a lot of other anomalies. I remember going through Bridgewater on my way down to Yarmouth. Many times the prices in Bridgewater were higher than they were in Yarmouth County. I could not understand why this came about. A lot of people are perplexed as to why this was.

When I say, especially the differences in there, I am not really sure that this bill would change that, to be candid about it, because it always begs the question. To say that when I look overall at the gas prices in Nova Scotia, whether or not they are in line with other provinces, and I know a lot of people were making mention of the fact that when the prices were going up they were saying that Nova Scotia was higher than New Brunswick - some of the people in my area were saying that. I went to the Sommet de francophonie in Moncton and the prices there were in line with what was being charged here. So I think that across Canada Nova Scotia is pretty well in the same type of situation of most of the provinces. The only exception is Prince Edward Island, where they do have regulated gas prices and it is run through the URB. So the situation across Canada is very much the same as it is here in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, when I look at the comments brought forward by the honourable member, and it is in reference to the bill that they have on their order paper, I believe it is Bill No. 4, where we talk about having the prices posted at the refinery and having it regulated, this is something that I committed to the member when we do the estimates that we would take a look at. We are now in the process of looking at options on how we can deal with the gas prices and how they are managed within this province.

[Page 1480]

I indicated to the member that I would take his input into consideration and I stand here today and say again that I am trying to have an open mind. We don't have a monopoly on all the good ideas in this House and neither does he. I think if we listen to what other people have to say sometimes, we might even agree on occasion. That has happened in the past. It doesn't happen all that often, but it does happen. When it does, hopefully we will make some positive changes.

I look back at the fact that we would have a base price, or a posted price I think was the word he used. We are doing some research within my department. I would like to say that he makes mention that many states in the United States have this, and I am not altogether sure that many states have it, but I know that some states have it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, 23.

MR. LEBLANC: He says 23. That could be. I haven't done the research and I haven't asked staff as to how many states overall have it, so it is a valid question and it is one that I will have my staff look into. There is some opinion that when you also have a base price being at the refinery that sometimes that can be an incentive for lack of competition in trying to keep prices high. That is a concern that I have had some express to me, which I am going to be looking at. I made mention of this to the member yesterday in some discussions with him, that I want to investigate that and I made mention to him that I would do it. I stand here today and say the same thing.

I want to look at some of the reason why we are having an increase in prices. When the prices go up, of course, the reason that we are having these price increases, Mr. Speaker, is the fact that crude oil has gone through the roof, from about $12 to $24 to $26. I am not sure just where it is today, but it has gone up quite a bit. That is having an impact on increases in fuel prices. A lot of people find it strange that when the price goes up in crude, the prices go up very quickly, but when the crude prices go down, somehow it doesn't go the same way on the downward slope. That is something that I think a lot of us have seen in the past.

To go back to P.E.I. When prices go up here very quickly, in P.E.I. they go up slowly because they have to make application to the URB. This has been a consistent increase every two weeks, or every week or two, there were increases coming across. When you have a regulated body, it takes longer for the prices to come up because you have to make application, and there has to be hearings and, as such, that will keep that from occurring very quickly. So that is part of the reason why we have a difference with P.E.I.

I should also point out the P.E.I. does not have the H.S.T. and that accounts for a difference of almost 4 to 4.5 cents. If you want to compare the prices of gas in P.E.I., versus Nova Scotia, you should put that into the equation because that is a difference in taxation that we have amongst the other provinces. New Brunswick and ourselves are in the same boat on that one and I think it is very important.

[Page 1481]

There is one thing that the member said that I do agree with, one specific. The point is about the big stick. I agree with this, that our philosophy, and it appeared to be even his philosophy, is not one I am going back to, a regulated gasoline monitoring. The Premier has been adamant about this and I am also, that we should send a signal out, and I believe we are, that we have to get some cooperation from the gasoline companies to bring about some rationalization as to how we are doing pricing in regard to this.

The member brings up a point that there is a big-stick approach. We think that we are letting the free market, in a sense, set the prices and since the point that we brought in deregulation, I believe, overall, that for Nova Scotians it has been positive. I would like to say that, especially the last few months here, when prices go up, it makes it very difficult to try to understand whether the price increases are just or whether they are not. That is something that we are going to be studying within our department.

To go back to the big stick that I made reference to, if the oil companies are responsible, then we will work with them to try to make sure that we get the advantages of deregulation for the citizens of Nova Scotia. If they are irresponsible, then I think Nova Scotians would want us to look at that big-stick approach that you made comments to in your speech and in your comments on this bill. That is one thing that we would like to look at.

We just brought about some changes, Mr. Speaker, in regulations and how we deal with the big gas companies. I think that you made reference to that. Even in Clause 15 where they can no longer charge for promotions, a lot of the retail gas dealers that we are talking about were of the opinion that it was unfair for them to be charged for retailing programs that they had. Specifically, the one that took the most issue was the PetroCanada ones. I have had a lot dealers come to me and say that we are being charged for a program, whether or not we want to and we have had some hearings in this regard. The previous government started this some time ago, it appeared, to be candid, they were being quite wishy-washy, the process took a long time to be brought about. Finally that came to a head and last week the decision was made that under the Section 15 that would be strengthened that they couldn't charge for these promotions.

[5:30 p.m.]

I would like to say that I agree with that position. It was one of the platform promises that we had. At the same time, there was a public process and the recommendations that came out of department were in line with what we were saying. We were in keeping with what we committed to do, at the same time we kept the integrity of the process and even the public hearings that took place on that.

[Page 1482]

I am very pleased that that came about, and I know that the feedback that we have gotten from the retail gasoline association has been positive. It is one that they feel that they, as a so-called little person, have had their fair hearing on this. I think it is very appropriate that I make mention of it when we get into this.

I would like to say that for ourselves, the review that we are doing within our department is one that seems on the face of it, that there is no simple answers to how we will deal with this. When I say there is no simple answer, there is probably no one venue that will lead to some understanding by the public as to how prices are set. When I say that, the questions that are asked mostly by the public are of how we are setting prices, they don't understand it and they want to understand how this system can bring about such differentials in prices, whether it be from Halifax to Yarmouth or even Halifax to Sackville, why we sometimes have gas wars. Those are all questions that they don't understand. They would like to have some understanding.

The one point that this bill is really bringing about is the protection of the independent dealer. I think that if you look at the intent of this, it is to protect the independents. Really, that is the main gist of this bill, if you look at it. I just want to make sure, when we are talking in debate on this that we understand that the staff - and we have had some discussions in the estimates, that around 1991, the independents basically had about 9 per cent of the market, and today they still have 9 per cent. They have persevered, whether they should have grown - this is the position that the member had - is a question that hopefully we will be able to address when we do the review.

Overall, that is really the purpose of this, to protect the independents. We only have one refinery and that is the Imperial Oil Refinery, and the member brings up a good point. There is another refinery in the area, of course, that is the Saint John Refinery, but that is pretty well exclusively used for the Irving franchise or empire or however you want to say it. They are a very large company, I think we all know that.

We are into a situation that for ourselves in Nova Scotia, we want to make sure that we have access to these refineries and especially that the independents will have it, because I think they have played a major role in bringing down prices on certain occasions in the province. Right now that is not the case. We are into a situation that prices are up. As I look at the prices starting to go down and supposedly the indication is that crude prices will go down. I just hope that the gas companies bring the prices down as fast as they brought them up. Nova Scotians should have the benefits when prices go down in crude, as much as they had to pay the penalty when the prices went up. We deserve no less consideration by the oil companies. (Applause)

[Page 1483]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes. (Applause)

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and speak on Resolution No. 404. This issue, of course, is an issue that I carry close to my heart and I appreciate the opportunity to speak on behalf of my Party. I have worked in this industry and I know a little bit about how big oil companies work. This is an issue that I have wanted to raise here, and I am looking forward to speaking on this issue in the future, as well as today.

As I drive around my constituency, I hear a lot about the concerns about the price of gas and of course the price of heating oil. On behalf of my constituents, I must agree with parts of this resolution. Nova Scotians deserve to pay a fair price for gas and home heating oil. I agree with this absolutely, positively, as the MLA for Preston would say. I will talk about this a little more, Mr. Speaker, in a few moments.

But there are parts of this resolution I must disagree with, and a part of the Resolution No. 404 says, "Whereas the increased HST tax burden of recent years has only compounded these predatory practices;".

Mr. Speaker, this is a classic line, I believe, for the NDP. In fact, I have heard this line many times before and the last time I recall was in 1998 during the provincial election campaign. The NDP were not able to keep their facts straight during that election - I guess that is because they rarely ever use facts, regardless of whatever issue they are speaking about. (Interruptions.) During that particular election, Mr. Speaker, the NDP tried to convince Nova Scotians that they were paying more for home heating oil during the winter of 1998 because of the HST. Of course, we are all very well aware that this is not so. In fact, home heating oil, with the tax included, cost less in 1998 than it did a year earlier.

So it is hard to believe when the NDP talk about things like this, the facts certainly are obviously not straight. The truth is, small businesses in Nova Scotia are all in agreement with the HST. The Nova Scotia Federation of Independent Business indicates very clearly that tinkering with the tax structure now would be a disaster for small business. Mr. Speaker, they make that statement very clear.

I think I understand what this resolution is trying to do and what it is trying to get at. The NDP want the Tories to regulate gas prices in Nova Scotia. Of course, the Tory Government simply cannot do this because that means they would have to break another election promise. Regulating gas prices would also break a promise the Tories made in the Speech from the Throne. Of course we are all very well aware that the Tories' Throne Speech said the government would stop interfering in the economy. That is very clear within that speech, Mr. Speaker. The Throne Speech said, and I quote: "Government should not try to direct or control the natural economic growth of the province.". But this promise has already been broken several times, we are very well aware of that.

[Page 1484]

Last week the Minister of Business and Consumer Services announced changes to the motive fuel Act and I found it very funny, personally, that the minister and this Tory Government are taking credit for this change to the regulations. Yes, the Tories did promise this in the election campaign. They made 243 other promises as well, some of which have already, as we are very well aware, been broken.

In fact, it was the former Liberal Minister of Business and Consumer Services, the Honourable Robbie Harrison, who started this process. They know that, we know that and the NDP know that. In fact, it was the Liberal Government that started the consultation process, so all Parties involved in the House are very well aware of that issue.

Last week's announcement said this change will be good for small gas retailers and that remains to be seen as yet, although I am aware of at least one retailer that did support that prerogative from the provincial government. The results, Mr. Speaker, remain to be seen. I worked in this industry for several years and I know something about how big gas companies work. I know that they take their pound of flesh where they can get it and I am very well aware of that. If they are not allowed to download the cost of promotions on the small retailers, they will find another way to get their money. That is obvious. It has been proven time and time again.

The government may have plugged one loophole, but they have forced the gas companies to find new, more creative ways to overcharge the small gas retailer.

Maybe the minister is correct. It may be that this government has to be correct some time. Since I have been in this House, of course, it has not been very often, but perhaps their good fortunes in the future, sometimes they may be correct. (Interruption) Yes, I hope I will be here representing the good people of Cape Breton The Lakes.

This change may be good for the small retailers, but it does nothing for the consumer, Mr. Speaker, and that is where my concern is and my Party's concern is for the consumer. People in my riding are concerned about the price of gas and home heating oil in our area and I am familiar that throughout the Province of Nova Scotia everywhere it is a concern. Just last week a flock of cars lined up in Membertou because gas prices were 5 cents lower than anywhere else within the province. It does not make much sense, but what I do understand is that this government is doing nothing to help consumers and that is where our priority should lay - helping the consumer.

Perhaps the Tories are afraid to take on these big gas companies and I do not know why. In that regard, I do not think the minister has gone far enough. He needs to take a tougher stand, Mr. Speaker, but is the regulation of gas prices the right way to go? P.E.I. regulates gas prices and I have heard over there that the price just jumped by 5 cents a litre. The people in P.E.I. probably do not believe, or at least do not think that gas regulations is a good way either. Now I hear that Newfoundland is also looking into regulating gas prices.

[Page 1485]

The Newfoundland Energy Minister is expecting a report by December on what options are available.

Newfoundland wants a system that will require oil companies to justify their prices and that is important, Mr. Speaker. Consumers then would get advance notice of any price increases. This will not bring down the price of gas, but it may prevent any sudden jump at the pumps. Maybe this Tory Government should keep a close eye on what Newfoundland is doing and they may be able to learn what their approach is. Lord knows that Brian Tobin already has the jump on us, especially when it comes to stealing Marine Atlantic jobs from the Town of North Sydney, or the former Town of North Sydney.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I may agree with parts of this resolution. Indeed, Nova Scotians deserve to be treated fairly when it comes to the price of gas and home heating fuel, but I do not think this resolution really addresses some of the larger issues like what place does regulation have in a free market economy? I look forward to talking in the future about this issue and I make the commitment here that we will be discussing this at a future date. I will enjoy the opportunity to discuss this at length. Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to speak on this. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure where that leaves us. I would have thought, hearing the two previous speeches, that we might have unanimous consent to this resolution. It is far from clear to me why it is that there is some indication that some of the other Parties might not be voting in favour of this resolution. In fact, now that I think about it, I am extremely surprised that when the resolution was brought forward on November 1st, that someone came forward with a no. This seems to me amazing, given the more detailed comments that we have heard today. I did try to pick out from the comments of the two previous speakers what exactly they objected to and it was far from clear.

In the case of the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes, it seems to me that the closest he got to laying a glove on the resolution was to say that he did not like one of the Whereas clauses, "Whereas the increased HST tax burden of recent years . . .". Well, he objected to that. He found that profoundly offensive apparently and on the basis of a passing reference in the resolution, or in the preamble to the actual content of the resolution, he seemed to think that that was a basis for withholding his support for it. It may have been that on November 1st, on the basis of this offensive recital, he was the one who raised his voice in naying the resolution, but I find it hard to imagine that it could really be the case that he would seriously take such extreme objection to the recital to the point of objecting to the main thrust of the resolution itself, since it speaks of, ". . . ensure Nova Scotians pay fair prices for gasoline and home heating products.".

[Page 1486]

[5:45 p.m.]

I didn't hear the honourable member say that he objected to that. In fact to the extent that I understood what he had to say, it seemed to me he supported that. Now as for the comments of the honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services, again I was at somewhat of a loss to understand exactly what he objected to, although I was a little baffled by his regular references to the bill that was being presented in front of the House. He seemed to think that Resolution No. 404 was a bill of some sort. I heard him say that at least three and perhaps four times. Now that may indicate that he wasn't paying as much detailed attention to the matter in front of us as would be warranted, but I did hear him make at least some comments that had to do with the main thrust here.

Again, I didn't hear the honourable minister say that he objected to the idea of achieving fair prices for Nova Scotians when it comes to paying for gasoline and home heating products. Indeed to the extent that I can guess that there is something in this resolution that the honourable minister doesn't like, I am left making it up on my own. I want to direct the attention of the members to what is actually the operative section of the resolution. It is the paragraph that starts, "Therefore be it resolved . . .". Now here is how it goes, "Therefore be it resolved that this government move forward immediately with progressive legislation banning predatory pricing practices to ensure Nova Scotians pay fair prices for gasoline and home heating products.".

I am not sure what exactly it is there that the minister thought to object to, but didn't quite get around to saying to us. I am left guessing and if I have to guess, his objection must surely have focused only on the word immediately. I think we are left to draw that out of the honourable minister's speech because of his regular references to the fact that he and his department want to study this matter. They want to think about it; they want to research it; they want to learn more about it; they want to take their time. So I assume that runs contrary to the idea of the government bringing forward legislation immediately. The minister didn't say that, but I suppose there is an implication in his comments.

That may be a reason for the minister to speak against this resolution. I noticed he didn't try to amend it, to take out the word immediately. But surely there can't be anything else there that he might object to. It is his government bringing forward some legislation banning predatory pricing. Well, I would find it hard to imagine that he was absolutely opposed to that. I am trying to imagine if there was some other mechanism that might be appropriate here. I notice that the two previous speakers both talked about alternatives, about whether there wasn't some other way besides legislation to achieve the stated objective. Well, that may be the case. It may be that there is some other approach.

We didn't hear from the member for Cape Breton The Lakes what his alternative vision might be, nor exactly did we hear in very convincing terms from the honourable minister what his alternative might be, except that he talked about cooperation by the private sector. Now

[Page 1487]

he said he hoped they would be responsible. He saw legislation as the big stick, but he hoped the private sector would be responsible. Now I have to remind the honourable minister that we are dealing with companies whose sales are easily the same amount as the total government revenues in Nova Scotia every year. We are dealing with some companies whose profits exceed the total revenues to the Province of Nova Scotia. I think the profits of Shell International in recent years were in the order of $9 billion, that is to say, twice the total revenues and expenditures of the Province of Nova Scotia. These are large companies. To the extent that the Province of Nova Scotia has some leverage, it is the leverage of legislation within our proper realms, it is hardly something that I think we could call the big stick.

I am very sorry to hear the honourable minister suggest that some kind of persuasion is likely to be effective in dealing with these companies. Indeed, we don't have to go so far afield as to look to the London headquarters of Shell to look for big players when it comes to our local economy. I am constantly surprised that the honourable minister has not renamed his department the Department of Irving Affairs, or perhaps it should be the Department of Irving, Sobey and Joudrey Affairs, since these are the largest interests in our province. These are huge conglomerates themselves. Indeed, I noticed that since - I don't think we brought it up, it was on the other side of the floor - that we immediately moved to reference to the Irvings in the middle of this discussion. It is hard to hold a discussion on virtually any aspect of the economic life in our province without immediately being aware of that company or any of its subsidiaries.

Now again I am trying to think about ways in which the honourable minister might go about doing what it is that he says he intends to do, that is to say think about the problem. I noticed that in the Speech from the Throne there was announcement of an Energy Council. Now, as I understand it, responsibility for setting up the Energy Council will primarily be through the Department of Natural Resources as the lead agency. I was happy to hear yesterday in some discussion with the honourable Minister of the Environment in the estimates that he expects his department to play some role in setting up the Energy Council.

Perhaps it should be within the mandate of the Energy Council, when it takes up the task of drawing up an energy policy for the Province of Nova Scotia, to consider the problem that is raised by the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid in his Resolution No. 404. This is undoubtedly an aspect of energy policy as much as it is to be thought about as an aspect of business regulation. Undoubtedly, what we are dealing with are, if not monopolies, then certainly oligopolies, very powerful players in the market place. We have to think carefully about how it is that we move, yet the resolution does no more than invite the government to come forward with solutions to this problem.

I have to say that I have, at the very least, some mixed feelings about this resolution.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is a little tame.

[Page 1488]

MR. EPSTEIN: Partly - as the member has just said, it is a little tame - partly, it puts the emphasis, of course, entirely on the question of protecting the consumer. From an environmental perspective there is another issue that is often raised, which is the issue of a carbon tax. Some people think that one way to reduce the use of fossil fuels is to increase their price.

Now I think that in some areas this is undoubtedly true. I think in some areas of the use of fossil fuels for the generation of electricity for industrial heating, for energy to run motors. Again, the use of the price tool should be thought of very seriously. How effective is it with respect to motor vehicles owned by private individual citizens? It is far from clear.

Again, how effective would it be with respect to homeowners using fossil fuels as their home heating source? It is not clear. It certainly would be a disincentive, there is no doubt about that, but that disincentive has to go hand-in-hand with other policy objectives. One of the most important policy objectives when it comes to home heating fuel, is that people live in warm homes and are able to keep themselves warm in our cold climate, no doubt about that.

Simply using the fuels is not the only way to do that. It has been many years since this government, or any government in Canada, seriously promoted a home insulation project. I think it is time, when the Energy Council gets up and going, that they take up this task and look seriously at that aspect of it. So that if the government is unwilling to protect consumers from predatory pricing, which can be measured by the profits of the companies that sell the product, then at least they can protect themselves by not having to use so much of the product.

Again, I don't wish to be understood as saying that this topic, as put forward in the resolution, is to be abandoned. Indeed, I support it. I think, indeed, the government should bring forward some legislation. The government should, if it feels it can't support legislation now, continue with a study. But I hope it is a serious study. I hope it is not just a casual look that immediately thinks of ways to persuade the oligopolistic companies that are involved in the sale of fuels to cooperate with the consumers of Nova Scotia. Because they have never, in their history, shown the remotest interest in cooperating with the consumers in the Province of Nova Scotia, or really, anywhere. I won't go into the details of their history in such places as Nigeria, but I think anyone who has spent any time looking at the practices of those companies, cannot come away anything but horrified.

So when the minister consults with his colleagues in other related departments, when the Minister of Business and Consumer Affairs consults with the Minister of the Environment or the Minister of Natural Resources, perhaps, through the mechanism of an energy council, I hope he takes the opportunity to put on their agenda, as part of the writing of a new energy policy, indeed, it would be our first complete energy policy for the Province of Nova Scotia, the basic thought behind Resolution No. 404. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 1489]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow at the hour of 12:01 p.m. and we will sit until 8:00 p.m. The order of business, following the daily routine, will be Question Period and then we will go into Committee of the Whole House on Supply and then we will debate Bill No. 12, the Mineral Resources Act, through second reading and, if there is any time remaining, we will do responses to the Speech from the Throne.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to have the agreement of the House to revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:

Bill No. 8 - Municipal Elections Act.

and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, without amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

We have now arrived at the moment of interruption. The resolution tonight has been submitted by the honourable member for Kings South.

"Therefore be it resolved that members of the Legislative Assembly recognize their responsibilities as elected members within the governance structure."

[Page 1490]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings South.

MLAS - GOVERNANCE: RESPONSIBILITIES - RECOGNIZE

MR. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, it is good to see you here this evening. I would like to offer this evening, perhaps, a different perspective on the traditional view of governance. This is not to say government because, here in Nova Scotia, we are the government. In Ottawa, clearly, Parliament with the House of Commons is government and, locally, we have our councils and, perhaps, village commissions.

[6:00 p.m.]

I would like to expand this thought beyond the traditional elected legislative bodies. Clearly, there is no argument that here in Canada the courts are very much a part of governance. We only need to look at the recent decision of the Supreme Court on the 17th of September with the Donald Marshall decision and let there be no doubt that the courts are part of the governance of this country and this province and, indeed, the municipalities. Also the federal pay equity decision has had wide-ranging implications and after a lengthy struggle, the federal government is accepting their responsibilities to, primarily, the female civil servants.

But there is another aspect of governance which is not talked about. I would suggest that in addition to the elected legislative bodies and the courts, the media also plays a part in governance. I would suggest that the media exerts a tremendous influence on elected representatives. I am not able to speak for the courts, but surely I think there are many people here that I would say that by times they might be directed in their actions from what they perceive the reaction of the media might be. I would suggest that strong governance would tend to resist being swayed by the media in the sense that sometimes you may know that something is right and it may not be popular in the short run, but you know it has to be done.

Governance should strive to focus on what's right, in this case, here in this Chamber, for the province, not the approval of the press. Media coverage varies widely between papers, radio stations, television, whatever form of media, and indeed can vary from clip to clip, story to story. Government must remember their mandate is not to perpetuate their term of office first, but it is to provide good government. I would suggest that all of the major Parties in some form and at some time have probably been guilty of kowtowing to the media ahead of good government. I think that it is commendable for government and Opposition Parties alike to try to rise above that temptation.

[Page 1491]

The media's responsible coverage of government and Opposition goings on should encourage responsible conduct on all of our parts as elected members and caucuses. However the media also has its temptations. In the battle for subscribers, viewing audience or whatever measure drives their ability to generate revenues, just as government or the Opposition may be tempted to do what may be seen as expedient, popular, but not necessarily responsible, the media may also be tempted to sensationalize some incident to perhaps sell newspapers. (Interruption) I am sure you can think of one.

The temptation for either government, the Opposition Parties or the media to succumb to the attention of lobby groups is also considerable. We must remember that sometimes the people who are calling us on the phone, or present in whatever form, may not necessarily be representative of the view of the general public which hopefully would coincide with the view of all Parties, at least an informed public, because we are privileged here to be privy to material that maybe not be readily available to the person on the street. Or, we have the distinct privilege of having the time to study this material and so become better informed to better serve those in the public.

I think that it is interesting that last week during some rather lengthy debate. The members of the Opposition picked up on something in Jerry Pye's blue book..

MR. SPEAKER: Would you refer to the constituency the member represents, please.

MR. MORSE: The member for Dartmouth North. He was pointing out something that was quite pertinent in that book, that our Party encourages us in some instances not to necessarily vote the government's position, but in some instances we should be voting our constituents' wishes. For those of you who thought that others were maybe distracted otherwise and not paying any attention whatsoever to perhaps some of the goings on, which I will confess by times did seem a little bit repetitive, after the 18 hour days and, forgive me, that there was at least one member over here that did do a check back with, in this case it happens to be his constituents, and a poll last Wednesday night of 107 people produced 95 opinions and 12 no opinions.

I will tell you that it was overwhelmingly in favour of the government's position with the caveat that the affected group that was so respectfully attending to their future here in this Chamber be treated in a fair and reasonable manner. So there was sympathy for this particular group, but I would like you to take note of the fact that we over here are not entirely detached from the wishes of the public. (Interruption)

I recognize the member for Sackville-Cobequid and I think that he is looking for a number. The number was 89.5 per cent in favour of the government's position - and I thank you for bringing that up - in Kings South in a random poll.

[Page 1492]

I refer back to the three components of governance: we have elected bodies, we have courts and we have the media. They all have a role to play, but the practical safeguards placed on government, which includes the Opposition Parties, all of us here in this Chamber, and the courts are much more readily applicable than perhaps that which is applied to the media. The media has a tremendous responsibility to report the news in an unbiased manner, covering both sides of the story in depth and within context. This may not be sensational, but it is responsible.

I would just encourage all of us, including the members of the media, to conduct themselves in a responsible manner and not to be distracted by the temptation of sensationalization for financial gain at perhaps the expense of good journalism. They should always bear in mind the public trust. Advertisers are judged on the perceived message received, not the text, so should the media be. Media coverage should always meet the public trust and the truth will set you free. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I seem to have drawn the short straw several times today and I am happy to take a little run at this particular resolution. I am unable to resist the teacher in me and I am afraid I am going to have to at least give one or two small observations. I think I would like to start with the observation that the media is not part of government.

It is true that the media are interesting. It is true that they are a challenge. It is true that we have to deal with them. It is true that they are a constant presence. It is true that they report on what it is that we do. It is certainly true, as the member said, that not all of us are always wildly enthused with how it is they do that but, you know, as I always understood it, the parts of government were not the courts, the media and the Legislature, but perhaps the legislative wing, the executive and administrative wing, and perhaps the judicial wing, but that was what governance was comprised of and the media didn't really enter into it. There is no doubt about it that the media is important for all of us, but I have to say that - and I suppose this is my second and much more important point - at the very least it is a surprise to me to hear a Tory complaining about coverage in The Chronicle and The Herald Mail Star, as by implication, I think we did.

It seems to be that there has to be, at some point in a person's life, a falling away of the scales from the eyes. There has to be a realistic appreciation ultimately of what it is that actually goes on in different areas of life. With respect to the media, it seems to me that there is no shortage of informed analysis of how it is that the media operate, and why they operate the way they do. It has a lot to do in part with the ownership structure, and it has a lot to do with the essence of the business that they are in.

[Page 1493]

Did I hear the honourable member say, "perhaps to sell newspapers"? There is no perhaps about it. Here is how it works, and it may be easier to think about it when thinking about television. You have to ask yourself about television: what is the product that is being sold? Now you know the product that is being sold on television, it is you the audience. You the audience are being sold by the owners of the television companies to those companies that will pay them advertising dollars; that is how it works. Their job as the owners of television is to have something on that will keep you sitting in your chair so that you will watch those ads.

It works exactly the same way with respect to newspapers. It is designed, all the so-called entertainment, all the so-called information, all the so-called news is there to keep you riveted to your seat during the commercials. This is equally true of newspapers. It is equally true, for the most part, of radio. I speak here of private radio. This kind of analysis is hardly new. Indeed, it was pioneered by Canadian academic Marshall McLuhan, a University of Toronto professor, author of Understanding Media and other books on this subject, and heartily I highly recommend them to the honourable member.

I also recommend to him the report of a Canadian Royal Commission on the ownership and structure of the newspaper industry in Canada. This situation has only gotten worse since there was a study of the concentration of ownership in newspapers in Canada. We know that the main companies involved in ownership of the newspapers and newspaper chains in Canada have extended their grasp, so that now the Conrad Black line of ownership is extended, and we know that the Thomson family line of ownership is extended. They are huge, they are pervasive. We sometimes refer to him over here as Comrade Black, but that is obviously a defensive use of humour because of his influence being so enormous.

I have to say that I thought that the Royal Commission study of concentration of ownership in the newspaper industry laid it out pretty clearly for us. When you get this kind of concentration of ownership, what you get are vehicles for the promotion of a fairly limited range of opinion. That is the hard fact, and it is the hard fact even in Nova Scotia where we have an independent owner for our main provincial newspaper, because who can doubt that over the years the main orientation of that newspaper, in both its provincial and its metro versions, has been primarily towards that honourable member's Party. (Interruptions) I hear some agreement from a member who comes from Cape Breton.

Well, let's have a look at The Cape Breton Post. This is a paper which is hardly what someone might call even-handed in its presentation of the issues. Try being the NDP and look for some fair coverage from that newspaper.

[Page 1494]

[6:15 p.m.]

Now, I have to say that although many of us have taken our lumps from the media, we do work closely with them. We all know there are individual members, practitioners, for whom we have a great deal of respect. There are people who do their jobs as well as they can in the circumstances. It is a fact of life, it is one that we had better get used to, that I think all of us had better get used to.

There is no point in going into it with our eyes closed. I think we have to realize that we are in a symbiotic relationship, that however much they use us as part of the entertainment, and sometimes cheap entertainment at that, that they use to sell advertising space in their newspapers, we also use them, or we try to use them as a means of communication to the public. We use the television when it broadcasts what we have to say here - at least there are no ads on the Legislative channel. Indeed, it is widely watched, as I think the member will soon learn.

So I found the wording of the resolution to be interesting and one with which I could probably agree. I found the wording of the explanation of the thought behind the resolution maybe a little more puzzling. I hope we can all take the attitude that the process we are engaged in together is a mutually educative process and that we can learn from each other as we go along. I look forward to doing that with that honourable member and with others. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, when the lot fell on me to participate in this adjournment debate this evening, I had no idea what I was getting into. The wording of the resolution itself was quite nebulous, shall I say, and I actually volunteered to find out what it was all about. So having heard the honourable member who introduced it, a man who I believe shares the same last name as the inventor of the telegraph, so certainly he has an interest in the field of communication, hearing his presentation and that of the last speaker, it appears that what we are getting into here is the relationship between politicians and the media.

I suppose it is a difficult relationship at best. There are different types of approaches that newspapers - and I am most familiar with the print media as compared to the electronic - use toward reporting the political life of their times. When I was a small boy in the City of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, there were two daily newspapers, the Guardian and the Patriot; some might say the pay-tri-ot, but they say patronage and patronage and so you have the Patriot and the Patriot and people said the Patriot.

[Page 1495]

Now the mission of the Patriot was to promote the Liberal Party and the mission of the Guardian was to promote the Tory Party. Each of them, and one of my great-grandfathers was for some time the editor of the Charlottetown Patriot so I have some knowledge of what I am talking about, each of those papers strove to present their respective Party's point of view on all the issues of the day. That was what they did. The speeches in the Liberal press of the Liberal members in the Legislature and the Liberal Members of Parliament and the deeds of the Liberal Government or, if there was a Tory Government in office, the misdeeds of that government, would be reported in the Liberal paper, and vice versa in the Tory paper. At least with the two Party system in that province, the two points of view were very adequately reflected in their respective publications.

Then, at a later time, I came to Sydney and in Sydney there was one daily newspaper, the Post Record, now known as The Cape Breton Post, which at that time was owned by an individual who had aspirations of being a Senator at the time of the Diefenbaker Government. He never did make it, but he strove through his newspaper to earn the designation and the honour of being a member of the Senate appointed by a Tory federal government. So the paper assumed the quality or the character of a Tory rag, and its reporters were instructed, in covering political meetings, if it was a Conservative meeting they were to estimate the actual attendance, double that number and report that as the attendance at the meeting. If it was a Liberal meeting, they were to estimate the actual attendance and report that number. If it was a meeting of the CCF, later the NDP, they were to estimate the actual attendance, divide that figure by two, and report that number as the attendance at the meeting.

Likewise, the positioning in the newspaper of the respective Parties' activities would be that the activities of the Tory Party would be on page one with lots of photography, with all kinds of coverage, headline and inside carry-over features. The Liberal activities would perhaps be on the front page of the second section and the CCF or NDP activities, if reported at all, would be in very small items that would appear on the rearmost pages, usually on those that were even-numbered rather than odd because they are less noticeable. Now that is another type of approach that you get and then there are variations on those themes and I won't get into those variations.

I have found over the years that if you really want to get good press, the only way to do it is to have your own press. Then you will get the press that you want and you will get your point of view across. The technology to do that type of thing is so much more accessible today than it ever was before. So that I would think that any provincial MLA at least ought to be able to saturate his or her constituency with appropriate promotional literature. Through the advent of the computer and offset lithography you should be able to get out a flyer to 3,000 or 5,000 people and distribute it by to-the-householder mailing or perhaps hire boys and girls to deliver to each home at so many cents a block or so many dollars and you can get the good news out, you can do it.

[Page 1496]

Our federal members, of course, they get four free mail-outs per year, and there are other ways in which they can designate portions of their constituency that they can virtually saturate them with their promotional material. There are other ways in which one can do this too. I know that when Joey Smallwood was attempting to get Canada into Confederation he had every daily newspaper in the province of Newfoundland - or it was then the Dominion of Newfoundland, I suppose - completely against the idea of Confederation with Canada. So in order to get the message across, Smallwood founded his own newspaper, The Confederate, and got it into every home in Newfoundland because it was free of cost and was sent by mail to all homes in Newfoundland. That was how the message of Confederation was spread to the people of Newfoundland, and the daily newspapers were unable to stem the tide when the people caught on to the additional benefits that Confederation with Canada would convey.

Others have faced the same difficulty, I am not going to go into all kinds of historical examples, but certainly we all know that if the media will not give us the coverage that we feel we ought to be able to get to get our point of view across, it is possible to circumvent the media and to take the story directly to the people. Print media are not the only way in which that can be done. It can also be done, for example, through community channels on cable television which in most cases will give maybe half an hour once a month or twice a month to an office holder who insists on it, but the opportunity is there and people will watch that. If you work hard at it, if you follow the slogan of, early to bed, early to rise, work like heck and advertise, you can get the good word across whether the downtown news hounds like it or not.

I have found in my years in politics - I have won a few elections - I don't think I ever had any newspaper enthusiastically endorsing me and saying, this is the way to go, but I generally managed to get in anyway because the final determiner of the outcome of elections in a democratic society is the individual elector and the collectivity of the electorate in the ballot box. Newspaper editorialists can fulminate all they want and twist and slant and distort news all they wish, but certainly, as has been demonstrated, perhaps, by the fall of dictatorships in our times. One can be certain, for example, that in Romania, prior to the downfall of the couple that were in power there, whose names I now forget (Interruptions) Yes, exactly, it was a his and hers country, one couple ruling the whole country as absolute monarchs, I suppose would be the term to use. I am sure the propaganda organs daily reported what great people they were and what good government they had, although my recollection is that the streets were empty because there was no public transportation, the electricity was off for most hours of the day, and so on and so forth.

That kind of propaganda was unable to prevent people from exercising their own judgement, and that regime was overthrown, overthrown almost instantly. It is amazing how some of the eastern European dictatorships that looked so permanent and so immovable just vanished away, and they certainly all had tremendous support from state supported organs of propaganda.

[Page 1497]

I think that it is a concern that we can have it in a free society, no state, no politician, and no political Party is going to be able to control any publication except those that it might perhaps own directly, and in some jurisdictions that type of thing is promoted more than in other places. I know that in many of the European countries, various political Parties will have their own daily newspapers and people will read them. Here it is not the case, but there certainly are publications I am sure the Nova Scotia Liberal Party and the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservative Party have their own in-house organs that they send out to their members and to the interested public. You can subscribe to it.

With the advent of the Internet and the websites that people can visit so easily simply by turning on their computers and clicking on whatever they want to watch, the flow of information is perhaps more available and more free today than it has ever been before in history. I don't believe that it is going to be possible for any downtown newspaper to prevent people from finding out what they want to find out and from forming their own conclusions.

I suppose my time is running out, and I don't know if the views I have expressed are necessarily a reflection of the viewpoint of any political Party, but they are my own and I offer them for what they may be worth. I want to compliment the honourable member, before I take my seat, for his very able and interesting presentation here tonight. I also want to compliment the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto who rose to the occasion in a way that I think reflects his tremendous ability, which I very much respect.

Having said that I shall take my place, and you can declare the House adjourned, and we shall be gone for the day. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank the honourable members for taking the time to debate this very interesting topic. Thank you.

We stand adjourned.

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