The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House adjouned: May 20, 2016

Hansard -- Mon., Nov. 8, 1999

First Session

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 1999

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 18, Petroleum Resources Removal Permit Act, Hon. G. Balser 1627
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 521, Remembrance Day - Sacrifice (Conflicts 20th C.):
Two Mins. Silence - Observe, Mr. D. Downe 1628
Vote - Affirmative 1628
Res. 522, Sports - Basketball: Robert "Red Bob" MacDonald (Coach),
Death of - Sympathy Send, Mr. F. Corbett 1628
Vote - Affirmative 1629
Res. 523, NDP (N.S.) Leader - Robert Chisholm: Contribution Important -
Acknowledge, The Premier 1629
Vote - Affirmative 1630
Res. 524, Educ. - Universities: Acadia, St. F.X., Saint Mary's -
Maclean's Magazine Ranking Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 1630
Vote - Affirmative 1630
Res. 525, Health - Nurses: Additional - Awaited, Mr. D. Dexter 1631
Res. 526, Mun. Affs. - Min.: Preston MLA - Appoint, Mr. B. Boudreau 1631
Res. 527, Commun. Serv. - Adoption Info. Access: Mike Slaytor &
Parent Find N.S. - Efforts Recognize, Mr. K. Deveaux 1632
Res. 528, RCMP (Cole Hbr.) - Inspector Ted Upshaw: Accomplishments -
Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 1633
Vote - Affirmative 1633
Res. 529, Econ. Dev. - Shearwater Land Purchase: Advice
(Ex-Premier Cameron) - Refrain (Premier), Mr. R. MacKinnon 1633
Res. 530, Gov't. (N.S.) - Leaders (Opposition Parties) Change:
Actions (Premier Savage) - Outcome Same Wish,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 1634
Res. 531, Educ. - Acadia Univ.: Maclean's Mag. Ranking - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 1635
Vote - Affirmative 1635
Res. 532, Educ. - Dr. Moses M. Coady Competition (St. F.X. Univ.):
Best Wishes - Extend, Mr. W. Gaudet 1636
Vote - Affirmative 1636
Res. 533, West Dover - Morash Family Assist.: Commun. Spirit -
Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 1636
Vote - Affirmative 1637
Res. 534, RCL - Flag (Can.-Maple Leaf): Protection - Support,
Mr. B. Taylor 1637
Vote - Affirmative 1638
Res. 535, RCL Branch 133 (Enfield Legion): Anniv. 50th - Congrats.,
Mr. John MacDonell 1638
Vote - Affirmative 1638
Res. 536, Sports - Soccer (Boys N.S. HS Div II Champs.):
West Kings Kings - Congrats., Mr. J. Carey 1639
Vote - Affirmative 1639
Res. 537, MLAs - Astrology: Learn - Charity Prog. Cut Revelation,
Mr. H. Epstein 1639
Res. 538, Veteran Affs. (Can.) - Veterans Place (Yar.): Commitment
(Beds 25) - Fulfil, Mr. R. Hurlburt 1640
Vote - Affirmative 1640
Res. 539, Liberal (Atl. Caucus) - Econ. Dev. Strategy (Wave):
Partisanship - Recognize, Mr. F. Corbett 1641
Res. 540, Health - Nurses: Hiring - Promise Fulfil, Mr. D. Dexter 1641
Res. 541, Human Res. - Dale Robbins (Office of Speaker):
Service (25 yrs.) - Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 1642
Vote - Affirmative 1642
Res. 542, Lbr. - Shubenacadie Vol. Fire Dept.: Awards Ceremony -
Congrats., Mr. J. MacDonell 1642
Vote - Affirmative 1643
Res. 543, Remembrance Day - Veterans Hospitalized: Contributions -
Thank, Mr. B. Taylor 1643
Vote - Affirmative 1644
Res. 544, Justice - RCMP: Prospect Rd. Citizens Patrol - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1644
Vote - Affirmative 1644
SPEAKER'S RULING ON PREVIOUS POINT OF ORDER:
Educ. - P3 School: Canning Site - Unavailability:
[Question by Mr. W. Gaudet Page 1458]
(Point of Order by Mr. M. Parent) Page 267
No Point of Order 1645
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
ON MOTION FOR SUPPLY:
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1647
Mr. H. Epstein 1651
Mr. B. Taylor 1654
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 3:12 P.M. 1656
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 3:50 P.M. 1656
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
Bill No. 15, Public Prosecutions Act 1657
Hon. M. Baker 1657
Mr. H. Epstein 1660
Mr. M. Samson 1664
Dr. J. Smith 1679
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1681
Mr. R. MacLellan 1687
Mr. B. Taylor 1690
Hon. R. Russell 1692
Vote - Affirmative 1692
PRIVATE AND LOCAL BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 6, Maritime Life Assurance Company 1692
Hon. J. Purves 1693
Mr. J. Holm 1694
Hon. J. Purves 1694
Vote - Affirmative 1695
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 1, Gemstone Emblem Act 1695
Mr. D. Dexter 1695
Vote - Affirmative 1696
No. 16, Provincial Mineral Act 1696
Mr. J. DeWolfe 1696
Vote - Affirmative 1697
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 17, Adoption Information Act 1697
Hon. P. Christie 1697
Dr. J. Smith 1699
Mr. J. Pye 1704
Mr. M. Samson 1705
Hon. R. Russell 1713
Adjourned debate 1713
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 7:24 P.M. 1714
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 7:25 P.M. 1714
REPORT OF CWH ON SUPPLY [Rule 62G(1)]:
Motion to Concur 1715
Vote - Affirmative 1715
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 19, Appropriations Act, 1999, Hon. N. LeBlanc 1715
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 19, Appropriations Act, 1999, Hon. N. LeBlanc 1715
PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING:
No. 19, Appropriations Act, 1999, Hon. N. LeBlanc 1715
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 17, Adoption Information Act [debate resumed] 1716
Mr. K. Deveaux 1716
Mr. D. Downe 1721
Hon. P. Christie 1724
Vote - Affirmative 1724
No. 14, Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act 1725
Hon. M. Baker 1725
Mr. M. Samson 1727
Mr. H. Epstein 1741
Dr. J. Smith 1745
Mr. J. Holm 1747
Hon. M. Baker 1756
Vote - Affirmative 1756
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. M. Baker 1757
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Tue., Nov. 9th at 2:00 p.m. 1757

[Page 1627]

HALIFAX, MONDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 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. We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 18 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 7 of the Acts of 1999. The Petroleum Resources Removal Permit Act. (Hon. Gordon Balser)

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

1627

[Page 1628]

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 521

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

Whereas more than 1.4 million Canadians volunteered to serve our military and merchant navy in the 20th Century; and

Whereas the domestic peace we inherit as their legacy makes it easy to forget our century has been among the most violent in human history; and

Whereas at the close of this 20th Century, there are fewer veterans each year to share with us their first-hand experience of the defence of our freedoms and faiths;

Therefore be it resolved that this House join the Nova Scotia Command of the Royal Canadian Legion in honouring the 116,000 Canadians who lost their lives in conflicts this century by observing two minutes of silence at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 522

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

[Page 1629]

Whereas this past weekend saw the passing of Robert "Red Bob" MacDonald, one of this province's great basketball coaches; and

Whereas Red Bob coached many teams in the Cape Breton area; and

Whereas his most notable team was the 1961 Central Boys Juvenile Team, with such names as Dave MacDonald, Donnie MacAuley and George Hughes, who won the 1961 National Juvenile Boys under 19 Championship;

Therefore be it resolved that this House send along our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Robert "Red Bob" MacDonald, a true legend in the sport of basketball in this province.

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 Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 523

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

Whereas the Leader of the New Democratic Party has spent the better part of a decade in this Chamber, leaving his mark among his colleagues and upon this province; and

Whereas in the process, he advanced his Party's goals and defended his ideals with a tireless passion;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the important contribution the Leader of the New Democratic Party has made to Nova Scotia, that we recognize the difficult decision he made this past weekend and wish him and his family the very best in the future. (Applause)

[Page 1630]

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 Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 524

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

Whereas Maclean's Magazine's ninth annual rankings of Canadian Universities hits local news-stands today; and

Whereas three Nova Scotian universities are ranked in the top 10 for universities that are primarily undergraduate; and

Whereas Acadia University of Wolfville ranked second, St. Francis Xavier University of Antigonish ranked fourth and Saint Mary's University of Halifax ranked 10th;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to Acadia, St. F.X. and Saint Mary's for their academic excellence and strong ranking in this latest Maclean's survey.

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.

[Page 1631]

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 525

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

Whereas on June 26th, the now Premier stated, ". . . within six months of forming government we will provide $6.2 million to secure the equivalent of 100 full-time nurses"; and

Whereas the now Premier also stated ". . . in addition to that, we will spend $1.8 million on professional training and development for nurses"; and

Whereas the now Premier also promised to ". . . invest in student bursaries for nurses who agree to serve in rural communities";

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier knows that the ticking he is hearing is time running out on his promises to nurses.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 526

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

Whereas the Tory MLA for Preston has promised to vote against his own government if the HST rebate to municipalities is cut; and

Whereas the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities says cutting the HST rebate is a form of downloading; and

Whereas now the Tories plan to download the total cost of community services to municipal units;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier appoint the MLA for Preston as Minister of Municipal Affairs, since the other two ministers have broken all Tory promises to the UNSM.

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

[Page 1632]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 527

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

Whereas the Tory Government has finally introduced a bill to address the rights of parents and children with regard to access to information about adoptions; and

Whereas this legislation is a good first step towards recognizing the rights of those impacted by an adoption; and

Whereas a key group that pushed for this legislation is Parent Find Nova Scotia, which represents both parents who have put a child up for adoption and adults who were adopted as children;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the efforts of Mike Slaytor and Parent Find Nova Scotia to have this province ensure access to adoption information.

I ask for waiver, Mr. Speaker.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

[Page 1633]

RESOLUTION NO. 528

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

Whereas Mr. Robert Graham "Ted" Upshaw first made history three years ago as Canada's highest ranking Black officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and

Whereas Mr. Ted Upshaw's abilities have been recognized again through his recent promotion from Sergeant to Inspector and as the officer in charge of the Cole Harbour RCMP Detachment, which is the second largest attachment serving our province, which serves the constituencies of Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, Eastern Shore and Preston; and

Whereas over the weekend on Friday, November 5th, the Black Cultural Centre held an event to recognize the accomplishments of Inspector Upshaw in light of his recent promotion;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating Inspector Ted Upshaw on his impressive accomplishment of reaching new heights and wishing him well in future plans.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 529

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

Whereas after seizing power on July 27th, the Premier opened the Tory closet to consult a transition team made up of skeletons from the Buchanan-Cameron era; and

[Page 1634]

Whereas former Premier Donald Cameron continues to haunt Nova Scotia from beyond the political grave; and

Whereas the Premier conducted a political seance to solicit advice from Donald Cameron on the purchase of land at Shearwater;

Therefore be it resolved that Premier Scrooge begin to mend his ways before Nova Scotia becomes overrun by the ghosts of Tory Governments past.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party. (Prolonged Applause)

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I wasn't going to ask for waiver of notice but maybe I should. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: Maybe you should.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

[2:15 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 530

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

Whereas some have suggested that the present government has been given a tremendous advantage because the present Opposition Leaders will not contest the next general election; and

Whereas the last Premier to enjoy that same tremendous advantage was Premier John Savage; and

[Page 1635]

Whereas today, the key members of the Savage Administration are clinging to a senatorial life-raft, having lost most of their seats in this House;

Therefore be it resolved that this House wishes the same outcome for any government that takes the Savage path and the Savage opportunities.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 531

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

Whereas Acadia University has been ranked top undergraduate university in Canada by business leaders and educators once again; and

Whereas Maclean's Magazine recognizes Acadia University as one of the top academic institutions in Canada; and

Whereas Acadia University has been serving students in Nova Scotia, Canada and throughout the world for these many years;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in offering a heartfelt congratulations to the students, staff and faculty of Acadia for their hard work in ensuring the resounding academic success that continues to be a part of the university's already proud tradition.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Clare.

[Page 1636]

RESOLUTION NO. 532

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

Whereas the annual Dr. Moses M. Coady Debating Competition will take place this Friday and Saturday at St. F.X. University; and

Whereas more than 100 students on 20 teams from across the province will be participating in this debating competition; and

Whereas the top two debaters will receive $1,000 and $500 entrance scholarships to the university respectively, while the top team will receive the Moses M. Coady Trophy;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend to all competitors best wishes as they refine their oratorical skills during this competition.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 533

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

Whereas the community of West Dover is famous for its legendary community spirit; and

Whereas numerous residents of West Dover and adjoining communities stepped forward recently to assist the Morash family; and

[Page 1637]

Whereas thus far over $14,000 has been raised to assist the Morash family in their time of need;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Legislature congratulate the community of West Dover for its wonderful example to all Nova Scotians of community spirit and involvement.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 534

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

Whereas Canada's democracy has been maintained this century at a considerable price when this nation joined in wars against oppressive aggressors; and

Whereas as a result, we lead a peaceful, democratic existence with many freedoms that are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; and

Whereas since 1994, the Royal Canadian Legion has been requesting the federal government to enact legislation to protect the maple leaf, our flag, from acts of desecration;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature support the Royal Canadian Legion in its efforts to protect the maple leaf.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1638]

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 Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 535

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

Whereas the Royal Canadian Legion has become a fixture of communities throughout Canada; and

Whereas the Royal Canadian Legion provides so much more to the communities than only being a meeting place for Armed Forces veterans; and

Whereas Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 133, otherwise known as the Enfield Legion, celebrated its 50th anniversary on November 6, 1999;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate President Mike White and the members of Branch No. 133 for 50 years of faithful and successful service to its veterans and associated members and to the surrounding 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 Kings West.

[Page 1639]

RESOLUTION NO. 536

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

Whereas the West Kings Kings captured the Nova Scotia High School Division II Boys Soccer Championship in Amherst over the weekend; and

Whereas West Kings Kings advanced to the championship game by defeating South Colchester High School 2-0; and

Whereas the Kings squared off against the host Amherst High Vikings in the finals in defeating the Vikings 2-1;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature commend the West Kings Kings Division II Boys High School Soccer Team for their hard-fought victory and provincial championship win in Amherst this past weekend.

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 Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 537

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

Whereas on Sunday, July 18th, The Chronicle-Herald ran an article with predictions by well-known astrologer M.J. Patterson; and

Whereas in this article Ms. Patterson predicted that the Tory plan might not be, " what Nova Scotians believe it to be"; and

[Page 1640]

Whereas in this same article it was stated that there are several signs of behind-the-scenes support for the Premier's agenda, which, she said, "may not be the same as the platform the public sees";

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House must now learn to read the stars and the cycles of the planes in order to figure out what charitable program will be cut next.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Yarmouth.

RESOLUTION NO. 538

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

Whereas Canadians will pause on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in honour of those who defended our rights and freedom and country; and

Whereas for some 13 years now, our veterans of Yarmouth County have waited for the federal government to honour their service to country through a commitment made for 25 beds in Veterans Place; and

Whereas, while 15 rooms were finished and filled, five remain incomplete and the remaining five not even addressed, while need for these rooms grow;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in urging the federal government during the Week of Remembrance to honour not only those whose lives were lost, but those still living, through a commitment to complete its promise to the veterans of Yarmouth County.

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.

[Page 1641]

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 539

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

Whereas the Atlantic Liberal caucus today announced their economic development strategy for the region, called "Catching Tomorrow's Wave", yet were unable to explain to the media what in the document was actually new; and

Whereas at today's news conference, Liberal Senator Willie Moore lavishly praised the document as "not a new beginning, but a statement" and "not a plan, but a paper"; and

Whereas the paper is available to the public on a website named for a Liberal MP, and the news conference included a pitch for the election of a certain Nova Scotian Senator;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize that the Liberal Party has demonstrated once again that it puts its partisan self-interest ahead of the region's best interest and that the only wave that the Liberal Party will be catching is the wave goodbye.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 540

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

Whereas mandatory overtime is a major concern and problem for nurses in this province; and

Whereas due to a nursing shortage, many nurses are forced to work long hours; and

Whereas just like with the paramedics, this allows for unsafe conditions both for the public and the nurses themselves;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government do what it said it would do during the 1999 election campaign and hire more nurses to ease this serious problem.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

[Page 1642]

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 541

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

Whereas members of the Legislature rely heavily on the services of the Office of the Speaker Administration for advice and processing of our expense claims; and

Whereas the staff of the administration office are always helpful and prompt with their responses to our inquiries; and

Whereas Dale Robbins, Director of Administration at the Office of the Speaker, is the key reason for the top-quality service provided by the staff;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Dale Robbins for his years of excellent service to this House and on receiving a long-service award for his dedicated work as a civil servant. (Applause)

I ask for waiver, Mr. Speaker.

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 Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 542

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

Whereas unselfish giving is the hallmark of volunteerism; and

Whereas firefighters show the highest level of unselfish giving by risking their lives to save others; and

[Page 1643]

Whereas the Shubenacadie Volunteer Fire Department is holding its awards and dedication ceremony on Saturday, November 20th;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Chief John MacKenzie and all recipients and participants of the awards ceremony and wish them well in their duties.

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 Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 543

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

Whereas on Remembrance Day we should also remember that there are veterans who are not so visible at the ceremonies; and

Whereas many veterans are hospitalized and unable to attend a November 11th Remembrance Day Service; and

Whereas hospitalized war veterans, men and women, will not be able to participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature say thank you to our hospitalized veterans whose contributions to their country are also, of course, appreciated and recognized.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1644]

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 544

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

Whereas active volunteers in the communities along the Prospect Road have shown the initiative of organizing a Citizens on Patrol organization in association with the local RCMP; and

Whereas these responsible citizens provide a valuable service to these communities; and

Whereas this Saturday, November 13th, the Prospect Road Citizens on Patrol will hold the official opening of their new offices at the Hatchet Lake Fire Hall;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its congratulations to the Prospect Road citizens patrol with wishes of good luck in the future.

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.

Last Wednesday the member for Kings North rose on a point of order. I want to make my ruling now in regard to that point of order.

After Question Period on Wednesday, November 3rd, the member for Kings North rose on a point of order. He felt a question put by the member for Clare was accusing him of influence-peddling. Upon reviewing Hansard, I noted what the member for Clare had stated

[Page 1645]

in his question to the Minister of Education. He stated, "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.".

I do not feel the member for Clare was accusing the member for Kings North of influence peddling as felt or stated by the member for Kings North, but was merely asking the minister if any influence was used in regard to the site being changed. I am ruling that there is no point of order but, again, I would like to bring to the attention of the members that words or phrases used can sometimes cause members to take a meaning from a statement which is not intended.

I would also like to give the member for Kings North an opportunity to clear his name at this point, as we discussed earlier.

The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I just want to make it clear to the House that I have never talked to the owner of the land under consideration. In fact, I have never even said hello to him and I certainly have never talked to him about the school. I have always been very clear during the campaign that I respected and agreed with the decision of the site selection committee and the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board to site the school in the riding and the community in which they chose and that within those parameters I would try to work to accommodate the citizens of Kentville. I have been very clear on that and it is a very sensitive issue in our riding. So I am glad to have the opportunity to set it straight.

MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I do not really know what went on here. I do not understand why it is you called upon the member for Kings North. I think it is quite clear from your ruling that there had been no impugning of the member, so, therefore, I do not see that there was, for example, a point of order or a point of privilege on the floor that would have entitled the member for Kings North to have gotten to his feet. In fact, what happened instead was the member for Kings North getting to his feet and making a non-ministerial, maybe what you would call a back-bench statement. We have resolutions and so on for that.

[2:30 p.m.]

My point of order, Mr. Speaker, is that we seem to have started a new procedure, a new policy in this House. Is your ruling, by calling upon the member to speak, an indication that any member who feels that somehow they have been questioned or that their position

[Page 1646]

may be a little bit confusing, that they have the right to get up and to make a back-bench - in place of a ministerial - announcement, if they aren't ministers, and that therefore we should all feel free that anytime somebody on the government benches, for example, makes an accusation against a member of our caucus that we have a right to get up . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HOLM: I would like some clarification . . .

MR. SPEAKER: You will have that. (Interruptions) Order, please. Thank you. (Interruption) Order, please. (Interruptions)

The honourable member rose and at the time he indicated he wasn't sure himself whether he was rising on a point of order or a point of personal privilege but that he felt it was a personal accusation. That is why I allowed the honourable member a few seconds to clear his name in regard to the matter. However, I do not feel that it was a point of privilege or a point of order and that is my ruling.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we certainly accept your ruling on the point but I am rising simply on a point of order. The long-serving member opposite knows full well that it is much easier for a minister in Question Period or a minister via ministerial statement to set the record straight. It is more difficult for someone on the government benches who does not have that opportunity to set the record straight. I believe that what the member did today was very appropriate and I believe perhaps on reflection the member opposite will feel that what happened today is very appropriate.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, of course the Premier can give the member for Kings North an opportunity to speak on ministerial statements by appointing him a minister, if he so wishes. (Laughter) The Premier knows full well that you had made a ruling and in my 15 years in this House, and I do not wish to deny in any way the member for Kings North an opportunity to clear his name, but, Mr. Speaker, you had made a ruling and I do not remember - maybe I have a weak memory and I have been accused of that before - after the Speaker has made a ruling that he would ever then call upon the member who had originally made the motion to get up and to respond to the Speaker's ruling. That is my point, not the fact that the member had a chance to say something but I just want to know if it is going to be . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Thank you.

[Page 1647]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Government Motions.

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve itself into the Committee of the Whole House on Supply unto Her Majesty.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I rise to make a number of interventions on this important resolution going into Supply. As we know, over the last week or so, the government has found itself in a number of quandaries that have, I would suggest, tarnished its Mr. Clean image with the electorate here in Nova Scotia. All too evident is the situation that transpired with the extraction of more than $2 million of the money that was slated for charities here in Nova Scotia as well as the rather generous contribution to the banking community for those corporations that have, in some cases, acquired more than $1 billion in profits annually.

Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat equally taken by the contradictory positions that were held by the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Economic Development through this entire process. I will draw to your attention back on December 11, 1997, when the honourable member for Hants East, the now Minister of Labour, put a resolution before this House and I will read the Therefore be it resolved clause:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health meet with representatives of the NSGEU and representatives of rural paramedics not presently members of the NSGEU to discuss work-related concerns and, further, that he urge the Minister of Labour and the Chief Executive Officer of the Workers' Compensation Board to move quickly in extending the rights and protection afforded to other Nova Scotian workers to Nova Scotia's paramedics.".

[Page 1648]

Well, Mr. Speaker, we saw last week that change of face with the Minister of Labour on this most vital issue. A minister who is delegated the responsibility of protecting the rights and the privileges of all workers in Nova Scotia, albeit whether they be a truck driver, a school teacher or, indeed, a paramedic.

Also, Mr. Speaker, just back-tracking, it is bad enough that he has back-pedalled on the issue with regard to the paramedics and his whole approach to the collective bargaining process, but I want to draw to your attention equally his responsibility in concert with the Minister of Economic Development as it pertains to Sysco.

Mr. Speaker, just shortly before the provincial election in July past, I was very fortunate to be part of the process whereby we had incorporated, in great measure, the ADR process, or what is better known in labour-management relations as the alternate dispute resolution process, whereby labour and management can come together and resolve many of their conflicts in a rather layman's forum.

Mr. Speaker, I yield the floor.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, today is the beginning of Remembrance Day week, on Thursday at 11:00 a.m. the nation will pause to remember those who made the supreme sacrifice in the defence of this great country of Canada. Through the survivors who gather with the public on this day, we pledge never to forget them. The words that come to mind are: In the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.

One Nova Scotia family had a few of their sons heed the call to arms, the MacKinnon family of Glace Bay sent three sons in this response to the call, Privates Josie, James and Charles Russell enlisted in the Cape Breton Highlanders and fought in the great push for the liberation of Italy. Between 1939 and 1945 the brothers earned no less than 18 service medals, campaign medals and commendations. All three were awarded the following: the 1939-45 Star, the Italy Star, the Defence of Britain Medal, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and the Victory Medal.

Private Josie MacKinnon gave his life to the cause and lies resting in Italian soil. Private James MacKinnon suffered grievous wounds, the result of which was he was left severely disabled and those wounds led to his early demise. Private Charles Russell MacKinnon was also wounded by shrapnel but recovered and a grateful nation sent him home to his family that has already given enough to the cause. He then went on to serve in the Korean War, where he was awarded even more campaign medals, the France and Germany Star, the Korean Medal and the United Nations Medal. He also qualifies for the Volunteer Service Medal for his efforts in Korea.

[Page 1649]

Mr. Speaker, Charles Russell MacKinnon has just returned from Italy, where that grateful nation awarded a Citation of Valour to him, and through him, to the Cape Breton Highlanders, whom he represented on a three week tour of Canadian cemeteries and memorials.

Mr. Speaker, we who owe so much to so few pay our tribute to them officially on November 11th, but here today I think it is only fit that in the embodiment of Mr. MacKinnon, that we recognize the service of Nova Scotians. I want to pay tribute, as well, to the MacKinnon family through Sergeant MacKinnon, who is seated in our gallery today. To him, his brothers, his family and to all who served and died, and to Mrs. MacKinnon and to Ron MacDonald, who has so kindly agreed to bring Mr. and Mrs. MacKinnon here today to this Legislature, so that we can duly give our approval and our heartfelt thanks for his tremendous contribution to his country, to his family and to those who come behind. Thank you. (Extended applause)

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a personal note, I feel somewhat attached, not only because of the fine name, Russell MacKinnon, but also on a more significant note, my Uncle Russell, when he joined and used to do volunteer missions over neutral territory for the Allied Forces in the Second World War, he was killed at the early age of 21. I am very proud to be able to carry that name. Hopefully in a democratic way, I will somehow be able to build on many of the things to which our friend in the gallery and my uncle and the many friends and relatives of members in this Legislature are so dearly attached.

Mr. Speaker, going back to the Department of Economic Development, as all members in the Legislature are well aware, the minister is responsible for Sysco. With great fanfare, this government, in particular the Minister of Labour, boasted of the ADR Program, and what a great benefit it was not only to the workers of Nova Scotia but to management and vice versa, and how it reduced the cost in terms of bringing a resolve to many labour-management disputes, but yet when it came to Sysco, ever since the provincial election the Board of Directors at Sysco, Sysco management, has refused, persistently and consistently, to participate in the ADR process. When many of the cases that come before the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal, it is one of the few corporations in this province that refuses to participate in this process.

Mr. Speaker, I find that very unfortunate, and I think it signals a rather regressive attitude towards the workers of Nova Scotia. I am quite surprised that if not the Minister of Economic Development, who I can appreciate would not be necessarily apprised of the day-to-day operations of what would take place on labour-management issues, but certainly the Minister of Labour, who picked up on our initiative and tried to hold this out as a flag-ship, but when you consider that the provincial Department of Labour through the Labour Relations Board is very strong on this initiative and we will find that one of our single largest Crown Corporations refuses to participate and offer that opportunity to the workers of Nova

[Page 1650]

Scotia and provide them the fairness and the justice that they need. So I find that very unfortunate.

[2:45 p.m.]

I believe that this is consistent with the type of attitude that this government has developed towards the working community in Nova Scotia. It is one thing for the government to have a fetish about the labour community, whether it be organized labour or just the individual worker because it may feel that it is somehow attached to the socialist community, but I think we have to look over and beyond that and look at the issues of concern for the workers of Nova Scotia and, in particular, for the workers who have now been in some cases five to seven years waiting for this opportunity to come along, to bring some redress and also to help eliminate that backlog at the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal that members in the government, when they were in Opposition, were so adamant that our government, when we were in power, bring to some resolve. So I find it is more than a mere coincidence. It is exactly somewhat contradictory in their philosophy.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Economic Development on numerous occasions since becoming minister has outlined, and I believe one report that he made to the media is that he simply was not just sitting on his duff on this issue of a long-term economic development strategy for Cape Breton, but it was a long and complicated thing. To date, he has given absolutely no indication of what this plan is, what this initiative, what direction, what sense of economic and social policy planning will be directed through his department, and I find that very unfortunate.

The latest statistics show that the unemployment rate here in metro is 6.4 per cent whereas it is three times that in industrial Cape Breton and, to date, there is nothing in the offing other than this election platform of, yes, we are going to shut Sydney Steel. That is one issue. It is easy to take and tear things apart, you know, if you feel that that falls within the right-wing agenda, but what is the alternative?

Mr. Speaker, that is the question that the Minister of Economic Development has yet to answer and I think he certainly has ample opportunity before this House rises in the next week, or several weeks, or maybe several days at the rate the government is moving, because I believe it is incumbent to give some comfort. We have more than 200 fishers in and around the Louisbourg area with the TAGS program expiring. I would suggest that the provincial Department of Economic Development, the provincial Department of Labour through its Labour Adjustment Program or, indeed, through any of the various government departments, have done little or nothing to address that.

If they have, Mr. Speaker, I am certainly willing to listen. The honourable minister knows I would be only too willing to accommodate and to congratulate on any efforts, but those efforts have not been put forth, not that we can identify. I realize my time has expired.

[Page 1651]

I am just starting to get going, but I would welcome the opportunity to come back at a future time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: During the last few weeks since the budget was introduced, I have had occasion to offer some comments about this particular budget and about the appropriate process in all budget making. I have offered two previous commentaries, the first with respect to the actual figures that apply to the province's deficit and debt and setting out the appropriate dates at which they were incurred. The other had to do with the process of consultation in the formation of a budget.

Today I want to offer the third in this series of observations. The topic I want to deal with today is in some of the underlying assumptions in the formation of this budget and also the government's proposal to undertake a process of review of government programs. Given the amount of time that has been dedicated already to the examination of the budget, it seems likely that this will be the last opportunity I will have to make comments on the budget. I did have a number of other topics I also wanted to deal with, but I am happy, at least, to be able to deal with this one.

Members will recall that part of the budget was an announcement that, "This government committed to a complete review of programs and services and to share the responsibility for making decisions with Nova Scotians.". They go on to say, "Next week we will release the details of these plans for review and consultation.". Then it goes on to say, "In the next few months we will take the recommendations and make public the criteria we will use to make decisions.".

Now, it seems clear that the underlying assumption is that the government wishes to take government expenditures, as they now stand, and make reductions. I have to say that there is a logical fallacy involved in this. It is one thing for the government to say it wishes to achieve economies. It is another thing to try to imply that government already offers an appropriate range of programs from which perhaps some economies might be extracted. The logical fallacy is that the correct approach is not just to make a list of government programs as they exist today, the correct approach is to take a list that includes existing government programs and other ideal government programs that might be desirable. It is only after that list is compiled that a government should logically turn, if it is determined to turn to making reductions.

So I have to say that the process upon which the government has embarked is flawed from the very start. It is flawed because it precludes from consideration the possibility of altering government programs, of adding to government programs, even if at the same time, that might mean adding a program that would be of higher priority than some other government program. So there is an error there and I hope that during the formal process of

[Page 1652]

examination the government will recognize that and decide that it is prepared to add to the list before it turns to the question of cuts or economies.

There is a second aspect of this matter which is profoundly worrying. The worrying aspect is that there are no criteria set out by the government according to which it is going to make its decisions. The government is very clear in its budget that that is the case; it has no criteria. It says in the budget, "In the next few months we will take the recommendations and make public the criteria we will use to make decisions.". In other words, what the government is saying is that it is looking to its advisory task force to try to tell it what are the principles that it ought to use in making decisions about government programs.

Now we have all heard the Premier say that the test is, if we weren't doing it now, would we decide to do it at all. I have to say that this does not strike me as a useful test. Nor indeed do I find it to be inspiring leadership to look at the details of the mandate that was given to the Voluntary Planning task force, the so-called task force to find a strategy for fiscal management. Part of the mandate is as follows, "To establish a framework or set of guidelines which will allow for the immediate review of all government programs including its Crown Corporations, with a view to eliminating those programs that cannot be justified on the basis of necessity, cost and efficiency.".

Again, apart from the fact that what is being considered is clearly elimination, what we find is an absence of detailed criteria. It is not as if this government is the first government to have decided that it wants to embark upon a program of government efficiency. I want to draw the members' attention to a book in our Legislative Library - one of the two editors is Donald Savoie, a well-known professor at the University of Moncton - called, Taking stock: assessing public sector reforms. Included in that book is a whole series of essays that reviews the last 15 and 20 years of experience, primarily in North America and Europe, of putting in place so-called reforms that are designed to achieve exactly what it is that the government is talking about here, reviewing programs on the basis of necessity, cost and efficiency.

In fact, quite clearly, two of the leading initiatives in this regard, that of the United Kingdom under the governance of Margaret Thatcher, and that of the United States under the governance of President Clinton, have not been notable successes. Under Margaret Thatcher, there was an undertaking called the Citizen's Charter: Raising the Standard, this is an initiative from 1991, and in the United States there was a report from a committee, chaired by Vice-President Al Gore in 1993, called Creating a Government that Works Better and Costs Less, subtitled the Report of the National Performance Review.

What was involved in the Gore study was the desire to cut red tape, put the customer first, cut back to basics. Now, that kind of language is quite obviously the sort of language that this government seems to think is of significance and importance. It is that kind of language that this government seems to think might actually mean something, but it is that language which I have to suggest is too vague. I want to table extracts from that book

[Page 1653]

because there is one essay in particular that I think does an excellent review of what it is that has gone on in other jurisdictions. It seems clear to me that this government has not considered in enough detail what it is that has gone on in other jurisdictions with respect to proposed public sector reforms.

If they had, they would not have embarked upon this process without detailed criteria; if they had, they would not have left it to some other body to decide what the criteria are; and if they had, they would not have left that other body such a short time in which to come up with those criteria before this government has to come up with its next budget. It is true we are a smaller place than either the Government of the United Kingdom administers or the Government of the United States administers, and yet we have a government sufficient in size to allow us to come to grips in a thorough way, if we choose to do it, with these problems.

During debate on another matter, I heard the honourable Minister of Health refer to what he called outcomes-based government. He said this on October 21st, " . . .outcomes-based government.". Now it seems to me that that phrase, particularly as it applies to his department might actually make a lot of sense because it is the outcomes that I think are the important thing, but I don't hear that expressed in the details of what it is that the government is thinking of when it is talking about undertaking public sector reforms. I hear it talking in the worst possible shorthand terms. I hear it talking about elimination, without set criteria.

[3:00 p.m.]

Let me remind members what it is that has been attempted elsewhere. What exactly is it that they are going to do? Outcomes might be an appropriate tool to use but is that meant to be one part of what is called total quality management? Total quality management is an aspect of the private sector management approach that the tradition of this government seems to refer to as being appropriate to import into our government. Or is it an earlier model? Is it something called planning program budgeting system that was popular in the 1960's and into the 1970's? Is that what it is that the government is talking about? Or is it what is called an FMI, Financial Management Initiative? Is it commitment to excellence? What exactly is it that this government thinks it is importing from the private sector as the model for new governance and if it is going to import models from the private sector, is the government right in believing that those are appropriate models? How will the government define success? What institutions will be looked to?

There is something out there in the management literature called NPM, New Public Management. Is it this model that the government has in mind or have they abdicated complete responsibility to voluntary planning? Is their attitude, let Voluntary Planning figure it out? They will tell us whether it is strategic management, service quality movement or process re-engineering that we are going to adopt here. Well, I don't find that a very satisfactory approach to governance. I think that it is the responsibility of this government to say to us in advance which model it has adopted and I think it is the responsibility of this

[Page 1654]

government to think very carefully about whether it is appropriate to bring into the public sector these private sector models.

I want to finish by quoting a passage from one of the essays in the book. I have tabled this passage, so it is available to members if they want to have a look at it. This is from one of the essays in Donald Savoie's book by Professor Christopher Pollett. Pollett is a professor at one of the United Kingdom universities where they have had the longest experience, so far, of looking at private sector reforms. He is commenting here on the customer charter that Margaret Thatcher brought out. "This is fine as far as it goes", he says, the problem is, " . . . for benefit claimants as for many other public service users, the term quality, insofar as it has any concrete referent, signifies a greater concern with essentially procedural rather than substantive issues with whether income support claims are dealt with within an average of four days rather than whether the level of benefits allows one to live decently.". Let me tell you, that is much more the relevant question.

Mr. Speaker, I see my time has expired. I recommend heartily that the government planners in this respect, read with detail Professor Pollett's article. Thank you.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to rise this afternoon and speak a few moments on something that I believe all members of the House support and that is our Canadian war veterans, both the living and the dead. I was very pleased again today when this Legislature supported a resolution that I put forward asking that we support the Royal Canadian Legion in its efforts and bid to have the federal government, the Chretien Government in Ottawa, enact legislation to protect our flag, the Canadian Maple Leaf, from acts of vandalism and desecration. I don't believe there is a more despicable and anti-democratic act, maneuver, or whatever you want to call it, than that of burning our flag, or tearing it up, or destroying it, disfiguring it, whatever individuals who have some problem with this country call it, but I do want to thank all members of the Legislature for supporting a stand against destroying our Maple Leaf.

Canada's democracy has been maintained this century at a considerable price. As we are moving into the millennium, it is always nice to reflect back. I believe that it was the right thing for this nation to do when it did join in the efforts against the oppressive aggressors, as they were, and as a consequence we lead a peaceful democratic existence. We enjoy many freedoms, freedoms that a lot of countries would dearly love to be able to partake in.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is a small wonder that year after year the United Nations names Canada as the greatest country on this globe, or on this earth. I rise, as I say, in support of Remembrance Day, our veterans and Remembrance Day services. We have a concern that is related to our veterans at the Colchester Regional Hospital in Truro in that we only have five beds for our veterans, as I pointed out the other day. I think it is worth repeating that the

[Page 1655]

North Nova Highlanders Unit resides in Colchester County, or at least what is left of the North Novies. That is an infantry division that sustained much injury and, of course, death during the course of the World Wars. There is a profound need for more beds at the Colchester Regional Hospital.

Again, I was very pleased that this Legislature supported our efforts on behalf of the veterans. We did send a letter off to the Honourable George Baker, the Minister of Veterans Affairs and we trust that Mr. Baker, who I believe is a good Member of Parliament, will give some consideration to extending and increasing the number of beds at the Colchester Regional Hospital.

I listened with interest today as my colleague, the honourable member for Yarmouth, raised a concern along the same lines that continues to take place at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital regarding veterans and the need for beds. I think it is the very least we can do, as provincial legislators, is to lobby the federal government to increase the number of beds. I cannot speak on behalf of your community, Mr. Speaker, but I understand that you do have a number of beds for veterans. That is fine and dandy. I understand in New Glasgow also there are quite a number of beds for the veterans. I would bet though that all those beds are taken up by the vets.

Again, we also should remember as we approach Remembrance Day that there are a number of hospitalized veterans who will not be able to get out and enjoy Remembrance Day ceremonies. I know in my community, I think of two people especially, two veterans who served in World War II who are going to be unable to attend because they are hospitalized. I think they will appreciate it when I take that little old resolution in sometime around Remembrance Day and indicate to them that the Nova Scotia Legislature says thank you to the hospitalized veterans who are residing in hospitals across this province. We have concerns with the number of beds.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member entertain an introduction?

MR. TAYLOR: Yes.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley for allowing me to do the introduction. He always gets a little nervous when I say I am going to ask a question, but not in this case.

[Page 1656]

Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to you and through you to all members of the House a very distinguished gentleman from the Sydney Forks area. He is a very personal friend of mine albeit that we do not necessarily see eye to eye politically. He is a very good friend of mine. He is up visiting and taking in the activities of the House. I would ask if he would rise and receive the warm welcome of the House, Mr. Brian Slaney. (Applause)

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member for Cape Breton West, I have no difficulty at all yielding the floor to the honourable member when, in fact, he is making an introduction. Sometimes his questions and calls for a quorum and things of that nature leave one a little apprehensive, but no difficulty when he requests to make an introduction.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to wrap things up by saying since 1994 the Royal Canadian Legion has been pressing the federal government in Ottawa, the Chretien Liberals, to enact legislation to protect our flag, the Maple Leaf, from acts of vandalism and desecration. It seems to me as an MLA, as a layperson, as a Canadian, as a Nova Scotian, that that is a very simple request.

What the veterans are asking is that Members of Parliament join together and support that cause and put something in legislation and, of course, draft it up with good strong language to ensure that vandals and people - perhaps they could be Canadians, they could be people from foreign countries - that are carrying out these despicable acts of desecration but it is very anti-democratic and it must hurt the veterans, especially the veterans. I know it hurts me to sees that sort of thing take place. I haven't personally experienced it but I have seen it through the media. I think it is just disgraceful, absolutely terrible that somebody can come into this country and disfigure or burn our flag.

So, again, to all members of this Legislature thank you for supporting a cause and I know the Royal Canadian Legion will be very proud of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly for supporting the push to see federal legislation put in place to prohibit such things, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[3:12 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mr. Wayne Gaudet in the Chair.]

[3:50 p.m. CWH on Supply recessed and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.

[Page 1657]

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 15.

Bill No. 15 - Public Prosecutions Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to outline the amendments that are being brought forward to the Public Prosecutions Act. I will also speak briefly to some of the changes that are taking place within the Public Prosecution Service as a result of these amendments, and the implementation of the Kaufman report.

In the Throne Speech of a few weeks ago, we made a commitment to implement the recommendations of the report, which was submitted in June of this year. That report examined the operations of the service and the issues of independence and accountability. The amendments we are discussing today go to those very issues, Mr. Speaker.

Those working for the Public Prosecution Service are professionals. They prosecute more than 50,000 cases annually and are a vital component of the justice system. Like all professionals within government, Mr. Speaker, they will be treated with courtesy and with respect, and they will also be held accountable for the decisions they make.

This first amendment is about that accountability. It will allow the Director of Public Prosecutions to exceed the budget by a maximum of 5 per cent in the event of a major or unexpected prosecution. While requests for additional funds in such circumstances have never been turned down in the past, this amendment formalizes the process, Mr. Speaker.

As Mr. Kaufman noted, the Westray prosecution has demonstrated that we must find a better way to ensure unforseen prosecutions are properly financed. These amendments protect the independence of the Public Prosecution Service. Mr. Speaker, the director of the service will no longer have to negotiate with the government for additional funding. This does not mean we are giving the service a blank cheque, however. This provision can only be used for extraordinary and unexpected prosecutions. It cannot be applied to the daily operations of the service. It means the government can appoint an outside and independent party to review the expenditures of the service when faced with an extraordinary prosecution. It gives the service the ability to operate independently with the appropriate checks and balances in place, and that is as it should be.

[Page 1658]

There are two other amendments in the legislation that were recommended by the report. One ensures that the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions meet at least 12 times a year, preferably once a month. Mr. Speaker, that has been the practice of the Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General and the Directors of Public Prosecutions for many years. It simply formalizes that process as recommended by Mr. Kaufman. The other deals with the Attorney General's right to intervene, either to consent to a prosecution, prefer an indictment, or issue a stay of proceedings, as outlined in Section 6 of the present Act.

Some honourable members have tried to suggest there is something sinister about the process, Mr. Speaker. I would like to dispel the myth with the words of Mr. Kaufman himself. We are amending the legislation to ensure that any directive issued in accordance with Section 6 of the Act is published in the Royal Gazette as soon as possible. Mr. Kaufman made this recommendation to ensure that the directives issued will receive full public scrutiny. In making the recommendation, Mr. Kaufman said, "the Attorney General -- subject to certain safeguards -- retains the ultimate authority for prosecutions. And it is as it should be, for the very essence of responsible government is that someone -- in this case the Attorney General -- is answerable to the House.".

The Act is quite clear, Mr. Speaker. Under Section 6 it states, "The Attorney General is the Minister responsible for the prosecution service and is accountable to the Assembly, for all prosecutions to which this Act applies.". The Act goes on to state that the Attorney General may, "exercise statutory functions with respect to prosecutions, including consenting to a prosecution, preferring an indictment or authorizing a stay of proceedings, after consultation with the Director of Public Prosecutions.". This amendment simply ensures that the process is transparent. It ensures that the Attorney General is held accountable for his or her actions by making any directive public.

This is all about making the process transparent. Mr. Speaker, it provides that checks and balances that are required in order for the Attorney General to ensure the public interest is well served. It is a responsibility that every Attorney General must take seriously, and one in which every Nova Scotian can take comfort.

The remaining amendments we are bringing forward are housekeeping in nature, Mr. Speaker. They clarify the language with respect to the appointment of the Director or an Acting Director of Public Prosecutions, the latter actually being recommended in the Ghiz/Archibald report which was not implemented. These mini recommendations in the Kaufman report can and will be implemented without the need of a legislative change. I would like to highlight a few of them today, Mr. Speaker. Much progress has already been made in implementing the Kaufman report. I commend the Public Prosecution Service for their leadership in this regard.

[Page 1659]

The Public Prosecution Service has taken steps to improve communication in a number of areas, including internal communication. The service is also reviewing their notification systems involving police, victims and witnesses, all people who are fundamentally affected by the Justice system. On the very issue of Crown shopping, the service has been working with officials from the Department of Justice in setting up a police liaison committee. It is vital that lines of communication are open and that dialogue is ongoing between the police authorities and the Public Prosecution Service.

I am pleased to see progress being made in this area, Mr. Speaker. The service has taken steps to ensure that employees are more involved in management meetings, by circulating minutes and by inviting Crowns from various regions to participate in the management meetings. As of October 1st, provisions are being made to compensate per diem Crown Attorneys for preparation time. I can tell you from personal experience in talking to per diem Crown Attorneys that this was a serious flaw in the previous system, one that needed to be addressed. Clearly we want per diem Crown Attorneys to prepare before they get to court and this will ensure that that happens.

Several other recommendations can be addressed through the preparation of proper human resource and business planning strategies. The service has an annual budget of $11 million which is second only to British Columbia on a per capita basis. Nova Scotia has more prosecutors than the national average, Mr. Speaker. While Mr. Kaufman did say that the service was adequately funded, he also said those funds have not been adequately managed. I want that changed. I will ensure that the funds that are being provided are effectively spent, just as we are doing with every program and every service across government.

If a business plan demonstrates that additional funds are required by the Public Prosecution Service, they will be provided, in keeping with our commitment to the people of this province and in light of fiscal realities. We will also ensure this service is properly funded. We will also hold the service accountable for the funds expended. The Kaufman report was clear. The leadership of the service is vital to its health, its ability to move forward. This individual will be expected to put the plans in place, the strategy that is needed to take this service forward. I will be making an announcement regarding this issue within the next number of weeks.

Mr. Speaker, I also intend to deal with the issue of wages for Crown Attorneys. While the previous government tried to force a solution on the service, I will not. Like Mr. Kaufman, I believe an agreed-upon solution is the best approach. Therefore I have asked the Department of Human Resources to explore whether the process currently in place in Ontario can work here. Essentially it is a concept that offers negotiation and arbitration. It provides for the collective bargaining approach that the Crowns have been seeking and offers the flexibility that has been lacking in the past. It is a concept that I sincerely hope the Crowns will embrace so that we can continue to move forward, and move forward, we must. But I

[Page 1660]

wish to stress again that we want to enter into a dialogue with the Crown Attorneys to make sure that the process for setting wages is one that we can all accept.

Mr. Speaker, with this I would move second reading of the bill. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I have to say our Party is very pleased to see the honourable Minister of Justice bring forward this bill. Quite obviously amendments to the Public Prosecutions Act are entirely appropriate if they move forward the agenda that has been identified by a number of important studies done in our province.

The honourable minister in his remarks referred to the Kaufman report and clearly with respect to some matters, that is the starting point. He also referred to the Westray prosecution. It is important that none of us forgets the events at Westray and the commission of inquiry that followed it and the various prosecutions that followed. I don't think any of us will really forget that. It continues to reverberate throughout our political life. But it was the one example that the honourable minister gave of what he thought of as being extraordinary prosecutions. In fact, Nova Scotia has had at least four extraordinary prosecutions that have required extra expenditures over the last few years, and I am mindful of the series of Westray prosecutions, there is also the prosecution of Gerald Reagan, there is the case of Dr. Nancy Morrison, and there was what is known as Operation Hope, all of the procedures that spun out of investigations into activities at the Youth Correctional Centre in Shelburne.

[4:00 p.m.]

If the lesson that can be learned is that virtually every year Nova Scotia will encounter at least one extraordinary prosecution, then of course it makes sense for us to move, to anticipate that. It makes sense to adjust the Public Prosecutions Act in order to strengthen or respect, at least, its independence.

I have to say, I am very happy to see the minister come forward with an amendment to the Act that makes it clear that the department can, without subjecting itself to any undue delay, take steps to apply more money than might have previously been allocated in its budget. That seems entirely appropriate, and if I have any questions for the minister about that, I think the only question is whether the 5 per cent figure is enough. What the Public Prosecution Service is being told in this legislation is that they can exceed their allocated budget by 5 per cent. That is about $500,000, given the size of the budget that the service has. That is not a lot of money; $500,000, unfortunately, in a very large case can get eaten up very rapidly.

[Page 1661]

We know from our experience with the four instances that I have given that the amount of money involved has, in at least a couple of those, been well in excess of what would be 5 per cent of the normal budget allocation of the Public Prosecution Service. We have reason to be concerned about this figure, and I would have hoped to have heard from the minister more details about why it is that he thought 5 per cent was an appropriate limit. I hope that when we get into more detailed debate, we will hear from the minister on this, or when we get into the Law Amendments Committee, we will hear from the minister on this.

I want to be absolutely clear that we support this initiative, we support the basic idea. We support the idea of authorizing the Public Prosecution Service to have adequate resources. To the extent that we have any reservations, it focuses only on this question of the appropriate amount.

I want to turn to a second aspect of something that has been proposed in the bill. We all know that as it exists now, the legislation allows the honourable minister to issue policy directives to the Public Prosecution Service. When the minister chooses to do that, he is obliged to publish, in the Royal Gazette, his directives. This is only right. What it does is, it respects the independence of the Public Prosecution Service while at the same time recognizing that there is a political responsibility that is ultimately the minister's when it comes to deciding on the overall general direction of allocation of resources.

For example, if the honourable Minister of Justice were to decide on a set policy with respect to end-of-life decisions by physicians, and the minister decided to embody that policy in a written directive to the Director of Public Prosecutions, what the law says now is that he has to publish that directive. It cannot be a secret directive, it cannot be private matter between the minister and the Director of Public Prosecutions. This is absolutely the right thing because it understands that it is the minister's responsibility to make those kinds of decisions. Clearly it is not his responsibility to make those kinds of decisions in a way that would interfere with any particular prosecution and it would be wrong for the minister to issue those kinds of directives in the middle of a case, but it is certainly the case that the minister has that kind of responsibility and our law, as it stands now, recognizes that.

This Act as proposed by the minister now goes further and imposes a requirement on the minister to publish certain other kinds of directives. You will see that although they are not referred to in the language of the legislation, they are not referred to in the bill that is in front of us, this is simply because of the way the bill, as is normal, is written because it involves amendments to the existing Act. Although they are not referred to, essentially what is involved here are stays of proceedings or putting forward preferred indictments.

Again, this is something which is recognized as a power of a Minister of Justice or an Attorney General pursuant to the Criminal Code. I do not say that it is wrong for the minister to exercise that power. He might have chosen to act only upon the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions and it seems that perhaps the wording of the bill suggests that, although

[Page 1662]

I have to say it is a bit ambiguous. When again we are seeking clarification from the minister, I hope the minister will say to us whether he intends to exercise that power only upon receipt of advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions because the difference between this kind of power and the kind of power that was already specified in the bill, is that the power that exists in the bill already is a general power that sets out a policy that would apply to future prosecutions.

This power to deal with stays of proceedings and preferred indictments applies very directly to individual cases that would already be before the courts. A stay of proceedings is simply a decision that says this case shall not go forward. A preferred indictment is a decision that says we are not going to deal with this matter as if it were a summary conviction offence, we are going to go and treat it as an indictable matter and proceed according to that procedural route under the Criminal Code.

So, quite clearly, these deal with actual specific cases and it is not clear that we want the Minister of Justice and Attorney General to be involved to that extent in individual cases. I would like the minister to clarify whether this is going to be only upon the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions. As I say, there is some language in the bill that suggests that might be the minister's intention, but I hope he clarifies it.

I do, however, have another reservation with respect to how this particular power is to be exercised. You will see that the language of that clause speaks in terms of the minister publishing notices about his decisions, "as soon as practicable" in the Royal Gazette. I have to say that it is not clear to me why it is that the language should be as loose as that. I would have thought that this is the kind of information that should be published immediately in the next following issue of the Royal Gazette. I know the Royal Gazette is published irregularly, but it seems to me that as soon as practicable leaves open the possibility of no little delay. The language is not forthwith, the language is not immediately, the language says, as soon as practicable. It seems quite clear that this is something of a subjective standard. It leaves out an element of objectivity that might promote swift publication, not just swift but the swiftest possible publication. So, I have to say that although we support the general thrust of this idea as embodied in the bill, we will be looking to the minister to explain whether there is some coherent reason why the language ought not to be more immediate in its impact.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn to a matter that isn't in the bill; what is often left out of a piece of legislation can be just as important as what is included. We heard the honourable minister say that he was intending to advance the agenda of reform of the Public Prosecution Service as set out by Mr. Justice Kaufman in his report to us. At the same time, one important aspect of the Kaufman report dealt with the negotiation of terms and conditions of employment for the Crown Attorneys in this province. Not only was this part of the subject matter of the Kaufman report, it was the subject matter of the Ghiz/Archibald report. In fact, this has been a matter of public concern for 11 years.

[Page 1663]

The association that represents the Crown Attorneys in Nova Scotia was formed in 1988. They have been pressing on their own behalf for 11 years to attempt to devise a satisfactory mechanism for determining their terms and conditions of employment. Now, we in this House have just been through a very difficult time dealing with one group of employees, the paramedics, who have been negotiating for 15 months and we saw how frustrating it was for that group of employees not to have been able to devise with their employer a satisfactory method of negotiations. But can you imagine 11 years going by; 11 years in which a responsible, professional group of employees has been trying with successive governments to devise a system, a framework for their negotiations. It seems incredible to me and it is incredible to me that after all that time there is nothing in this bill that deals with it.

I know that we just had a change in government. I know that the minister is new in his portfolio, only since August 16th, and I know that he is aware of this issue. I know that he went, at the end of September, to the annual meeting of the Crown Prosecutors and told them that he was interested in negotiating a framework agreement. I am sure the minister is working on it. But what he said to us is that he is working on it by referring to the Department of Human Resources, the Ontario model.

I can only say, how profoundly disappointing it is that this continues to be an outstanding matter. It is not disappointing to me that they are negotiating. It is not disappointing to me that they are talking, that's fine. What is disappointing is that this is taking such a huge amount of time to resolve. Now, I hope the minister is aware that he is going to run into one whale of a question about retroactivity when he finally does devise a negotiation framework. That was the sticking point in dealing with the paramedics, as we all remember, from a week ago. I don't imagine, although I have no authority to negotiate on their behalf, I assure you, that the Crown Attorneys are going to be looking for 11 years of retroactivity.

[4:15 p.m.]

I am sure the government hopes fervently that that is not the case, but I imagine they will be looking for some serious amount of retroactivity, so I hope the minister has turned his mind to that. The sooner we get on with devising a framework for these negotiations, the sooner the negotiations will take place, the sooner there will be a settlement and, to the extent that there is any back pay, the government will know about it and will be able to take it into account when doing their budget. Maybe they were sending a signal when they talked about 5 per cent for extraordinary prosecutions. Maybe they intend that if the money isn't used for extraordinary prosecutions, maybe it can be used for something else. I am not sure. That may be too fine a piece of analysis.

I have to say again that it is disappointing to us here that nothing has been resolved on this particular point. I would hope that before this House rises, before we finish dealing with this bill, that it may be that the minister himself will have finished his talked with the Public

[Page 1664]

Prosecution Service - that is with their professional association - and they will come forward with a mutually agreed upon clause that we could include in this bill. That may be too optimistic a hope, but we will see.

So to sum up, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that we support this bill. We support this bill in principle. That is what we are discussing here today. We do have some reservations. We will be looking to the minister for more detailed explanations of some of the provisions, but the general thrust, which is to implement the Kaufman report, is one with which we agree. It is a thrust that we have spoken in favour of before and it is something that we ourselves have brought forward, bills, to implement on previous occasions. So I say to the minister, we are glad to see this legislation. We will be happy to hear his more-detailed explanations of some of the points I have raised, but we do support it in principle and we will vote in favour of it for second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this evening to speak on this bill, An Act to Amend Chapter 21 of the Acts of 1990, the Public Prosecutions Act. Certainly, as my colleague, the member for Halifax Chebucto, indicated, our Party applauds any effort to implement and to enhance the service being offered by the Public Prosecution Service currently here in this province. We are all aware of some of the difficulties that have been faced by the Public Prosecution Service and some of the concerns that Nova Scotians have had as a result of its operations.

As my colleague indicated, one of the most interesting points for me in reviewing this bill, and for our Party, is not only what is in the bill but all of the things that have been left out of the bill. When we look at the executive summary from the Kaufman report, he makes 29 recommendations, yet in this bill here today we have but three amendments that have been made. As legislators, we have to ask ourselves: do we want to over-legislate and put too much in legislation, or do we want to allow some room for negotiation and some room for being able to reach consensus and reach agreement without having to legislate first? I asked myself that when the minister brought in the bill.

In looking back at some of the comments that the minister made, and at some of the comments that we have heard from the Minister of Health, the Minister of the Environment and other ministers when pressed on questions as to how things were going to happen and what chances of any success, they were always quick to answer that they were very hopeful that an agreement would be reached. That is why I am very concerned with this bill, because while I certainly appreciate that this new government is full of hopes and dreams, Nova Scotians are looking for concrete answers to the problems that face this province and the challenges that face us. By only having three amendments from 29 recommendations, I think it certainly raises alarm bells with all of us here in the House as to why there would only be three amendments to the Act, with 29 recommendations.

[Page 1665]

My colleague has indicated the requirement to publish in the Royal Gazette as soon as practicable any action taken by the Attorney General in dealing with decisions of how to proceed with the Public Prosecution Service. Certainly the government is to be commended for taking this recommendation and putting it into legislation but, again, it raises the concerns, the wording "as soon as practicable", people in the legal profession will recognize that the Royal Gazette is not a daily publication. I believe it is a weekly or bi-weekly publication and there is a question of how much delay could be brought upon decisions of the Attorney General with statements such as "as soon as practicable" because as soon as practicable - we all know how busy we are as members in this House and we often tell people we will get back to them as soon as possible and that as soon as possible can often take quite some time, especially when the House sits to 2:00 a.m. on some occasions. In recognizing how busy the Department of Justice is, it certainly leaves open the possibility that as soon as practicable can turn into two weeks, a month, even six months in some cases.

It is a question of, by allowing this to happen and it is not - the minister alluded in his comments that there was some mischievousness coming from the Opposition in some of our statements, I fail to understand where he would come up with such a notion - but it does leave the door open with this clause, with this lack of a concrete requirement for publication. It does leave it open for the minister, the Attorney General and his staff to delay publication of certain decisions which may not be politically correct or may not be popular with the electorate in Nova Scotia and that is the danger.

I know that the minister, as a colleague in the legal profession, is an honourable member of this House and I certainly would not want to try to impute any intentions on him or his staff, but I think with the Public Prosecution Service, if we have learned anything, is that Nova Scotians are very suspicious of how the Public Prosecution Service works. We have an opportunity here to tighten this up, to tell them, look, there will not be any games played with decisions made in such cases. You will be informed as soon as possible. That is not there by using the loose legal language of "as soon as practicable".

I think here in this House, when we often ask ministers to provide some information, I believe in the fullness of time is often their response and I think, although I have only been in this House for a relative short period of time, I have come to learn that in the fullness of time can mean quite a long time in some cases. So it is an opportunity, and I certainly hope the minister will be willing to look at amendments to try to tighten up that wording in the Act so that we ensure that Nova Scotians are made aware, immediately, when such decisions are made. So if there is a decision made, it be published immediately in the next edition of the Royal Gazette. That is an amendment that could easily be put into this Act without having to change the intent of the Act or the overall flow of how the Act goes.

One of the other issues that we have, and my colleague, the member for Halifax Chebucto alluded to it, and I was concerned when the minister spoke on the bill, one of the questions which was asked of him was, in cases as to where the Public Prosecution Service

[Page 1666]

has to decide on how to proceed, in cases let's say of public interest, I believe was the wording used, it was asked of the minister, how are you going to ensure that there is confidence restored in the system because it is not addressed in this Act with these three amendments? So what are you going to do different?

The minister, and I know earlier he indicated that there were sinister attempts from the Opposition, they are not sinister attempts. What they are, especially in my own regard, my reaction to it was not only as a member of the Opposition but also as a colleague in the legal profession. His statement was that for issues of public interest or public concern, I will be briefed beforehand as to how the prosecution is going to proceed and I assure the public that their best interests will be served. That is a very interesting statement and I am sure the minister will try to explain that to us. I know he has made some remarks today. It still does not sit well with me because he made the statement, and the reason it does not sit well with me, a bit of his earlier statement was when he said, look, only Superman as Attorney General would be able to know how every single case is going to proceed. I cannot do that. I am not Superman and we certainly respect that the Minister of Justice, the Attorney General, is not Superman.

Then when he went on and said for cases of public interest or public concern, I will be briefed. My issue and concern is, and I believe my Party's concern is, what is he using as criteria to determine which cases fall within that definition? Will it just be the minister as the Attorney General who will decide what cases are deemed of public concern or public interest? Will it be the Government House Leader or the Premier or Cabinet or his caucus? Who is going to be determining which cases are of public interest? Will it be the media? Will it depend on which case shows up on the front page of the paper to determine which are the ones of public concern? That is the issue that is left before us and that has not been answered by the minister.

Again, it is not trying to impute motives on the minister, it is simply an opportunity to make sure that there are criteria in there to ensure that those cases do not slip through the loophole because the minister or the media didn't pick up on it but that we make sure that there is specific criteria in there to deal with these kinds of cases. That, we don't have right now.

I think there was an opportunity to maybe give a better indication in legislation. Again, we come to the issue that you can't put everything in the legislation and I am sure the Government House Leader and other members would agree, you can't add everything in the legislation but there needs to be a clear course, I guess would be a good way of saying it for this government, in there as to how they are going to deal with this. That is not in there right now and again it goes to the confidence that the public is going to have. I fear that we can have an Attorney General and a minister and a government that is going to be governed by public opinion as to which cases it determines are important that the Attorney General be made aware of how the public prosecution is going to proceed.

[Page 1667]

We do have a requirement of the minister that whatever his decision is, as Attorney General, in dealing with the Public Prosecution Service on how they should proceed, yes, that will be published, it is required now, but again comes the issue of will it be immediately, will be it six months, will it be a year or will it be even more to try to avoid any negative public reaction that may come out the decision being made.

Again, it comes down to the question of what criteria the minister will use in deciding these. Does it depend on who writes the most eloquent editorial or who writes the most eloquent story as to how they should proceed? Will he go by opinion polls? Will the Department of Justice be hiring PR firms to try to decide which way the Nova Scotia public want to go with this? Those are all issues that haven't been answered and I think for Nova Scotians to sit back and say, well, we are going to put all of our faith in the Minister of Justice that he will lead us down the golden path and he will know which way is the best way for us to proceed, I think that Nova Scotians are very concerned about that, that one person would have that much authority. Yes, I do agree that the Public Prosecution Service is an arm of the Department of Justice and must be answerable to this House of Assembly but, again, comes the issue of the independence of that body and what involvement the minister can have.

A further comment that the minister made at that bill briefing, he said, unlike past ministers, past Attorneys General who felt that the Public Prosecution Service was completely independent and that they should not be involved with them, they should leave them in a corner, I will not do that. I am directly responsible for their actions and, therefore, I will be directly involved in what they do. Again, not just as a member of the Opposition but as a member of the legal profession, that raises very serious concerns to hear an Attorney General of this province make such statements. What does he mean? What was it that the Attorneys General of the past were not doing that he is now going to do? He hasn't made that clear.

Does it mean that decisions made before that were made based on what the Public Prosecution Service thought was best that now the Attorney General will determine what is best for the Public Prosecution Service, what is best for this province and that he will determine this? Is that what he means when he says that he won't be like past Attorneys General? Those are all questions that remain out there that have not been answered for us.

One of the provisions, which certainly we are pleased to see has been implemented from the Kaufman report is the allowance that the Public Prosecution Service can exceed the budget in extraordinary cases. I think in Nova Scotia, outside the roller-coaster that politics has been for Nova Scotians, certainly I think our justice system would rank second in some of the high profile cases that we have seen here in this province in the last few years.

As has already been raised, a concern is where does this 5 per cent figure come from? The government is acknowledging that there is a need to have some leeway on budgetary matters when it comes to public prosecution for certain cases, one cannot predict what the cost will be or how much time will be required or how many staff will be required. Why 5 per

[Page 1668]

cent, is the question we are asking? I will look to the minister to provide more information on this.

[4:30 p.m.]

Is there a way that one could say that at the discretion of the Director of Public Prosecutions the budget can be exceeded? You can have one, two or even 10 high-profile cases in a province happen in one year. The concern is that we are going to come to a certain point and then the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions will say, wait a minute, we are at our 5 per cent mark, we are going to have to hold off on the rest of the cases or we are going to have to cut back staff and cut back the amount of the effort involved. Again, justice delayed is justice denied, it has been said. It is a serious concern that justice in this province would not take place because of budgetary concerns.

While we are pleased that this acknowledgement has been made in amending this Act by the minister, we will certainly be looking for some more explanation from him as to why this 5 per cent figure is being used and whether there is any ability to put some sort of leeway in there that, should it be required in extraordinary cases, this 5 per cent can be exceeded.

Mr. Speaker, again, in going to the Act that is proposed before us today and the amount of changes that have been involved, there are a great deal of issues which have been raised in the Kaufman report that have not been raised in this bill. The minister, when asked at the bill briefing, said that a number of these recommendations, other than the ones he put in the bill, were simply housekeeping measures and that they could be taken care of internally, there was no need for legislation, and he wanted to assure the Opposition that the good minister and Attorney General would be taking care of this internally. It is ironic because I think the whole purpose of the Kaufman report was because of a demand by the people in the Public Prosecution Service that this housekeeping and internal work was not working and there was a need for more direction and specifics to take place to ensure that these recommendations would be implemented.

That hasn't been made part of this bill. Again it comes to the issue of over-legislating, but to regain the confidence of Nova Scotians and even more importantly, regain the confidence of the members of the Public Prosecution Service, it is absolutely necessary that we walk out here as legislators and say, this bill before us is going, as best as possible, to make the changes in the Public Prosecution Service that have been pointed out in the Kaufman report, that have been pointed out by the Crown Attorneys themselves who work for the Public Prosecution Service and that they are going to be able to ensure that this is not an issue which is going to come before us on a continual basis because the government has failed to take the proper steps to address these recommendations.

[Page 1669]

One of the main concerns that was raised is the issue of what is called Crown shopping. Nova Scotians and members of this House might ask what this means. Well, basically what it does is that in certain cases when the police are bringing forward charges, there is a means by which, as it now stands, there are loopholes where the police sometimes hold back charges or hold back cases so that they can kind of have a better option of which Crown Attorney is going to handle their case. Basically, I don't think that this is mischievous by the police. I think they have good intentions when they are doing this because in some cases, if they have a murder case, they may say, well, look, we want a seasoned Crown Attorney who has dealt with a lot of murder cases. We want to make sure that that is who is going to deal with this case. That is what has been going on and there have been a lot of complaints coming that only certain Crown Attorneys are being relied on for certain cases and that the police are choosing which Crown Attorney they feel is going to be the one who will push their case and their viewpoint forward. That is a serious concern in the legal profession and it is a concern for Nova Scotians.

We have often heard about judge shopping and how there has been a great deal of effort put forward to ensure that that does not take place, that lawyers not be able to choose when their case is going to be heard because a specific judge is coming up that day. It is important that we not have this happening for Crown Attorneys, that they are able to continue with their independence and that they treat every case on a fair basis and that there is not undue influence brought upon them. This is one of the recommendations brought forward in the Kaufman report. He said at Recommendation No. 7, at Page 416 of the Review of the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service, "I recommend that steps be taken to preclude 'Crown shopping' by the police.". He said at Recommendation No. 8, "I recommend that the appointment and promotion process be revised to make it open, accessible and visibly fair.".

He also said at Recommendation No. 6, "I recommend that a PPS police liaison committee be struck to deal with problems and complaints arising from PPS - police relations.". Now I think it would have been quite easy for the minister, in making amendments to the Public Prosecution Act, to make a legislative requirement that there be such a committee, that the government not have a choice, that it be an obligation that this committee be put in place, rather than say we will simply do it as a housekeeping measure and, in good time, we will strike this committee. There was an opportunity to put this right in the legislation, to ensure it would take place, to negotiate with the police as to how the composition of the committee should take place and give Nova Scotians a sense of security in knowing that these recommendations are really going to be implemented. There is a specific time-frame and we don't simply have to rely on the minister's assurances that they will be taken care of, as housekeeping measures.

One of the other recommendations, Recommention No. 10, on the issue of making sure that Crown Attorneys be aware of what is taking place in the Public Prosecution Service, Mr. Kaufman said, "I further recommend that minutes of every meeting of the Management Committee be distributed to all Crown Attorneys as soon as practicable after the meetings.".

[Page 1670]

Well, again comes the issue of as soon as practicable after the meetings. It leaves it open to the management committee to determine whether they should delay making these minutes available, if they are of a contentious nature.

Again, this was an opportunity where the government could have said we are going to put this in there and make sure it actually takes place and give some confidence to the members in the Public Prosecution Service. Not only is it an issue of the confidence of Nova Scotians in this, it is a major issue of the confidence of the Crown Attorneys themselves. We have seen them demonstrate in the past and spoken of their working conditions and their concerns. There is an absolute need for us, as legislators, and for the Minister of Justice to be able to give them assurances that these concerns are going to be addressed.

One of the other recommendations which goes to the relations with the Public Prosecution Service and the membership, at Recommendation No. 18 he said, "I recommend that meaningful performance appraisals of all staff be made once a year.". Again, a provision could have been put in this bill addressing this, to make sure that this actually takes place. Again, this is not included in this bill.

At Recommendation No. 19 he said, "I recommend that members of the PPS who may wish to apply for management positions be required to attend appropriate educational seminars.". What we are left with, the fact that is included in this bill is that we can only hope that when they are putting out job competitions for the Department of Justice and for the Public Prosecution Service that this will be a requirement in those job competitions. So, again, we rely on the housekeeping of the minister, rather than having an Act before us that will ensure that this is a minimum requirement and that this be put in place for them.

Again, it is stated, in Recommendation No. 21, that "I recommend that additional funds be allocated to enable more Crown Attorneys to attend continuing legal education events.. This is a serious concern in the legal profession. It is one where it is imperative with every profession, and with the legal profession that members be permitted to attend seminars to continually educate themselves on changes taking place in the profession. I know it is a serious concern among members of the Public Prosecution Service that, based on their workload, their hours, they are precluded from even having the opportunity to attend these seminars, number one, due to time constraints and, number two, due to the costs involved.

Again, this was a measure where the minister could have said I am going to put in this bill, for example, that each Crown Attorney must attend one, two, three, four, or whatever number, of educational seminars per year, the costs of which will be picked up by the Public Prosecution Service. It makes it a requirement so Nova Scotians know that they are having the most-qualified and the most-educated Crown Attorneys possible, that they are kept up on all changes of the law. At the same time, it gives some reassurances to the membership of the Public Prosecution Service that they will be able to attend these seminars and that they will

[Page 1671]

be funded by the Public Prosecution Service, by their employer, to ensure that the employer is getting the best service possible from the membership who are the employees.

Again, with the relations between the Public Prosecution Service and its membership, in Recommendation No. 23, Justice Kaufman said, "I recommend that management make every effort to increase the frequency and regularity of the Crown Attorneys' Newsletter, and that contributions to this letter be sought from Crown Attorneys at all levels.". We have in this bill the requirement that the Minister of Justice, the Attorney General, must meet with the Director of Public Prosecutions 12 times per year, what we would hope would be at least once a month.

Again, there was an opportunity in this bill for the government to have said that we are going to make it a requirement that the Crown Attorneys' newsletter be published 12 times a year or 24 times a year, whichever one is practical, to ensure that this takes place, that there be that level of confidence given to the Public Prosecutors and again, that they don't need to rely on the minister's assurances of this being taken care of as housekeeping measures.

Part 3 of the recommendations, Recommendation No. 27, Justice Kaufman said, "I recommend that the complaints procedure be revised; that it be made more responsive to the parties, and that the allowable time for dealing with complaints be considerably shortened.". Again this bill completely fails to address this recommendation or to give any indication as to what changes will be made to allow for this recommendation to be implemented. Again it comes down to not what is in this bill, but what this bill fails to bring into it.

Again, I think it is an opportunity where this government is saying, yes, we are living up to a commitment, one of our blue book commitments, and we are going to address changes and recommendations to the Public Prosecution Service but, again, it is an example, as I have said before, where they are taking three steps out of a staircase that has 20 steps - in this case 29 - and they are trying to sell Nova Scotians by saying they have lived up to their commitment. I don't question that they are trying to live up to their commitment, it is a question of whether they have actually gotten the job done or whether in the spring we will be back in here again with another bill and another attempt by the minister, the Attorney General, to try to implement the actual recommendations that have come from the Kaufman report.

One of the most relevant recommendations in dealing with the relations between Crown Attorneys and their employer, which again fails to even receive mention in this bill, is Recommendation No. 28, where Justice Kaufman said, "I recommend that the legislative exclusion of government lawyers under the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act be repealed and that the Act be amended to establish a Staff Lawyers Bargaining Unit.". So not only is it recommendations which I am suggesting should be legislated, it is quite clear that Justice Kaufman felt the need for legislation, in this case repealing the legislative exclusion would exist and also amendment to the Act to establish a staff lawyer's bargaining unit.

[Page 1672]

[4:45 p.m.]

This is one of the most contentious issues that there has been amongst members of the Public Prosecution Service. It has been their level of pay as compared to their colleagues in the private sector and the fact that they are not permitted to bargain collectively is one they raised with the former government. It is one, I would submit, that they were probably led to believe would be addressed by this government and, again, what we are left with as legislators, and Nova Scotians are left with, are the statements by the Minister of Justice where he says that they are trying to adopt the Ontario model and they are trying to negotiate with Crown Attorneys and that they are hoping that they can reach a deal by compromising or simply by negotiating with the Crown Attorneys.

Mr. Speaker, it is quite clear that this has not worked in the past. I am not quite sure what gives the minister his optimism to think it is going to work now. Maybe he has some information that we do not have that this might succeed, or maybe he is relying on the general optimism of his government by saying that I am very hopeful that we are going to reach an agreement. The minister made some suggestions that there may actually be an agreement in place before this bill is even passed. So, again, it is entirely possible he has much more detailed information on these negotiations than what we have here in the Opposition.

Again, it is unfortunate when we look at the recent events in dealing with the paramedics of this province, the situation we are in, that basically the government was left to bring in anti-strike legislation to try to avoid a strike from taking place because it had not been able to fulfill its commitment and to be able to bargain an agreement without having one party resort to strike measures. One has to ask, by them not making these changes to the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act, will we again be faced with a situation where another Bill No. 9, or a different number, will be brought before this House to try to ensure that Crown Attorneys do not have a wildcat strike because of the fact that this government has refused to live up to its commitment in dealing with the Public Prosecution Service. By ensuring that they be allowed to collectively bargain in good faith with this government so that they can reach a deal which they feel is comfortable, that the government is comfortable with, and that they can do so in the regular bargaining process.

It is unfortunate that the minister did not feel the need to make these changes as was recommended by Justice Kaufman. I certainly think it is one of his more important recommendations he included in his report, yet it has completely failed to receive the attention of this government.

Again, Mr. Speaker, it comes to the question of living up to your commitment and giving the appearance that you have done so and what, in practicality, is actually taking place. I respectfully submit that while we do applaud the government for taking this initiative to at least - it is clear that they have recognized outside the realms of the blue book a need to address the concerns in the Public Prosecution Service. The outstanding concern is that of 29

[Page 1673]

recommendations where they had an opportunity to build confidence in the membership of the Public Prosecution Service, build confidence in Nova Scotians to say that we are going to right the wrongs, as the Attorney General has said of previous Attorney Generals and we are going to ensure this takes place. You are not only going to have to rely on lip service, or on the assurances of me as the Attorney General, I have brought forward to you a concrete framework that assures that the statements that we are making, our feel-good messages, our hope, will actually be able to take place because we have put forward the parameters, the criteria and the means by which to accomplish this.

That, unfortunately, does not exist in this Act. In many ways there are very relevant issues where there is not even an attempt to recognize them in this bill. Therefore, while we do applaud what is in the bill, I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that it is not sufficient legislation. It is flawed. It is flawed in the sense that there is so much more that could have been put in here. It is my hope that the minister is going to be open to recommendations. I know he said he would be more open to recommendations on the Freedom of Information Act. Any recommendations we want to bring forward, he was actually, I almost used the word excited, at the prospect of changes to that legislation. I would respectfully submit it is more because he doesn't want to acknowledge that his Party has made errors and that they have broken the spirit of the Act. He is more hoping that the Opposition will bring forward the amendments which indicate the wrongs that they have done, rather than he have to admit to it on his own.

There are a number of suggestions that have come forward, both through Kaufman and through previous ministers, on how to deal with this. When it comes to legal history in this province, Mr. Speaker, the Crown Attorneys in the Public Prosecution Service have been singled out for a good deal of criticism. Some was warranted but certainly, a great deal of it was not of their own making. Since the Marshall Inquiry, there have been a good number of reforms of the system and I believe that the Attorneys General in this province, since then, have been very careful not to compromise the independence of the Public Prosecution Service.

I honestly believe that the current minister does have good intentions to respect this tradition. But, unfortunately, the bill today, we cannot assess his intentions and we have already pointed out some of the concerns that we have raised with statements that he has made as to how he, unlike other Attorneys General, would be directly involved. He would be able to provide a clear decision on cases of important public interest and important public concern. All criteria, of which we have absolutely no idea what he means by that, what criteria he will be using, simply, his statements are all that we have to rely on. So the statements that he has made and his involvement opens the Public Prosecution Service and the justice system to charges of interference that we must tread very lightly, considering that we are trying to restore the confidence of Nova Scotians and of Crown Attorneys.

[Page 1674]

Our caucus does not believe that the Minister of Justice has clearly thought through the consequences of the bill or of his statements that he has made as to what direction he wishes to bring to the Public Prosecution Service. The authority of the Attorney General of Nova Scotia, in Clause 6, is only checked by the Attorney General himself and, today, an addition has been the obligation to provide notice in the Royal Gazette. This government has completely failed in addressing the concerns of decisions coming from the Public Prosecution Service to establish formal checks on the service or, more importantly, on the Attorney General himself or herself. The Attorney General, under this Act, as it currently exists, and under these changes, has extraordinary authority in this province and would, therefore, require an extraordinary check on this minister's power to ensure that the best interests of Nova Scotians are always protected, in all cases, especially those which he says will be of public importance and public interest.

What our Party is submitting and what we will be submitting in Law Amendments is that if this government and this minister had come forward with some sort of a review mechanism of some of the minister's actions, especially in these cases of public interest, public concern, we would certainly be more comfortable with this bill and with the direction that the minister and Attorney General wishes to bring this province, with regard to the Public Prosecution Service. The requirement, as I stated earlier, to publish decisions in the Royal Gazette is a good requirement and a positive first step. But, unfortunately, I would submit that what it also does is bring the justice decision making process to the level of public opinion and not of the law.

Again, I come to the statement where the minister was asked, how are you going to restore this confidence? When he said that cases of public interest and public concern will come before me before they proceed and you can rest assured that we will make the proper decision, what does that mean? How is the minister going to decide what is the proper decision? Is there going to be an opinion poll? Is it going to be on the front page of The Halifax Chronicle-Herald? Is it going to be determined on what either Harry Flemming or Parker Barss Donham have to say on the political panel on Fridays? Will they determine for the minister how he should proceed? Will it be The Globe and Mail? Will it be The Daily News? What is it going to be? We don't know. The only assurance we have from the minister is, trust me.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is very trustworthy.

MR. SAMSON: I do not doubt that he is very trustworthy but I think Nova Scotians are asking for more assurance. They want to know that there is a system in place they can have faith in, regardless of the political process, regardless of whichever member may be sitting as Attorney General, that there is a process in place they are comfortable with that does not rely on whether the minister is deemed trustworthy, that they know there is a system in place which addresses the concerns raised by Nova Scotians and by the Public Prosecution

[Page 1675]

Service, to ensure that there is that system in place regardless of who the minister may be at the time.

It is without a doubt that when these cases come forward for decision by the Attorney General, what he decides are cases of public interest and public concern, that as elected officials, it is only natural that we have to determine, in making our decision, not only what is right - I think we all try to do that as elected officials - but without a doubt the reality is, whether we like it or not, we also have to make decisions which we feel will help get us re-elected. There is a fine balance between those two, getting re-elected and doing what is right.

The system we are putting in place and the system that this bill is calling for is going to place the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice in the province in the very uncomfortable position of having to decide what is right, which, as Attorney General, he should always have as his first regard - and I have no doubt that as a member, he does have that also - but he will have to determine, on behalf of his government, what is the best decision for him to make politically. That is where Nova Scotians are concerned, that is where members of this House are concerned, that is where members of our Party raise concern, that the minister and the Attorney General will have to base legal decisions on political wisdom.

We do not allow our judges to do that, they can't even be members of a political Party. We have put in all sorts of checks to ensure that that does not happen within our judicial system, yet now probably the most powerful position in our justice system, the Attorney General, will have to bring politics into the decision-making process. Not intentionally; I would submit that that is not the reason he is making these changes, but in reality that is what is going to have to take place and that is the situation that this bill is putting the minister in. I would submit that if we make some amendments if we add a few more of these recommendations that Justice Kaufman has made, we will be able to put forward a better Act that gives more protection to the Attorney General by not placing him in these unfortunate situations.

One of the other concerns which has come from the Public Prosecution Service is the requirement for a full-time Director of the Public Prosecutions. We have seen in the last little bit that we have had a variety of directors. It is almost becoming as popular a job as being deputy minister in the Department of Health, the number of changes that have taken place in that position.

When the minister was asked, when will you be announcing the new Director of Public Prosecutions, I would have assumed, as Justice Critic, as a member of this House, that he would say, well look, first we are going to deal with this bill, but when we get this bill passed we are going to make some changes, we are going to show the direction we want to go into and, at that point, we want to make it clear to whoever is looking for this job that this is what we expect. I think that is just to be expected, that you would want to establish your clear course, as this government likes to say. Then ensure the person you are bringing in is going

[Page 1676]

to adhere to this clear course, that they agree with where you want to go, that they are going to help you make this a reality.

[5:00 p.m.]

That is what I was expecting the minister to say, look, once we have all this done, we will make sure that the applicants who are applying clearly know where we are going and how we want to get there and that there are no fundamental differences of opinion. Unfortunately the minister's answer was, well, I am going to announce a full-time director in two weeks. Two weeks. That was the day he introduced this bill. So even before we make any changes to this bill - if there are any changes approved by this government - he is already going out and indicating that someone is going to be hired in two weeks.

So I said, okay, maybe he hopes this bill will be passed quickly and then it will be made clear to the applicants what is expected, and then he will make his choice. The next question that was asked was, do you know who you are going to be hiring? The interesting answer from the minister was yes, I have known for quite some time and we are currently negotiating a contract.

I thought that was . . .

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Good answers.

MR. SAMSON: Well, the Minister of Finance says that they are good answers, but again I think it raises for Nova Scotians the suspicion of well wait a minute, they are bringing changes to an Act. These are changes that are supposed to restore confidence in the membership of the Public Prosecution Service, restore confidence in Nova Scotians that these changes are going to be able to make this a better Act, a better service, that the new full-time director is coming in to implement these changes, to share our vision and to bring us on this clear course we talked about, but instead we find out that even before this bill was brought to this House, the minister already knew who he was going to hire.

It is interesting, when the minister says that he knew who he was going to hire, he doesn't say his staff or his deputy or his department, but he says personally that he knew. He knows who he is going to hire; it is just a matter of negotiating the contract. I think Nova Scotians sitting at home tonight, Mr. Speaker, watching, are again going to say how close this government has come to restoring confidence on one side in making these changes, yet on the other side they see what is really going on behind the scenes. They say, back to the good old Tory days where they say something in one regard and, when you lift the veil and look under, you see what is actually taking place.

[Page 1677]

I think this sends a very poor signal to Nova Scotians, sends a very poor signal to the Public Prosecution Service which was relying on this government and relying on the Attorney General to make the changes to address the concerns that they had raised, to put a system in place that addresses their concerns and makes sure that we are not going to be faced with this on a continuing basis again in the spring or next fall or even next year, that we have a long-term established relationship that is put in place.

I would respectfully submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that this bill fails to do so. It does address some of the concerns, very few, 3 out of 29 recommendations. We find out that the Director of the Public Prosecutions, it is a done deal. The minister knows who the director will be already, even before these changes are passed or even new changes are brought in, and that it is just a matter of negotiating the director's contract.

I certainly hope this House is still in session when the minister does determine who the Director of Public Prosecutions is going to be, because I would be more than interested in seeing what the salary of the full-time Director of Public Prosecutions is going to be, compared to his counterpart the Deputy Minister of Health. I think it will tell public prosecutors and it will tell Nova Scotians how this government weighs the importance of our justice and our legal system as compared to the importance of our health care system. I think the salary will be a direct reflection of where this government's priorities lie and how committed it is to the justice system here in Nova Scotia.

Will the new director make $180,000? We will have to wait and see. No, the Minister of Health shakes his head saying no. I feel quite confident in agreeing with him that he will not make that much money, but the question is, how important is this government going to consider this position? Are they going to provide a proper salary? Are they going to ensure that we have the best qualified candidate as the Director of Public Prosecutions? We will have to wait and see whether the director is truly independent, as Nova Scotians have demanded. We certainly hope that it is not a friend of the government, it is not a contributor to their Party and it is not a trustee of the PC Party fund that gets this position.

Again I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that when we are trying to make changes and trying to address such important concerns, we are going about it knowing that even before we have done any of this it is already a fait accompli as to who will be hired in this position to bring this government's changes to fruition.

M. le Président, il n'y a pas de question qu'on a eu des problèmes avec le service judiciaire de la province durant les dernieres années. Les gens à travers la Nouvelle-Écosse ont questionné les décisions qui ont étaient faites, pour voir si elles ont été faites dans le meilleur intérêt du publique ou au meilleur intérêt politique.

[Page 1678]

Aujourd'hui nous avons devant nous une législation qui cherche a faire des modifications qui ont été déjà établies par M. le Justice Kaufman dans le rapport qu'il a fait. On cherche aujourd'hui à voir si le gouvernement va prendre ses recommendations et les mettres en loi pour s'assurer que ses modifications sont faites, pour s'assurer la confiance des gens qui travaillent dans le service et aussi les gens à travers la Nouvelle-Écosse.

Puis aujourd'hui quand on regarde qu'il y a juste trois modifications qui vont êtres faites dans les 29 qui ont été établies par M. le Justice Kaufman; il faut se demander, comment serieux est ce gouvernement à faire les modifications necessaires pour établir la confiance des employés et des gens à travers la Nouvelle-Écosse? Est-ce que c'est juste quelque chose aujourd'hui qu'on donne devant les gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse et devant les membres de cette Assemblée juste pour dire, "Oui, oui, on va faire les modifications - c'est juste trois dans 29 et puis les autres, laissez-là au ministre?" C'est la responsibilité du département.

Vous avez pas besoin d'être inquiet de ce qui va se passer - on va prendre charge de ca. Voilà ce que les employés et les gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse ont dits, ce qu'ils ne veulent plus les jours où le Ministre de la Justice de la Nouvelle-Écosse, soit en train de prendre charge des choses d'arrière les portes. Ces jours-là, on ne les veut plus.

On ne veut plus où le Ministre de la Justice peut déterminer comment c'est qu'une procédure qui va prendre place commencer, qui peut décider quel façon que ca va prendre. Que le Ministre de la Justice, qui est élu, sur la partie politique, qui est élu, c'est qu'en ici comme conservateur, qui va faire les décisions qui sont dans le meilleur intérêt des gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse, pas dans le meilleur intérêt de son partie ou dans le meilleur intérêt d'avoir ce gouvernment réélu ici à la province.

Puis aujourd'hui, ce qu'on a avant nous que le ministre nous présent, ça fait les changes qu'on supporte, mais c'est tous les changes qu'il a pourrait fait qu'on nous ne sommes pas content avec. On espère que dans les jours qui vont venir, si qu'one est encore ici, pour longtemps - qu'on va être capable de faire les changes, de faire les additions à ce déclaration qui est devant nous aujourd'hui, et que ce gouvernement va vraiment, va vraiment respecter la promesse qu'ils ont fait durant l'élection d'adresser les problèmes qui existent dans le Public Prosecution Service ici dans notre province.

Sont-ils prêt à permettre les employés, être capable d'avoir collective bargaining? Sont-ils prêt à faire ses changes-là? Où bien, on va être forcé de juste écouter au Ministre de la Justice à dire, "c'est bien, on ne va pas prendre la modèle de l'Ontario, puis on ne veut pas ce modèle-là et puis on va essayer d'avoir ca accepter par nos employés ici à la province."

Je vous souhaite la bonne chance - je pense que toutes les gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse vous souhaite la bonne chance. Je suis certain que les employés, même plus importants, vous souhaitent la bonne chance. Votre chance, pour le ministre, parce que je pense que eux veut dire que eux veut de la bonne chance aussi à faire certain qu'un contrat qu'est acceptable,

[Page 1679]

qu'un moyen de paie qui est acceptable et qui est comparable à leurs collègues qui travaillent dans l'industrie privée.

Alors, M. le Président, pour finir, j'espère que ces ministres et ce gouvernement vont bien écouter au suggestions qui va venir de ce bord d'ici de la Maison, qui vont prendre ça serieux et puis qu'à la fin vont faire sûr que la loi qui on est entrein de changer va faire du mieux possible à adresser les problèmes qui existent et le problèmes qui ont été soulevés par M. le Justice Kaufman. Merci, M. le Président.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I want to make a few comments this evening on Bill No. 15, an Act to Amend Chapter 21 of the Acts of 1990, the Public Prosecutions Act, mainly not to try to explain any previous behaviour in another life, but some of the comments that the present minister has been making to the press, at least as has been reported, have been a bit of a concern to me. I would like to at least, in addressing the amendments to this particular bill, to understand why we have the Public Prosecution Service the way it is now, at arm's length. It was done that way because of the interference of the previous government, which that member is now representing.

I think the idea that all of a sudden, that since then, since this arm's length Public Prosecution Service has come to be, that bad things have been happening and that ministers have not been acting. I spent nine months in that jurisdiction. I must say that it was very enjoyable, I really appreciated the courtesies extended to me by the judiciary, by the RCMP, by the police and by the deputy and the staff, but I think there is no question that it was a time of unrest within the Public Prosecution Service. I think these and other changes are well received.

The other speakers have mentioned that there were 29 recommendations by Mr. Justice Fred Kaufman, who is a judge of the Quebec Appeal Court that I had engaged, in my time as minister, to come and evaluate the service. He certainly had concerns after the initial review and the 29 recommendations he made reflected his concerns, both in the area of management of the Public Prosecution Service and also in the administration of justice.

My comments are not going to be long, but I really just want to caution the Minister of Justice in the direction that he is taking; the idea that he is going to intercede and review, albeit for matters of significant policy, I think fundamental issues of policy, that is fine, but I suppose that is where other ministers started and really got into difficulties and really gave this province a black eye right across this country and in all jurisdictions.

[Page 1680]

We have a prosecution service that certainly has to be held accountable and has to be provided the resources to do their job properly, a management-reporting mechanism that is accountable and the other issues relative to what constitutes a bargaining unit. You can call that particular unit different things. I notice the minister said early in his introductory remarks that he would working with the Human Resource Committee, I believe, and they would be reviewing the Ontario method. I must say that in my recollection, the Human Resources Committee had certainly quite well studied and reviewed the Ontario way of doing business with their prosecution service.

I would suggest to the minister that that information must already be there and it would not really be a reason to delay the process. I would be very surprised if that information isn't already available. We are all waiting for the announcement of the new director. We were told in a couple of weeks it would take place and then there would be an announcement and now I am not clear, I will have to check Hansard tomorrow, but it seemed to me that it was further delayed. I would ask the minister, I think one of the greatest things he can do is deal with that effectively, make that announcement, have that person in place, known to the public, and I am sure that the process has worked and the person will be a very qualified person for that.

[5:15 p.m.]

The relationship with the police has been mentioned. I think those are the concerns, that initiatives have to be in place that would address those particular issues. The whole issue of public interest, as the minister mentioned, he would intervene in fundamental issues of policy and issues of public interest and I would just point out to the honourable minister, Mr. Speaker, that there is sometimes a great deal of difference between what is deemed to be public interest in the eyes of the law and what is public opinion. It is public opinion that this previous government, during its 15 years of office, that really derailed the justice system, in my humble opinion, and it was responding and trying to comply and trying to favour public opinion. So the public interest is an issue.

In coming to this point, the minister speaks in terms of the Nancy Morrison case which was one that I had the privilege to deal with. I consulted with bio-ethicists on this particular issue, relative to matters of when good people are trying to do good things sometimes end up doing bad things. I also consulted extensively with a professor of law at Dalhousie.

Maybe I am just a little suspicious, but I am wondering how that minister would have done it differently and how he sees that that wasn't handled before the law by a particular Justice Minister of the time because certainly there were a lot of - I had received between 900 and 1,000 interventions on Dr. Morrison's behalf. I think the question is, is he talking about issues of euthanasia that he would intercede with; is he talking about the function of hospitals with the medical advisory committee that wasn't functioning at that particular time, in that particular institution; is he talking about the culture of an intensive care unit and the

[Page 1681]

experience that various physicians bring with them; is he talking about the support of colleagues?

There are a lot of areas there, Mr. Speaker, but to suggest that someone didn't really measure up to their job, I personally take that as a bit of an offense because I think a lot of people were trying to find a solution under a very difficult circumstance.

So I would just caution the minister to, before he too freely says how he is going to intervene, even if it is for fundamental issues of policy and then use the Nancy Morrison case as an example. Because I hear rumours that the minister is inclined to meet with people who are charged before the law, Mr. Speaker, and I probably shouldn't really repeat rumours, but I have had them from fairly good sources that the minister is inclined to do that, and I think that is a very dangerous precedence to be setting, and if he is so inclined to do that I would certainly suggest that that is not the course that he take at this juncture, or at any time as long as he is a Minister of the Crown.

Mr. Speaker, we have an arm's-length Public Prosecution Service that has a lot of strengths, a lot of resources, needs good direction, needs good management, needs a minister who will let it do its job, who will go to bat at the Cabinet table to fund, to have resources and to formalize some sort of a bargaining unit, whatever that is called, it doesn't have to be a union, there are various systems across this country. We are spending a lot of money on this system. The amount of money per case is high and so is the amount spent on the prosecution service. So the resources are there. I think they have to be better managed. It needs leadership and it needs an announcement of a person who knows they have the job and will get on with it. I think the role of the Minister of Justice is a very enjoyable one. It is one that I would have liked to spend more time with. I had a great appreciation of the law from the time I was there and I really appreciated the courtesies extended to me, as I mentioned, by the police officers, either RCMP or local police, the judiciary particularly were most kind. I thought Justice Kaufman was a man who discharged his duties with exemplary professionalism. He has made his recommendations and there are others that need to be addressed as well as to get on with the business of announcing the director and also moving on with whatever method of bargaining will be used with the Public Prosecution Service. Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I apologize if I intervened a bit too quickly for my colleague, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, but I am pleased to rise and make a number of interventions on Bill No. 16, An Act to Amend Chapter 21 of the Acts of 1990, the Public Prosecutions Act.

Mr. Speaker, at the outset of my comments I have to state that I am not a member of the legal profession and I have a very limited knowledge in that regard, but I do make my interventions as a layperson whose general understanding, perceptions and considerations of

[Page 1682]

how justice has evolved here in Nova Scotia and, indeed, in recent years has played a major role on the lives of all Nova Scotians. So it is with that plus my responsibility through due diligence to ensure that any bill that comes before this House receives the full, thorough and reasoned examination by any and all members of the House as well as to ensure that once we provide our approbation, that we are doing it with good intentions in mind.

Mr. Speaker, with that note, I can take some comfort that I believe the intentions of our Minister of Justice are genuine. He is trying to follow the recommendations of Justice Kaufman, but there are a number of issues where I feel that this honourable minister may be treading into some rather dangerous waters as he attempts to ensure that balance between ensuring that our Public Prosecution Service is answerable to somebody within the justice system. Ultimately, that individual would be the Minister of Justice and, indeed, his voice would be the voice of the Executive Council or, as we better know, the Cabinet of our government.

I could not help but do some reminiscing as I listened to the Minister of Justice make reference to one of the proposed amendments, Clause 1(2), providing that " . . . the Governor in Council may appoint a person to be Acting Director of Public Prosecutions . . .", while the vacancy exists in the office, but also further down in Clause 3, Mr. Speaker, authorizing the Director of Public Prosecutions to meet with the Attorney General at least 12 times a year to discuss policy matters, including existing and contemplated major prosecutions.

The first part, Mr. Speaker, I have no qualms with. The second part is, obviously, a very sensitive area that could be the thin edge of the wedge in going back to what we knew in this province to be some of the most considered interferences in the legal justice system of this province that we have ever known in the history of politics since 1820, 1824. Some members may or may not recall the Royal Commission on the Donald Marshall, Jr., Prosecution, in this Digest of Findings and Recommendations, 1989. On Page 13, under the subtitle of Administration of Criminal Justice, I was somewhat intrigued by some of the comments that were made by the Chief Justices and the Associate Chief Justice, as well as the honourable commissioner who was commissioned to undertake this review of the criminal justice system in Nova Scotia.

Just to read, in the first paragraph in that section, it says, "From the outset of our deliberations, we heard allegations that the criminal justice system in Nova Scotia dealt with people differently based on their race and social standing.". What we witnessed last week and over the last number of weeks with the Minister of Justice, with regard to the . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind the honourable member that we are discussing the principles of the bill as opposed to other publications or clauses or other Acts. I would ask the member to stick to the principles of the bill, please. Thank you.

[Page 1683]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, quite frankly that is exactly what I am doing. It is the issue of potential interference into the legal justice system, which is a concern that is raised by virtue of the fact that Clause 3, Section 6 A, provides that, "The Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions shall meet at least twelve times a year . . . to discuss policy matters, including existing and contemplated major prosecutions.".That is the very issue.

As I read through, with your indulgence, I think it will become abundantly clear that my concern is well-founded with this particular clause. In fairness and respect for the Speaker's Office, I will move along from the issue of the minorities on to some of the more profound issues that I believe have had a major impact on the development of the Public Prosecution Service as it exists today and, indeed, with regard to the particular amendments that the Minister of Justice has introduced with this particular piece of legislation.

In order to do that, I have to recount two of the most profound and highly publicized cases in the history of the Province of Nova Scotia. Two of those cases, one dealt with, in this particular report, a former minister of the Buchanan Administration, the honourable Roland Thornhill, who I have a great deal of respect for. In this particular case, there was concern about the fact that Mr. Thornhill, who was a member of the Executive Council and had been investigated by the RCMP with regard to a number of loan write-offs to a number of chartered banks in the province, had received some type of preferential treatment.

[5:30 p.m.]

When this went through the considered processes, it eventually came back to the Minister of Justice - as the office was known at that particular point in time, Mr. Speaker - the Attorney General, and the Attorney General who became involved in this particular case, the general consideration of the authors of this particular report felt that because of the Attorney General becoming directly involved with the investigation of that particular case it did have an impact on the entire balance of justice in the Province of Nova Scotia, both in terms of the RCMP's obligation to file charges if warranted, but more importantly to be "independent and partial".

Mr. Speaker, there was a classic example of the Attorney General - I guess we would now be referring to as the Attorney General today - who would become, under the clause of the bill, directly involved in a potential major prosecution because this clause allows for the Minister of Justice to sit down with the Director of Public Prosecutions and discuss existing and contemplated major prosecutions. So, the arm's length relationship in this particular case was lost.

I think it would be getting off the mark a bit to start getting into discussing all the other aspects of this here, but just to highlight the fact that a minister in the Executive Council, when his colleague was under investigation, raised that spectre. That could equally be so for

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the Minister of Justice if it were somebody let us say from his own provincial constituency executive or from some law partner, who he may or may not have done business with, or for any other member in this House who could obviously kind of tilt the sense of fairness and independence in the process. So that is the point I am making with that particular clause.

Another classic example is obviously the one with regard to former Cabinet Minister Billy Joe MacLean, when he was reviewed by the RCMP in terms of, as they state here, uttering forged documents with regard to expense claims. Now, Mr. Speaker, again the case was referred to the deputy minister level and then eventually to the minister who, at that time, was Attorney General Ron Giffin who, according to the authors of this report, and I quote, "Giffin did become directly involved - when he shouldn't have - in discussions of the specifics of plea and sentence negotiations in the MacLean case.". So, here is a classic example of why the Minister of Justice should not become directly involved in any existing or contemplated major prosecution.

There is no provision in this particular bill, or series of amendments to Chapter 1 that would provide for that buffer or that sense of independence or that quality assurance in the justice system. At that particular point in time, I believe - and this is where I beg the indulgence of my learned colleagues of the legal persuasion, who would probably know a little more, perhaps I should know a little more on this issue - Mr. Speaker, the authors of this report, went on, "To ensure equitable treatment before the courts, we recommend that the Attorney General, . . ." - in this case, it would be the Minister of Justice - ". . . after consultation with the Director of Public Prosecutions - issue and then table in the Legislature guidelines for the exercise of prosecutorial discretion.".

So, Mr. Speaker, I would readily submit that the honourable Minister of Justice, if he is sincere in wanting to meet that balance of accountability from the Public Prosecution Service, as some would argue or may have the feeling that are out there kind of in a world unto themselves and not accountable to those who are delegated the responsibility of ensuring the form of ultimate justice in this province, through our democratic process, then I would submit that he should provide those guidelines so as to ensure that he is not walking himself into the trap, either intentionally or unintentionally, that could be perceived as a political manoeuvre. I don't believe that anyone would argue with the fact that not only should we have justice in Nova Scotia, but justice should be seen to be had. That has always been a problem, irrespective of whether it be at the local County Court level, the provincial or the supreme, in appeals. The perception of justice is as important as justice itself, there are not two ways about it.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that - and this is my own personal feeling - in the minister's zealous attempt to try to correct what he perceives or feels are some imbalances or inequities in this justice system, he has dived in full force into a situation where I think he may have tilted the scales in the opposite direction, rather than meeting that balance. Now perhaps it is because the agenda of the House makes it such that he is trying to meet certain

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commitments of the government; maybe it is because he really feels that this has to be done. I would suggest that the Minister of Justice is embarking on a very dangerous course; as would say back in the country, he is walking on very thin ice.

It is a very difficult situation, particularly for those who are required, for one reason or another, to become involved in the justice system. They feel they don't have the resources to defend themselves adequately. We have seen it in other jurisdictions where often the argument has been made that money can buy justice. I would not want to suggest that but certainly anyone who has spoken to members of the legal profession who had to represent clients through legal aid or an associated type forum, would readily argue that they do not have the resources to be able to provide the same type of service to their clients that they would otherwise be able to do, if they were in private practice and this client had well-rounded financial resources because that would allow them to be able to do the research on a number of issues, test cases and precedents in law and a variety of arguments that would make their case very compelling before the legal system.

So when you have the Minister of Justice sitting down and discussing with the Director of Public Prosecutions, in the absence of these guidelines, that all members of the House could have an opportunity to review and provide their full approbation, to ensure that quality control was in the legal system, I somehow fear that the Minister of Justice has embarked on that very dangerous and very precarious avenue of justice, or at least his attempt to secure justice in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Arguments have been made about the Dr. Nancy Morrison case and a number of others. While one could argue the merits of whether the Minister of Justice should have taken a more proactive role in that or not, these are the laws and the prescriptions of law that we are bound by and I feel that, given the circumstances, the right decisions were made. However, that doesn't necessarily mean to say that we would agree with the decisions of the Public Prosecution Service. Therein lies the argument that could be made for the discussion on matters of public policy or just policy matters within the Department of Justice.

Mr. Speaker, I believe the authors of this Royal Commission on the Donald Marshall, Jr. prosecution, as noted on Page 15 of the report, have signalled, very clearly, if you want to take the corollary of this argument that, in their wisdom, they are stating that in the absence of these guidelines we are, indeed, walking on the trail back towards the interference of Justice, by the political process, in the legal system. I think that would be a sad day because many individuals become intimidated by the mere fact that they have to speak to an elected official or that they have to go and speak to legal counsel, whether it be on a speeding ticket or some type of civil or criminal matter. It is a very intimidating experience for anyone who has never been involved in that process.

[Page 1686]

Anyone who has had to go before the courts and give testimony as a witness to an accident, or to some other event, it is a very difficult and heart-wrenching experience, at the best of times, for some individuals. To have the feeling, even the sense, that the Minister of Justice may have, in some way, involved himself - or herself, for that matter - in the legal process, leaving that impression that there has been a political decision, I think is very concerning.

For that reason, I would ask if the Minister of Justice is, indeed, sincere in his efforts to further reform the justice system for the better, that he would be willing to provide those guidelines or, indeed, perhaps regulations governing this exercise of duty between himself and the Director of Public Prosecutions in the province, before this bill is enacted. I am looking through this particular piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, and I don't see anywhere in this process where there is a provision for the guidelines or regulations to be provided to ensure that type of judicial independence and balance so that we have that prosecutorial direction clearly delineated in a fair and equitable fashion. We do not want the people of Nova Scotia to believe that they are going back to the Buchanan era. That is a fact of life because some of the most learned and reasoned and experienced leaders in the legal community of this province, and beyond, have come to that conclusion.

[5:45 p.m.]

I would dare say, I have the complete set of the commission's hearings in volumes at home. It would state, Mr. Speaker, time after time, witnesses who have come forward and stated their apprehension about where justice stood in Nova Scotia because of political interference. So I would submit that if there are extraordinary situations, as are outlined in Clause 3, Section 6B, then perhaps the Minister of Justice would be kind enough to provide that and give that level of comfort, quite frankly, to all members of the House, that indeed justice is being served in a fair and reasonable fashion.

As I have said from the outset, Mr. Speaker, I am not one with a legal background, but I felt it was important to make those interventions. I did not mean to draw certain names to the floor, but they are a fact of public record and I did not, as most people will readily agree, get into the merits or personal considerations. But the fact that the powers to be made very clear and reasoned conclusions that there was not only an interference of the justice system but a perceived interference of the justice system and for that reason I felt compelled to draw to the attention of not only the Minister of Justice but, to all members of this House, that we should have those guidelines to ensure that balance.

Otherwise, I think it is very easy for the Minister of Justice to sit down with the Director of Public Prosecutions who by the way, Mr. Speaker, is appointed by the Executive Council. So the Minister of Justice is in reality picking the Director of Public Prosecutions. He has already indicated that he has someone in mind and it is only a matter of time before they finalize the paperwork, but yet the legislation prescribes him as being appointed by an

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Order in Council. So it is quite evident, before we even got this good piece of legislation under way, he has already tripped over his own good legislative agenda in a very serious attempt to achieve his goal.

So is it little wonder that the Opposition would become apprehensive, Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of Justice has already, before he is given legal authorization to in this legislation, stated that he has picked his chosen one for the Public Prosecution Service. Already the perception of political interference is there. I would strongly submit again, in conclusion, that the Minister of Justice address this particular aspect of it and provide that quality of assurance before we go back to something that we really do not want to go back to. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before I recognize the Leader of the Liberal Party, I would ask the honourable member for Cape Breton West to table that document that he referred to several times, please.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I just had a little problem with some of the parts of this legislation, more from a cautionary nature than anything else, because I was not in the department when this was drafted. So I do not know what is really the motivating factor behind this legislation.

I do have some concerns about what seems to me to be undue interference by the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General in the Public Prosecution Service. I would hope that that would not be the case. However, when you have a stipulation which requires you to meet 12 times in a year with the Chief of the Public Prosecution Service, that seems like a lot of meetings and to legislate that number of meetings. In this government there are ministers with so many departments that they do not even meet with their deputy ministers that often. To me, it is rather alarming that this sort of thing would be legislated.

I have a concern, as well, with the drafting of Clause 3(2), "The Director of Public Prosecutions may spend in any fiscal year an amount that is not more than five per cent more than the amount appropriated for the public prosecution service for that year for the purpose of undertaking an extraordinary prosecution.". Does that mean that with an extraordinary prosecution you can only exceed the budget by 5 per cent? Or does that mean the whole extraordinary prosecution can have the same amount as the budget for the public prosecution office plus 5 per cent? I just feel that in reading this, it isn't quite clear.

Also, I want to say that with the new Director of Public Prosecutions being appointed shortly that it is very important to get off on the right foot. As I understand it, there is going to be a good choice made. I don't know if it is the same person that we were looking at when we were in government or not, if it is it certainly would be a very good person to have. We

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need a good person in this role. The whole focus of justice in Nova Scotia revolves around the chief of the Public Prosecutions Service. It has to be above suspicion, and it has to be above the feeling that government can come in and change anything they want at any time.

A lot has gone into this. A lot of history has gone into this with the Marshall Inquiry, with the appointment of the first chief of the Public Prosecutions Service, with the feeling among many people, and my colleague has mentioned the Nancy Morrison case, where we believed when we were in government that we had to adhere to the spirit of the Public Prosecution Service, that it was in the interests of the people of Nova Scotia to allow the Public Prosecution Service to be allowed to function, to be allowed to function properly and without any interference by government.

If it is merely, as the Attorney General says, a question of extraordinary circumstances where the Attorney General would want to interject and make a decision, that is one thing, but I am not completely convinced that that is the case. I think this has to be made clearer. I think there has to be a lot of soul searching done on this, because my personal feeling is, and I haven't talked to a lot of people in the province on this, but if they read it the way that I do, then what they see happening is a change in direction of the Public Prosecution Service and the autonomy of this Public Prosecution Service being severely diminished.

I say that because of the 12 required meetings a year. There is nothing to stop the Attorney General and the Chief of the Public Prosecution Service from meeting. I would think it would be in the best interest of both if they knew what the other was thinking and general ideas of law and order and the prosecution service in the Province of Nova Scotia. This Public Prosecution Service was set up for a reason, and that was that it would be beyond the control, for the most part, of government. That it would be unfettered and acting in a judicial way purely without political motivation or political interference.

I am not convinced that this is going to happen. I am not convinced, frankly, that these amendments are going to allow this to happen. It may very well be that this Attorney General may have nothing but the most altruistic intentions and allow the Public Prosecution Service to operate completely unfettered, the way it has in the past, but a succeeding Attorney General might not. When you make legislation, you don't make it for the person who is in the seat at the particular time the legislation is passed, you make it so it withstands anyone who may be in the position of authority, who has control and administration over this legislation.

I want to see this legislation be able to stand the test of time. I want to be able to see that this legislation can withstand even the most meddlesome of Attorneys General in the Province of Nova Scotia. I want to see the people of this province have a prosecution service that is the best in this country, to be able to be sure that no matter who you are, under what circumstances, you have to stand the test of the law, that you have to be able to be accountable, whether you are rich or poor, of one race or religion or another, under the law of the Province of Nova Scotia.

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We have had, in my opinion, people as chief of the prosecution service who perhaps weren't the right people. That's not the fact that you can criticize the service, this is merely the structure. We have to make the right appointments. We have to make sure that the right people are fulfilling the roles and responsibilities of this legislation. That's our job, to make sure the right people are appointed. I think that can be done. I think it can be done quite well. I think it can be done so we will give the people of this province the best legal protection that the province can possibly give them.

I would say that I hope that when this bill gets to the Law Amendments Committee, that this whole aspect of it will be examined, because I think it is vitally important. I hope that witnesses come forward to express their concerns. I don't know how many are concerned, but I would say that there has to be some because there is a change of direction here and I think it is important that we discuss this change of direction, where it is going, to what degree it is taking and, frankly whether it is in the best interests of the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, our legal framework is absolutely vital. We are going to be measured as a society and as a province on the way we dispense our justice in Nova Scotia. If it is perceived that we are regressing in our attitude of freedom under the law, of equality under the law, then I don't think that that is the message we want to have sent to other parts of this country. I feel that any piece of legislation can be changed. No piece of legislation is necessarily perfect and, as times change, so do the needs of some of our legislation. We always have to have this focal point, this spirit of where we want to be, as a society and as a province, as guardians of the trust of the people of this province, to make sure that our rule of law is firm and focused and is equally applicable to everyone in Nova Scotia. I think we have to look at this piece of legislation in that vein.

I would hope that the government will have another look at this. I realize that there is no point in going on indefinitely on the discussion, but I wanted to make these points, I feel very strongly about them. I feel very strongly about our justice system in Nova Scotia, that it be the best it can possibly be. I have been a lawyer for many years, but beyond that, I feel that the very fabric of a society is the justice system. We can withstand anything, but we cannot withstand a fragmentation of our justice system and our rule of law. I would react with a very concerned fashion if I felt that this, in fact, was what was happening with this piece of legislation.

I would ask the government to look at it again, to look at it very carefully, and I would ask that proper and due consideration of this legislation be given at the Law Amendments Committee. Thank you very much.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this afternoon and speak in support of Bill No. 15, the Public Prosecutions Act. I have had an opportunity to sit through the various presentations and hear the comments that my colleagues opposite made. As members know, the Minister of Justice is an extremely busy man this afternoon. He and staff have been kind enough to provide me with some replies, so to speak, for concerns that various members do have. I certainly don't pretend to be a man of the law, but I think everybody in Nova Scotia is very concerned about the justice system in this province and, in fact, that the integrity not only be maintained but be enhanced. I believe that this legislation will certainly do that.

[6:00 p.m.]

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto raised concerns as to whether or not the 5 per cent will be enough and why did we stop at 5 per cent? If 5 per cent is not enough, it is possible to get an additional appropriation. So that should perhaps answer the concern that the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto has.

The amendment does not change that. It only provides that the existing budget can be exceeded by 5 per cent. The 5 per cent amount was chosen because it was the amount recommended by Mr. Justice Kaufman. Mr. Speaker, I am told that that can be found on Page 57 of his report. He based his recommendation on the earlier recommendation in the Ghiz-Archibald report, which can be found on Page 104 of the Ghiz-Archibald report.

There was considerable discussion about the minister's intention to have notice published as soon as possible in the Royal Gazette. The member for Halifax Chebucto pointed out that there are gaps between the editions of the Royal Gazette. We also want to point out that there are, obviously, publishing deadlines that must be met, so requiring publishing immediately probably would not be possible or, as indicated here, would not be sensible.

The requirement to do something "as soon as practicable" is a standard expression used in legislation, requiring that something be done or requiring that something be done as soon as possible, Mr. Speaker.

On salaries, the minister has indicated that the Ontario model is being considered. The government has asked the Department of Human Resources to move quickly on the issue and the minister has stated that he will not allow the issue to fester, Mr. Speaker.

The honourable member for Richmond, the Justice Critic for the Liberal Party, raised some concerns. In fact, he wondered why Mr. Justice Kaufman made 29 recommendations and only three amendments were inserted into the Public Prosecutions Act. It is pointed out here, Mr. Speaker, that most of the recommendations put forward by Mr. Justice Kaufman

[Page 1691]

were for various actions to be taken but only a few required changes to the legislation. As the honourable Justice Minister of the Province of Nova Scotia said earlier, a great number of changes will be made, a great number of changes have been made and those changes can be and have been made without inserting them into the legislation. So they can be implemented without legislation.

Again, the honourable member for Richmond - I remember distinctly, Mr. Speaker, because I had an opportunity to preside in the Chair during the time the member for Richmond - raised the concern about as soon as practicable, and again I offer the same response as was given to the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

The minister does not intend to micro-manage the service; that had been implied also by the honourable member for Richmond. The minister expects the Director of Public Prosecutions and his staff to manage in the service professionally and to keep him apprised of matters of public interest. He will be announcing the appointment of the new Director of Public Prosecutions and that director will be aware of the minister's instructions, Mr. Speaker.

The issue of Crown shopping was referred to in the minister's speech and opening comment, Mr. Speaker. He mentioned that a committee is being set up with police and the Department of Justice, to address the problem. He felt there was no need to legislate a permanent committee and then have to go back to the Legislature to repeal that legislation. I think that is pretty simple and straightforward.

Again, in the case of Recommendation No. 28, we are not amending the legislation at this time because the final determination of the form of the relationship with the Crown Attorneys has not been made and it would be premature to legislate away that particular matter at this time, Mr. Speaker.

The honourable member for Richmond went on further with regard to concerns about the Attorney General making decisions based on politics and, knowing the present honourable Minister of Justice - I cannot speak for Justice Ministers in the past or Justice Ministers relative to the former Liberal Government - I am confident and I want Nova Scotians to be confident that our Justice Minister will not be making decisions based on politics, as suggested by the member for Richmond, quite frankly. The Attorney General makes decisions in those few cases that he has to deal with based on, as he indicated earlier and as indicated in that legislation, public interests, Mr. Speaker. This legislation certainly has the language in place to support that.

Just by way of concluding, Mr. Speaker, a few comments to address some of the concerns and only a few of the concerns raised by the honourable member for Cape Breton West. He was worried about the monthly meetings relative to the directors and the Attorney General. Clause 3 is not part of some scheme to legislate interference in cases, it is intended

[Page 1692]

to formalize a consultative process that is already going on and which has been recommended again by a highly respected judge. He did not see this as having a negative effect on the independence of the Public Prosecution Service and neither does the government.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, would the honourable member entertain a quick question? I thank the honourable member for accepting the question. Given his delegated responsibility, on behalf of the Minister of Justice, to ensure that there is quality control within the justice system as he is recanting the positions of various members in the House, is he prepared to agree to the fact that these guidelines should be tabled so that all members be given an opportunity to provide their approbation before this piece of legislation is passed?

MR. TAYLOR: No. Mr. Speaker, as I said at the outset of my few brief remarks to concerns raised by the honourable members opposite, I have every confidence that the integrity not only will be maintained relative to Bill No. 15, but the integrity of the justice system in the Province of Nova Scotia will be enhanced. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 15.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 15. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PRIVATE AND LOCAL BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 6.

Bill No. 6 - Maritime Life Assurance Company.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

[Page 1693]

HON. JANE PURVES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak at second reading and discuss a private bill I have introduced concerning a company in my riding.

The Maritime Life Assurance Company, headquartered right here in Halifax, Nova Scotia, was originally incorporated in 1922 by this Legislature. The Act we are changing is somewhat newer than its original incarnations of 1922. The Act being debated in the course of this bill is the one passed by this place in 1986; at that time a changing regulatory and business environment necessitated that this company's Act of Incorporation be altered to allow it to come into sync with federal Statutes such as the Insurance Companies Act, Canada, and allow the company to be regulated by the federal Superintendent of Insurance.

In the years since 1986, the federal regulator has become the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, Canada. This bill, in essence, allows the shareholders and participating policy holders to vote on the issue of changing Maritime Life from a company incorporated in Nova Scotia to a company existing by virtue of the Insurance Companies Act, Canada. The legal process by which this will happen if the shareholders and policy holders approve is called continuance.

Why, Mr. Speaker, are we making these changes? Maritime Life is the only Canadian life insurer based in Nova Scotia and it recently completed the acquisition of Aetna Life Assurance Company of Canada. This acquisition doubles to 2 million the number of Canadians to whom Maritime Life offers benefits, and increases Maritime Life's assets to more than $9 billion. As a result, Maritime Life is now the seventh largest life insurer in Canada. As a result of the Aetna acquisition, the company employs about 1,900 people across Canada, approximately 700 of whom live and work in Nova Scotia, a net increase of 50 jobs for this province.

This legislation will allow the new company to have its shareholders democratically merge and comply fully with federal law. I am happy to announce that the new company will be known by the historic name made official in this Legislature more than 77 years ago, the Maritime Life Assurance Company. Together, by merging complementary product lines and building on each other's strengths, Maritime Life and Aetna will build a company stronger than the sum of its parts.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share with the honourable members that I have been assured by Maritime Life, and its President, Bill Black, that the amalgamation will be carried out under the supervision of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, Canada. Maritime Life and Aetna have provided complete information about the transaction to their respective participating policy holders and, in Maritime Life's case, the holders of its publicly traded preferred shares. As required by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions an independent actuary has been engaged to provide an independent actuarial

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opinion which ensures that this merger will not adversely affect shareholders, policy holders and, in turn, Nova Scotians, and that is a mouthful of a sentence.

This bill will allow a major, Nova Scotia-based financial institution to continue to grow and change, to meet changing market conditions. It is an example of what this government has committed to do, create an environment in which business can grow and prosper. Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 6, an Act to Amend Chapter 96 of the Acts of 1986, the Maritime Life Assurance Company Act, be referred to the Committee on Private and Local Bills for second reading.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, certainly this company is well-known to most, if not all, members of this House. We certainly have had some information about the merger and the proposed plans. Certainly at this stage of the game our caucus will be supporting the bill to go on to the Committee on Private and Local Bills and an opportunity to have input from the public at that point in time.

The one thing, and this of course is something that is always, I am sure, foremost in all of our minds, if I can speak collectively, and that is that while we are pleased to see that the company is able to grow and certainly employment also grow, it is our fervent hope that that employment grows in Nova Scotia and that there will not be, and certainly I don't believe this legislation will restrict the head offices to be located within this province. That is the one concern that I do have, that while the minister has said certainly one can make Nova Scotia a great place to do business, and I am certainly anxious to make sure that we are a fair place to do business, I would be interested in any feedback that may be provided in the committee stage as to the growth of employment potential here in Nova Scotia.

It is not that I wish any ill to any other parts of this country, but I am a Nova Scotian politician and my primary concern is to make sure that we are able to grow the economy here in Nova Scotia and create employment here in Nova Scotia. So, hopefully, there will be at that point in time some more discussion about what the employment ramifications may be as a consequence of this legislation moving forward through the House.

With those brief remarks, Mr. Speaker, I indicate that I will certainly support the bill to go on to the Committee on Private and Local Bills and, subject to what we hear then, then we will be making a decision as to what we think should or should not happen at that stage. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 6.

[Page 1695]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 6, the Maritime Life Assurance Company Act. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Private and Local Bills.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: 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 Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 1.

Bill No. 1 - Gemstone Emblem Act.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I am certainly pleased to have had the opportunity to sponsor this bill, entitled an Act to Declare Agate to be the Gemstone Emblem of Nova Scotia. It is a bill which I believe will add to both the identity and the prestige of the province. This bill is a result of the nomination of the Nova Scotia Mineral and Gem Society. It is supported by the Executive Council of the Atlantic Geoscience Society. In addition, it is supported by the Departments of Geology at Saint Mary's University, Dalhousie University, St. Francis Xavier University and Acadia University. I would point out, as well, that this designation is supported by the Chamber of Mineral Resources and the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History.

[6:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, just very briefly, agate is distributed throughout the province and was originally used by our native cultures as a tool more than 10,000 years ago. These days, agate is primarily used as a decorative piece of jewellery or as an ornament in one's home. I would also point out that it is a type of quartz that is resistant to erosion and possessing a great variety of colour and form. Bandit and moss agate, with its tree-like inclusions, are sought after throughout the whole of the Province of Nova Scotia. These features are certainly enhanced in the skilled hands of craftspeople of the province who work with it. I want to

[Page 1696]

point out that agate is the birthstone for May and so there is a kind of symmetry there with our official provincial flower being the Mayflower.

With those brief comments, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 1. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 16.

Bill No. 16 - Provincial Mineral Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and say a few words on the bill to declare stilbite as the provincial mineral of Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, zeolites are an extremely important industrial mineral and, consequently, stilbite is one of the many varieties of zeolite. They are mined to meet the world's demand. The mineral is mined mainly in the North American west coast. Yet, we in Nova Scotia, have it in abundance. This mineral is found in the Jurassic basalts of the Valley region along the Bay of Fundy. The mineral is a porous crystalline composed of silica, sodium, potassium, aluminum and other elements. Although it appears solid, it is, in fact, a honeycomb of pores and is small. In fact, 1/100,000,000 of a millimetre is the pore size. What is amazing about this is that only one gram of this mineral contains approximately 12 square metres of surface area and that would be the size of a fairly large room.

What does this mean, Mr. Speaker? Well, it means that this unique mineral acts as a tiny sponge. In fact, zeolites can absorb up to 30 per cent of their dry weight in gasses and 90 per cent of their dry weight in hydrocarbons. This allows the mineral to be used in oil spill clean-ups and in other industrial processes because of its ability to absorb odour, suppressants and so on. Another capability I should mention is the ability to attract calcium and magnesium so that it can be used in water softening. They can trap and hold some of the world's most environmentally unwanted materials.

Historically most of the interest in Nova Scotia's zeolites, and as a result stilbite, has been by rock hounds and the mineral collectors that you see early in the spring running around the cliffs of the Bay of Fundy. Hopefully that is all changing as more and more interest by

[Page 1697]

exploration companies and prospectors alike is becoming evident in this province. Hopefully a concentrated effort to identify a commercial-sized deposit will be made in the near future.

Mr. Speaker, this bill has the support of the scientific community in Nova Scotia, and I am proud to move Bill No. 16, an Act to Declare Stilbite the Provincial Mineral of Nova Scotia, for second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 16. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 17.

Bill No. 17 - Adoption Information Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to rise to speak in support of Bill No. 17, the amendments to the Adoption Information Act, which was introduced in the House last week.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is designed to improve access to adoption information for Nova Scotians, a development that many people say is a long-time coming. The amendments we are proposing will make it easier for people to get personal information about their backgrounds that most others take for granted. This legislation represents the fulfilment of a commitment made by our Party in the election campaign, and it is one that we are pleased to follow through with at this very first sitting of the Legislature of the government.

It is appropriate that we are doing this during November, which is National Adoption Awareness Month. It is time to celebrate the benefit of adoption of many children and parents, both today, in the past and in the future, and a time to look at what we can do to enhance the

[Page 1698]

experience for everyone involved. I understand that time is indeed of the essence for many people who need adoption information. Many adult adoptees are now wondering who their birth parents are and, indeed, if they are still alive and if they can be reunited with them. Birth parents whose children were adopted may be seeking similar information. For those who are getting older, there is some urgency.

We bring this legislation forward at this time with those people in mind. It is important to note that the Adoption Information Act in its present form does allow the dissemination of adoption information to interested parties. Right now, adoption information is available using a facilitated search and reunion process at the Department of Community Services. Consent to release information is required among the parties involved. The Department of Community Services maintains a passive registry. This helps reunite two parties who have registered and are interested in seeking their relatives. There is also an active registry which allows the department, on the request of one party, to search for information and facilitate contact with an adult adopted person or birth parent.

Mr. Speaker, we plan to continue these services which are highly valued by the people who use them. Workers give priority to searches where advanced age or medical requirements are factors. They also help prepare the parties for reunions, which are not always straightforward and can elicit some strong emotion. But we know we can do more. Some people would like to have this information a little sooner than it is available through this process. Many people feel strongly that they should have more direct access to government information about adoptions that touched their lives. That is why we are proceeding with further amendments to this Act.

International and national trends show a growing acceptance of the routine provision of such information as directly as possible. These amendments will mean Nova Scotia will have as open adoption disclosure laws as anywhere in Canada. Advocates tell us that adult adoptees and birth parents often feel a very personal need for this information. Without it, without knowing their heritage, they don't feel complete. These amendments will help provide the closure that many adoptees and birth parents are so desperately seeking. The proposed amendments to the Adoption Information Act will give broader access to identifying information to birth parents and adult adoptees. Once the legislation is proclaimed, the information will be accessible through the Vital Statistics Division of Business and Consumer Services, where all birth registrations are kept.

Mr. Speaker, as much as we understand the importance of this right to information, we must also recognize that some birth parents and adult adoptees may have a need to maintain their privacy. For some, adoption was a difficult experience. Some may have been given assurance that their adoption or the adoption of their child would never be known. They may not wish anybody to know about it now. They are not prepared to face the emotions of a reunion. These amendments will address the interests of people who don't wish their birth information released or don't want to meet their birth relative or relatives. They may have the

[Page 1699]

option of filing documents at Vital Statistics to veto disclosure of their name or to declare that they don't want to be contacted.

It will be very important to attempt to make interested stakeholders aware of this right. Approximately 25,000 adoptions have occurred in Nova Scotia over the last 50 years and some of the parties have moved away from the province. The Department of Community Services will undertake a public awareness campaign to tell people about the changes to this Act. Mr. Speaker, the amendments also provide for an appropriate phasing-in period, to allow time for people to become aware of these changes and to prepare for an increase in the number of requests. Starting on April 1, 2000, adult adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents will be able to file disclosure vetoes or no-contact declarations. A full year will pass before any more adoptive information will be released without their consent.

Starting on April 1, 2001, adult adoptees will be able to apply for a copy of their original birth registration and birth parents will be able to apply for information about the names their children were given at adoption. These will be available through Vital Statistics. It is important to note that access to information will not be granted in a case where a child is under the age of majority. No young child can expect to be confronted by a birth parent, for example, until he or she is at least 19 years of age. Mr. Speaker, it is a provision of this legislation that all birth parents of children adopted after April 1, 2001, will not be able to file disclosure vetoes. They will, however, be able to file no-contact declarations.

Mr. Speaker, it is a sad reality of our time that many children adopted come from situations of abuse and neglect by a parent. For these and other reasons, the bill provides that adult adoptees will always be able to file disclosure vetoes. There is no doubt the issue of adoption is an emotional one for all concerned. People who have been touched by adoption in some way feel strongly about it one way or another. It is our belief that Bill No. 17 speaks to all their concerns. It addresses the pressing need to provide personal information to adult adoptees and birth parents, to let them know about their heritage and personal history. It allows for protection of people who may not wish to revisit the adoption they were part of. It provides for reasonable time for these changes to be phased in, to make people aware and to allow them to prepare.

Mr. Speaker, for that reason, I move Bill No. 17, an Act to Amend Chapter 3 of the Acts of 1996, the Adoption Information Act, for second reading.

[6:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thanks for the opportunity to speak to Bill No. 17, An Act to Amend Chapter 3 of the Acts of 1996, the Adoption Information Act. This bill continues to open up the process of obtaining adoption information, which was

[Page 1700]

started by our previous Liberal Government in 1996. So there has been progress. I think the minister is correct in saying that some of this legislation is a long time coming, there was very little progress made until we opened up some of the legislation in 1996. It continues to implement recommendations that were made to the ministerial committee headed by Professor Gwen Fitzgerald in 1993, so that is sort of the history of these changes.

When our government brought forward the legislation in 1996, the issue surrounding adoption was certainly as it remains today, both sensitive and complex. The issues of complexity and sensitivity still very much apply now, in 1999. Prior to 1996 there was only a passive registry in place and when we took over government each party independently needed to register their wish to contact before a reunion could take place, a passive registry.

Legislation in 1996 pushed this process forward immensely. This legislation struck a balance, in my opinion, between openness and the right to privacy. As a result of the passing of the Adoption Information Act, searches could then be carried out in a sensitive, informed, and discreet manner. The amendments put forward by this government in Bill No. 17 opens up this process even further.

I do have a few concerns about this bill which I would like to share with the House, Mr. Speaker. What is being proposed is a method whereby an individual who is involved in a highly emotional situation can obtain important information by going to the Department of Business and Consumer Services, in particular, Vital Statistics. This is a bit of a change of venue, or at least the way I read the bill. This can be of concern, and it should be. No longer is the search process in the hands of a social worker who is accustomed to providing counselling in times of difficult situations; the process now will be in the hands of a person who hands you a slip of paper with some names on it and sends you on your way, as happened to me when I went to get the birth certificate of a nephew of mine in British Columbia.

So, Mr. Speaker, we have that situation and maybe the minister could comment on this, if he has concerns. Maybe I am misreading it, I am sure there will be available, he will say that the social workers and the counselling services will be available, but will it be an integral part and will it be driven in a proactive manner from Vital Statistics or does the minister have any say? Is he happy to let this function go to another department when it is dealing with numbers and certificates?

In addition, as I said the other day at the time of the introduction of this bill, Mr. Speaker, time and time again there seems to be a perception that the reunions are happy occasions. The media likes to portray those; those are nice little stories. That is sort of when it always gets interest, but it is amazing and the stories are quite dramatic and they are very positive and that is the very positive side when they are happy reunions but many are not happy reunions and I think that is why this is such a major step here now.

[Page 1701]

It is a small step, in a way, because a lot of the work has already been done by the previous government, but this step is a crucial step now because now people are able to be contacted without their permission. It is like the cable television, if you don't say that you don't want to be billed, well you will be billed. This is legislation that is very similar to that, which will bring me later to my comments relative to an education program and an awareness issue, which is really crucial.

Just today, on the radio at noon, they were talking about do we grow up and resemble our parents. It was sort of interesting. I heard it driving around back and forth. One of the people spoke about how his family had been deserted when he was the age of 2 months. The person, now an adult, was 2 months. The father left. He was an alcoholic and had a few other issues. He actually effected a reunion with the family when the child was 12. This gentleman didn't say his age now, but I think he was 29 or 30, perhaps he did say his age. What a horror. What a terrible experience that was for him to have this reunion forced on him at that time.

I know the bill is not providing for that, but I think the more information that is out there, the more likely it is to be intercepted by people. I know there are other people who have interceded and I think people have gotten information, one way or another, out of the department. Unknowingly, people have given information thinking it was in their best interest. I know of some situations where people, some of them advocates for Parent Finders and others, actually did effect a reunion with their parent and was also rejected later, as well. That is often not spoken of when these positive aspects of reunions are mentioned. Like the gentleman on the radio today, he later did have a reunion at the age of 29. That is why the age 29 is in my mind, because he, in effect, had a better experience, but he was well beyond the age of majority before he felt ready to deal with that type of an issue.

A birth parent can choose not to put a disclosure veto or no contact provision on their chart. While they may be willing to allow certain information to be released, this does not mean that they are willing to accept the adopted child with open arms. So I think before we pass this function over to the Department of Business and Consumer Services, we better be aware of what we are doing here, because we are playing with people's lives in a very dramatic way.

Social workers, skilled with dealing with reunions, are required during these difficult and delicate times. I certainly hope it is the intention of the minister to continue to provide adoption services to individuals who may choose Vital Statistics as their very initial starting point on what will no doubt be an emotional time in his or her life, not to be treated lightly, Mr. Speaker. The issue of informing people about these changes will be a complex one, in my opinion. What will be required is a comprehensive, educational advertising campaign that touches all provinces in this country, as well as international jurisdictions.

[Page 1702]

I think it is very dramatic such as when you are looking for the survivors of Shelburne, that the search for those people took us right across this country, many times in prisons or jails, unfortunately, in that situation. But as the minister himself said, a lot of the adoptions are rising out of very difficult abuse and neglect situations and people have to be navigated through that process to prevent additional trauma and alienation and rejection, again, on another occasion. It is bad enough to, perhaps, have been rejected on one occasion when someone is given up for adoption, but then to be rejected again is a very traumatic experience, according to what I have been told.

The advertising and the educational program and awareness program will cost money and will require advertising to be quite clear in its intent in the purpose of this legislation. This issue is not just a Nova Scotian issue to be advertised only in Nova Scotia. These people are across our country and around the world. Many birth parents now reside in other jurisdictions and, in all fairness, should be informed of the changes that are taking place here in Nova Scotia. Our caucus will certainly be pushing to see that the appropriate resources are in place to inform people of these very important changes.

More specifically, Mr. Speaker, in terms of clarification, I have a couple of issues on which I would wish to seek information from the minister. Specifically, in Clause 3, Section 19C(1)(a) you indicate that, "an adopted person who is eighteen years of age or older;", and Clause 19C(1)(b), "a birth parent named on the original birth registration of and adopted person . . .", may, ". . . file a written veto prohibiting the disclosure of records . . .", that either may do that. In some instances, there are two birth parents noted on the birth registration, obviously. If one birth parent files a written veto and the other does not, is the name of the other birth parent that did not request the veto released or is the entire birth registration not released? So there is that particular issue.

If both birth parents need to file a disclosure, then this needs to be made clear in the advertising and educational awareness program I mentioned. Oftentimes there are two separate families that can be potentially affected out in the community and both must be made aware of the ramifications of this legislation.

The final issue is a concern regarding costs. In May 1999, our Liberal Government eliminated all adoption information fees. I remember we had quite a discussion. We met several times on that issue. It was not an easy decision. Many felt that it should be a user fee. Others felt that some representation and interventions we had from groups, Parent Finders and other groups, that it was interfering, although there was a waiver where that fee could be waived but they felt that it was something that should be made available to them, it was something that had been kept from them for years and that they shouldn't have to pay a fee. So you can argue that one way or the other and I forget where I was on the issue. I was probably one side one time and one another but we did, and our judgement was best, we eliminated that fee.

[Page 1703]

What I see in this legislation is again an attempt to charge people for adoption information. I would like some clarification on that before we proceed for passage of the bill. I would suggest, if that is so, that that is regressive. I also note there is no idea what the charges will be. So if there are going to be additional charges here, whether they are Vital Statistics or not, then I think it should be perfectly clear what these charges are. Again, another red flag goes up because increased fees or new fees are really just the same as taxes and I think we should be clear as to what this bill will result in relative to fees.

In addition, more specifically, do birth parents and adopted children who wish to file disclosure vetoes and no-contact provisions have to pay to do this or is the person who has to do the search, in other words the parent of the adoptee, the person doing the search the only one who pays? Will there be a fee for the filing of no disclosure veto and no-contact provisions, either of those? Will there be a fee for that or will it just be for the person who is searching? I am not clear from the bill and our caucus couldn't come to any determination on that. So we certainly have difficulties about the fees being charged and, in particular, have difficulties with those who wish to have no contact or disclosure being charged for that fee. So that is why I bring those matters before the House this evening.

Mr. Speaker, while we have no difficulty with the intent of the legislation, as I say, it was a provision of ours, I thought the minister mentioned the appropriate time and I have no problem with the time. I know there was some concern in the press conference the other day about that. I think it does take time. These are important changes. While many times reunions are happy occasions, they are very emotional always, and delicate at best and really have to be handled with a great deal of sensitivity and support. So I have tried to voice my concerns about moving into a more business mode where it is dealt with through Vital Statistics. Even though they may well be sensitive people working in that area, I think they neither have the time nor the training to address those particular issues surrounding disclosure.

So, Mr. Speaker, we have concerns and certainly hope that through the Law Amendments Committee process that some of these issues will be addressed. Maybe the minister doesn't have time this evening for the full answers or maybe I didn't make myself clear because you get talking about adopted and adoptees and disclosures and vetoes and it does get very complicated but I think because it is complicated, because it is emotional, because it is very important to people finding out who they are - I always have supported the full disclosure. How we get there has been the journey and I was pleased to be part of some of that journey, that we took over from a passive registry and moved in this direction, and now this is a further step.

[6:45 p.m.]

I support the direction in moving toward open disclosure. What I am concerned about is it moving away from the Department of Community Services. The issues of child protection, adoption, foster parents - that is the department for that to be in and I think to

[Page 1704]

move it aside and to attach a fee, those types of initiatives, I think we are leaving it open to other issues. A job has been well done, there was great pride in the department that very difficult circumstances have been well managed and I would support that initiative and be interested in following up the debate through the Committee on Law Amendments and third reading. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I must say that I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the Adoption Information Act and the bill to amend, Bill No. 17. I also want to acknowledge that it is one of the government's blue book commitments that was made during the election campaign and that it feels that it will continue to carry through. I am going to speak in general terms with respect to the bill. I am not going into detail, but I do want to have the opportunity to inform the minister as to my train of thought.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill No. 17 because I want to acknowledge the tremendous work done by Parent Finders Nova Scotia; two individuals, in particular, who have put in a tremendous amount of work here, both Michael and Faith Slayter, who worked tirelessly towards seeing that this day would become a reality. Over the last year I have met with people from the Dartmouth North constituency who have impressed upon me the importance of knowing their biological parents and how empty they feel by not knowing that. One of the adoptees in Dartmouth North is an infamous butterbox baby - the dark history of Nova Scotia. I can tell you that that adoptee expressed in detail to me what it was like not knowing who your parents are.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 17 will go a long way in easing the unnecessary difficulty placed before the individuals searching out their biological parents or children. Adoptees, once and for all, will now have the opportunity to bring into perspective their true identity. Again, Bill No. 17 is more open and goes a long way to reducing the bureaucratic maze. There is concern expressed by Parent Finders Nova Scotia about the length and the full thrust of this bill which comes into force particularly with respect to Clauses 19A and 19B which is actually a full 16 months from that date. Parent Finders of Nova Scotia believe this clause of the bill can be moved up to an earlier date. It is their opinion there is no need to go beyond six months.

Mr. Speaker, I hope that when this bill goes to the Law Amendments Committee, the concerns of Parent Finders Nova Scotia will be acknowledged. Again, this bill will bring Nova Scotia in line with most provinces in Canada. I do want to thank you and thank the Minister of Community Services for bringing the bill forward. Thank you.

[Page 1705]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to make some remarks on Bill No. 17. I should point out that this bill was only introduced in this House on Friday. It is now Monday night and already it is being called for second reading, leaving very little time for members of the Opposition or even Nova Scotians to absorb this bill and absorb the effects that this bill is going to have on the lives of people affected through adoption in this province.

I want to start first by touching on some comments my colleague, the member for Dartmouth North, made. Yes, credit deserves to be given to Parent Finders for what they have done, but I would submit to the minister and I would submit to the members of this House, there have been 25,000 adoptions in this province in the last 50 years. That is 25,000 adoptees, if you add the birth parents - that is another 50,000 - that is 75,000 and that is not even adding in the adoptive parents. That is at least 75,000 people who are directly affected by this bill that we are debating here this evening.

I would ask the Minister of Community Services, ask his government, and even ask colleagues throughout this House if they can say that they have been consulted by or that they have received information or concerns from a representative portion of those 75,000 people? I would submit that they haven't. If there is one thing in this issue of adoption, it is that it has been a lopsided issue, because what we have is a vocal group and what we have on the other side is a silent majority, the voices that are not heard by members of this House, the voices that are not heard by the Minister of Community Services, the voices that were not heard by this Tory Government when it made its pledge.

I have no doubt, and I want to say now, that I believe that all the members on the government side are honourable members and that the minister is an honourable member, and that they are trying to do what is right with this bill, in trying to address the concerns. But I would submit, there are portions of this bill which have gone too far, way too far, and are a violation of the rights of adoptees, and cannot go forward without amendment.

I would submit and I would indicate to the minister and the House today that unless there are those amendments made, I will vote against this bill. I believe that other colleagues may be doing the same.

Parent Finders is a group which has been very vocal. I recall when this Act was amended a number of years back. Their membership was a couple of hundred, again, out of 75,000 people directly affected by this issue. When a committee was formed under the previous government, years ago, to try to receive information from adoptees, it went around the province. Unfortunately, out of 75,000 people directly involved, 33 presentations were made to that committee. In fact, I believe the meeting which was being held in the Cumberland-Colchester area was actually cancelled due to the lack of anyone actually coming out.

[Page 1706]

How ironic to hear that today, when we hear some of the statements being made around this bill and how the vast majority of people involved in this issue are out there saying that they approve of these very changes which are being proposed in this bill. As my colleague has indicated, the member for Dartmouth East, the fact that this is being moved out of Community Services into the hands of Vital Statistics is an ill-conceived move. As the member has indicated, reunions are not always pleasant, they often require a great deal of counselling afterwards. It appears that the Department of Community Services is now removing its responsibility in that regard by dumping it on Vital Statistics.

There is also the issue of fees, which has not been clearly addressed in this bill. Specifically, the part of this bill which I believe is flawed is that there will now be a burden on adoptees who have been adopted in this province to actually have to go to apply to this Tory Government to request that their privacy be protected.

Mr. Speaker, I submit that that is a fundamental flaw, it is a fundamental violation of the Charter of Rights and it is a fundamental violation of decency. I don't believe for one minute that that was the intent of this government or the intent of this minister. I do not believe that, I really don't. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, because I don't believe that was his intention. Unfortunately, we often get caught up in what we think is politically correct, and often it is not the majority who guide our decisions, it is those vocal people who leave us with the impression that this is what is being demanded, this is what is being requested.

I looked with interest at a story in the paper that said the Department of Community Services had 500 inquiries last year. That is 500 out of 75,000. It is not even 75,000, add the adoptive parents in there, add the siblings or the parentage of the birth parents, and you have a lot of people. I would submit that 500 does not even represent 1 per cent of the total amount of people involved, yet somehow we are guided into believing that we need to open up the system completely, let everything drop and open it up. I would submit that we have not listened to the majority out there.

We have not listened to the adoptees who are pleased with their adoption or do not wish to be contacted. They do not write to the Minister of Community Services because when they were adopted, they were not given a choice. First of all, let's get that clear, these people never had a choice. They were not asked, would you like to be adopted? That was never asked. They were never asked which family they wished to go into, but the government of the day, our predecessors in this House, in this province, gave a guarantee to those adoptees that their privacy would be protected, their adoptive parents' privacy would be protected and the government would not allow anyone to interfere in their lives, to come in and, without their consent, interfere in their lives.

[Page 1707]

Bill No. 17 breaks that commitment that was made to the adoptees throughout this province and to the adoptive parents throughout this province. That is where it is fundamentally flawed. We have now placed the burden on the adoptees. They have to come forward from now on and ask that their privacy be protected by this government because, other than that, this government will allow their personal information, their very being, to be exposed without their consent. That is where this bill is flawed and that is where we have gone too far, because birth parents had a choice, regardless of the duress, regardless of the situation there was a choice. They were adults - teenagers in some cases - but there was a choice; the adoptee never had a choice. Birth parents can come back and say they do not wish to be contacted, they have a right to do that under this bill, but placing the onus on the adoptee to come forward to Vital Statistics is where this bill has gone wrong.

I would submit to the members of this House, to the members of the government, that this bill should be amended so that if adoptees wish to be contacted, then they should take the burden of going and filing with Vital Statistics or Community Services, and say, I have made the informed decision, I am an adult, I have decided I wish to be contacted. That is what would be just, because then no one is invading their privacy; no one is forcing them to protect themselves, they are coming forward and making an informed decision, because Bill No. 17 takes away that informed decision. It is funny because basically what Bill No. 17 says is, we are opening everything up unless you come and ask for protection.

I look back and remember a few years ago when the local cable company included more channels for everybody. They put it on for everybody, a special package, and they were billing everybody except those who contacted them and said they did not want those services. There was a public outcry and the government of the day actually said negative option billing will not be permitted. We will not allow the cable company to throw this on people and then say that you have the burden of contacting us or we are going to charge you for this, and maintain the service. We did that for a cable service, yet for the fundamental protection of adoptees in this province, Bill No. 17 takes that away and allows this negative option billing to happen.

It says we are opening all the records unless you contact us and ask us. Adoptees would have to ask a government to protect them. It is disgraceful. You are basically taking the adoptees, which many have tried to say that they are these poor adoptees who are wandering around in a wasteland. Well that is not what I see when I see adoptees. I see lawyers, I see doctors, I see plumbers, I see pipefitters, teachers, MLAs, senators, they are very successful, yet today we have taken one brush and painted them all with the same brush.

The Minister of Community Services and the letters he has received, and Parent Finders, they must speak for all adoptees. They have only a couple of hundred, but they must speak for the 75,000 who are out there. We are going to say yes, it is correct for us to paint them all with this same brush and place the burden on adoptees to ask this government to maintain their privacy, to ask them to continue the guarantee that was given by our predecessors here in this House, the sacred trust, which said we will protect you. We will not

[Page 1708]

allow anyone to come back and invade your life, unless, as more successive governments have said, you wish that.

[7:00 p.m.]

The system that is in place now requires the adoptee to come forward and say, yes, I wish information to be given on me. I wish to be identified if one of my birth parents comes forward, and it also gives the same right to the birth parent to say, yes, I do wish to have information given. Unless both have signed, there is no information given. That is the protection. It has been said that that is not enough. Maybe it is not enough. Maybe adoptees do have the right to be able to go and get information on their birth parents and there needs to be more of an openness on that. I will not dispute that. I know there are various sides on this issue and I certainly respect those opinions because, in my opinion, those birth parents had a choice. Again, under this legislation, they do have some protection in that they can come and ask for their privacy to be protected. But to turn it on the adoptees, that they now have to go and ask this government to protect them, cap in hand, is a shame.

We have to ask ourselves, in this province of 25,000 adoptees, how many are out there who don't know? How many are out there that were never told they were adopted? Today, if this bill goes through, on April 1, 2001, they may just be getting a phone call or they may be getting a visit by someone saying, by the way, I am your birth father or I am your birth mother. Where is the protection of this government? Where is the compassion and where is the generosity of this government at that point?

When I spoke to a member of this Legislature on that issue, and I have a lot of respect for that member, I think it was a fundamental misunderstanding of this issue that led him to make the statement, and when I said that, he said, well, if they don't know, then it should be up to us as MLAs to let them know. I had a lot of respect for that member and it took all that respect to be able not to insult him on hearing that reply. It made me think back to a former Prime Minister who said the state has no business in the nation's bedrooms. I would submit to this government that nor do you have business in the lives of adoptees.

What you are doing today with Bill No. 17 is directly interfering in the lives of adoptees who have not asked, who have not consented to having their lives interfered with. Yet, you have placed the burden on them to now come and seek protection under the bill, to ask the Minister of Community Services, to ask Vital Statistics, please, protect my identity. I do not wish to be contacted. For those who do not know they are adopted, they are left out there with absolutely no protection. There is no protection.

We can debate whether they should know or they should not know or the importance it would have, but that the state would be responsible for this is reprehensible. It is reprehensible that this government would be responsible for that. Again, I think that this bill hasn't been properly thought out and I do not, for one minute, believe that the Minister of

[Page 1709]

Community Services wishes to do that or that this government wishes to do that. I simply believe that this bill has not been thought out properly. It has not been vetted properly and the fact is it was introduced on Friday and we are here Monday night debating second reading, I would, again, submit that it has not been properly vetted by either this House or the people of Nova Scotia, for if it goes to second reading this evening, it is possible that the Law Amendments Committee could hear this tomorrow. How much warning is that or how much notice is that to the many thousands of people who will be directly affected by this, that they can come in and make amendments?

I would submit to you that such legislation should at least be put forward to the public months in advance before it comes back to this House and that we, as legislators, do our proper duty and debate this bill, possibly make some amendments and try to make it a better bill and try to address the issue before us. For the government or this House to try to ram through this bill is a complete denial of our duties and it would be a shame, to say the least.

One of the other parts of the bill talks about cases where there actually is a veto put in place. It talks about prohibiting people where there is a veto from continuing to try to obtain information in an unlawfull manner. It says, under Clause 3, Section 19D(6), "A person who is prohibited from making contact pursuant to a no-contact declaration and has signed an undertaking pursuant to subsection (5) shall not (a) knowingly contact, or attempt to contact by any means or through any person, the person by whom the declaration has been filed;". It says this and it goes on for a few more clauses. The problem is there is no penalty clause. It does not indicate what will happen if someone does violate this clause which is something I have absolutely no idea why this was not included in this bill. It talks of a penalty yet does not set out a penalty, so, in that regard, this bill is fundamentally flawed in the fact that it does not actually set out a penalty stage.

The Minister of Community Services, when he introduced the bill, said that there would be a requirement of extensive advertising before this could go through and I know he is now under pressure to move forward the dates that have been set out in this bill. I would submit to you, Mr. Minister, and to your government that your dates are not unreasonable. If anything, I would submit that they are possibly too short a time, not too long a time. How is this government going to tell the adoptee now living in Vancouver of what it is about to do? How is it going to tell the adoptee who lives in the United States, that on or about April 1, 2001, his or her long form birth certificate will be made available upon request? How do we let them know? How do we let adoptees, who are overseas, know? How do we let families of adoptees who are deceased know? How do we let them know?

What possible advertising campaign could this government or this province undertake that would provide any form of protection to people who are no longer in this province; or, I would submit to you, people who are in this province, because unfortunately, not everyone reads papers, watches the news or sees advertisements? But this is not a simple little piece of information about people. You are talking about the very being of 25,000 people in this

[Page 1710]

province. How possibly can this government let them know what it is about to do to them and how they can all be made aware - which they should, I would submit, all 25,000 - of what is going to happen, that April 1, 2001, their long-form birth certificate goes out?

It was interesting because in one report, it said, it would only show the adoptive name, but when looking at the bill, it clearly indicates that Vital Statistics will update the name. Whether there is a marriage or a name change, that updated information will be disclosed. How do we possibly let these people know what this government is about to do? Again, I submit to the Premier, and I submit to the minister, that at no time do I believe that this is an intentional wrongdoing. I believe they have done their best to address this concern in a compassionate manner, but I would submit to them that they have gone too far. They have gone further than what was requested and they have gone further than what decency allows. I don't believe any member of this House wants to cross that line, especially not intentionally, and that is what Bill No. 17, in essence, is doing.

The very people this province committed to protecting, we are now exposing, not because they have asked us, but because we are telling them that if they don't like it, then come sign a form and then there will be no information on it. So I submit to you, and we will submit in the Law Amendments Committee, I will certainly be pushing this amendment. I believe there will be other amendments coming, based on some of the comments from my colleagues and other members of this House, that adult adoptees must be permitted to come forward on their own and say, yes, minister, yes Premier, I would like to be contacted, I am prepared for it, I have made that informed decision. I am coming forward willingly and dependently without duress, to be able to say, yes, I am prepared for this, I am willing to make that move.

Instead what this bill does is it puts the onus on the adoptee. It puts the duress on the adoptee to have to come forward and seek protection, because if they do not make that choice, this government will open their personal information and give it to an applicant, whether it be the birth mother or the birth father. I submit to you that is where this bill is fundamentally flawed because never must this province force adoptees to have to come seek protection from this province. I don't think this government intended to do that, I really don't. I don't think the minister intended to force adoptees to have to come seek protection from him if they are not prepared for it. Because this is being thrown upon them as saying now you must take the initiative, you in Sheet Harbour, or you in Richmond County, or you up in Meat Cove, or you up in Cumberland County, or you down in Yarmouth, you must now come to Vital Statistics and ask and seek the protection of this government, of your most private, most personal information possible.

I was thinking, in speaking with a few people on this, I said, you know I wonder if this government sat and said, we are going to open up everyone's income tax return and it will be made public to anyone who requests it unless individuals sign a veto that they do not want this information to be made available. What an outcry we would have. People would be

[Page 1711]

outraged at such a suggestion, that their income be made public and be open and that they would actually have to come to the government and ask that their income not be made public. There would be an outcry. Yet today we are prepared, as legislators, to have a bill go through which would place the onus on adoptees in this province, that this government is prepared to give their most private, their most personal information unless they are willing to take the onus to come forward and ask that that not be released and that is where this bill has gone wrong.

In this bill it recognizes some sense of privacy because it says on the long form birth certificate it will not identify the adoptive parents. That information will not be given and I am left to question, why is this protection given for the adoptive parents and yet not given to the adoptee? This government somehow recognizes it still has a responsibility to the adoptive parents to protect their privacy, yet it has abandoned the privacy it owes to the adoptees. I fail to understand that logic. Why? Why protect the adoptive parents, recognizing their privacy, yet you are leaving the adoptee exposed?

The other issue in this bill talks of the fact that even if a disclosure veto is put in place, if the adoptee passes away within two years, the information is given. Where is the consent of the family? Where is the notice given to the family that this information is going to be given? How are the adoptive parents to know that if their child passes away two years after this bill that suddenly someone could be knocking at the door, interfering in their lives and the lives of their family? There is no way because this bill leaves it wide open. It doesn't say if the adoptive parents will be contacted first to indicate that someone is making an inquiry or to prepare them that someone has requested this information. There is none of that there. There is no protection. There is no notice to be given to these families. That, again, is where this bill fails and it fails the very people it was meant to protect.

You do read letters to the editor, we have all read them. November is Adoption Month. We are all aware of that. But again I submit to you to take the time and to listen to the community out there because I submit to the minister, those who do not wish information and those who are happy with their state in life are not going to write to the Minister of Community Services. They just don't do that. I would like him to compare the correspondence he has had with the correspondence he has not had and to weigh that and to say, am I really getting a proper reflection of the 25,000 adoptees who have been adopted in this province. Are those 10 letters or even 100 letters a proper reflection of that 25,000?

When this commission went around years ago, I believe in 1994, looking to make some changes, why was it only 33 people showed up? Because if this was such a demand and this was such an important issue for the adoptees, why would they not come forward and make their views heard. I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, because the silent majority out there is not writing to the Minister of Community Services. They are pleased with how the Act exists, whether they are indifferent or not. In many cases, I am sure, most of them do not even know the bill that exists and they certainly do not know what is being proposed here.

[Page 1712]

[7:15 p.m.]

I would ask that, as members of this House, we do not try to ram through this bill, that the minister give serious consideration to amending this bill. I would submit to you that if it stays in its current form, it would be my hope that a Supreme Court challenge immediately be brought against this bill and that it be deemed unconstitutional. That is my hope if changes are not made, and I have no doubt that in the end, when a court looks at the entire situation, this bill will be deemed unconstitutional, especially for what it does to adopted people in this province and the invasion it brings upon them, upon their families, upon their relatives and upon their very being.

It is not justified because if adult adoptees - as that clearly says, you must be 18, but even at 18, you have not decided yet, you are not quite sure, you have questions - if you do not take the initiative to contact this government by April 1, 2001, whether you want to or you do not, or you have not made up your mind, the information is gone, it is given. You no longer have a choice at that point. The adoptee no longer gets to say I have not decided yet how I feel on this issue. This government will have decided for them. It will have decided for 25,000 people what they feel today is right and that is where this bill has gone wrong.

It cannot be justified and I would challenge anyone to try to justify it, because we are a free and open democracy and we can put a bill forward which would allow adult adoptees to make their own decision. To come forward on their own when they are prepared and say I am ready, I have thought this out, I have discussed it with my adoptive parents, I have discussed it with my friends, and I am now ready for this. I am coming forward telling you I am ready. That would be the proper way to bring forward this legislation, to put the onus on those adoptees who are ready to take this step, for them to make that decision in their own due course.

Instead, what this bill, Bill No. 17, does is that it does not give them a choice. It does not let them sit back and say I am not sure, because by April 1, 2001, you no longer have time to be unsure. If you have not signed that veto by that time, you no longer have a choice. You no longer have a choice because, on April 2, 2001, the phone just might be ringing, there might be somebody knocking at the door, there might be somebody sending you a letter, all of which you have not asked for, you have not consented to, and you have not said you were prepared for.

Yet that is what Bill No. 17 in essence will be doing to adoptees throughout this province. Again I ask the minister, the Premier, Cabinet, and their colleagues - they have the majority, there is no doubt, and everything I am saying here you do not even have to listen to, you do not even have to do anything about it. You have that option because you are a majority government - I would submit to you there are 25,000 adoptees out there who do not deserve to have their privacy invaded by your government.

[Page 1713]

They did not elect you on July 27th to make their most personal and vital information available; they did not ask you that on July 27th. Yes, they did ask for changes and I think there are some positive changes in this bill, but it has gone too far; it has gone a way too far and it has crossed the line of privacy; it has crossed the line of decency. That is where we, as legislators, must do what is responsible. We must take our time, have some sober thought on this, second thought, and look at it and say what we believe today when we wrote this bill was the right thing to do. When we hear the comments that are coming from members from the opposite side and we hear the comments from some of our constituents who may be calling, or writing, we are prepared to sit down and look at this bill again because this bill is of vital importance to the 25,000 adoptees in this province.

We are going to take our time. We will not try to ram it through this session. There is absolutely no possibility that it can have proper venting and proper consultation in this session. We will leave it there for public consultation. We will leave it there for input and this government will do the proper thing, will do the consulting, will listen to Nova Scotians, listen to the Opposition, and then come back and make an informed decision on whether Bill No. 17 should stand as it is, or whether there is room for changes to that.

In wrapping up, if this bill is called again, I certainly will be discussing this further. I certainly intend to speak to the minister directly, to make some of these points with the minister personally. It is my understanding that there have already been some representations made in this regard to the minister but I would again ask each member of this Legislature - of all the bills we have passed in this session or that we have even discussed, I would submit that this one is the one which is most important to Nova Scotians for what it can do. This bill can turn out to be a positive bill or a very ill-conceived bill which tramples on the very democratic rights and privacy of adoptees in this province, who I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, do not deserve that. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would move adjournment of the debate on Bill No. 17, while we go back into Supply.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Supply unto Her Majesty.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. We are on second reading discussion of this particular bill, a very important bill. We have some other speakers who wish to speak to this bill. I would like a ruling on whether it is appropriate to call a halt

[Page 1714]

to second reading and revert to another committee level of the House, while second reading is being discussed.

MR. SPEAKER: I understood there was an agreement when I called for agreement.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, when we closed the House on Friday, I signified the intention that we would move back when the subcommittee had completed its business, so that we could deal with the estimates. We will be going back to Bill No. 17 as soon as we have cleared the estimates.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I just want to find out if that is appropriate. I would like to get a ruling from the Chair whether or not that is permissible, in light of the fact that we are discussing second reading on a bill.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, it is appropriate at any time for a person to rise and ask for adjournment of a debate on a bill or a resolution or anything else. If that motion is carried, that is where we are at.

MR. SPEAKER: My understanding on Friday was that there was an agreement and I also feel that the government has the right to call the order of business. We did recess earlier, so we are going back into Supply.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: To continue the point of order then, is it the Government House Leader's intention to come back to second reading on this bill, following (Interruption) Immediately following? (Interruption)

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Thank you. The process being followed, is what I understand that we had agreed to, as I say, on Friday.

[7:24 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mr.Wayne Gaudet in the Chair.]

[7:25 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Supply reports:

[Page 1715]

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and completed its consideration of the Estimates and has come to agreement on 49 Estimates, as presented to it. The Chairman recommends those Estimates to the favourable consideration of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House concurs in the report of the Committee of the Whole House on Supply. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Introduction of Bills.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 19 - An Act to Provide for Defraying Certain Charges and Expenses of the Public Service of the Province. (Hon. Neil LeBlanc)

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 19, the Appropriations Act, 1999.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 19. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I move third reading of Bill No. 19, the Appropriations Act, 1999.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 19. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

[Page 1716]

Ordered that the bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 17.

Bill No. 17 - Adoption Information Act.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I had a few prepared words with regard to Bill No. 17, amendments to the Adoption Information Act, but I must say after, having heard some of the other speakers debate, particularly some of the members from the Liberal Party, it has affected what I think about this bill. Really, right now, I am in a position where I think they have made some valid points that need to be considered. As we go through the processes of second reading and the Law Amendments Committee and third reading and Committee of the Whole House on Bills, I hope that this is something that both our caucus and the caucus of the government will take into consideration.

I just want to say a few words, generally, about the concepts that are involved in this bill. This is a problem, obviously, that has been going on for a while, to say the least. As long as we have had a system of publicly sanctioned adoptions in this country and in this province, Mr. Speaker, we have had situations where, following the adoption process, there are adults who were children who were adopted, who clearly have questions about who their birth parents were. On the flip side of that, we have a situation where we have parents who have given their children up for adoption, who have probably always wondered what happened to those children.

That is what is so important about this bill. This bill is not just about a simple legislative change, it is about emotion; it is about who a person is and what their rights are. I was talking to a member of Parent Finders the other day about this, Mr. Speaker. It is the right to know, whether it be the parent who has given a child up for adoption or an adult who as a child was adopted, their right to know about who they are or where their child has gone. Also, I guess the alternative, it is the right to not have that information released, to not be in a position where it is being released without your absolute consent.

[Page 1717]

That is what this bill is about and these issues are so delicate and so layered, Mr. Speaker, that I think it is very difficult, even in this situation. It is funny. I have been here for almost two years now, but this is probably one of the first bills that I have looked at that really deals with a much more emotional issue or a much more emotive issue than it does deal with a logical or rational issue. I think that is what is so interesting. That is why I have been so fascinated with some of the interventions from the members of the Liberal Party. This isn't them discussing this logically or rationally, it is them talking about personal experiences and about how they perceive things. I think that is important, and I think we are going to hear more of that.

[7:30 p.m.]

I know the member for Richmond talked a bit about the committee that was dealing with this issue, but what we have seen in the past five years, I think, is some committee that has gone through the process of identifying some changes, there has been a lot of pressure put on by Parent Finders Nova Scotia to create some changes. Indeed, they said about this bill, at least what I heard of the press conference last Friday, is that they feel it doesn't go far enough. It is a good first step, but there are still delays and they are not happy with those delays.

Mr. Speaker, on one side you have a situation where you have people who clearly want this bill to go further, and on the other side you clearly have a lot of people who feel the bill has gone too far. It is that weighing of the positions that I think this government has been attempting to achieve through this piece of legislation.

I want to say for the record, being in second reading and being the Critic for Community Services for our caucus, that the Progressive Conservative Party and this government has been consistent on this issue, looking back at the resolutions they passed when they were the Third Party from 1998-99, looking at their platform and what they said in their platform, this is one of those promises, and I might add later on, one of those rare promises, that they promised they would introduce, they promised it would be done in the real first year and they have done it. Whether some members in the House like it or not, I think they owe credit to the Tories for actually doing what they said they would do. My hat is off to them for actually complying with a platform promise that they said they would commit to.

I know this is on title but there are a couple of things that I want to talk about with regard to the crux of the matter. In the press conference, let me back up. This bill, and what I have heard from the Liberal Party and what I have heard from the Progressive Conservatives, I think it is really getting down to the nuts and bolts of this issue. Should people automatically be assumed to be allowing this information to be released to the other parties, whether it be an adult who was once a child adopted, allowing information about themselves to go to a parent who gave them up for adoption, or should a parent who gave

[Page 1718]

a child up for adoption have their information released to an adult who was once a child adopted.

The question is, in this Bill No. 17, the Progressive Conservatives have clearly come down on the side of this piece of legislation saying that unless there is an active negative indication from a party who doesn't want information released, that information will be released. Some have called it the negative billing option, where someone must actually come out and say I do not want information released. I think it is called a disclosure veto in this particular Act. I do not want this information released or if they say nothing, it will be released.

The Tories have said that they think that is the best way to go with this legislation. What we have heard from the Liberals is something to the alternative, what we have heard is that unless someone actively comes forward and says I want this information to be released or I am okay if it is released, it should not be released, which would be more the passive denial of release of the information. In many ways they are the flip side of the same coin.

I want to talk a bit about one of the examples of how this impacts which I don't think others have mentioned. The Minister of Community Services, in his press conference on Friday, said that in order to ensure that everyone knows about, as much as possible, these changes, because one of the members of the media said, there could be people in Vancouver or Los Angeles or St. Louis or Mexico City for all we know or Singapore, who actually were parents who gave a child up for adoption, or maybe they are a person from Nova Scotia who was originally adopted as a child.

They no longer live in this jurisdiction, they may no longer live in this country or on this continent, and those people have to be notified somehow that these changes are taking place, because if not, as I think the member for Richmond noted, they could easily be blind sided with a phone call in the middle of the night or in the middle of the day saying, hi, I am your birth parent or hi, I am the child you gave up for adoption 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago.

Mr. Speaker, what the minister said in response was we will have a plan, and certain costs allotted that will go on spending for advertising to notify people of these changes. Now stepping aside for a moment and saying whether an advertisement in a newspaper on a Saturday once in Vancouver or Singapore or Timbuctoo is ever actually going to notify someone, I will leave that point aside. The fact is that certain costs with regard to moving a system in place, where we have to notify through newspaper all these people, that can get expensive.

Now the minister said in their blue book it would be $300,000. Since I am a bit sceptical of some of the other costs in the Tory blue book, I don't know how accurate that is. I would hope that this minister, at some point, would come forward with a clear identification of how much money he intends to spend on advertising, in order to ensure that

[Page 1719]

people, whether it be in other jurisdictions in Canada, North America or around the world are going to be notified somehow of this. Now with the Internet maybe these things can be done cheaper than they have been in the past but I would like to see some sort of plan put forward as to how they are going to be implementing an advertising strategy with regard to notification and how much it will cost.

My point is that if we did the alternative, the Liberal perspective, which is not allowing someone's information released unless they gave specific consent, it would actually save money because instead of having to advertise to people, you could just leave it as a passive system in which people would only be notified once they call. So it could be a cheaper alternative and it is just something that I put forward to the minister to think of with regard to this time in which we are trying to save money, not to say that I am opposed to the legislation as it is. What I must admit right now is that having heard the member for Richmond and the member for Dartmouth East and having spoken to the member for Lunenburg West out in the hallway before coming in, clearly there are, as I said, emotional and very good points to be made with regard to the alternative that I think need to be discussed fully. I am glad that we, as legislators, are willing to take the time to do that.

I think one of the things I note in this book, because I have no personal experience with regard to adoption, either as a parent or a child, I think what I find most interesting is that as the bill is defined, its greatest impact will not be felt for 20 years because as it stands now, assuming that people are notified, Mr. Speaker, they will have the choice to decide whether to provide a disclosure veto or not. It is only the people who, after this bill is passed, which I assume - I think it is April 1, 2001 that it is fully proclaimed - that at that time anyone who gives a child up for adoption after April 1, 2001, will have no right to a disclosure veto and therefore, that information will be freely accessible. But presumably any child given up for adoption after that date, at least a large number of them, will not be in a position to seek that information for upwards of 19, 20 or 25 years.

I think it is interesting that a lot of the large impact on this bill will not be felt in this generation, let alone this year, but probably will not be felt for 20 years, when people who are put up for adoption subsequent to the proclamation of this bill in 2001, will be the ones who will have full and fair access to that information.

Many times in our Legislature we think about how bills are going to impact people in the next month or the next year, but this piece of legislation will not have full effect, truly, until 20 years from now when those children of adoption who were adopted or put up for adoption subsequent to April 1, 2001, are actually going to be in a position to seek information with regard to their birth parents. I think that is an interesting factor. I don't think it is one that should be taken lightly. Sometimes we think, well, 20 years from now where will I be? Why do I care? The fact is, and I think the member for Richmond spoke eloquently about this, there are some children out there who have not ever been told that they were adopted and we are putting them in a precarious situation, we are putting parents in a

[Page 1720]

precarious situation with regard to the phone calls they may receive or the notification they may receive.

I think that is the other point that the member for Dartmouth East made that I think is important to note, whether or not we use the active system or passive system, the negative or the positive system, what we should remember, Mr. Speaker, is that we should not be allowing people to take this information and make what some call cold calls - I have the name of my birth parent, I am going to pick up the phone and call them. I think there needs to be some provision for counselling in this legislation. I worry, quite frankly, that maybe what we are doing is transferring this to Vital Statistics where it is a simple bureaucratic act, from Community Services where there might have been some counselling and some search factors involved. As a cost saving measure, I don't think that is the main reason but it is a benefit that might be recognized by the government when, in fact, what we have is a situation where again this is a piece of legislation that isn't a matter of logic and rationale, it is a matter of emotion and psychology and we need to ensure that counselling is being provided to those who are about to venture into something that is a huge and life-changing event where they are going to meet their birth parent. I think as the member for Dartmouth East noted, both from what I have read in the media and what I have heard today, it isn't always a good event. It can be, but in many cases it isn't and you need a lot of counselling to deal with that, I think, before you are in a position to come forward and have to deal with that.

So I think it is one factor that we would like to see addressed with regard to the Law Amendments Committee or the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, some addressing of the counselling issue. I think mandatory counselling or proof that counselling has been provided, whether it be done privately or whether they take it through government assistance, there must be some form of counselling provided in this legislation before someone is provided with the information, otherwise you could be opening up a whole can of worms, so to speak, Mr. Speaker.

So our caucus, I think, probably needs some more time. I think we will be glad to see through Law Amendments Committee, an opportunity to sit down as a caucus and discuss this further and see what options are available. We would be glad to look at any amendments that may come forward from the government or from the Liberal caucus for us to consider. We may have some of our own, but I think at this point the key is that we have a full and fair debate about this legislation, about the impact of this legislation and that we look at all the alternatives possible, because the last thing we want to do - and personally as a legislator - is look back in 20 years or 25 years, when I meet someone on the street, a young adult who says you passed legislation two decades ago and it has impacted on me drastically.

It's going to be something we may all have to live with, unless we really think long and hard about what we are doing, Mr. Speaker, and because of that I hope we do have a full and open debate about this legislation before it is finally passed at third reading. Thank you.

[Page 1721]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I, too, rise today to bring forth some issues of concern with regard to Bill No. 17. I would first want to congratulate the minister, the staff, Parent Finders, for some very progressive moves within this piece of legislation, but I, too, have some very serious reservations and concerns to the extent where I would like to be able to present my concerns here today. I want to congratulate the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, who just spoke, for in fact listening to the debate here today, and the previous speaker, the member for Richmond, by stating that because of that he is prepared to go back and review the piece of legislation. I believe that is a commendable position for the member to take and I want to congratulate him for that. (Applause) That is what this Legislature is all about, to bring forward issues of concern and I want to acknowledge with respect the member for Dartmouth East, as well as the member for Richmond, for articulating many of the issues of concern that I have.

As was mentioned by the member for Richmond, some 25,000 adoptees are affected by this legislation. Then he goes on to state there are another approximately 50,000 people affected by the fact that they are birth parents. I would say we should add another 50,000 people to this list, the parents of the adopted children because they, too, are affected by this legislation in a very profound way, because undoubtedly they are the ones who deal with children and the young adults as they go through this whole issue of accepting adoption. Some accept very well, but some children and some youth do not accept very well the issue and concern of adoption, notwithstanding the fact that there are some in society who have never been given the information that in fact they are adopted.

I heard a comment as I was leaving the House about how this is really a riveting issue, riveting comments. So I pondered on that, thinking that members would not have meant that in a very demeaning way, but in fact maybe in a way that they themselves do not realize the scope of Bill No. 17 and the effect it has on society. As the minister had indicated earlier, the issue of adoption touches many lives and that is very true. It touches many lives, but there are many who do not understand the issue of adoption, the complexity of it, from a social point of view, from an emotional point of view, and from a family point of view, and for that I believe that there are some areas in this bill that need to be changed or modified.

Reverse onus, as it were, to what this bill is really talking about, is the way I believe this minister should move. I would encourage the minister very seriously to consider reverse onus in regard to the adoptees, to what they are now being presented in this legislation to do. That would be a very simple way of rectifying what I consider a very negative connotation in regard to the individual rights, democratic rights, the issue of privacy, notwithstanding the emotional and human issues that this particular bill brings forward.

[Page 1722]

[7:45 p.m.]

I want to speak in some way, if I may, on the rights of individuals who maybe are not here today, individuals who are considered to some degree the quiet majority, or the silent majority, whether that is true or not, but individuals who do not necessarily have a voice. I think of two different sections. One is the individual adoptee who did not have a choice about the fact that they were born, did not have a choice in regard to where they ended up in the individual family mix. Those individuals were, in fact, in many ways the custody of the state and then, in turn, were brought into a family environment and I would hope that those were all loving, caring, positive experiences, but the individual parents of those children do go through a fair amount of emotional stress in dealing with the whole issue of open communication and acknowledgement of the love that was there for that individual child in regard to the biological parents, birth parents, and their decision to give up that child.

Those are very tough decisions and I understand that all too well, but the fact that that individual adoptee today is now being told in this piece of legislation that they would then have to go forward and veto a declaration in regard to anybody being able to access who they are once they got to the age of 18 is wrong. I believe it is fundamentally flawed. It is flawed in regard to the rights of individuals and I, like my colleague, the member for Richmond, feel very strongly about that part of this legislation. The member pointed out very clearly in regard to the negative billing issue, it is an analogy he used. It is a reasonable analogy. In fact, I find it hard finding an analogy when it talks about human life and talks about the rights of a human being, the rights of an individual, to protect their privacy and where they are emotionally in regard to the issue of adoption.

One would look at the Registry of Motor Vehicles and say that if an individual wants to consent to give an organ in regard to a donation in the event of an accident, they have to sign a consent form saying, yes, I will do that. It is not that everybody is automatically forced to give organs and then sign off a waiver against it. At least they are given a right. The issue that the member used in regard to negative billing was, again, going back to the federal government saying, well, we should give the individual the benefit of the doubt and if they want to change that, then they have the right to do so. I would say that very much in this particular bill the rights of the individual adoptee do not have the individual right, as it is today the way this is being proposed, except to veto the right for an individual to access them as a child, as a potential son or daughter.

I would like to see that particular part of the bill with a reverse onus so that an individual adoptee unless they want to waive that, they can go and if they are of the mature mind, or of the mindset, or the emotional level to accept the fact that they want to find their biological or birth parent, then they would sign and say, yes, I want to do that, I want to be able to find that individual or the parents that were there, but the way this is set up now, like an invasion - children, youth or young adults who maybe are not aware of this by the year 2001, all of a sudden getting a phone call and saying by the way x, I am such and such, your

[Page 1723]

birth mother, I want to meet you. I think of the emotional stress and the challenge and the concern that that would bring up to that individual, one that would be, to me, earth-shattering in some individual's understanding or some individual's state of mind.

So for this piece of legislation that some might think is pretty straightforward, or not overly riveting, I do think it is somewhat riveting. I think it is very much a fundamental right of individuals and a democratic right that we do have privacy.

I would ask the minister to take these comments in due consideration, as I had the opportunity earlier to talk directly to the minister about where I stand on this issue. I have asked him to consider the fact that there needs to be some changes to this particular piece of legislation. I didn't want to get too much into the issue of Vital Statistics, but I do say that representatives of Community Services and the social workers who are involved in the whole issue of adoption are very trained, skilled individuals, who often have a very caring way and understand the sensitivity that this whole issue of adoption is about. I commend the staff that are involved in that process today.

The fact that we move now into Vital Statistics, that this is just simply a number, a statistical piece of data, is wrong. This is about human beings. This is about men and women. This is about children. This is about their individual rights. For that, I would hope that we as representatives of the people of this province start putting a little personal touch and a personality and a compassionate touch to legislation that we bring in.

It is easy to bring in legislation where we are simply talking about economics and numbers and things of that nature, but these particular pieces of legislation, in fact, have a very profound effect on individuals and people within the province. I would hope that the minister would consider or at least reconsider how they are going to deal with some of the matters regarding involving and informing individuals without a compassionate side with regard to the staff who would be dealing with that issue.

Mr. Speaker, I will conclude my comments here, but I will speak again at a later date if we do not see amendments to this piece of legislation that I consider to be absolutely imperative for me to be able to give my support for this bill. In fact, I will be voting against this bill unless there are changes made with regard to the reverse onus. I believe that reverse onus position is one of only straight humanity, in fairness to individuals who are part of the adoption process. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Minister of Community Services it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

[Page 1724]

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I think, as I indicated earlier in the opening of this, this is a very emotional and sensitive issue. It is one that we have agreed in this House that affects an awful lot of people. We know that most people in this Legislature have had discussions on this. There is the question of the right-to-know situation, there is the question of the right to privacy. It is those two issues that are being constantly brought forward to people.

Just in speaking to some of the concerns that people have, and I do accept them as very real concerns and things that have to be looked at, but I guess I would say to some people, right now because we have not offered that information to people, people are using a whole variety of methods to go find those things. I think most members of this Legislature will be aware that they have heard stories of people finding their parents, parents finding the adult adoptee or so on through other means, other than the means that we are presenting here. Those real issues are coming upon people day in and day out whether we have this legislation in place or not.

The experience that we are told is that through the present registry with the Department of Community Services, the active registry that was described by the honourable members earlier, about 15 per cent of the people who are contacted say they choose not to go forward. We talked about the 500 that were happening this year, and we talked about the numbers last year. Well, over the years, that number has become significant, and that number of 15 per cent seems to be consistent going through.

As the members are aware, we are not the first in Canada to bring this legislation in. Indeed, as we brought this legislation in, we were acutely aware that adult adoptees had to go forward from this day on, after the proclamation, to have the disclosure veto. That is what makes us unique.

I do look forward to looking at this. I had spoken with some of the honourable members and we would look at these. I do look forward to the debate in the Law Amendments Committee. It is a sensitive issue, it is an emotional issue and it does affect a lot of people. It is our commitment and what we want to do is make this as sensitive and as good a piece of legislation for everybody in the province. So I do look forward to the debate in the Law Amendments Committee and the possible amendments that might come forth.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I will move second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 17. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

[Page 1725]

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

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 14.

Bill No. 14 - Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is, indeed, my great pleasure to rise in the House this evening to speak with respect to this bill which we are bringing forward for second reading. These amendments are important. They deal with how government operates. They demonstrate the fact that we believe that government should be open, accountable and accessible. These amendments allow us to follow through on yet another commitment. With these amendments, we will see the scope of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act increase and the powers of the review officer strengthened.

We are also addressing a flaw that has existed in the legislation since its creation. We are including an amendment that ensures the name of an applicant is not disclosed to a third party unless the individual has given his or her consent. Similarly, the name of a third party will not be disclosed to an applicant without his or her consent. These changes are timely and necessary, Mr. Speaker. There have been some suggestions that the amendment should go further. I would like to remind members of this House that, by Statute, the minister, the deputy minister and the administrator of the so-called FOIPOP review offices are responsible for dealing with applications. The knowledge of the applicant's name is irrelevant. Applications must be processed in accordance with the rules and within the specified time-frames.

Mr. Speaker, once again Nova Scotia is leading the country with respect to information legislation. No other jurisdiction has similar amendments restricting the disclosure of names to a third party. We are on the leading edge. Many of the changes that we are bringing forward were recommended in 1996; at that time an advisory committee provided a very comprehensive report to the government. This report and its recommendations sat on the shelf for years. Well, we have dusted off the report and we are putting much of it into action. These amendments will help to clarify the Act and help to reduce the confusion that has been associated with certain clauses. These amendments immediately extend the scope of the Act to hospitals. Within one year, school boards and universities will also be covered under this bill. I might add that that is a tremendous step forward because we have, with respect to hospitals, schools and universities, institutions which are spending huge amounts of taxpayers' money.

[Page 1726]

I might add, also, by way of explanatory note, that regional hospitals were covered under the existing Act, as a result of the fact that their members were appointed by Order in Council. However, there were other institutions, hospitals, that were not covered. One of the reasons that hospitals are being included immediately is the fact that many of them are already covered under the Act. They are also quite familiar with how to appropriately handle requests regarding confidential patient information.

As you are no doubt aware, municipalities have been covered by the Act since April of this year. These amendments will also apply to them. In keeping with our commitment, the review officer will be appointed on a full-time basis. He or she will serve a minimum of five years and a maximum of seven, with a possibility of renewal. The review officer will now have a separate budget and an annual report will be required, Mr. Speaker. Records must be produced for review within a reasonable time-frame when an appeal has been launched. The review officer will be able to obtain a court order to gain access to records, if necessary. That is a change.

As you can see, Mr. Speaker, we are taking the necessary steps to ensure that accountability and openness are a part of the process. We also know that the bill must be taken very seriously, therefore, should someone deliberately alter a record, it is a summary conviction offence; a fine of up to $2,000, up to six months in jail, or both may be imposed.

[8:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we are opening the doors to the P3 process. The amendments we are bringing forward require that full disclosure of public-private partnering agreements be provided. Nova Scotians have a right to know whether these agreements are in their best interests. This process must be open, and it must be clear and accountable. These amendments will make the process much more transparent. The only information that will not be released relates to a partner's financial information or intellectual property, or information that could harm public safety.

This Act has been in operation since 1994. Our experience over the past several years has helped us to identify a number of areas that require change and clarification. These administrative amendments are designed to ensure that the Act is more consistently applied, Mr. Speaker. For example, if we know the wishes of a third party, we no longer have to provide them with notice. It saves time and it is less bureaucratic.

We will now have the ability to transfer an application after the 10 day time limit, with the permission of the review officer. We are clarifying just when the 30 day time limit begins. When a written application is received, along with the required fee, the clock starts to tick, and our response must then be provided within the 30 day time period.

[Page 1727]

We will also require that some information should be kept confidential, Mr. Speaker. As a result, the peer review process commonly used in universities and in hospitals are exempt, as are the records of a conciliator under the Trade Union Act. Academic research records, university records related to appointments, decisions on awards, tenure, and evaluation of research proposals will remain confidential.

These amendments also designate this Act as "paramount" when there is a conflict with the provisions of another Statute; in other words, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act will apply should there be any doubt, unless specified. We also confirm that the access and correction provisions relating to personal information in the Vital Statistics and Health Act continue to prevail. There has been some question in the past, Mr. Speaker, and we wish to clarify this issue.

For greater certainty, we also provide a list of agencies, boards and commissions. We want to make it easy for people to obtain information. The listing will allow the users to easily identify which department has responsibility for any given agency. There is also an ability for Cabinet to amend or update the list if necessary.

In closing, I want to stress that these changes are about making the business of government more transparent. The taxpayers of this province expect openness, Mr. Speaker, they expect accountability, and these amendments will help us deliver exactly that.

I wish to move second reading. I look forward to hearing the comments of honourable members opposite and, as I indicated earlier, I am very interested in improving the process. With that I move second reading. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to make a few comments on Bill No.14, an Act to Amend Chapter 5 of the Acts of 1993, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Certainly, as we all know, this is one of the commitments that was made out of the 242 promises in the blue book, and I believe it is no coincidence that the incidents of the last two weeks have prompted the speediness of this report making it to the floor of this House of Assembly.

A few weeks ago what we saw was, in essence, a violation of the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act. A blatant violation which this government could have clearly come in and said we made a mistake, we are a new government, we didn't mean to, it was unintentional; the Minister of Human Resources did not intend to violate the Act, the Premier's office did not intend to violate the Act. Instead the Premier suddenly said that the Act was flawed, yet at no time during the election did the Premier or anyone else in his caucus say that the Act

[Page 1728]

was flawed. They said they would make improvements to the Act and strengthen it. So what they were going to strengthen last week became flaws.

They were flaws because they were convenient. They were convenient because rather than this government and this Premier being able to say we made a mistake, we apologize, we have learned from it, instead they hide behind the Act. They do exactly the type of governance which they committed on July 27th not to do. They said we will be open and accountable. Strong leadership, a clear course, if we have made a mistake, we will admit it, we will learn from it and we will move on.

Mr. Speaker, I would submit, they sadly failed because they hid behind a review officer, they hid behind a few sections of the Act, while everyone in Nova Scotia recognized that they breached the spirit of the Act. Instead, they hide behind sections to justify what they have done, to justify the fact that the Premier's Office and his staff contacted the Minister of Human Resources, told him the identify of an applicant seeking information which, while it did confirm that the Minister of Human Resources had absolutely nothing to do with his department. From there the Minister of Human Resources thought it wise to actually approach this applicant and to indicate that he was aware that this applicant was seeking information which related personally to him.

Yes, that applicant came back and said, I didn't feel intimidated with the fact of a minister coming and saying, by the way, I know you are asking about this information, I know you put in an application looking for this, and it is the Premier's staff who told me about it because that is the way this government is going to operate.

They could have easily come into this House and said, we made a mistake, we are sorry. Nova Scotians are forgiving, even this Opposition is forgiving. Yet, instead, it goes back to the old Tory days of deny, deny, deny, and blame everybody else but yourself; blame the Act, that Act was so wrong.

AN HON. MEMBER: You can't legislate morality.

MR. SAMSON: No, you can't legislate morality, you just can't. When this government had a chance to say we have done wrong, we will learn from it, instead they hide behind trivial little sections of the Act. What a shame.

So today one would only expect that this government would come forward with Bill No. 14, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and would say, there is something in here that is going to make sure that those silly Tory Cabinet Ministers are not going to do this again because we are going to make changes to this flawed Act - as the Premier said, we are going to make the necessary changes to make sure that the Minister of Human Resources learns that loose lips sink ships, and that he is not going to do this again. (Interruption) Sinks Tories, too. Time will tell whether it is going to sink Tories.

[Page 1729]

One would think that would be the first amendment to be made, that the identity of applicants who apply under this bill will not be disclosed to a minister. One would have expected, Nova Scotians thought, yes, when they talked about flaws in the Act, that is what they meant. It was flawed because it actually allowed a minister to know the identity or, in this case, to allow a third party, which is what they are now declaring the Minister of Human Resources, third party - the NDP get upset when we call them the Third Party but the Minister of Human Resources is quite happy to be called the third party by his colleagues because they say that is the changes they have made, no third party will now know. Yet, the ministers of this government will still be given the identity of the applicants under this Act, although they have already recognized that it has absolutely no relevance.

I must put on my hat of suspicion and say that when the Minister of Justice says he is looking forward to amendments from the Opposition, I strongly suspect that when we do put forward the amendment that ministers not be given the identity of applicants, that this government will be very favourable to that bill because rather than they having to say we did wrong, silly minister, he is not going to do it again, they are more than happy to sit back and say, well, we don't think we did wrong but that crazy Opposition over there, they are really pushing for this so as an open and accountable government, we will accept this amendment and we will make sure that ministers do not receive this identity.

Again, I fully admit that I am being suspicious. I could be wrong, maybe they will come forward and say, yes, we have now recognized not just in our speeches, we are ready to put in our legislation that there is absolutely no need for the Ministers of the Crown to be aware of the identify of these applicants. While the minister says you must respond in 30 days, as I stated previously, a minister knowing who is asking for certain information can make a big difference between 24 hours and 30 days. Whether that is actually used, whether that actually takes place or not, that is the perception and that is the flaw that this government has left open in this bill. They have left open the possibilities for Ministers of the Crown to abuse their position and to intentionally deny information for a certain period of time, based on the identity of the applicant. There is no need for it. They could have avoided doing this. I would submit that they will make this change.

It was unfortunate that this government with its strong leadership and its clear course would not have come forward on its own and said we are going to make this change, this is the flaw we were talking about, this is not going to happen anymore. Instead, they relied on the good Opposition to bring this forward and suddenly they had a revelation that, yes, maybe they should have had this in the whole time. The Minister of Justice shakes his head. Only time will tell whether I am correct or incorrect.

As I indicated, at no time during the recent provincial election did this Tory Government say that the FOIPOP Act was flawed. They simply said we will strengthen it. Yet after the incident with the Minister of Human Resources and the Premier's office, now the Act is flawed, thus Bill No. 14 that appears before us. What they said during the election was

[Page 1730]

that they merely promised to strengthen the office of the appeals commissioner, which they have addressed in the bill by saying they will appoint a full-time appeals commissioner, but in recognizing the importance of this position and recognizing the need to expand it to different agencies, this government, which has said we will cut red tape, we will reduce bureaucracy, we will make government more efficient, suddenly says, well, we recognize that the commissioner is too busy to be part time so we are going to make him full time but on top of that, we are going to demand of him an annual report at the end of each year.

The position that is too busy for part time goes to full time and on top of that, as if that is not enough, now an annual report, more bureaucracy. More bureaucracy is what this government brings upon us. While they try to tell us they are cutting, when they say they are going to cut, what is their solution? Well, we are going to hire a red tape commissioner. So that is our first cut.

AN HON. MEMBER: A blue tape commissioner.

MR. SAMSON: Yes, a blue tape commissioner. The first step towards efficiency and towards eliminating bureaucracy is to hire another commissioner. Then again in this bill, in recognizing the importance of this position, how busy this office is, now they want an annual report, more bureaucracy. How many more staff will be required to do an annual report? How many more jobs? So, again, this government's efficiency requires even more bureaucracy.

I find it most interesting when I hear the Minister of Justice say - and he tends to say it in every speech about how Bill No. 14 is going to open the P3 process - finally, they are going to lift the veil and they are going to open the P3 process and this bill is the one doing it. Finally this bill is what is going to be the big revelation. What I submit to the minister, and if he is serious about P3 and opening it right up, as he said, why hide behind the Freedom of Information Act? Get the Minister of Education to come into this House, whether it be one box or five boxes, and say, Mr. Speaker, I would now like to table all information in regard to the P3 process for all Nova Scotians to view at their pleasure so they don't have to go through more bureaucracy and more red tape to be able to obtain this information. So this open government, again, hides behind red tape.

If the Minister of Justice is so sincere in his openness and his accountability, why doesn't the Minister of Education walk in here with however many boxes and say here it is. Here is everything you want to know about P3. You do not have to go through a freedom of information process and wait 30 days. You do not have to apply. You do not have to go through this bureaucracy. We are eliminating bureaucracy. That is what we committed to do. Instead, as I said, on going up the stairwell, they walk halfway, then stop, and try to convince Nova Scotians they made it to the top.

[Page 1731]

[8:15 p.m.]

Unfortunately they again hide behind Bill No. 14. They hide behind the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. They increase bureaucracy for Nova Scotians and then claim that they are open and accountable. What a shame. They are not fooling anybody. You see it in the paper. No, they are not fooling themselves, we can see more and more action from the government backbenches. I believe even they are picking up on the activities of what this government is doing, even their silence is no longer being maintained, and they see what is really going on here. They can't be fooled, I'm convinced. I am giving them the benefit of the doubt, although a fast one was pulled on them for the paramedics bill, they are not going to let continue this foolishness of saying one thing and doing another, but trying to convince this House and Nova Scotians that they are actually doing what they said they were going to do.

Nobody is buying it. The Opposition is not buying it. This bill does not and should not be a means by which the Minister of Justice or any of his colleagues can hide behind and try to claim that they are open and accountable and take little shots at the previous government and then sit back and say we are open and accountable, but you have to wait 30 days to get any information out of us. Shame.

Amendments to this Act in Bill No. 14 means now that hospitals immediately fall under the Act. Universities and school boards will fall under the Act within a year. I had the privilege of speaking to one of the administrators of one of our universities. He said, why do we fall under this Act? What information is there that we have that is not being given already? All of our boards have student representation. Most of the stuff that we do is already under some form of protection, if it is dealing with a student or dealing with a personnel matter. He was just baffled because he said, I can't think of one thing that one could actually ask us about that we could give information about this university. Then he raised the concern, as I am sure many others will, that this is just more administration and bureaucracy being thrust upon us by this government. We now need to appoint a review commissioner. We are already stretched to the limit. The Minister of Education is receiving pleas of more funding, and what does this government do? It turns around and says, you are going to have to take another person out of administration and make them your review officer.

The other question which came up, which I thought was an interesting question, and maybe the Minister of Justice can answer it for me, but this administrator of the university said, who does this Act apply to? What he meant by that was, who are the applicants? Are they just Nova Scotians? Can they be Americans? Can they be East Asian, Russian? Does this apply to the entire world that anyone in any country can send information and ask, I want information about Acadia University? Where are the boundaries? That is a legitimate question because they are saying, we have some privacy here in our institution about how we run things and how we move forward. Is it possible under this Act that people from other

[Page 1732]

countries and other jurisdictions can send Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy requests to us? And I said, I don't know. I said, I can't answer that, I am not quite sure.

Hopefully the Minister of Justice will answer that. He hasn't said anything yet as to who this applies to and who can apply under this Act. His answer will probably be to blame the previous government, rather than actually address the concerns being raised by these institutions, but one can only hope that this House will learn who can apply under this Act because it is a legitimate question. It raises the question of these universities and these small community colleges being bombarded with frivolous requests from people outside this jurisdiction. They have a right to know if this is going to be what is going to be thrust upon them or not. That question has not been answered.

By including all hospitals in this province again, this government has put another level of bureaucracy onto our health institutions that are maxed to the limit as it is. I think of my own riding, the Strait-Richmond Hospital and St. Ann's Community Nursing Care Centre and the fact that they will now have to appoint a review officer in their institution. They don't have anyone available to do that. Does this mean a bed closure? Does this mean one less nurse?

The Minister of Justice laughs. What does it mean? Who do they appoint? Who gets cut? Which employee in our health institutions is deemed to not be doing enough that they can now pick up and do the review officer position? Which one? I would ask the Minister of Health if he can indicate who he feels are in these hospitals who are not working hard enough as it is, that they should also be appointed a review officer. One could only hope that they will recognize the burden they are placing upon these institutions. Yes, there is a right to know and it is important that there be information but there needs to be a structure in place so we do not just throw this responsibility upon the institutions that just do not have the means to be able to pick this up and do not have the staff so they can just say okay, you over there, you are now the review information officer.

You have to be able to sit down and determine, take the request, see what the criteria is for releasing information and see if it fits. It is like the administrator from that university told me, he said you don't do this in five minutes. Don't believe that a freedom of information request can be done in five minutes or 10 minutes or a half hour. These require extensive thought, it requires a detailed response. If one is not to give information, one must justify why, not just by saying no, sorry, try again, better luck next time. Those are not the answers. This is a very detailed process. Again, more bureaucracy. Is it the government saying, we will assist you. We have the expertise here that can help you in determining whether or not you should give that information. No, you are on your own. St. Ann's Community Nursing Care Centre in Arichat, you are on your own; you read the Act, you appoint a review officer, get them to read it over and then they will have to make the call as to what stays and what goes and be able to give the reasoning behind each decision.

[Page 1733]

I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that this is not going to be an easy task. It is going to be very time-consuming and, unless this government is prepared to show proper leadership in assisting these institutions then we are going to have a very difficult time making this bill really work as to what this government actually wants to do. From one end of this province to the other, Halifax and its bureaucracy is not going to determine what happens and is not going to be there. They will not be in the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley to sit at the hospitals there and to say how to write up a freedom of information request. They won't be there. They won't be in Shelburne to tell them how to write one up there, they will be on their own. They won't be in Cape Breton Nova or in Dartmouth East. They will be sitting in their office in Halifax watching to see what comes back and, if they do it wrong they will send it back and slap them on the hand and say, do it better next time. That is the leadership that will be shown from this government under these amendments in this Act, a government that just went through a crisis with paramedics, now downloading once again onto the hospitals throughout this province.

As I said, universities and schools are already underfunded and are pleading with the Minister of Education for better funding. Can the education system in this province now afford this additional level of bureaucracy? This government is again giving its intents and all its feel-good messages and everything but again it comes down to implementation and what the impacts are. Again I would submit, as with many of the other bills put forward in front of us, there has not been proper consultation, there has not been proper thought.

The Minister of Justice hides behind a 1996 study, that was three years ago. I would submit, only having been in this House a little over a year, that this government and governance in this province changes on a day-to-day basis and to rely on a three year old report, dusted off, as he had said, and simply implement what it has said without doing any consultation with those most affected, is wrong, it is ill-conceived and it is not the proper way of governing this province.

We will soon hear from the hospitals, the administrators, the schools, universities and all others affected by this who will say, why are you dumping this on us? We have got enough as it is. Now you are adding another level of bureaucracy for us. Then, in a couple of years, the government will come back and say, we are going to appoint a blue tape commissioner to try to cut back the bureaucracy that exists in these hospitals and in these universities and in these schools. They will, again, say that they are trying to be more efficient in the Public Service.

As I indicated, the new full-time review officer will be provided with a budget and will be required to file an annual report. While certainly this move, in theory, should be commended, there is the issue of creating a larger government, providing more red tape, instead of cutting it, as outlined in the Tory blue book. Who will do this annual report? Will it be the commissioner himself? How much staff will be required? Will there be a need to hire part-time staff? The Minister of Justice rolls his eyes. I think, having been in a law firm as he

[Page 1734]

has, he will realize that in many important cases and reports, it is very seldom that lawyers work on their own. They usually rely on either paralegals, articling clerks or other lawyers to assist them.

Certainly, having been in government in the Department of the Environment, the Annual State of the Environment Report, this was a report that took a full year to write. It took the involvement of all the staff in the different divisions. It was very time-consuming and took a lot of effort. When I think of this annual report which will now be required by the commissioner, I can only think of the stress that is going to put on his duties, his ability to carry out his duties and the need for additional staff to be able to assist in preparing this onerous annual report. Yet, the Minister of Justice gives absolutely no indication that he is prepared to increase the budget of the review officer, the appeals commissioner, to make sure that there is the proper staffing and the proper facilities to be able to do a proper annual report, which I would only assume will be presented to this House and to Nova Scotians for their consideration.

Again, under this bill, the fact remains that of the agencies listed and the boards in this bill that are, theoretically, supposed to be suddenly covered by Bill No. 14, the fact is that many of the agencies, boards and commissions already fall under the Act. Yet, again, they are included in the schedule attached to Bill No. 14, giving the impression to Nova Scotians that this is a bold, new move by this government, something that was not done before and, again, I would say that Nova Scotians are not getting the real goods. The fact is that many of these changes have already been done by a previous administration, which I am sure Nova Scotians now are longing for its return, after seeing the actions of this government.

The other thing, in looking at the reality behind this bill and what it really does, is that all of the agencies that they have listed in the schedule, which is basically every government agency, the fact is that it fails to indicate that a great deal of the agencies, boards and commissions listed have either little or absolutely no budget and are run by volunteers. There is no public expenditure. There is no public spending of funds, yet they are also added under this bill. Many of these boards, the fact that they do not have funding and they do not spend money, are done by volunteers who do not get reimbursed. Yet, now this government is adding yet another bureaucratic structure when they already have so much on their plate. How does the minister explain that? How does he explain that these boards will now have to provide a full-time review officer to be able to address whichever freedom of information request might come in to those agencies? Again, there is a complete lack of clarity on how this is going to take place and the minister doesn't appear to have a plan in place to do so.

The Justice Minister and his Premier believe that Nova Scotians have a right to know whether their tax dollars are being spent wisely. The unfortunate thing is that this bill does not cover, or even address, the increased costs to government of such a bureaucratic structure, which will be put in place by Bill No. 14. There is absolutely no indication that departments as far as I have seen in the Estimates Debate have allotted money for this, or that the Justice

[Page 1735]

Department or other departments have allotted money to assist the hospitals, the universities and all of the other agencies which are going to fall under this Act.

[8:30 p.m.]

Who is going to tell one of the members of the Apple Maggot Control Board how to be a review officer? Who is going to do that? Who is going to be on the other end of the line when they pick up the phone and call and say, I am not quite sure if this information should be given or not? Will it be the Minister of Justice? We don't know.

We don't know because it completely fails to do this. It just simply throws this out and says, we are doing our best to try to cover one of our several political mess-ups and hope that Nova Scotians get our feel-good messages and think that we are doing well and that we are fixing or amending the wrongs that we have done.

Mr. Speaker, that is why in this democracy we do have Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition to be able to clearly indicate to Nova Scotians what this government is actually doing, contrary to their feel-good public messages. I would submit that the legacy that is going to come out of Bill No. 14 is not going to be a positive one, it will be chaos. It will cause a lot of frustration, a lot of increased costs on those very bodies that come before this government, cap in hand, asking for more funding. Instead of assisting them and giving more funding, it adds another bureaucratic level and another expenditure for them, and it has absolutely no indication of how they will assist them or how they will help provide them with funding.

Will there be educational seminars to bring these review officers in and give them an indication of what the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act actually involves, what kind of information they should give, should not give and the reasons why? There is asolutely no indication of whether they will do so, and I would submit that this is the very least that this government could do. One can only hope that they will not just be sending a brown envelope to the Strait-Richmond Hospital or St. Ann's Nursing Centre and say, here guys, here is what you are supposed to do, you are legally bound to do it, read the Act, read the legal jargon and figure it out for yourself.

That would be the last thing that these agencies, hospitals and school boards need, yet the Minister of Justice and the Premier have remained completely silent on providing specifics as to how they plan on implementing this bill. Yes, they will continue to hide behind saying, well, we campaigned on having an open and accountable government. Yet when the questions are asked, when the veil is lifted and we ask how they are going to implement this, they remain silent, they do not provide any answers. One can only ask whether they actually have a plan on how they are going to do things, or do they just throw them out to try to make Nova Scotians believe they are not going to mess up anymore, that Cabinet Ministers have actually learned the message of loose lips sink ships, and that they will not be doing this anymore.

[Page 1736]

Fortunately, Bill No. 14 leaves a great deal of loopholes behind. The incident that happened with the Minister of Human Resources could happen the day after this bill is brought into law, that is if it makes it there. It could happen all over again. The minister will still receive the information and the identity of who the applicant is. The justification behind this, says the Minister of Justice, is that under the Act the review officer, deputy minister and minister are responsible for the administration of the Act, therefore, the minister somehow because of that should know who is asking.

I respectfully submit, I completely fail to see the logic behind it. Yes, they can be responsible for ensuring that the administration of the Act is followed and that all information that should be given is given. Yes, they should be responsible for that, but to say that because they have a responsibility under the Act that therefore the minister should know who is asking, whether it be the good member for Richmond, the good member for Halifax Chebucto, you, Mr. Speaker, or even a member of the media, I completely fail to see any logic or any reasoning why a minister needs to know other than what I would respectfully submit is Tory political paranoia.

Yes, again I say they do have a 30 day limit, which he minister will probably try to use as an argument and say, regardless who it is, we still only have 30 days. Again, I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that knowing who is applying can make a big difference between having a 24 hour response time or having a 30 day response time and whether this will be used by this government, one never knows, but it is a loophole they have left there that they have not covered.

They have every opportunity to do so. One can only hope that in the Law Amendments Committee process that they will actually look at serious amendments. I have already indicated to the minister one of the amendments that we will bring in. I am hoping that even before we get to that stage, this government will come forward at the Law Amendments Committee, and maybe what happened with the paramedics bill, that the member for Halifax Bedford Basin even before the committee starts makes a motion and immediately says that this government is bringing forward an amendment to its own bill and that we will no longer allow a minister to know the identity of an applicant under this Act.

One can only hope, because then it would be the first glimpse of an admission by this government that we recognize we did wrong and we are willing to come forward with the strong leadership and the clear course that we indicated, and we are going to amend this Act, our own Act, recognizing what has been said by the Opposition, recognizing ourselves what we have done, and we are going to come forward and say that we will make this change on our own, not wait for the Liberal Party and not wait for the NDP to bring this forward. They will be able to bring forward this change to ensure that Nova Scotians have a sense that their identity in making applications will be relevant in how this government will deal with them and that this government will be open and accountable regardless of who is asking, and where

[Page 1737]

information can be made available, they will do their utmost to make that information available. One can only hope that that is what is going to take place through this Act.

Again, I hope that in the Law Amendments Committee, being that the Minister of Justice is Chairman, I am not quite sure if we will be able to question him, but I would hope that he would be able to come there and tell us what sort of information hospitals can give out or, even more specifically, to the administrator of the university that I spoke to who said what information do we have that is not currently available to the public that they feel we need to be under Bill No. 14, and we need to have a full-time review officer. They can get our marks.

They may be curious to see whether some of us actually have the degrees that we claim. I am quite confident that I do not fear releasing the fact that, yes, I actually graduated from Dalhousie University and do have a degree. I will let the members guess as to what the marks were like but, again, it comes down to the question, what is the information that universities have that requires them to be under this Act that cannot currently be given?

Information about a student is confidential. You cannot get that information, nor should you. So what else can you ask about? Most of their boards of governors, all of the different commissions that they have had student representation on it. There is representation from the public and the community at large but, again, it puts the burden of having a review officer. Community colleges, I think of Collège de l'Acadie in the Petit-de-Grat campus - very successful. It is maxed out in their staff. Who is going to be the review officer? What information do they have that needs to be made public that cannot currently be accessed already either through the Department of Education or through other means in this government?

They have failed to give us any indication of that. One would have hoped that the Minister of Justice would have at least been able to give us some examples or some justification behind what they are doing because that is what we are asking. Why are they doing this and all they hide behind is the blue book.

MR. JERRY PYE: Want a copy?

MR. SAMSON: The member for Dartmouth North asked me if I want a copy. I have one of my own and I know he has his and I wouldn't dare to try to remove his precious copy of the blue book. But again, when we looked at the blue book in other cases and with other departments, they had great plans and great words. I remember the Minister of Health, about recruiting student doctors and student nurses. When asked what basis are you actually relying on to think that this would be a success, his answer was, I hope it works.

Well, that's not good enough for Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker. They expect that this government, which sat in Opposition for six years, would have a clear plan, and not only have the plan on paper, but have an idea of how they are going to get there, what route they are

[Page 1738]

going to take, how they were going to have everything in place, the safeguards in place, the parameters in place, to implement this. Yet all appearances are, with all due respect, as the famous quote goes, that they are flying by the seat of their pants.They are a knee-jerk type of government.

This bill came before us, I would submit, as a result of the kerfuffle caused by the Minister of Human Resources and the Premier's office. This was a direct result, to try to make amends for what happened in that case. It was rushed through. They just took a report, three years old already, dusted it off and said, we are going to throw a bill together with those recommendations. We have absolutely no idea how we are going to implement them, or put them in place, but it will take the heat off of the Premier and the heat off the Minister of Human Resources and maybe we will look good in doing it.

Again I submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that what this government hasn't learned, and hasn't come to appreciate, is the intelligence of Nova Scotians. With the media today and with the technology, Nova Scotians will no longer be fooled by Tory Governments that tried to make them believe all is well, that they are in charge and they can go to the cottage and to the ball game. I think Nova Scotians have come to learn. I think very few Nova Scotians, if they had this Tory caucus on a ship with them at the steering wheel, would jump aboard without bring their life-raft or bringing a life jacket because this government has hit the rocks several times already.

Bill No. 14 is damage control. It is an attempt to try to cover up for the blatant violation of the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act by the Premier's office. The Premier's office saw fit to take a request that came to their office, take the identity of the applicant and call the Minister of Human Resources to tell him that an application had been made requesting information on his appointment. One can only ask, what was the intent? Why would they tell the Minister of Human Resources the information? What was the Premier's staff thinking when they did this? What did they think he would do with the information? One can only ask, did he tell them what he was planning to do? Were they aware of what he was planning to do, or was that just something that he did on his own? None of those questions has been answered. We are only left to guess.

Was there some sort of intention behind this? Was it a deliberate act? We don't know. It has never been answered because when the Premier was asked to give clarification, he hid behind the Act. One of his staff wrote a couple of sections down from the Act and claimed that these sections show that you have not violated the Act, and don't address the allegations or don't provide any more information to the Opposition than is required. I would respectfully submit that there was a reason for that, for I believe that this story has many tales and that Nova Scotians have seen but a few of what really went on behind this entire situation.

[Page 1739]

It is the end of a day. It has been a week and one-half to two weeks since this incident, it is Monday night, 8:44 p.m. and this government again comes before us with Bill No. 14 and completely fails to make amends for the disaster caused by their Minister of Human Resources and by the Premier's office last week. One can only hope that as we go to the Law Amendments Committee, as we go to third reading, the Committee of the Whole House, that this government will be willing to provide clear direction, provide what their plan is and give an indication to Nova Scotians that they are the actual open and honest government they have claimed to be. They will admit they have done wrong and be willing to ensure that the identity of applicants is protected from the ministers and to ensure that all information possible which can be given will be given to applicants regardless of who they are, their status, political affiliation, employment, religious beliefs, et cetera.

[8:45 p.m.]

In closing, Mr. Speaker, (Interruptions.) Bien, monsieur, (Interruptions.)

Well, I had a few comments I wanted to make in French, also, Mr. Speaker (Laughter.)

M. le Président, le ministre de la Justice indique qu'il aimerait que je ferait un couple de commentaires en français. Alors, pour la communauté française ici à la Nouvelle-Écosse qui entrait de regarder ce soir, ça me fait gros plaisir d'adresser un couple de paroles sur Déclaration No. 14 - en anglais, An Act to Amend Chapter 5 of the Acts of 1993 - The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Comme les gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse le savent, on voit cette loi venir devant nous, le résultat des actions du ministre des Resources Humaines et du burueau du premier ministre de la Province de la Nouvelle-Écosse. On a vu l'effet que le ministre des Resources Humaines a ete donner de l'information du bureau du premier ministre, sur l'identité de membres du publique qui voulaient d'information du bureau du premier ministre, et pourquoi ce membre a était appointé au Cabinet. Je pense que c'est une question que tous les gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse sont en train de se poser. Certainement le membre de Richmond, le membre de Cape Breton Nova et les membres de ce bord de la Maison se demandent la même question, pourquoi? Et puis, quand qu'on voit les actions du ministre des Resources Humaines, et puis le fait qu'il est encore comme membre du Cabinet, encore on se demande, pourquoi? Et ils ne m'en pas repondu, c'est seulement pas repondu.

Et puis, ici avec Déclaration No. 14, on aura attendu que le premier ministre au gouvernement aurait dit, l'incident ce qui s'est passé avec le ministre des Resources Humaines ne se passera pas. Ça ne se passera plus. On fait même les changes en donnant qui protègent l'identité de ceux qui faitent application sous cette loi. Jamais encore ça va s'arriver qu'un ministre de la Couronne, va prendre l'information privée et aller aux membres du publiques et dire, "Eh ... vous ... je sais, je suis au courant du fait que vous avez fait application, à demander de l'information sur moi, et pourquoi j'était appointé comme ministre."

[Page 1740]

Le ministre a dit que ce n'était pas son intention de vouloir faire du tours à ces monsieurs, vouloir les faire peur. C'était juste qu'il voulait l'assister, en lui disant s'il a de l'information que tu veux, t'à juste comme parler, j'arrêter qu'aux temps, qu'aux temps a te le donner. Je dirait, je suis pas mal accepter en disant que je pense pas que l'information que le monsieur a demandé pour, c'est de l'information que le ministre des Resources Humaines etait prêt a lui donner. Mais, c'est ça son histoire. Et comme qu'ils disent en anglais, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Mais, M. le Président, encore c'est une fois, c'est une autre example, c'est un nouveau gouvernement qui était élu, en disant qu'ils seraient en verre, honête, on voit de l'accontabilité aux gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse, à place de dire, je m'excuse, je m'en mal fait, je ferait certain que ça ne s'arrive plus. À place de ça ils se cachent d'arrière Déclaration No. 14. Et s'il fait croire les gens la Nouvelle-Écosse qu'ils s'entraient de faires des changes à la place d'admettre qu'ils ont mal fait, à place s'ils ne veulent pas dire qu'ils ont mal fait. Là et doit dur, le ministre des Resources Humaines, ne va plus demeurer comme membre de la Couronne, ce qu'il a fait mal. S'ils ne veulent pas dire qu'ils eux ont fait mal, au moins il faut dire qu'il lui a fait mal. Mais à place de ça, le premier ministre s'est mis de bottes, et se cache d'arrière la loi et dit, "Non, non, non - M. Darce Fardy nous a dit que ce qu'on a fait, c'était correct. Ce n'était pas vraiment bien, mais on n'a pas brisé la loi - on ne l'a pas brisé.

Et puis, c'est dommage, c'est dommage que ce premier ministre, si jeune, si jeune, si peu de temps comme premier ministre, et avoir besoin de se cacher comme les vieux premier ministres Tory devant lui se cachent et ne veulent pas admettre qu'ils ont mal fait, et de se cachent d'arrière des employés de son bureau.

On a vu qu'est-ce qui est arrivé au pauvre jeune gars qui était ici. On a vu la média apres lui - c'est lui qui a envoyé les notes au premier ministre pour essayer de lui dire, "Quoi dire et comment se défendre de blamés au bureau, mais il faut que je vous donne la crédit. Il est employé à son bureau.

Il me fait penser à les kamikaze pilots - ceux qui on dit, on dit "À la place de toi, M. le premier ministre allons nous prendre la responsabilité de nos actions. On est prêt à mettre notre cou sur la ligne et à dire, "Oui, M. le premier ministre, tu peux nous permettre de faire l'opposition à la média, de nous couper le cou pour sauver, pour te sauver."

Il faut dire si jamais j'allait aller en guerre, je aimerait d'avoir des membres de son bureau d'arrière moi parce qu'il faut dire ils semblent très dediés au premier ministre de la Nouvelle-Écosse.

En terminant, M. le Président, il me reste de dire que on espère que le gouvernment est prêt à faire des changes à cette loi; faire certain que cela qu'ils ont dit aux gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse le 27 de juillet que, en essence, ils vont faire ça; faire certain que le Freedom

[Page 1741]

of Information and Protection of Privacy Act travail; qu'il n'y a rien dans le chemin pour poser des problèmes.

Et puis, comme que la Déclaration est au moment, je vous dire qui je vais parler premier aux membres de mon partie et de mon caucus. Mais si'qu'il n'y en a pas des changes de fait; si qu'il n'y a pas plus d'information; ce - comment est-ce c'est que ça va être mis en place. Je peut dire maintenant, je suis pas mal certain que je vous dirait que je ne veut pas supporter la Déclaration No. 14. Si que ce gouvernment n'est pas prêt à faire les changes necessaires pour proteger les intérêts des gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse. Merci, M. le Président. (Applause.)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Enfin, mes remerciements au membre pour cette petite faites au dos. (Applause.)

It is a real pleasure to be able to speak so many times in one week about freedom of information and protection of privacy. Now, the reason I have had so many opportunities is that, of course, I introduced a bill on this very topic last week. Unfortunately, Bill No.13, the immediate predecessor to Bill No.14 that we are discussing this evening, was talked out. You know, members opposite will be happy to hear that although I have many observations I wish to make with respect to Bill No. 14, I am going to, however, confine myself to a short list. Unlike my friend, the honourable member for Richmond, I am not under the illusion that we are paid by the word.

It was a real puzzle to suddenly see Bill No. 14 appear. Why was it, I wondered, that there was this huge flurry of activity with respect to freedom of information and protection of privacy? Especially since our Party had introduced a predecessor bill to Bill No. 13, Bill No. 44, last year.

At that time it would have been well within the power of the Third Party holding the balance of power to allow Bill No. 44, which included each and every one of the recommendations of the Jobb Committee - that is to say the 1996 Advisory Committee on the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act - it would have been well within the power of the present government, then the Third Party, to allow that bill to go forward. It was far from clear that they had any idea of bringing in a similar bill of their own. However, as we all know, circumstances became quite pressing for the government in recent weeks.

This brings me, really, to the first and most important flaw in the bill that we are now considering. That is the government's bill, your bill, Bill No. 14. I think, in this context, it is well worth remembering the exact wording of the review officer, Mr. Fardy, in a decision he gave on September 30, 1998. Now the style of cause in his decision is quite interesting. The style of cause is the little heading, how you refer to a case. What is interesting about the style

[Page 1742]

of cause is that in court proceedings you usually get the names of the parties. In this and in every other decision that Mr. Fardy ever issues, there is no reference to the name of the applicant. Not ever. This is because he interprets his mandate under the Act to be such that he wants to protect absolutely the name of the applicant. That is the language he uses when he writes his decisions. He doesn't refer to a person. He doesn't refer to initials. He simply says, the applicant. He gives it a capital A.

Now, here is what he has to say in his decision, and I quote from this decision because it deals exactly with the question of revealing the name of the applicant. The letters to the third parties disclosed the name of the applicant. I am told this applicant was asked if he had objections and he didn't. However, I don't understand why the request was made. 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. Human nature would suggest that knowing the identity of the applicant could influence the reaction of a third party notified of the application, as well as influence a public body's response to an application. Applicants have a right to protection under Section 20. Nothing could be clearer than that. Nothing could possibly be clearer than what Mr. Fardy said to us in that decision. Nobody except the civil servant who processes and deals with the application has any reason to know the name of the applicant. End of story.

Why is it that Bill No. 14 doesn't embody this observation? There is no reason why it doesn't. There is certainly no stated reason from the minister who introduced this bill. Now we know that his government has been mired in a controversy over this very issue. I don't think there is a lot of point going through the details of that again. We all know the details of it. What happened was wrong and it should be protected against in the future and this is the opportunity to do it. This is the bill. This is the time to do it. There is no point in waiting. Why wait? We have seen the problem.

Now, for whose protection should there be this kind of anonymity guaranteed? Well, who uses the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act? Political Parties use it. But, you know what? When I make a freedom of information application, I am not particularly worried for myself, but I am an independent-minded person. I have a profession, I can find other work if any pressures are found on me; I am not worried. This is not the case for all potential applicants.

The other category of potential users of that Act and frequent users would be the press. I would have to say that, in general, most members of the press are not going to be intimidated by the minister knowing that a Freedom of Information Act application has been made. You know what? At the same time, there may well be some members of the press who could be intimidated or who would feel chilled with respect to that. It probably isn't even with respect to members of the press, primarily, that this is involved. You know who this is really about? This is about civil servants who might ask and who are primarily the vulnerable people here and/or about members of the public who may feel exposed if their name is known.

[Page 1743]

[9:00 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: Or business, deals with government . . .

MR. EPSTEIN: It may also be businesses. The point is that there are many vulnerabilities in societies, but I want the members here to focus particularly on civil servants because, when considering that example, really the problem here comes to be highlighted and that makes it easiest to understand. Think about a civil servant who decides to make an application for information and has to use that Act and is making that application with respect to their own department.

What this Act says, what the minister's bill says, is that the minister, the chief employer will know, can know.

AN HON. MEMBER: Wrong.

MR. EPSTEIN: That is wrong, that is obviously wrong. That should not happen. This is the opportunity to correct that. It is simple to correct it, and there is no reason that has been given by the minister or anyone else to say why they are not following the standard of rectitude that has been set out by Mr. Fardy. End of story.

The second point I want to deal with has to do with Mr. Fardy personally; in fact it is greater than that, partly it has to do with Mr. Fardy personally, partly it has to do with protection of the office. This bill gives some measure of independence to the office of the review officer that is greater than now exists in the previous legislation. I think that has to be to the credit of those who devised this bill, the government, and indeed that was what was in Bill No. 13, but we went further in Bill No. 13, and we went further in Bill No. 44 last year.

What we did was we followed the advice of the Jobb Committee. Dean Jobb, journalist, a well-respected journalist, author of a fine book about the Westray tragedy, author of other books, had a committee that heard public submissions, listened to a wide range of input, and gave us an excellent report that told us one of the things that we ought to do is give independence and protection to the individual who is ultimately in charge of processing requests that may not be entirely comfortable for the government to have processed.

Now, one of the ways in which that was suggested was not just that there a lengthy term, the way in which the Jobb Committee suggested this be accomplished is by combining a lengthy term with having the position staffed only upon the recommendation of the Legislature. The thrust of the thinking was that the office should be responsible to the Legislature as a whole, to all members of all Parties, not just to the government. At the same time, the person could not be relieved of their office except upon recommendation of the Legislature.

[Page 1744]

The immediate and obvious parallel is with the Auditor General's office. That individual, that function is responsible to this Legislature because it exercises an oversight function that involves the government, and the importance of that is such that that office should be responsible to the whole House, to the whole of the Legislative Assembly, not just to the government. The Jobb Committee was completely clear on this point and, again, I see no reason stated by the government as to why it is that they did not adopt the Jobb Committee recommendation and go ahead.

I have said I am going to be brief; I don't think I have misled members here. I have a third point that I want to make. The third point has to do with something that isn't in the bill at all and of which the minister may not have been aware. I wasn't aware of it until a couple of days ago. I wonder if the honourable minister has become aware of a bill that has just passed in the House of Commons, and I refer to Bill C-6 which has just been passed in the House of Commons on October 27th, but which has not yet been passed in the Senate.

This bill is called the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. This bill deals with protection of privacy in situations in which the information is being transmitted electronically. There is nothing in this bill that deals with those situations. It may be the view of the honourable minister that such transmissions are exclusively within federal jurisdiction, but that bill's Section 30 makes reference to federal-provincial jurisdiction. It seems to assume that there may be divided jurisdiction.

I would warn the honourable minister, both as the minister responsible for this particular bill and as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, that it seems that the federal government is proposing, if there is any provincial jurisdiction, to intrude upon provincial jurisdiction here, but I would hope that the honourable minister will read this bill, particularly Clause 30, because what Clause 30 says is that unless a province passes appropriate equivalent legislation to deal with similar matters that might be within its jurisdiction within three years, then the federal legislation will apply. I find that an extraordinary provision in a bill.

It seems to me that even though there might be under Section 91(10) some constitutional reason or justification or authorization for that, that this is not the traditional way to exercise that Section 91(10) power so I would ask the minister to consider the federal bill, decide whether the moment is ripe for including anything with respect to this in this bill and, if not, then under the terms at least of the federal legislation we certainly have three years to consider the matter before the intrusion - if there is an intrusion - is a fait accompli.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to speak on second reading. I hope that we hear solid reaction from the government side to the points that have been raised. I know everyone is concerned about freedom of information and protection of privacy and I think this is an example where we can all find ways to amend this bill to make it not just an effective step forward, which it already is, but a much better step forward. Thank you.

[Page 1745]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak on An Act to Amend Chapter 5 of the Acts of 1993, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. I have read this and I have studied it. I am no authority on this particular Act, but not knowing a lot about the bills often does not seem to hinder members of the Legislature, so I did want to add some general observations and thoughts of a general nature on this particular bill.

The issue of impact on the institutions has to be a real one, Mr. Speaker. The issues within the education and within the hospital situations, obviously, is one of staffing and supply to conform. I was pleased to hear recently the review officer saying that the amount of requests are not prohibitive in the area of journalism and I believe there was a period of time that there were a lot of fishing operations going on, which I interpreted personally to be the abuse of the Act.

I have not discussed this with him personally and others may know more, but I do believe that he said that this was not a particularly onerous task at this juncture because this was being discussed at the journalist school, I think someone made a speech there saying this was a great way to get information that you really did not realize was out there. I think that was an abuse of the Act and I think there was quite a bit of that happening at one particular time.

I think the whole issue though of the Act at this time, other members have brought this forward, is the issue of damage control. The Premier needed a headline pretty badly for a few weeks there and I think they tried to create one with the issue of no increases for MLAs and that was quite successful in getting the front page of one of the newspapers, but I think it is this type of damage control that we are seeing. You can just picture the panic behind the scenes with the advisors, the spin doctors and all the others, saying what are we going to do next to get the heat off these particular issues. So here we have an area as well that does a bit of damage control.

We see a system getting in place that is for the good, it is for the common good of all Nova Scotians and I think that is basically the intent. As the other members mentioned, much of the bill is well written, those parts that I can understand, but if you look at the system that is evolving, if we look at the health boards and the appointments of the district boards and the ministerial appointments, the ministerial appointments that do not go through the Human Resources Committee, and when we took over government in 1993, there were persons in the departments whose whole job was to choose people and coordinate the agencies, boards and commissions.

[Page 1746]

We see some of these mentioned under the schedule within this bill. But that issue now of how that system is being returned with its being called, at this juncture, Mr. Speaker, a community board, a Citizens Committee that will screen and advise for each minister. I think this is really important that this information is available as to how those decisions are made for agencies, boards and commissions are made. That is information that is really important. Because if we are going back to the poll captain, the district political hack system that we had prior to 1993, where those particular boards, with the help of people inside various departments that were there solely to feed members through the agencies, boards and commissions, if they are now seeing other committees formed and developed that will feed the members, the supporters of the Party, through that system and bypass, through various ways, the Human Resources Committee, where they can be, at least, if the government has a majority, vetted through there.

We see the district health boards, for instance, being ministerial appointments and/or coming from other committees. So I think the openness of the system, this is part of the continuum of openness of government. While we commend various parts of the legislation and the need for continued upgrading and improvement, the recognition of a permanent review officer, those types of initiatives are commendable, but, once again, there are a lot of things in government that you cannot legislate. The ethics codes, yes, you can have. The morality of the various members and the vetting of the Premier, decision making and entrance into Cabinet, these things are very difficult to legislate. So this is really just as good as the people and we have seen that system failing to date.

This an attempt to, number one, genuinely address the issues of freedom of information and privacy, respect for it that has been violated to date by this government. I may be cynical and maybe I have been around too long, 15-plus years now, I understand, and two days and 55 minutes and, as the member for Richmond would say, the time is now 9:13 p.m. I could go on, but I think there is some information that is important, the questions that we have. I think the selection in medical school is an interesting one that I would be interested in making decisions sometimes. I know of one student who made the mistake once of saying he worked for the Liberal caucus. This was an outstanding young gentleman, an athlete, researcher, top undergrad student. It is interesting that this came up on the interview, his places of employment. It was sort of noted and, at that juncture, the particular government that I happened to be a member of was not particularly popular. Mr. Speaker, that young student, it was the only school in Canada that he was not accepted into the medical school. To this very day, I believe that there was something in that connection. Maybe I have just been around too long, like I have said, and paranoid.

Those are the sort of things that you like to see sometime. This is one of Canada's great physicians, in my opinion, and to have been refused by this one particular school, it would be nice to know a little bit. So this opens up that type of process for review. There are abuses of the rights of people and the fair hearings and those types of initiatives.

[Page 1747]

There is really need for this type of legislation to be expanded. We have passed through the municipal units, the hospitals and into the education system. So those will conclude my comments, just to briefly share some thoughts without a great understanding. I think it is difficult to follow when there is a fair amount of material, clauses and subclauses because you have to have the original Act and go back and see where the amendments and all the other initiatives come from. But I applaud the government for the genuine attempt. I chastise them for the damage control intent and let's hope that the white stones are higher than the black stones. Thank you.

[9:15 p.m.]

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I see that the minister was anxious to have me take my place on the floor this evening to add a few words to the debate that is before us this evening for consideration. I was motivated to rise and to say a few words because I listened to some members of the red team talk about this legislation, the Liberals. Like the previous speaker, who is a member of that red team that used to occupy the government benches, he will have remembered as I do, the Jobb Report, which came in - seems like a lifetime ago - in 1996. I believe at the time the Attorney General was the member for Antigonish, Mr. Gillis, who served this House long and obviously was very highly respected by all members of this House.

The member for Dartmouth East will remember that some of us on the Opposition benches kept asking the government to respond to, and to give us their reaction to the 66 recommendations that were put forward in the Dean Jobb Report. Of course, it is called the Jobb Report because he was the Chairman of the committee. It wasn't a report that was prepared by an individual, it was a report that was prepared by an independent group who have more than a passing knowledge of the Freedom of Information Act. They made recommendations to the red team, the Liberals, who were in power at the time. We kept consistently trying from our small corner in the Legislature, that we were at that time, to encourage the red team of the day to consider down in their bunker, down in the Cabinet Room, the recommendations on the Jobb Report.

Mr. Speaker, those who are so indignant at the government, somehow, when they occupied the government benches, it was not seen by them to be a high priority. In fact, what we heard over and over again, was, in the fullness of time and, we have to consider and, we have to evaluate and, we have to weigh the recommendations that are being put forward. I cannot and I don't claim to be able to remember all of the recommendations in the Jobb Report but I do remember sitting down and reading through the Jobb Report and it was very clearly written. It wasn't complicated or difficult to understand. I don't, quite truthfully, understand why it would have taken three years for the former government to decide if they did or didn't support many of these recommendations.

[Page 1748]

I am pleased to see that now that they have the vision and the insightfulness that comes with being in the Opposition, that they are now able to be in support of many of these things. I just wish that when they were in government that they had some of the insightfulness that they now seem to have in Opposition, then (Interruptions) Well, I am hearing, now we may need it more. So that is why we are more interested. (Interruptions) I am being helped here, I am being told we not only may but we do need it more.

Mr. Speaker, when they were on that side, we who were on this side and the general public out there, they also needed the improvements to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. I am not going to say for one second that I do not endorse the amendments that are coming forward, anything that is going to move us some steps forward and open up the process to make it more open and accountable, we certainly support. I believe that as we are having our discussions on this bill, we should remember very clearly and we should be giving thanks to people like Dean Jobb and his committee.

We should also be giving our thanks to Mr. Fardy because Mr. Fardy has been doing an excellent job and he has been interpreting and without his support - and we have seen over and over again that it was necessary to make appeals to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy officer to get access to information that had been denied, that rightfully, even under the Act as it was, should have been released but was not by government.

I think that we should remember those things as we are trying to move forward with this legislation. Mr. Speaker, you have been around this House for quite some time too. You haven't been around for 15 years, 2 days and I don't know how many minutes - too many minutes probably on a Monday night - but you will know that legislation comes this way only once every so many years. We have pieces of legislation that we may have introduced or we may have amendments made in one year, but then the willingness or the opportunity to make amendments again may not come forward for 2, 5, 10 or more years. It can be a very slow process.

Governments like this one are often very hesitant about bringing forward legislation because they are afraid that democracy might prevail and members of the Opposition might actually stand in their place and ask questions or make suggestions for change so they won't be able to get out as quickly as they might like. If they can't get out as quickly as they might like, then they might be held accountable for a few more days during Question Period on the floor of this House.

Traditionally, I am being upfront with this, when you are in government you like to get in and you like to get out. When you are in Opposition you like to be in here because our job is to ask those hard questions of government to get the information to hold the government accountable. Surely, Mr. Speaker, and I know you are impartial, but if you were in another position, you would recognize that there is an awful lot to hold this government accountable for already. They have already shown, they have demonstrated quite clearly that they have

[Page 1749]

already violated many of the commitments that they made to Nova Scotians. They took their blue book, the promises of compassion and understanding and they just shredded those pages out of their blue book and they have come in with their so-called new agenda.

Mr. Speaker, we have a prime opportunity here. I say to the Minster of Justice, who is listening intently, I say to the Premier beside him, who talked about wanting to have an open form of government, let's go that extra step. I heard the Premier, in the controversy - and I am not going to be trying to rehash what has been said over and over again, naming individuals and the matters that have had quite a bit of debate on the floor of this House during Question Periods and other times - but there is no need to get into that. I clearly remember - and the Premier can stand on his feet on a point of order and correct me if I am wrong in the impression - and these are not the exact words, but the Premier basically in his statement admitted that an error had been made and that it was not intentional to have released the name of the applicant to the minister. A mistake had been made, but no law had been broken was basically the Premier's defence.

Mr. Speaker, if the Premier himself admitted that there was an error made, that the names should not have been released to the minister, I would love to hear the Premier make an intervention and say there is a flaw in this bill, I acknowledge that there was an error in the legislation and in our practices and that should not have been released, it should have been against the law and we will amend that. That is not going back, that is not making amendments that would be retroactive, that would hold anybody accountable retroactively, but it is setting a standard for the future. It is not a difficult thing to do.

I know, Mr. Speaker, that governments like to depend upon their image. They have to save face. They do not want to be seen to be accepting the wording that is put forward by an Opposition Party. I know the game; that is why we are debating Bill No. 14 tonight instead of having passed Bill No. 13 that was introduced by our caucus and called for debate a couple of weeks ago, because the government did not want to be seen, gee whiz, we cannot pass a major important bill like this, it was introduced by the Opposition. That might look like we are weak. Not cooperation, they would see it as weak, so they would not want to accept that. If they don't like the wording in the provisions in our Act, in terms of how they are crafted, who cares? We are not hung up on the wording. We are not hung up on whether we introduce the amendment, or the Liberals introduce the amendment.

We are quite prepared, Mr. Speaker, to cooperate with the members of the blue team, the caucus of the Progressive Conservatives.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear! Hear!

[Page 1750]

MR. HOLM: I appreciate that and I am just hoping that tomorrow the Cabinet will go down to the blue bunker - now it has a blue curtain instead of a red curtain - and they will sit around and they will have some discussions about the merits of this legislation and say how can we do it right.

I will acknowledge, I will say to the Premier, I will say to the Attorney General, I will say to the members on the government benches, this is better than what we have and you have made some important improvements, things that we in this caucus have been fighting for for years. So we are not going to say we are not going to support things that are positive because we believe in taking steps forward. If you were truly and honestly committed to being open, to being accountable, reasonable suggestions, extremely reasonable suggestions backed up by decisions made by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy officer, read by my colleague earlier, logical, coherent arguments have been put forward.

Go down to your bunker tomorrow. Talk about it. Have the Minister of Justice go talk to the Legislative Counsel. Once you have decided that, yes, you support what the Premier said in Question Period, because if you support what the Premier said, if you support that it was an error, then let's correct it. Let's correct it. We are not looking back. It has no effect upon any errors that went on before; it has no impact whatsoever on what happened. It is not retroactive. We are moving forward. Amend it. Do it in this legislation. Let's not have to wait for another 5 years or 10 years before we can get this Act back before this House, maybe waiting until an NDP Government has to take over to do it right. (Interruption)

[9:30 p.m.]

The Attorney General said something with which I totally agree. He said, hopefully we don't have to wait that long. Mr. Speaker, I want that in the record because the Attorney General is saying that he hopes we also don't have to wait for a number of years, three years or four years, before we get the amendments necessary and done right, right now. So, I take the Attorney General's comments across the floor, which he offered to be helpful. I am sure that was the intent.

I wanted to make sure, Mr. Speaker, that I quoted his words into the record so that it can be very clear what he is saying. So, I look forward to the Premier, when he speaks before the Attorney General, because the Premier is going to want some of the glow from this legislation about the improvements, to shine over him, because he needs a little positive glow now as a result of all the negatives that have happened of late. It might be nice, Mr. Premier, to wrap yourself in a little bit of positive mist by talking about this legislation. (Laughter)

Mr. Speaker, I know it is Monday night, and it is a little bit late, but I say to the Premier in all seriousness, that I hope he will take part in the debate. I hope that the Premier will remember the words and his comments during Question Period. I will freely admit here, too, Mr. Speaker, that the government so far has, in a few areas shown a willingness to cooperate.

[Page 1751]

We will be dealing with some amendments, I hope, on the floor, on a couple of pieces of legislation, to correct the flaws that we pointed out. I applaud them for that.

Also today, I gather, in the Law Amendments Committee, we dealt with another matter, a flaw. It was the Financial Measures (1999) Act that again we had pointed out in the second reading debate and that flaw was corrected by a government-sponsored amendment in the Law Amendments Committee process. Who introduces it, doesn't really make any difference, if we make the legislation better. This place isn't a game. This place is about making legislation that affects the lives of Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, there can be a lot of ramifications if those who are seeking information feel that their names can be revealed to a minister. My colleague talked about journalists, civil servants, ordinary Nova Scotians. How about those businesses that try to do business with the Government of Nova Scotia? If those businesses have concerns about some kind of practices that may or may not be going on, and that they may feel that they have been not treated as fairly, this province has had a history in the past, it is one that we all want buried, we don't want to see it continue, it has to end, but we have seen situations where favouritism was shown to certain friends of government's businesses and certain contracts may have gone certain ways.

I am told by the Attorney General that was between 1993 and 1998 - I don't know what happened between 1998 and 1999 - I guess, according to the Attorney General, the MacLellan Liberals must have cleaned it up because he excluded that year, but, Mr. Speaker, it went on before that, too. Nova Scotians don't want that to go on anymore. Whether it happened in the past, that is history. Let's move forward. Let's make sure that it can't happen in the future but, if a businessperson thinks it is possible that their name or their business name may be revealed to a minister with whom they are trying to do business, as they are seeking legitimate information to which they should be entitled, they are going to have to ask the question? If the minister finds out, or if a member of the Crown finds out, what happens to my opportunity to bid on future government contracts? What happens to those?Are we going to then be somehow singled out as a troublemaker?

Mr. Speaker, I have to say that I think we owe it to Nova Scotians and Nova Scotia businesses to ensure them that we treat the protection of privacy as serious. Let's make it an offence under the law to disclose that information, with penalties. That is not trying to get any retribution for what has happened in the past. That is trying to move forward into the next century on a proper, open level field. I don't know. Maybe I have got rocks in my head. Maybe I am misreading the Nova Scotian public, but you know, it wouldn't be the first time I have been accused of not being right. I have been accused of being left. That all having been said, I don't think I am wrong in this one. I don't think Nova Scotians want the possibility that intimidation or retribution could be inflicted upon those who are seeking access to what should be legitimate information.

[Page 1752]

Mr. Speaker, on that point, and I feel very strongly, although I congratulate the government on many of the provisions that are in this bill, I think that here is a prime opportunity to go that one step further and to do the right thing. I am seeing, even as I am saying that, some government members' heads bobbing.

AN HON. MEMBER: I can hear them.

MR. HOLM: My colleague said he can hear them. You know, Mr. Speaker, those bobs aren't speaking. But I am hoping, in a serious vein, that those bobs are a recognition that what I am saying and what my colleague said is, indeed, fair. Just think how much more credit you are going to receive. You are going to receive those on the back benches, as well as those on the front, if you can persuade your colleagues to do the right thing. Just go and remind the Premier. Go and get Hansard out. Take it out of your desk and look at the Question Period exchanges. See what the Premier said in his answers. If you have difficulty finding it, we, in our caucus, will do the research for you. We will find the days and provide you with the pages. Look at what he said. We will provide that to you, Mr. Premier, as well, because we want to be cooperative. Let's make the legislation match your words. It is very simple.

The other point I want to talk about, briefly, is the term. We, in this province, have been very well served, extremely well served, by a very courageous Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy officer. Mr. Speaker, we have had the good fortune, as well, to have been and continue to be served by excellent Auditors General. But what are their jobs? Let's try and maybe even think of some kind of comparisons. An Auditor General's job is to be examining the books and the accounts of the province, to hold the government accountable in terms of their practices and, when they are doing that, those Auditors General sometimes, and even during my short number of years in this House, I have heard some governments respond less than favourably to some of the comments that were made by Auditors General. They didn't particularly care for some of the observations.

Mr. Speaker, I can remember, I would have to go and do some research on particularly which ones, because I hadn't done it before tonight, but I am sure that you can imagine, with some of the criticisms that Auditors General have levelled against government of both the blue and the red wing of the Liber-Tory Party, that they would have drawn the ire of some of those members on the government benches.

The Auditor General doesn't need to worry that if they make valid observations and criticisms that are intended to be recommendations to improve how government is run. They don't need to worry that if they come down with their fair and honest report that the government is going to fire them tomorrow, because the government can't. Actually in a majority situation like this, you could because Auditors General are accountable to the House. Yes, the Minister of Finance, if he doesn't like a recommendation or report from the Auditor General conceivably could bring forward a motion on the floor of this House to remove the

[Page 1753]

Auditor General, and with the numbers you could carry it. But that would be done in a public forum, a public debate.

It is extremely important that the Auditor General, in order to be able to do the job, be seen to be independent and to actually be independent of partisan politics or any particular political Party. The Jobb Report made some very valid recommendations recognizing that if an information officer is to be most effective, they must also have that independence. If you provide, looking at the election cycles, a longer term for the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy officer, you will have that officer spanning more than one election cycle.

I think that is very important. I don't know if there have been situations, maybe some of my colleagues could tell us about some and maybe some of them will want to speak after, I don't know, about some of the bad things that this blue team has done, but I am sure that the blue team doesn't want to fall into the bad habits of the red team that preceded them.

Most people can recognize that the Liberals are the Grits or the red team, and that the Tories are the oxymoron, the Progressive Conservatives or blue team. But I digress. The red team, on many occasions, denied legitimate requests for information. It was therefore necessary, sometimes for members of our caucus and I know for some members of the Progressive Conservative caucus, when they were on this side of the House in the Third Party status, it was necessary sometimes for them also to make application to the Freedom of Information officer to try to gain access to that information that the government of the day had denied.

I am sure that the Premier, as we can, can point to successes that they had where, not in these words, the decision was that the government of the day was bad, that they should not have denied that information, and it should be revealed, it should be made public. Government members know that. Government members also know that if you have a short term that Auditor General's independence could be - I don't suggest that it would be for one moment with Mr. Fardy, I believe that he is too principled and too strong to ever allow that to influence him, and I certainly would never suggest that the blue team (Interruptions) I know this blue team would never ever want to try to intimidate a Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy officer. They tell us they are the good guys now. (Interruptions)

I feel warm all over, the Attorney General just threw a warm fuzzy over. He said, we are the good guys; all these warm fuzzies. They are the good guys, and since they are the good guys, then obviously the Attorney General is going to say that we do not wish to act like the bad guys that were there before us and, therefore, we would, of course, agree to these reasonable recommendations.

Mr. Speaker, there are some other things that I could talk about.

AN HON. MEMBER: Please do. (Interruption)

[Page 1754]

MR. HOLM: The minister is suggesting that I might want to save something for the Committee of the Whole House or third reading. I would love to have the opportunity in the Committee of the Whole House to stand up for a minute, two minutes (Interruption) That would be good, the Attorney General said. That is positive. I am telling you I love this cooperation and this dialogue. This is the way we should operate more often where we have this cooperation across the floor.

The next thing that I want to hear from the Attorney General is that I will have the opportunity to stand up in the Committee of the Whole House stage, and be happy to do it again on third reading, to say, the Progressive Conservative Government was actually quite progressive on this particular piece of legislation and that they were prepared to go that extra mile - not even a mile - that extra step, and to make those added improvements to the legislation now that they knew and that they know should be made to make this legislation even stronger. I would love to stand up and be able to say that to the member. (Interruption)

I hear the ever-vocal member for Preston. He is in the back and he is throwing these helpful comments. I think his helpful comments are supposed to distract me. I do not know, Mr. Speaker, maybe he thinks that I am Walter, but I want to tell the member for Preston that I quite welcome helpful interventions from across the floor. I welcome them almost as much - not quite though - as if they actually stand on their feet on the floor of the House, speak into this little microphone that is before them, where those who are off behind us and in other buildings who are listening - and I pity some of them sometimes, for having to do this, listening to every word we say, and then transcribing those words so it is in a public record.

I invite the member for Preston to actually take some hope from the blue book. What page was it? Was it recommendation number five, or commitment number five, whatever the number (Interruption) I do not think we even need to have our researchers look for it because if I wanted to take my place, I could pull out my photocopy of the blue book. I do not have an original copy, I just have a photocopy but I do not even need to have researchers. It would not take me more than one minute but if I took my place for a minute to look it up, I would lose my place, so I will not.

I can remember though almost by word, almost exactly what it says, and that is, and I say this to the member for Preston, that your Premier promised that MLAs were going to have more freedom to represent their constituents.

AN HON. MEMBER: Promise number 33.

MR. HOLM: Promise number 33. I did not even have to take my place before the researchers. (Interruption) (Applause)

[Page 1755]

Mr. Speaker, this one is not bound and it is not signed. It is going to be a very interesting report card a little bit later on. I know that many things have been recycled and one of the things in this that I hope is not going to have to be recycled in the next election campaign is for the Premier to stand up and say, we are going to give our MLAs the freedom to represent their constituencies after the next election. You have that chance now.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the member for Preston, take heart in the commitment that the Premier made. You have a right to stand on the floor of the House today, maybe tomorrow now, but to speak on this bill. I am sure that the constituents who live in Preston, the business people who live within that community, the public servants who live in your constituency, the constituents and business people who live - as the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley says - in the beautiful Musquodoboit Valley, would like to think that they know that if they ask for legitimate information from the government, maybe about how a tender had been awarded, what kind of things were considered, they might have questions now. (Interruptions)

I thought that the tender called for certain things, but maybe, Mr. Speaker, in the Freedom of Information Act, they may be trying to get at actually what was provided and maybe think that possibly there could have been some favouritism that a blue team business, somebody who might have contributed to the blue team, or a blue team member, might have been favoured over somebody for another. I would know that the member for Preston (Interruptions) That's never, of course, going to happen. Of course, never. Nobody would even dream. Shame on me for even thinking that there is a possibility. I say to the member for Preston and the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, who is going to be getting the seniors' fishing licence fees removed, . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: That's his job.

MR. HOLM: That is his commitment. We have many resolutions and questions and speeches on that, so I know it is going to be done. So those businesses and those individuals would like to know that they can make those requests without any fear of retribution. They would like to be able to know that those names will be kept secret and it will not be passed on to a minister or those who could be making decisions that could be harmful to them and to their businesses.

So, Mr. Speaker, I don't know if the Attorney General is going to allow the Premier to speak, before we wrap up. (Interruption) If he asks his permission, yes, Mr. Speaker, or more importantly, whether the member for Preston, who had some helpful comments to make before, is going to take to his feet and speak tonight. He has to go back to his own chair though, on a bill debate, to do that, because you are only allowed to speak, except in committee, from your own place.

[Page 1756]

I wanted to indicate that, yes, I will be supporting the bill going forward to the Law Amendments Committee. I look forward to the opportunity to say how much I appreciate the cooperation of the Attorney General and of the Tory Government during the Committee of the Whole stage when I stand to thank them and congratulate them for doing the right thing and that is, to make what are obviously known amendments that would strengthen this bill, making them then so that we won't have to be fighting for years and years to try to get them to do the right thing. Thank you. (Applause).

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister, it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I am rising to close the debate on second reading of the bill. I appreciate the helpful comments of the members for Dartmouth East, Halifax Chebucto, (Interruption) yes, and in particular Richmond. I have to be brief because we are running out of time, but I would mention to you that I am not really sure which side of the issue the honourable member for Richmond is on. At one moment he seems to be against disclosure and the other moment he seems to be for it, so I am not really sure what side of the issue he is on. In any event, I do appreciate the honourable member's comments. I find it interesting, however, that the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, the NDP bills, Bill No. 44 and Bill No. 13, are almost identical to the bill that we tabled. I assume that that is a wonderful thing. I won't take any longer, Mr. Speaker, because I would like to have the bill sent on to the Law Amendments Committee, so that we can look at the issue, and with that I would ask for second reading on the bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 14. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please revert to the daily routine.

MR. SPEAKER: A request has been made to revert to the daily routine.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

[Page 1757]

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: As Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:

Bill No. 7 - Financial Measures (1999) Act.

and that the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

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

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise, to sit again tomorrow at the hour of 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Business will be the daily routine, Question Period, Committee of the Whole House on Bills, the Municipal Act, bills and, if time allows, Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

MR. SPEAKER: The House will reconvene tomorrow at the hour of 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m.

The House is adjourned.

[The House rose at 9:57 p.m.]