The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Thur., Nov. 18, 1999

First Session

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 1999

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Exco - Code of Conduct (Ministerial), The Premier 2237
NOTICES OF MOTION:^
Res. 672, Women of Excellence (Hfx.-Cornwallis Progress Club) -
Contribution (N.S.): Recognition [6] - Congrats., Mr. R. MacLellan 2241
Vote - Affirmative 2242
Res. 673, Educ. - NSTU: Sheonoroil Fdn. (School Violence) -
Board Appts. Congrats., Ms. E. O'Connell 2242
Vote - Affirmative 2242
Res. 674, ILO - Child Lbr. Convention: Support - Extend,
Mr. R. MacLellan 2243
Vote - Affirmative 2243
Res. 675, Tourism - TIANS Awards: Winners - Congrats., The Premier 2243
Vote - Affirmative 2244
Res. 676, Econ. Dev. - Scotiabank: Call Ctr. - Wage Level Reveal,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2244
Res. 677, Fin. - Income Tax (N.S.): Increase - Tax Hike, Mr. J. Holm 2245
Res. 678, Tourism - TIANS: Pineapple Awards - Winners Congrats.,
The Premier 2245
Vote - Affirmative 2246
Res. 679, Devco - Bill C-11: Delay - Demand, Mr. F. Corbett 2246
Res. 680, Health - Breast Cancer Research Fdn.: Terry June Harnish
(Hubbards) - Top Fund-Raiser Congrats., Hon. J. Chataway 2247
Vote - Affirmative 2248
Res. 681, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Roads: Snow Clearance -
Staff Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 2248
Vote - Affirmative 2248
Res. 682, Clerk (Manitoba Legislature) - W.H. 'Binx' Remnant:
Retirement - Public Service Congrats., Hon. R. Russell 2248
Vote - Affirmative 2249
Res. 683, Econ. Dev. - Pictou Reg. Dev. Comm'n.: Efforts - Applaud,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 2249
Vote - Affirmative 2250
Res. 684, Justice - Abuse Allegations: Reports Release - Pledge Honour,
Mr. H. Epstein 2250
Res. 685, Sports - Cross Country: Bernie Chisholm
(Antigonish-Cdn. Coach) & Livina Gough (Univ. Team [Cdn.]) -
Congrats., Hon. A. MacIsaac 2250
Vote - Affirmative 2251
Res. 686, Commun. Serv. - Bdg. Blocks Family Resource Ctr.
(Kennetcook): Organizers - Congrats., Mr. John MacDonell 2251
Vote - Affirmative 2252
Res. 687, Fin. - Cuts: Target (Poor) - Stop, Mr. J. Pye 2252
Res. 688, Commun. Serv. - Cumb. Co. Planned Parenthood Affiliate
(Girl Power Prog.): Bentley Award - Congrats., Ms. E. O'Connell 2253
Vote - Affirmative 2253
Res. 689, Sports - Soccer (CIAU-Women Champs.): Dal. Tigers -
Congrats., Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2254
Vote - Affirmative 2254
Res. 690, Educ. - Breton Educ. Ctr.: Drug Abuse - Responsible Attitude
Congrats., Mr. F. Corbett 2254
Vote - Affirmative 2255
Res. 691, Justice - Abuse Allegations: Shelburne School -
Public Inquiry Institute, Mr. H. Epstein 2255
Res. 692, Sports - St. Margarets Arena: Directors - Leadership Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2256
Vote - Affirmative 2256
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 287, Gov't. (N.S.) - Promises: Fulfilled - List, Mr. R. MacLellan 2257
No. 288, NSRL - Debt ($740M): Options - Decision, Mr. J. Holm 2258
No. 289, Justice - Home Invasions: Sentences Increase - Legislation Intro.,
Mr. M. Samson 2259
No. 290, NSRL: Opportunities Lost ($1B) - Investigate, Mr. J. Holm 2260
No. 291, Health: Nurses - Hired (Post-Election), Dr. J. Smith 2261
No. 292, Justice - Abuse Allegations: Shelburne School -
Documents Discovery, Mr. Robert Chisholm 2262
No. 293, Health - Buchanan Mem. Hosp.: Nurses - Recruit,
Mr. K. MacAskill 2264
No. 294, Justice - Abuse Allegations: Shelburne School - Public Inquiry,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 2265
No. 295, Educ. - Teacher (L'pool-Dr. J.C. Wickwire School):
Investigation - Outcome, Mr. W. Gaudet 2267
No. 296, Justice - Abuse Allegations: Shelburne School -
Independent Review, Mr. H. Epstein 2268
No. 297, Tourism - Advertising (U.S.): Negativity - Ignored,
Mr. D. Downe 2269
No. 298, Justice - Abuse Allegations: Shelburne School - Public Inquiry,
Mr. H. Epstein 2270
No. 299, Environ. - Dumping Illegal: Blackhawk Construction -
Findings, Mr. M. Samson 2271
No. 300, Health - Care: Serv. - Privatization, Mr. D. Dexter 2273
No. 301, Eastern Shore MLA - Conflict of Interest, Mr. MacLellan 2274
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 1:42 P.M. 2277
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 4:40 P.M. 2277
CWH REPORTS 2277
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 20, Emergency "911" Act
Amendment [debate resumed] 2278
Hon. R. Russell 2278
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2278
Dr. J. Smith 2288
Adjourned debate 2295
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Gov't. (N.S.) - MLAs (PC): Free Votes - Allow:
Mr. B. Boudreau 2295
Mr. B. Taylor 2297
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2301
Mr. John MacDonell 2301
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 20, Emergency "911" Act
Amendment [debate resumed] 2303
Ms. E. O'Connell 2304
Mr. M. Samson 2310
Mr. H. Epstein 2323
Adjourned debate 2326
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Nov. 19th at 9:00 a.m. 2326
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Nov. 19th at 9:00 a.m.

[Page 2237]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 1999

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, it is my honour today to table in this House, and for all Nova Scotians, a Ministerial Code of Conduct; this province's first. Nova Scotia now becomes just the third province in Canada with a public Code of Conduct for members of the Executive Council. The standard of conduct demanded of ministers in the execution of their public duties is established in parliamentary tradition and the laws of the land. This code is consistent with both. It sets higher standards and adds clarity to those already in place.

2237

[Page 2238]

Since my election to this House in 1993, the adoption of such a code has been a promise often made, but not until today, kept. This government is pleased to meet our commitment to Nova Scotians by bringing a Code of Conduct forward at the earliest opportunity. Today, at Cabinet, ministers recognized their commitments to uphold this new code. Legislation enacting the new code will be introduced in the spring. Discussions have been held with the Conflict of Interest Commissioner, Mr. Justice Merlin Nunn, and this code now represents government policy. It is in effect.

Like the members of this House, this document seeks to put the best interests of Nova Scotians first. It formally recognizes that obligation through an open, accountable and public process. It represents a new standard and implements a new process that should foster public confidence in the probity of elected officials. The code, and legislation to follow, empowers the Conflict of Interest Commissioner with addition authority to act as an impartial third party on behalf of Nova Scotians.

Cabinet Ministers are charged with guarding the public trust. From time to time, unfortunately, the question has arisen, who guards the guards? In Nova Scotia, this Code of Conduct answers that question. The Code of Conduct eliminates much of the grey area and the need for interpretation that clouded issues of conduct in the past. The code sets a limit on the value of gifts that ministers may accept. It requires ministers to disqualify themselves from situations where they know, or should know, a conflict exists.

For the first time, it officially recognizes that ministers must respect, indeed protect, the non-partisan nature of the Civil Service. Notwithstanding the conventions of this House aimed at protecting freedom of speech, this code, for the first time, makes it a violation of ministerial responsibility to knowingly mislead or deceive this House or allow an agent of the government to do likewise.

This Code of Conduct also establishes a new relationship and shared powers between the Conflict of Interest Commissioner and this House. The code builds upon an existing body of law by giving the Conflict of Interest Commissioner greater latitude in dealing with matters that come before him. Upon investigation of a complaint, the commissioner may recommend specific action, including the suspension, removal or vindication of a minister.

The Code of Conduct requires the Conflict of Interest Commissioner to table a public report of his findings with this House. It would then be the responsibility of each and every member here to weigh the moral authority of those recommendations and in doing so, fulfil our duties to Nova Scotians. This House would decide by means of a vote whether to accept or reject the commissioner's recommendations. The requirement to publicly stand and account for one's actions remains the single most powerful political check in our democratic society.

[Page 2239]

The introduction today of this Ministerial Code of Conduct reflects our faith in that process and our willingness to meet that test. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Premier. He did tell this House that he would come forward with the Code of Conduct before the end of this sitting, and he has kept his word on that. I want to tell him I very much appreciate that. (Applause)

Knowing the Premier as I do, I know he has brought this forward with the best intentions and in the interest of doing the right thing. I do, however, have a little difference of opinion, I guess, with the Premier on the strength of a Code of Conduct. He himself says in the Code of Conduct, and I think it is important to note and I think it should be remembered, that no document can properly address every situation in which ministers are called upon to make a decision as to what is in the public interest. I think that no matter how strong this Code of Conduct is that that particular remark has to be kept in mind. No Code of Conduct is going to be able to cover every eventuality.

The Premier has said, voluntarily, and I appreciate that as well, that there will be legislation coming forward in the spring, and of course we will be looking forward to that. I would say to the Premier and to members of the government that we would expect in this Party that they would adhere to the spirit of the Code of Conduct as if the legislation were in place and even though the legislation isn't forthcoming until the spring, that in their assessment of wrongdoings or breaches, they would act as if the legislation was in place. I think that the people of this province would expect that.

I do feel that my concern with a Code of Conduct is that a government can come to depend too much on the word of the code and try to take the other position instead of accounting to the people of a province or a jurisdiction about the actual wrongdoing, or alleged wrongdoing, and to deal with it in the spirit of equity and morality that the people of a jurisdiction expect, that a government instead turns to trying to defend the alleged wrongdoer and excuse that person as respect to the Code of Conduct. So you really come to argue against your own Code of Conduct. I would not want this government to do that. I don't think the people of Nova Scotia want this government to do that.

Today, however, I am prepared to give the government the benefit of the doubt and to say that they promised this and they kept their word. I do want to say at the outset, and we in this Party have to, as the Opposition, be very vigilant that a government in fact immediately keeps the spirit of the Code of Conduct, not to rely on the commissioner, not to wait for a hearing, not to wait for the report of the commissioner, but to do what they think is right and judge the actual actions as best they can. Where it is a very complex and grey area I can expect that the Conflict of Interest Commissioner would be called in, but on blatant conflicts

[Page 2240]

that are obvious, I would expect the Premier and the government to act. I think that is what Nova Scotians would expect, Mr. Speaker. I say that because I would be in the same position if I were still the Premier of Nova Scotia so I am just saying to the Premier what I believe quite strongly myself.

I also want to say, that there have been incidences, both with respect to the Cabinet and the backbenchers where I think there have been concerns to me and to this Party. I would ask the Premier to address those and to keep addressing them as the Leader of the government and the Progressive Conservative Party. Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to, as I mentioned, give the government the benefit of the doubt. Hopefully, this will be a new beginning on this sort of action and on actions of his Cabinet and on the caucus, but we do expect the government, and particularly the Premier, to not in any way relinquish his or their authority or obligation to the people of Nova Scotia in judging what is wrong and what is right in their own opinion and to, in fact, deal with they know in their hearts to be conflicts and wrongdoings and to act upon them immediately. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Premier for fulfilling his commitment to bring forward a Ministerial Code of Conduct in draft form, at least, to this House in this session. It is, as he said in his statement, something that was promised and has been promised for a number of years now and we have not seen it until today so I thank him for following through with that commitment.

I want to acknowledge though that it almost seems like it was kind of thrown together in a fairly hasty fashion, that most of what is in here, is already covered in various pieces of legislation effected by this Legislature as it stands. One notable exception, of course, and I can't wait to see the legislation that is going to try to cover this, requiring that ministers be truthful and forthright. It will be interesting to see how they are going to enshrine that in a piece of law for the Province of Nova Scotia for their ministers. I am sure they will do their best and we will have a chance to scrutinize it in the spring.

I don't see anything in here that deals with the problem that the former Minister of Housing was involved in, where he was appointed to that particular portfolio and then it was found that he, as a landlord, neglected to follow the regulations under the fire and safety code of the Province of Nova Scotia.

[12:15 p.m.]

I do not see anything in here that prevents that happening again or deals with that kind of a problem which is a concern but, nonetheless, if not in detail, certainly in intent we have a Ministerial Code of Conduct before us that we can peruse; we will have a piece of

[Page 2241]

legislation that tries to put it into effect. The government has indicated they will be bringing that forward in the spring, and we look forward to seeing that.

We will be as helpful as we can to make suggestions on how to best strengthen it and make sure it is workable, because there is no point in putting in fanciful language if it is not enforceable, if you cannot do anything with it, or if in fact one provision contradicts another and it makes enforcement or implementation of the code almost impossible. There is no point in doing that and I do not think the government would want to see that happen and we certainly would not either.

So it is a start down the road. We will take some time to review it and come forward to the Premier and his colleagues, with some suggestions and deal with the legislation when it comes before us next spring. Thank you. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 672

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

Whereas last night the Halifax-Cornwallis Progress Club named six Nova Scotians as Women of Excellence; and

Whereas Lynn Buckley, Peggy Gallant, Natalie MacMaster, Carol Snider, and Dr. Lili Kopala were all recognized for the contributions they have made to the province in their respective categories; and

Whereas former Liberal MLA and Cabinet Minister, Francene Cosman, was named as a Woman of Excellence in the Communications and Public Affairs category;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to these women for their well-deserved recognition and for their contribution to the well-being of our province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 2242]

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 Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 673

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

Whereas in the past seven years the Nova Scotia Teachers Union has completed two school surveys, a provincial symposium, and a resource binder for all schools and school boards, covering all aspects of violence in schools; and

Whereas the Sheonoroil Foundation will set a new standard for research, inquiry intervention, reflection, writing, publishing, and distribution of information focusing on violence in our public schools; and

Whereas on October 29th the Nova Scotia Teachers Union named members of the first Sheonoroil Board of Directors and approved the trust deed setting up the foundation;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Greg O'Keefe, Helen MacDonald, Myles McCormick, Tracey White, Don Burt, David Maddock, Carol Page, Vic Fleury, and Jim MacKay on their appointments to the Board of Directors of the Sheonoroil Foundation.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 2243]

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 674

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

Whereas during the June Conference of the International Labour Organization, 174 States members unanimously adopted a Convention aimed at the worst forms of child labour; and

Whereas this Convention calls for the immediate prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including slavery, prostitution and forced recruitment into armed conflicts; and

Whereas the Government of Canada needs the support of the provinces and territories in order to proceed with the ratification of the ILO Convention;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly extend their support and approval to the Government of Canada in order to proceed with the ILO Convention on the worst forms of child labour.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 675

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

Whereas on November 16th the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia announced the recipients of the 1999 Academy Awards of Tourism; and

[Page 2244]

Whereas Bruce Anderson received the Alastair and Frances Campbell Tourism Achievement Award; Pictou Lodge Resort received the Golden Hospitality Award and Natalie MacMaster received the Ambassador Award; and

Whereas the following received sector service awards: The Sign of the Whale, Yarmouth; Nova Scotia International Air Show, Halifax; Taste of Nova Scotia, Halifax; Bay Ferries Limited, Yarmouth and Bar Harbour; Tobeatic Wilderness Committee, southwest Nova Scotia; Gowrie House Country Inn, Sydney Mines; Sherbrooke Village, Sherbrooke; and Susan Tilley-Russell with CorporaTel in Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House join me in congratulating all the award winners.

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 Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 676

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

Whereas recently this Tory Government gave Scotiabank $2.2 million for training; and

Whereas this training takes six weeks at 35 hours a week and graduates must be committed to two years of service; and

Whereas when the training is finished, graduates can expect a job at the Scotiabank call centre at $10.69 an hour for 22 hours a week, which comes to a grand total of $235 a week or $12,220 a year before taxes;

[Page 2245]

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government tell the people of Nova Scotia that for $2.2 million of their money, trainees at the Scotiabank call centre can expect to make less than the poverty level in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 677

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

Whereas the Tory blue book states, "Nova Scotia can no longer afford such high rates of taxation"; and

Whereas the Minister of Finance is leaving the door open for an increase in the provincial income tax rate; and

Whereas the minister seems to think this potential rate increase would not be viewed by Nova Scotians as a tax hike;

Therefore be it resolved that a tax hike, is a tax hike, is a tax hike.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 678

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

Whereas the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia announced the 1999 winners of the Nova Scotia Pineapple Awards, with recipients being nominated by visitors; and

[Page 2246]

Whereas the awards recognizes individuals who have gone above and beyond what is expected to enrich a visitor's stay in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the five 1999 recipients and properties where they worked are: Stella Doutaz, Housekeeping Room Attendant at the King Edward Inn, Halifax; Mauritta Fevens, Local Tour Guide, Designer Tours/Rodd Grand Hotel, Yarmouth; Pauline Leopold, Owner, Econo Lodge, Bedford; Jim Meadows, Manager, Gas 'n' Go Esso Station, Stewiacke; and Garland Morine, Driver, Valley Transport Ltd., Avonport;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House join me in congratulating the award winners for going above and beyond the call of duty.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 679

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 Cape Breton Post carried a letter today from the member for Cape Breton East in which he accuses the member for Cape Breton Centre of crass political partisanship; and

Whereas Bill C-11 contains a provision that would allow the federal government and Devco to walk away from their responsibility to treat Devco's workforce fairly; and

Whereas if the member for Cape Breton East was serious about discussing delay of Bill C-11, he or another member of his caucus could have introduced his own resolution on the matter, rather than write letters to the editor, sparked by his own wish to win an upcoming by-election;

[Page 2247]

Therefore be it resolved that this House demand that the federal government delay passage of Bill C-11 until the coal miners have their chance to challenge their treatment under the Act in the courts.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Human Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 680

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

Whereas Terry June Harnish, of Hubbards, was the top fund-raiser in Nova Scotia for the Canadian Cancer Society's CIBC Run for the Cure, raising over $8,000 for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation; and

Whereas Ms. Harnish was recently honoured in Toronto with her fund-raising counterparts from across the country; and

Whereas Ms. Harnish is herself a breast cancer survivor and the South Shore coordinator-trainer for the Reach to Recovery program for those with breast cancer;

Therefore be it resolved that this House honour Terry June Harnish for her successful fund-raising efforts to help fund research into breast cancer and for her community work helping breast cancer survivors.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2248]

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. 681

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

Whereas difficult winter driving conditions have already arrived in certain areas of our province; and

Whereas in all conditions during the winter months, staff of the Department of Transportation and Public Works provide noble service in making our roads as passable as possible; and

Whereas snowplow operators and other workers at garages throughout our province face this challenge every time they get behind the wheel during the days and weeks ahead;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the efforts of the Transportation staff with wishes of safe driving in the days ahead as they provide this valuable service to all areas of our 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 Minister of Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 682

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

[Page 2249]

Whereas W. H. (Binx) Remnant, Clerk of the Manitoba House of Assembly, is retiring later this year, having provided an unparalleled level of service to Manitoba and, previous to that, to the Northwest Territories; and

Whereas Binx is the dean of all legislative clerks in Canada; and

Whereas Binx has been a valued friend of all Nova Scotians who have had the pleasure of knowing him;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Binx for his many years of public service, and wish him all the best in his future endeavours.

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 Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 683

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

Whereas since 1995, the Pictou Regional Development Commission has been working on a strategic plan; and

Whereas there has been a dedicated committee and over 160 participants working towards initiatives for community and economic development; and

Whereas last evening over 100 people gathered in Stellarton to celebrate the campaign launch of We're Working Wonders, a community development initiative for Pictou County;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the efforts of the Pictou Regional Development Commission and all the participants who take great pride in Pictou County and all it has to offer.

[Page 2250]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 684

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

Whereas The Coast Guard newspaper reported in July that "O'Donnell received loud cheers when he told the crowd that this process has to be removed from the hands of the Justice Department. He promised that the Conservatives would call for an independent public inquiry and the release of information"; and

[12:30 p.m.]

Whereas those statements were made at the Rally for Hope organized by the Progressive Conservative Party; and

Whereas at the same rally, the now Premier said this would be a top priority;

Therefore be it resolved that the government should honour its pledge, release all reports in its possession and immediately launch a public inquiry into institutional abuse and the response to complaints of abuse.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 685

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

[Page 2251]

Whereas Bernie Chisholm has coached the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School cross-country team for 29 years and the St. F.X. University cross-county team for 13 years; and

Whereas his teams have won 43 provincial championships and two individual AUAA titles, namely Lisa Dunne in 1994 and Livina Gough in 1999; and

Whereas Livina Gough placed second at the CIAU Championships this past weekend and has just been named a member of the Canadian University Team to compete in the World X-Country Championships in Jena, Germany in March; and

Whereas this is the fourth student of Bernie's to compete internationally, namely, Kim Bird; Jeannie Cameron; Robyn Meagher, two-time Olympian; and now Livina Gough;

Therefore be it resolved that Bernie Chisholm and Livina Gough be recognized by this House as making a tremendous contribution to their sport, not only in their community of Antigonish but indeed by the entire Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of this 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 Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 686

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

Whereas poverty especially hinders so many aspects of a child's development; and

Whereas it is so easy to become complacent about the widespread occurrence of child poverty; and

[Page 2252]

Whereas the Building Blocks Family Resource Centre in Kennetcook seeks to raise awareness among the people about the damage poverty can have on children by having a pancake breakfast on November 20, 1999 to honour National Child's Day;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate the organizers at the Building Blocks Family Resource Centre for their efforts to raise the profile of children who are hampered by poverty.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 687

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

Whereas once upon a time in a country far, far away, the crown prince of Hammland told his followers, don't worry, be happy, barbecue and I will take care of you; and

Whereas in the kingdom of Hammland, the crown prince and his court hid behind 243 unfulfillable promises to their people; and

Whereas in Hammland, only big interest groups and big business were allowed to exist while everyone else, including the poor, needy and disadvantaged were sent away from Hammland;

Therefore be it resolved that before this sordid tale comes true in Nova Scotia, the Premier and his court stop cost-cutting at the expense of the poor, the needy and the disadvantaged.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 2253]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 688

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

Whereas for the last three summers, Cumberland County Planned Parenthood has held Girl Power camps for girls aged 10 to 13; and

Whereas the purpose of these camps was to boost the self-esteem of girls; and

Whereas the Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada has honoured the Cumberland County Planned Parenthood affiliate with an award for this program;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Cumberland County Planned Parenthood affiliate for receiving the 1999 Helen and Fred Bentley Award for its Girl Power Program.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

[Page 2254]

RESOLUTION NO. 689

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

Whereas this past weekend Dalhousie Tigers women's soccer team won the CIAU soccer title in Waterloo; and

Whereas in the final game goals were scored by Kelly Larkin and Stef Finateri; and

Whereas this win gives the Dal Tigers women's soccer team five medals over the past decade;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Dal Tigers women's soccer team on their win and wish them well in their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 690

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

Whereas drug and alcohol abuse among teens is an ongoing concern in our province; and

Whereas, as a society, we must protect and educate our youth about the dangers of these substances; and

Whereas the students at Breton Education Centre in New Waterford participated in a drug awareness walk yesterday to show their concerns about drug abuse;

[Page 2255]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the students of Breton Education Centre for their mature and responsible attitude toward the growing problem of drug abuse in our society.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 691

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

Whereas like hamsters on a wheel the Premier and the Minister of Justice, the Great Gonzo, went around and around when being asked questions about a public inquiry into abuse at the Shelburne correctional facility; and

Whereas the Tory MLA elected in the area supports a public inquiry, even including it in his campaign ads; and

Whereas yesterday in this House, Gonzo the Great spun around and around with his answers which are different now than when his Party was the Opposition;

Therefore be it resolved that Gonzo the Great and the Premier listen to the elected member from the Shelburne area and institute a public inquiry immediately into this matter.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

[Page 2256]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 692

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 Board of Directors of the St. Margarets Arena held a public meeting last evening, November 17th, in the arena community centre; and

Whereas at that meeting the citizens served by the St. Margarets Arena approved an operating agreement between the Arena Association and the Halifax Regional Municipality; and

Whereas this agreement will continue to allow the board of directors to maintain control of the day-to-day operations of this excellent facility;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the board of directors for its leadership and the communities served by the St. Margarets Arena for their foresight in making this decision.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: We are beginning Question Period. It is 12:39 p.m. and we will end at 1:39 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

[Page 2257]

GOV'T. (N.S.) - PROMISES: FULFILLED - LIST

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier.

AN HON. MEMBER: No.

MR. MACLELLAN: Yes, really. Before the beginning of this session, the Premier indicated he would be fulfilling 60 of his campaign promises during this session of the House. Last weekend he indicated that he had fulfilled or was initiating 40 of those promises. I want to ask the Premier, will he give us a list of those 40 promises that he will be fulfilling during this session and this sitting of the Legislature?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, to the Leader of the Liberal Party, yes, in fact, well in excess of 40 actually are initiated and we will be making public a report card of our progress in the very near future.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, there is no reason, frankly, that the Premier can't give us that list right away. If they have been kept or initiated, then certainly he has to know what they are. Certainly the conflict of interest guidelines would be one that he has kept. I want to ask the Premier, in relation to backbenchers, who are not covered by conflict of interest guidelines, and particularly the member for Yarmouth, where the Premier has excused the actions of a President of R. Hurlburt Construction of applying for and getting that contract. Will he, since we have referred this to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner, if the commissioner finds that that action of the member was wrong, will he initiate disciplinary action against that member?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the question is entirely hypothetical because a close reading of the Members and Public Employees Disclosure Act of Nova Scotia indicates that the member for Yarmouth did absolutely nothing wrong.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is violating his own thinking, as far as the conflict of interest guidelines are concerned. He says, the Conflict of Interest Commissioner will have a say and that he is the arbiter. Now he is saying that he will not respect the Conflict of Interest Commissioner with respect to one of his backbenchers. I would want to say to the Premier, why is he making a complete separation between what he would do for the Cabinet and completely contrary arrangement for what he would do for his own backbenchers? Why are there two different standards?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows, because he has legal training, and if he would simply read the appropriate passages in the appropriate legislation, he would understand, as any reasonable person would, that the member for Yarmouth has done nothing wrong.

[Page 2258]

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

NSRL - DEBT ($740M): OPTIONS - DECISION

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Premier. The Premier, of course, will know that by the end of this calendar year, NSRL will have a debt of approximately $740 million. We appear to have two choices. One, we can sell it and eat the vast majority of that as a debt to the province or two, we can make the company more valuable, make it profitable so that it can pay off the debt that it currently has. My question to the Premier is, what choice has this government chosen on those options?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is very knowledgable on this file because it is one that I have watched him, over many months, follow very carefully and it is a very serious situation and a very big decision that this government will be making. While we are not prepared to discuss today what our decision will be, we are certainly, as a government, wrestling with that very big decision.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, of course the Premier will be very familiar with the proposal made by Mr. Livingstone, the former CEO, as to ways to make the company profitable, ways to turn it around. My question to the Premier is, has an evaluation of Mr. Livingstone's proposal been made and if not, when will the decision on his proposal be forthcoming?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, to the member for Sackville-Cobequid, the information that was provided by Mr. Livingstone will be included in the government's evaluation of what we should do with Nova Scotia Resources Limited.

[12:45 p.m.]

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, this Premier and his government have their own billion dollar decision to make. One of the suggestions as to a way to make Nova Scotia Resources Limited more valuable and therefore profitable would be to give it the gas distribution rights within Nova Scotia. The Premier, of course, will know that the URB has made a recommendation.

My question to the Premier is simply this, will the government be delaying making a decision on the granting of a gas distribution franchise until it has evaluated whether or not that may be a way to make Nova Scotia Resources Limited more profitable and therefore get rid of the huge debt that is hanging over that company and therefore all Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his helpful suggestion. The member and I obviously share some philosophical, political differences. One of those political differences is that we don't feel comfortable when government gets involved in what clearly should be a private enterprise.

[Page 2259]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

JUSTICE - HOME INVASIONS:

SENTENCES INCREASE - LEGISLATION INTRO.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Justice. This government has made many lofty promises regarding their stance on crime in this province. The Tory Party has not given much consideration as to whether their promises are actually in their jurisdiction or not, but nonetheless they have made some pretty strong promises. Media reports of violent home invasions are making Nova Scotian seniors very nervous. This government pledged to pursue stiffer sentences for home invasion and introduce legislation to that effect. My question to the minister is, what concrete steps has this minister taken to fulfil this very important election promise?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to report to the honourable member that Nova Scotia has today the toughest sentences in the country for home invasions. Furthermore, this government is committed toward keeping our platform commitment with respect to making sure that Nova Scotia stays the toughest place in the country with respect to home invasions.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians and seniors in this province are seeing what accountability means to this government. They sat six years in Opposition and said that the laws were not sufficient and they would change them. Nova Scotians and seniors, especially those affected by this, can't take much comfort in the minister's words. Nova Scotians demand action. This Party has made a very specific promise following six years in Opposition. My question to the minister is, when can Nova Scotians expect the minister to act, given the serious nature of the present situation in this province?

MR. BAKER: Again, I will thank the honourable member. I share his very deep concern with respect to the very serious problem of home invasion crimes. As we both know, these are terrible crimes which victimize and traumatize particular groups of people, in particular our seniors. We are absolutely committed to this issue. As the member honestly knows, our jurisdiction is in the administration of justice, and we intend to forcefully administer justice to ensure that this is the case.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, jurisdiction wasn't an issue for the Tories when they drew up the blue book, but now all of a sudden they are hiding behind it rather than doing what they promised Nova Scotians they would do. Members of this House know that for the second time in three days, residents in the Annapolis Valley have been affected by this horrible crime.

[Page 2260]

Given the Tory election promise and their statement of being open and accountable, will the Minister of Justice, before the end of this session, assure these residents that we will take every possible action to ensure their safety, including the implementation of his election promise?

MR. BAKER: I can assure the member opposite that the Public Prosecution Service of this province is deeply committed to protecting all Nova Scotians, and that in the event that people are convicted, as we obviously realize, Mr. Speaker, there is the small issue of the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but in the event that a perpetrator is convicted of an offense, I am sure that the appropriate action will be taken.

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

NSRL: OPPORTUNITIES LOST ($1B) - INVESTIGATE

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier. The Premier, I am sure, will have heard that today at the Public Accounts Committee we heard some very serious allegations surrounding NSRL. We heard about mismanagement and political interference from the former Liberal Government. Mr. Livingstone, the former President and CEO of NSRL, estimated that the total cost to Nova Scotians of the give-aways and lost opportunities could be approaching $1 billion. My question to the Premier is, has your government or will your government be completing a thorough investigation of those allegations?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Sackville-Cobequid for the question. As the member opposite knows, he was, and I wasn't, at the Public Accounts Committee this morning, I am not a member of that committee but I have heard that there was some very pointed testimony given at that meeting and we will be looking at it. Much of the information, however, has been known to the member opposite and members on this side of the House for some considerable period of time. Unfortunately, much of the money that has been lost by the management of that file is simply water under the bridge.

On the other hand, we will be looking at the information that was provided at the Public Accounts Committee this morning to see if there is a way in which the province can recapture some of those lost advantages.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that $1 billion is a little more than a little water under the bridge. I say to the Premier that he has some obligations. There were some extremely serious allegations levelled this morning. There were allegations made that the member for Lunenburg West, when he was the minister responsible, interfered with the sale of some tax pools and that he actually recommended to the president, the name of his own tax accountant. My question to the Premier, and I recognize that those are very serious allegations, will the Premier have the allegations that were made during the Public Accounts

[Page 2261]

Committee investigated by an independent investigator and have a full report made to this House on those allegations?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I will commit to and what this government will do, is look at the testimony that was provided this morning at the Public Accounts Committee. As I understand and as I had earlier said in a response to the member opposite, there were some very pointed points made relative to the activities of the previous government. This government will look at that testimony and it will do the appropriate things.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, to say that the allegations made were pointed is a very severe understatement. The Premier says that they will do the right thing. The only way that you can do the right thing is to have those allegations investigated and either have them discredited or have them verified.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. HOLM: I say to the Premier, will the Premier have those allegations investigated by an independent body to ensure that allegations are just not left hanging out there without the full attention that they deserve?

THE PREMIER: In response to the member opposite's preamble, I have often been called the master of understatement but the member opposite is the master of overstatement. What I will recommit to the member opposite is that the government will look at the testimony given and we will take the appropriate actions on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH: NURSES - HIRED (POST-ELECTION)

DR. JAMES SMITH: My question is to the Minister of Health. There is no question, Mr. Speaker, that the nursing profession requires attention and requires it now. Planning for the future needs and addressing the current nursing requirements are essential in order to provide stability in our nursing profession.

Mr. Speaker, one of the promises made by this government was to allocate $6.2 million to hire more full-time nurses. My question to the Minister of Health is, will the Minister of Health please confirm how many full-time nurses have been hired in Nova Scotia since election day, July 27, 1999?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I don't have the precise information I believe the honourable member wishes to have, but I will get that for him and give it to him as soon as possible.

[Page 2262]

DR. SMITH: I thank the honourable minister for that commitment because it is important. It is something that should be well-known and it is an election promise that we are monitoring. The Premier said you have honoured over 40 so the commitment of $6.2 million in hiring that number of nurses, we will be watching that. The commitment to provide a continuing supply of nurses is also crucial in order to provide stability in a nursing profession. Mr. Speaker, my question is, when will he be advising the nursing schools as to the number of additional training seats that they will be receiving that this government promised during the election? Not the previously announced seats by our government, but by your election promise, the additional nursing school seats promised to the nursing profession?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in response to his question, I can tell the honourable member for Dartmouth East that the department has a number of initiatives ongoing now to try to use some hard evidence to determine the number of nursing seats that would be needed in the province. When we have that evidence, then we will allocate the additional seats as needed.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, so we can look forward to that election promise being kept this year, hopefully, I would think and we will look forward to new announcements. My final supplementary is to the Premier. We are hearing about Ralph Klein's privatization, contracting out, and we know what a fan club it is between Harris, Klein, Lord - take away the tolls, Dear Lord - and Hamm and that connection, but on to the question of what is the plan of this government, following the leadership of Ralph Klein to privatize and contract out, for instance, nursing services in the long-term care and acute-care sector. Are the Health Minister, the Premier and the government actively considering privatization and contracting out of nursing services for the acute care and the long-term care sector?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, to the member for Dartmouth East, the plans that we have for health care and all other aspects of what this government hopes to achieve are contained very clearly in the blue book. I know the member opposite is very clear to it. That document was composed and put together long before the speech to which the member opposite referred, occurred.

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

JUSTICE - ABUSE ALLEGATIONS:

SHELBURNE SCHOOL - DOCUMENTS DISCOVERY

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. This morning we learned from a report on CBC Radio that the Department of Community Services has unearthed 7,000 boxes of new material relevant to the residential school's abuse. Despite a five year old government-wide search for relevant records, and despite a five year old RCMP investigation, somehow, somebody within the Department of Community Services forgot about 7,000 boxes of material. I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, will he explain to the members of this House, or will he determine an explanation for why five years of

[Page 2263]

investigation has overlooked 5,000 boxes of files relevant to one of the touchiest public justice issues in this province?

[1:00 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will refer that question to the Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: The boxes of files were never lost, Mr. Speaker. They remain at the Public Archives and they relate to records, as I understand it, from the Department of Community Services since it was formed in the 1920's.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I do not know what that answer was meant to do. Was it meant to dismiss the fact that all this new information has just been uncovered?

I want to go to the Premier on my first supplementary. People are watching in amazement that an avalanche of new material should turn up just as the RCMP investigation is reaching a stage where an announcement on charges is within reach. Clearly, there are too many coincidences here, half-truths, limited disclosures and other conflicts in this whole story. I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, does he not agree, and will he not explain to Nova Scotians that it is not good enough to have a department investigating itself on a matter that has gotten so complicated as this? Will he not agree that a public independent inquiry is the only thing that can get to the bottom of this matter?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite asked several questions. The answer to the first is, yes, I agree, and I would refer the answers of the other two questions to the Minister of Justice.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member opposite is under a fundamental misapprehension, and that is that the Government of Nova Scotia has not been cooperating with the disclosure of these documents; in fact it is quite the contrary. The RCMP have been cooperated with by the Department of Justice and, I believe as well, by the Department of Community Services throughout the investigation. There are no documents that have been lately discovered. The RCMP have made an investigative decision to look at these documents, which they are entitled to do. That is up to the RCMP. It is up to them to determine what they want to look at and how long they want to take to look at it. That is the way police investigations work.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, from any point of view what happened at Shelburne before and since is a human tragedy, and it is a human tragedy arising from the actions of government. I want to ask the Premier why he will not let a public inquiry get to the bottom of this matter and give people the answers that they so desperately need?

[Page 2264]

THE PREMIER: The member opposite and his colleague, who as well has asked questions on this issue, really cause us to wonder why, when initially they were so adamant that the payment-without-proof process would go on, now suddenly they have had a complete reversal that that is not the process that they want to support. I would ask that the Minister of Justice provide an answer to the member opposite.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, this government is committed to this. This government is equally committed to a full and independent review of the process. The member opposite will be, I am sure, pleased to see in the very near future that the government will act on that commitment and I am sure he will be very satisfied with the process.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

HEALTH - BUCHANAN MEM. HOSP.: NURSES - RECRUIT

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Health. The minister is aware that the official opening of the Buchanan Memorial Hospital is taking place in Neil's Harbour on Saturday, an opening that is taking place because of the results of work done under the previous Liberal Government. However, there is a serious issue at the Buchanan Memorial Hospital that may change the mood of the people attending this event. This facility has a chronic shortage of nurses; nurses are working extra shifts just to ensure that a nurse can take a vacation or if a nurse calls in sick.

My question to the minister today, Mr. Speaker, is, will the minister commit immediately to working with the Eastern Regional Health Board, and his department's new nursing advisor, to implement a new recruitment campaign to increase the complement of nurses at Buchanan Memorial Hospital?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for that question. As the honourable member knows, the nursing complement for the Buchanan Memorial Hospital, like other hospitals, is determined by the appropriate regional health authority, and I will certainly draw that concern to the regional health authority, probably before Saturday, because I am going there on Saturday.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, this is a crisis situation. Yesterday I spoke with Heather Henderson of the Nurses' Union, and also this morning I spoke with senior staff at the hospital. Doctors are trying to help where they can; nurses are reporting in sick, sometimes leaving sick children at home; counsellors have been called in to provide stress counselling for the nurses that remain on staff. My question to the minister is, will the minister commit to meet with the staff on Saturday at the hospital with an intent to immediately invest some $6.2 million that his government committed during the election campaign, for full-time nursing positions at this hospital?

[Page 2265]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, he asked a number of questions there and, certainly, if the opportunity presents itself on Saturday, I would be pleased to meet with representatives of the nurses. We are on a bit of a tight schedule, but if the opportunity does present itself, I certainly will.

In answer to the second part of his question, in the Department of Health, I have tried to avoid micro-managing hospitals, as the minister, but as I said earlier, we will certainly discuss the concerns with the appropriate regional health authority and hope that some resolution can be reached.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for the commitment that he will talk to the staff on Saturday. Not only is the complement of nurses low, this hospital has just lost the services of an LPN. The Eastern Regional Health Board says that they don't have the money in their budget to replace this LPN.

Mr. Speaker, my question is, given the dire situation at this hospital, will this minister commit immediately to providing the necessary financial resources to the Eastern Regional Health Board to replace this LPN?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, again to the honourable member, why there are not more nurses on staff at the Buchanan Memorial Hospital, I am not entirely sure. I expect the Eastern Regional Health Board is managing that quite well, and I think I would be pretty convinced to say that if there are not nurses there, it is not because the board doesn't have the money. This government did put an extra $150 million into acute care, including sufficient money, we believe, to hire new nurses. So, I tend to think that may be simply one portion of the story.

MR. SPEAKER: I would just remind the members that long preambles in supplementaries are taking away time from other members who may want to ask questions, so I would appreciate it if you would shorten the supplementaries up.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

JUSTICE - ABUSE ALLEGATIONS:

SHELBURNE SCHOOL - PUBLIC INQUIRY

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Minister of Justice. With respect to the investigation into abuse at residential schools. The minister has said today that he is going to conduct a review on the compensation process. Yesterday he said, and I quote from Hansard, "This government is committed to having a full and complete review of what happened at that facility, and to have that report made public . . .".

[Page 2266]

Mr. Speaker, I want to clarify what it is, exactly, that this minister is going to do. Will he, or will he not, set up a public inquiry into what really happened at the Shelburne school, including how it was handled by senior bureaucracy and the government of the day?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, our commitment is to conduct a full and complete review of the compensation process at the Shelburne School for Boys. The exact terms of reference are not going to be written here on the floor of the Legislature but I can indicate to the member opposite that those terms of reference will be full and complete so we will get the answers that Nova Scotians are looking for.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is clear now that the minister has no commitment to a public inquiry into what happened at the Shelburne school. He has said that he is going focus on the process. Yesterday the Minister of Justice suggested one of the main reasons for not holding a public inquiry is the cost. Let's be grateful that this minister wasn't in charge when we needed an inquiry into the wrongful conviction of Donald Marshall or Westray. I want to ask the Minister of Justice, will he not appreciate the reason why we need a public inquiry, the powers and safeguards of a public inquiry and ensure that an inquiry is ordered into this matter?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, you know the honourable member's new found interest in an issue of which he had no interest at all until the CBC did a documentary, I remind the honourable member that it has been the Progressive Conservative Party that have an interest in this issue, that it is the Progressive Conservative Party that has been pushing this issue and it is the Progressive Conservative Party that will ensure that this issue is fully investigated.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it was the Progressive Conservative Party that campaigned in Shelburne, promised the citizens of Shelburne that they, if elected, would ensure that there was a public, independent inquiry held into this matter and you are not keeping your promise. That is the issue going on right here.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: When historians look back at this sad . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . . stage, this sad chapter in the history of this province, this minister's name . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . . is going to be added to a long list of Tory and Liberal ministers . . .

[Page 2267]

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, what will it take for you to recognize that nothing less than a full public inquiry, which is what you and the member for Shelburne promised, nothing less than that will lay the ghosts of Shelburne to rest?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to the commitment that we made in the blue book and I will read that commitment into the record for the information of the honourable member. We are undertaking, "a review of the Compensation Program for victims of institutional abuse to ensure the process is fair and upholds the rights of both the victim and the accused.". That is what we will do.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

EDUC. - TEACHER (L'POOL-DR. J.C. WICKWIRE SCHOOL): INVESTIGATION - OUTCOME

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Recently there was an incident at the Dr. J.C. Wickwire School in Liverpool where a teacher was alleged to have pushed a child. Several parents of children in that teacher's classroom pulled their children out of school for a period of time. These parents have started a petition to have the teacher removed from that school. The petition will be presented to the Southwest Regional School Board at its next meeting on November 23rd in Yarmouth. My question to the minister is, is the minister aware of this situation and what action is the Department of Eduction taking concerning this matter?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes, I am aware of the situation and I have a copy of the petition. The Department of Education takes the position that people, including teachers, are innocent until proven guilty.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the government, during the election campaign, promised - and I guess it now infamous, I guess my buddy is not here, so the infamous blue book - that they would bring in a code of conduct for teachers and students. My supplementary question to the minister is, when will the minister make this code of conduct available to the members of this House and to all Nova Scotians?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the new code of conduct that we promised will be available in the next session.

[Page 2268]

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union has developed an anti-violence library and has been a leader in the field of non-violent and peaceful school environments. As well, parent groups and student associations have been active in making our schools peaceful places for students and teachers. My final question to the minister is, has the minister consulted with representatives of these groups to help with the drafting of a code of conduct for teachers and students?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes, all groups in their various ways to help make schools safe and peaceful will be consulted in the development of this code of conduct.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax-Chebucto.

JUSTICE - ABUSE ALLEGATIONS:

SHELBURNE SCHOOL - INDEPENDENT REVIEW

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the honourable Minister of Justice. The minister is suggesting he will set up an independent review of events at Shelburne. Of course, what he is setting up are the circumstances that will guarantee failure. No one will be satisfied, mainly because of the limited mandate. He persists in calling this an independent review, independent of government. If it is independent of government, will the minister tell us who is advising him about how to set up his review?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I am sorry, I didn't catch the question.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Halifax-Chebucto repeat the question, please.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the minister has told us that the review that he is proposing will be completely independent of government. My question was, if it is independent of government, will the minister tell us who is advising him about how to set up this review?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, when I indicated the review would be independent of government, I am indicating that the person conducting the review would not be a member of the government; it would not be an internal investigation. It would be conducted by someone who is not part of the government, who has credentials that are above reproach.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, make no mistake, what we actually want, of course, is nothing less than a public inquiry. If the minister persists, I have another "who" question, and maybe this time the minister will answer. Will the minister guarantee that if he persists in this

[Page 2269]

kind of limited review that it will be conducted by a serving or retired judge, and that that person will come from outside the province? Will the minister guarantee that?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, what I will guarantee, as I indicated earlier, is that the person will have credentials that are above reproach. On the issue of a public inquiry, I would like to table, for the benefit of the members, a copy of a clipping where the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party was clearly advocating no public inquiry.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the minister has been very persistent in trumpeting the merits of this so-called review that he is proposing to set up. What we wonder is how the person who conducts this review will be able to get all the information that is required. What we wonder is how it will be fair. What powers will this independent reviewer be given?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that the person conducting the review will have the appropriate powers to allow the investigation to be full and thorough. The honourable member will simply have to be patient. In the next number of days the government will announce the terms of reference of the review and will indicate the powers and the name of the reviewer. Please be patient.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

TOURISM - ADVERTISING (U.S.): NEGATIVITY - IGNORED

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Tourism. As was stated in the House yesterday, tourism is worth $1.27 billion; however the minister has taken a hands-off approach when it comes to unfair attacks against Nova Scotia by American media. The International Wildlife Coalition is telling tourists from the United States not to visit Nova Scotia because of the East Coast seal hunt. My question to the minister is why is the minister refusing to defend Nova Scotia against this negative advertising campaign?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. Of course it is a concern to me and to my department. We have had correspondence from the International Wildlife Coalition but we will not be sending a response back to them. There is nothing to show that there will be any detrimental results on tourism in Nova Scotia as a result of what is being said.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, one of the 243 promises that was made by the Progressive Conservatives is to determine the true value of tourism in Nova Scotia. The minister and the Premier do not feel that tourism is really of much value because of the fact that this media, this anti-Nova Scotia approach to commercials, would not hurt tourism. My question. Since the Tories have not fulfilled their promise to find out the true value of tourism, how can the minister predict that these ads will not hurt tourism in the Province of Nova Scotia?

[Page 2270]

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, again there is nothing to show that that will be detrimental to tourism in Nova Scotia. He refers to the tourism economic impact model, and there is one in place, which was done in 1996. If there are ever any changes to that, it will be done with my department and the Department of Finance, as well as other departments.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, as the minister pointed out, 1996 was the last time something was done with regard to that. It is like the 243 promises, many of them are Liberal initiatives that they are taking credit for. The reality is that they promised that they would do a new program and they haven't. According to the media publications that we have, the minister promised to consult with Ottawa about the anti-Nova Scotia commercials that are being broadcast in the United States. Can the minister give this House an update on the status of those consultations with Ottawa with regard to this American negative advertising against Nova Scotia?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of the correspondence that you are referring to, but if I have the chance to take a look at it I will certainly get back to the member and let him know.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

JUSTICE - ABUSE ALLEGATIONS:

SHELBURNE SCHOOL - PUBLIC INQUIRY

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to note for the record that I am a very patient person, but you know it is the victims at Shelburne and it is those who are falsely accused who are running out of patience, especially those who live in the Shelburne area who were promised in the recent election that there would be a public inquiry.

My question for the Minister of Justice is as follows. Yesterday, he tried to suggest to us that one of the reasons for not holding a public inquiry was that it might compromise ongoing police investigations. I say that statement is nonsense and I ask the minister, explain to us exactly how a public inquiry could possibly compromise police investigations or prosecutions?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: As the honourable member will know, during the Westray Inquiry, the Supreme Court of Canada indicated that while it was quite legal for inquiries to take place during a criminal investigation, or criminal trial, that if it had to be done it could be done at the risk of compromising the right of the accused person to a fair trial and, under those circumstances, it could prejudice a criminal investigation.

[Page 2271]

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, that was hardly the answer I am looking for. I am aware of all the jurisprudence. I know the Starr case, I know the Nelles case, I know the Evidence Act, I know the provisions in the Charter, and I have read the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Westray from 1995. What they said was that there are lots of opportunities to allow both criminal prosecutions and public inquiries to go forward.

What I want is for the minister to say to us that he will go back, read this case, and then come back here and tell us that he withdraws his statement that it is impossible to go forward with a public inquiry because they might compromise police investigations.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. I don't believe I ever indicated it was impossible. I indicated to the member that my concern was that whatever investigation went forward, that it would in no way, shape or form compromise a criminal investigation of either abuse or fraud.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, now it sounds as if he is worried about even his own inquiry that he is thinking of setting up on his own. What I want is the minister to recognize that there are abundant safeguards available in the law right now from in camera hearings to temporary publication bans to temporary bans of the findings, and that there is no barrier to holding the public inquiry.

Will the minister not agree that there is no barrier, of the sort he mentioned, to holding a public inquiry?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, for the life of me I cannot understand the honourable member. I have made it abundantly clear to the honourable member that the issue here is quite simple, that whatever review is conducted it cannot compromise criminal investigations. I intend whatever review is structured to be satisfactory so that there is no question of compromising criminal investigations.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

ENVIRON. - DUMPING ILLEGAL:

BLACKHAWK CONSTRUCTION - FINDINGS

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of the Environment. All members of this House and Nova Scotians have heard the pleas of the Tory member for Sackville-Beaver Bank asking for stronger laws against illegal dumping and storage of garbage.

My question to the minister is will the minister confirm the findings of his staff as to an inquiry into the property of Blackhawk Construction, partly owned by the member for Eastern Shore?

[Page 2272]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, in response to a call to the Department of the Environment by the member for Richmond, the Department of the Environment did go out and take a look at a piece of property.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the findings as recently reported by the Department of the Environment staff was that of chairs, three 45 gallon drums, an old water heater, a mattress and bags of wires on the property owned by the MLA for Eastern Shore. Will the minister confirm what actions your department has taken to have the immediate removal of these items and this blatant violation of environment laws here in this province?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, there were no toxic materials in the materials that were on the property. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. The time for Question Period has expired. (Interruptions) I am sorry. Order, please.

The honourable Minister of the Environment.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. I inadvertently said that the time for Question Period had expired when actually it should have been 1:39 p.m. I will add an extra minute on, which will make it 1:40 p.m. You can answer the question from the honourable member for Richmond. (Interruptions)

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the Department of the Environment investigated and they requested that the material be removed within a period of seven days.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the Department of the Environment staff told the member for Eastern Shore that he had one week to remove this garbage and put it in a landfill or he would be charged under the Environment Act.

Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is to the Premier of this province. You have heard the statements of the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank asking for Nova Scotians to stop illegal dumping and storage of garbage here in this province. Today you brought in a code of conduct for your ministers. How can you justify to Nova Scotians the continual and blatant violations of Nova Scotian laws by members of your own government? (Interruptions)

[Page 2273]

[1:30 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I heard from the Minister of the Environment is that an order has gone out from the department and I would expect the member for Eastern Shore, as would all law-abiding Nova Scotians, to comply with the order from the Department of the Environment. (Interruptions)

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

HEALTH - CARE: SERV. - PRIVATIZATION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Alberta Government has introduced a plan to contract out services, including surgery, to private hospitals. Premier Klein, a Tory, claims that this is the best way to get waiting lists and high costs under control. Nova Scotians should be concerned about this precedent set by this disregard for the principles of universality and equal access mandated by the Canada Health Act. When questioned in the House about privatizing health care services, this province's Premier would not rule it out. I want to ask the Premier, what assurances can you offer Nova Scotians that your government won't introduce a Ralph Klein style, pay-as-you-go health care system in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: While I totally disagree with the preamble that the member opposite preceded his question with, I will answer the question. I will say that Nova Scotia is committed to the Canada Health Act. (Applause)

MR. DEXTER: That is a Kleinism, Mr. Speaker. As a partner in Canada's social union, the Nova Scotia Government has a right and a duty to ensure that the Canada Health Act is upheld and that other provinces do not compromise the principles of Medicare.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber and you can't hear the question.

MR. DEXTER: I agree. As a partner in Canada's social union, the Nova Scotia Government has a right and a duty to ensure that the Canada Health Act is upheld and that other provinces do not compromise the principles of Medicare. Will the Premier write to the federal Minister of Health and encourage him to take the issue of Alberta's privatization of health care services to the Dispute Resolution Tribunal established under the social union?

THE PREMIER: My first comment is that I would urge the Leader of the New Democratic Party to move the member opposite to the front row so we can hear him better. My second comment to the question is, because obviously the member opposite and the New Democratic Party have run out of issues for us to solve here in Nova Scotia, so now they want to make things better in Alberta. (Applause)

[Page 2274]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, if one province compromises the universality and equality of health care, how long will it take before our other Premiers decide, too bad, to market Medicare. The Premier made an election campaign promise to make health care his number one priority. Will the Premier contact Premier Klein to urge him to reconsider the plan to privatize health care and prove to Nova Scotians that this government's priority is public and equal health care, not health care for profit?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if there is anybody in this country right now that I envy, it is Premier Klein because he had a $2 billion surplus in his last quarter.

I am not just really sure what the member hopes to achieve by his question, but I will assure the member opposite that what we have indicated to the people of Nova Scotia, as to our plan to rebuild the health care system in this province, will occur.

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

EASTERN SHORE MLA - CONFLICT OF INTEREST

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, this government brings forward conflict of interest guidelines, has the audacity to say they are going to respect the conflict of interest commissioner, and even before the very Question Period is over, they are not applying their own rules. They are finding excuses as to why their own members can break the law. I want to know from this Premier, how can he possibly condone the actions of the member for Eastern Shore in dumping garbage in his own backyard in contravention of the laws of this province? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I totally agree that the environment has to be protected, as do all members of this caucus, and we will comply as members on this side, to any order from the Department of the Environment, but in conclusion to my answer, I can only say for the benefit of those on this side I hope because of the seriousness of the attack by the Leader of the Liberal Party that none of us ever get a parking ticket. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: The laws of this province are one thing, applying a double standard to the people of Nova Scotia is quite another, from zoning to the breaking of the laws by members of his own caucus, while saying that is not something the people of Nova Scotia, who are not members of his own caucus, can do is quite another. Mr. Speaker, why, when the Premier must have known, as everybody in the Eastern Shore has known, that this was going on, has he not condemned the actions of the member for Eastern Shore?

[Page 2275]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that all members of this caucus, if they were to receive a directive from the Department of the Environment, will comply as would any law-abiding Nova Scotian.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the laws of the Province of Nova Scotia have to be obeyed by everyone. People in public life cannot consider themselves above the law. Evidently Tories consider themselves above the law.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the Premier of this province has got to set a better example than to compare the dumping of garbage unlawfully to parking tickets in this province.

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

MR. MACLELLAN: When is he going to start setting an example for the people of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the example continues on a day-to-day basis because I believe that the member for Eastern Shore will comply with the directive from the Department of the Environment as would any law-abiding Nova Scotian.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham, you have about 10 seconds.

The time for Question Period has expired again.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think it is necessary for me to rise today to discuss the issue that is fuelling the excitement, or the fetish that the (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. I would like to hear the honourable member before I decide if it is a point of order or not.

MR. DOOKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Once again I will start over. It is important for me to rise today so I can give some explanation to the members who sit in this House to address the fetish which the member for Richmond has towards the member for the Eastern Shore. In this House over the past number of days, the Opposition has cried out to the

[Page 2276]

backbenchers to rise and to speak. Well, I wish they would give me my opportunity now to speak on this issue. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I want an opportunity to explain the situation. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member has risen on a point of order. Would he make the point.

MR. DOOKS: Well, the point of order is, the member for Richmond has not fully explained the whole briefing to the House which would mislead the members of this House and the people of Nova Scotia on the interpretation of the briefing that has been given from the Department of the Environment. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, it is reflective of the type of people who sit across here, who represent their people. I ask for the opportunity to speak. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Obviously it is a dispute between two members and I will ask the honourable member to take his seat. It is not a point of order. (Interruptions)

Order, please. Order.

Sit down. I ask the honourable member to take his seat.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Sit down.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 2277]

[1:42 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mr. Brooke Taylor in the Chair.]

[4:40 p.m. CWH on Bills 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 Bills reports:

THE CLERK: That committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 11 - Foresters Association Act.

Bill No. 21 - Pharmacy Act.

Bill No. 22 - Chiropractic Act.

Bill No. 25 - Justice Administration Amendment (1999) Act.

and the chairman has been instructed to recommend these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.

Also, Mr. Speaker, that the committee has met and considered the following bill:

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

and the chairman has been instructed to recommend this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

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

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. 20.

[Page 2278]

Bill No. 20 - Emergency "911" Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I adjourned the debate just as I was going to say that I will be voting in favour of this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this is an interesting little piece of subterfuge that we have here in front of us. I will be speaking in favour of the amendment to hoist this bill, to delay it for a six month period, which will allow us an opportunity to have a sober, second look at certain aspects of this bill, specifically the user fees or the none-too-subtle taxation increase measures that are a central feature of this particular bill.

In the six month period when we have a chance to step back and really examine this legislation, perhaps we can have an opportunity to do a little consultation with various groups that would be impacted by such a piece of legislation, by the introduction of user fees and find out what the general feeling of the public is. The 911 service in Nova Scotia is one that often is the subject of discussion and concern and interest in a variety of settings.

First of all, I would like to look a bit at what the minister laid out for us, what was his intention in introducing this bill. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that not all aspects of this bill are objectionable, there are certain aspects of this bill that we certainly could see ourselves supporting, specifically, the Explanatory Note at the beginning says that, " This Bill will allow competitive local exchange carriers or other companies that provide local telecommunication services to be service providers under this Act . . .".

Now currently the situation is that MTT is the service provider for 911 services. That was the situation when there was the introduction of the province-wide 911 system, but since that time there are local carriers and the possibility of more competition in the system. These amendments I think are intended to allow for a variety of enterprises and interests to compete and have an opportunity to provide these services.

[4:45 p.m.]

In fact, that may be a very good thing, Mr. Speaker, and it may be an approach that could result in a more efficient and effective system in competition. When it is truly competition, it can result in savings for consumers as we all know. So this would not be such a bad idea if we were to take this approach. However, the reason we do not like the fees that are being proposed here as the final measure (Interruption)

[Page 2279]

The minister says there are no fees being proposed but, you know, members on this side can read as well as members on that side. This bill very clearly refers to fees. It says that the current legislation is being amended so that any matters necessary or advisable for the establishment of fees to recover costs for any services or materials provided in the course of the administration of this Act or regulations is a central feature of what is being proposed here.

We just saw a province in this country - Alberta - get a little dispensation from the Canada Health Act so that private clinics in that province are able to, on the one hand, provide public health services, but at the same time say to people what you really need are enhanced services and the public system will give you this much, but if you can cough up $250, we will be able to provide you with an enhanced service. This kind of very subtle introduction of user fees into our health care system will eventually erode the system to the extent that you will have a two-tiered health care system; a health care system where people who have means are going to be able to access services and people who do not have the individual and private means are going to take a much diminished kind of system.

Always when we see user fees introduced into services that are basic and necessities in the health care system and in public services, we recognize that this is a feature of three things that are going on, Mr. Speaker. One thing that is happening here is the off-loading of the costs of public services onto individuals. That is something that is of great concern to us and something that we just do not find acceptable. Another thing that is occurring is what I have just referred to. It is the erosion of a universal, publicly-funded, accessible system into a system where user fees are a feature and people who have means are able to secure high quality services and people without are left with very basic services.

The third thing that occurs with the introduction of fees is that user fees are, and I think we all recognize this, they are an alternative to taxation. They are a way to raise revenues while maintaining a facade that it is not about taxes, it is something else. I do not know who people on that side of the House talk to when they talk about user fees, but they do not talk to the people in my riding because when I go door to door in the north end of Halifax and people talk to me about the amount of fees they pay, they are not fooled for one second about what user fees are. They recognize absolutely that it has been government's way to offload, download and tax them in another way, in a different manner.

People in my riding actually are saying, enough, no more user fees. Why do I pay my taxes? Why do I pay the HST? Why do I pay one of the highest marginal income tax rates in the country when all I see is this increase in user fees over and over and over. Every time people turn around, they have a new user fee being tapped on them, and now we are proposing to place user fees on people's distress, on people's need to have emergency response to automobile accidents, to having cardiac arrest, to having asthma attacks, or senior citizens who could be caught in an elevator. I am sorry, but this is not acceptable; this is totally unacceptable.

[Page 2280]

The minister may say that this is a measure that is being thought about for the future, but we know what he told members of the media outside when he had an opportunity to talk with the press and they asked him will you guarantee that you will not be putting user fees on 911, and his response was five months. Well, five months is not really very much of a future, to be a frank; it looks to me like it is right around the corner. So I think that we need to take some time to really think about what it is we are doing here, Mr. Speaker, and what the implications of this approach are and what they mean.

We have a health care system in this province and in this country that we used to be proud of. Canadians and Nova Scotians worked really hard to build a health care system that everybody would have access to regardless of whether they had money or they didn't have money. Our health care system is much more sophisticated now than it was in the mid-1960's let's say, when we saw the introduction of universal Medicare, and emergency response systems are an integral feature of a modern health care system. The 911 system is a very important feature of a modern health care system I would say, Mr. Speaker.

It may be true that under the Canada Health Act (Interruption) Well, the minister says, people from Antigonish with Tory backgrounds, how can they talk this way. It is very easy for people from Antigonish with Tory backgrounds to talk this way. I assure you that people from Antigonish with Tory backgrounds would expect me to stand here in my place to defend Medicare; they would absolutely expect me to stand in my place and protect health care in Nova Scotia. They would say, absolutely, user fees are a sneaky form of taxation, because they may be Tories and they may be from Antigonish, but they are not stupid, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

I can only hope that some day they will see the light politically and I will do my best to have those kinds of debates and I welcome those kinds of debates, and hopefully they will see the error of their political ways but, nevertheless, they understand that the introduction of user fees on a 911 service is going too far, Mr. Speaker. It is going way, way too far. It is absolutely wrong.

AN HON. MEMBER: The Tories in Kentville are saying the same thing.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I bet you they are. I bet you that Tories in Kentville are probably saying the same thing.

AN. HON. MEMBER: The Tories in Dartmouth South, too.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Yes and Tories in Dartmouth South are saying the same thing as well. I am sure they are shaking their heads about the beds to the Sisters of Charity in Antigonish, I'll tell you.

[Page 2281]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind the member that she should be speaking on the amendment.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, yes, absolutely. There are some other aspects of this bill that we could support. The minister has indicated, when he introduced the bill, that a certain feature of this bill would be to assist people with disabilities. Right now, persons with disabilities are prohibited from programming 911 into their telephones. I believe the rationale for that particular prohibition was to eliminate the potential for people accidentally hitting a button, making a call to 911 when they didn't need the service.

So I think that we now recognize that perhaps there are people who have particular situations and circumstances where it would be really advisable that they be able to access 911 fairly quickly. If this particular clause in this bill were to be introduced in a modified bill, let's say, without the provisions for user fees, then I think members of this caucus would probably be quite happy to support such a bill. As it currently stands, that support won't be forthcoming.

I am very pleased, Mr. Speaker, that we have rules and procedures in this House that allow members of the Opposition an opportunity to make amendments or to actually move the removal of a bill from the House for a period of time. I think that this government should take this opportunity to re-examine their approach to the 911 service. We have just gone through a period of five weeks or six weeks here where we have seen, on the part of government, a kind of keystone kop routine. I think members of the public are looking for some gestures from this government to indicate that maybe in the short period of time they have been the government and in the short period of time we have been here in the House, they have seen the error of their ways and they would like to make a break with a rather awkward and not too exemplary kind of beginning, and in some ways, wipe the slate clean and start over again.

Certainly, with respect to the health care system, and important services that relate to the health care system, I think it is fairly safe to say that Nova Scotians are watching this government fairly carefully and trying to figure out whether or not the hopes and aspirations they have for an improved health care system, which was so much a central feature of the election campaign debate, in fact will be realized as a result of the actions and activities of this government.

I would submit, Mr. Speaker, that this particular bill sends out a message that makes the public very nervous about where this government will go with respect to dealing with the health care concerns of Nova Scotians and the kinds of policies that they will implement to try to enhance and strengthen the health care system.

[Page 2282]

[5:00 p.m.]

Some people may feel that low charges, very low fees are not that big a deal. I think that most Nova Scotians have experienced the introduction of fees that have started out at a very modest rate but they never stay there, Mr. Speaker. This has been proven and established over and over again, that once you introduce fees, then they are there to be increased, to be added on to, to be utilized, to be exploited as a source of revenue in perpetuity. I can't remember, really, very many fees or any fees that have been introduced by a government that are then eliminated at some point in time. It seems that rather than the elimination of fees, they are only built on, they are added to, they are expanded, they are dealt with in a way that gets more and more money out of the pockets of the taxpayer.

I think we really have to be clear that if we go this route, if we allow this government to go this route, then we are not talking about fees that will be fixed forever. We will be talking about a mechanism then that will lead to who knows what, but we know it will lead to an increasing grab every time there is a budget. This will be a budget line and the bureaucrats will be getting the directives from their political masters to look at that line, to look at ways to increase the revenue. This will be a line that is there and we need to be very clear that that is the process of budget-making, that is the process of providing public services in this way, where user fees creep into the system. (Interruption)

I know the minister likes to say that it is not really the intention of his government to go there and, at the same time, say that really, it wasn't his idea, it was the idea of the former government. You know, I think the public doesn't really care whose idea it was, where the idea came from and whether or not it is going to happen in five months time or seven months time or 11 months time. What they really care about is that this is being introduced right now; there is a change that is coming and they want somebody to stop it. They want people here, on the Opposition side of the House, to stand up and say (Interruption) They want tax busters, that is right, they want somebody to stand up and say no, this is not the way to deal with your revenue problems.

We could start introducing user fees on so many things. Here we have decided to focus on an emergency service. This is incredible, that we would start at this place. So I think we have a little bit of fun when we have an opportunity to talk about these things from time to time, back and forth across the floor.

Let me tell you, introducing user fees in the health care system and on these kinds of services is no fun at all. It will not be fun particularly for people on the low end of the income scale. I don't have to remind members of this House that people on the low end of the income scale are the people whose numbers are growing in this society. The people who have the least ability to pay for public services are the growing group in our society. So we need to be very mindful of that situation, although I know that members of the government do not really want to be mindful of that situation.

[Page 2283]

I am remembering a resolution I introduced when, in fact, I asked that as they assume the power of government and the reins of government and they have an opportunity to introduce various measures, health, education, community services, that always as they do these things that they be mindful of the more disadvantaged groups in our society, the impact that their actions will have on these groups and the fact that these are the groups that have really been hammered in the past 20 years in terms of diminished growth in their incomes, a downloading of public services on them as individuals, an increase in user fees for everything, and they said no. They said no, Mr. Speaker, they said they were not really interested in approaching government in this way.

They were not really going to take into consideration the more disadvantaged groups as they went through this process, and that is truly a shame because I think there probably were people from some of the disadvantaged groups who voted for this crew. I am not sure how they feel now, knowing that their concerns are not going to be taken into consideration, that perhaps they are being perceived as only a special interest group and not a big interest group but I think, as my colleague said, the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, that very soon they will be a big interest group, probably the biggest interest group if they continue to grow at the rate that they have been growing.

I would encourage the minister and I would encourage members of his Party to take a look at this bill again, to hear the interventions of members from this side of the House, to remove this bill for a six month period, to open up the process to some public discussion, and to study the implications on the introduction of user fees on various groups. I would particularly like to know what would the implication of introducing these kinds of fees be for senior citizens.

I have talked before about the number of senior citizens whom I represent. I have in my riding nine senior citizens' manors. Many of these manors are actually owned and operated by the Province of Nova Scotia. Many of these manors were built in the 1970's. The rules to get into those buildings back in the 1970's were that you had to be 55 years of age or older, and a fair number of people moved into these buildings when they were 55 years old, 55, 56, 57.

Today many of those people still live in those manors, 20 and 25 years later. They are in their mid-80's, they are in their early 80's and, as is the case for people as they age, they do not get around as fast as they used to and they have some health problems. Certainly they are a group of people who rely quite heavily on the 911 service. Not in the summer election, but in the prior election . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: March 1998.

[Page 2284]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: In March 1998, that is right, which was a winter election, I had a situation when I was canvassing in one of those manors. When I knocked on a door, the voice from behind the door said, help me. I tried to get into the unit because this woman was saying, help me. Her door was locked. She had fallen, she was flat on the floor, the only person in her unit, by herself with a locked door. I couldn't get in. I went down the hall and tapped on a door where I had been speaking to a lady earlier, and nobody on that floor had a key to this lady's unit. There are no caretakers in these buildings, believe it or not.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where was this?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: This was in Gordon B. Isnor Manor on Cornwallis Street. There was a member of the maintenance staff who was downstairs mopping the front entranceway. I went down and I got him, and he did not have a master key to the units. We had to call, we called simultaneously, we called the Housing Authority and we called 911, because the woman was on the floor and she couldn't move, she couldn't get up.

Anyway, there was a happy ending to the story. We were able to get into the unit and get the lady up. She had had the flu and she was on a fair amount of medication as a result of having had the flu for a few days. (Interruptions) That is right. It was very good meeting; we have remained friends. (Interruptions) That is right. She was very helpful to me over the last year or so.

When I think about that situation, and I think about the importance of an emergency response service, a quick, efficient emergency response service, I know that senior citizens certainly are a group who very much rely on this service. They are also a group who have very little income. They are a group for whom the basic telephone service is a huge expense and a real drain on what are very small incomes. We have seen a shift in the cost of telephones in this province for local service in the last few years. It is much cheaper now to make long-distance phone calls than it is to make local phone calls, quite often. I am often shocked when I get my telephone bill and I see how much I am paying on a monthly basis for local service.

For people who have incomes that are moderate, middle incomes and higher incomes, a user fee of 20 or 25 cents a phone call may not be that big a deal. But let me tell you, to people for whom income has been fixed and has been taxed by a whole variety of user fees, this is one more tax on fairly limited income. This is certainly something that people should not have to have any anxiety around using. The 911 service needs to be there when people need it, and they shouldn't be in a situation where they are worrying about the user fees that could be associated with utilizing that service.

I think people with disabilities are certainly another group who would be very concerned about the implementation of user fees on a 911 service. I don't have to remind members of this House that in our family benefit system here in Nova Scotia, for example, probably 60 per cent to 66 per cent of the population who are in receipt of family benefits are

[Page 2285]

people with disabilities. Our family benefit system doesn't even give people the basic monthly allowance for a telephone, let alone a user fee to use a telephone. So I think that we should not be too hasty in dismissing the concerns that members of the Opposition have around the ability of people in Nova Scotia to assume yet another subtle tax, measure, done through this mechanism of a user fee.

[5:15 p.m.]

I think there are probably quite a few other groups that would be affected by the implementation of user fees on 911. Single parents, who are primarily mothers with young children, are also in a situation where they don't have telephones provided for them through their social assistance benefits, if they are on them. (Interruption) Exactly. Take this bill away for a six month period and look at whether or not the Minister of Community Services has any plans to introduce allowances to the disabled and to people on social assistance and to people getting Canada Pension disability so that they can have telephones and whether or not there is going to be revenue in the budget to support the user fees for 911 services. Let's take some time to look at that. That might be a very useful way to spend the six month period. It is certainly one of the things that we can have a look at.

Mr. Speaker, it would be really interesting to know exactly how many user fees we have in Nova Scotia, on what kinds of programs and services, specifically, who, what groups, what segments of the population are most likely to be impacted by the kinds of user fees we currently have. I am sure there is some very good Statistics Canada data that would help us determine which groups are most likely to be impacted by user fees, what income levels. What is the distribution of income levels among various groups that are impacted by user fees? We could look at what the historical trajectory of user fees is in a variety of ways. We could look, from their implementation to, maybe, a two year period to a five year period. What are the tendencies or the trends? Once a user fee is introduced, is it ever diminished in terms, or is this always this kind of escalation from period to period, as a way to increase revenues and to deal with inflationary pressures or deal with increased costs or whatever.

So I think these are all very important issues and they are issues that I am not sure have been explored by the minister. I had an opportunity to read the minister's statement when he introduced this bill and he certainly didn't indicate that there had been any sort of cost-benefit analysis done with respect to this measure. I have listened to the minister on a number of other things he has talked about and he talks a lot about outcomes and measurements and he uses a lot of the Harvard Business School jargon that seems to be so popular these days. If we just have the right techniques, it is all going to be okay. Well, maybe someday we will get the right techniques but I am not sure that it is the right techniques that are the problem, Mr. Speaker. I think that we have much bigger problems than a lack of objective measurements and a lack of techniques.

[Page 2286]

The kind of managerial approaches that seem so popular these days and that certainly have been used elsewhere a lot longer than they have been used in Nova Scotia, aren't finding the favour that they did when they were first introduced. Perhaps we can become better informed of what has happened elsewhere where they have adopted these kind of procedures and what the real impact has been and learn from other people's experience and other people's mistakes and not have to make our own mistakes. Sometimes, I guess, you just can't tell that to some people, you know. They have to learn the hard way and that may be the case here. I am sure hoping that we are not the ones who have to bear the burden of the need of the government members to have their own little learning experiment.

So, I am looking at the bill now and I am not sure that there are any other aspects of this bill that require comment. I guess there is one other aspect, now, just briefly as I look, there is a clause in the bill that is designed to allow emergency measures organizations and others involved in emergency service provisions to not be found liable, directly or indirectly, as a result of their involvement in a situation where they did everything properly and in accordance with established practices and procedures and what have you. This certainly isn't a provision that removes people's responsibility and their legal liability if they were negligent in the provision of services or carrying out their duties or obligations but certainly it doesn't hold people.

It would ensure that people who have done their very best, as people in these organizations for the most part set out to do, Mr. Speaker, that they would not bear the personal cost or the organizational cost for a tragedy or some kind of injury or damage to property or other economic loss that could occur. This seems to be a rather sensible provision in this bill and indeed, if it isn't in the current Act - it must not be or the minister would not have brought it forward - then this seems to be a very important change and a good change.

The minister should be commended for having the insight to bring forward this kind of an amendment because, you know, providing emergency services and this kind of work, it is difficult work. It is work in which the results are not always happy. There are not always happy endings when emergency crews and the members of those crews and agencies respond to whatever the situation is that they are called to respond to, be it an automobile accident, a fire, illness, a crime scene, whatever.

Sometimes in the course of carrying out these duties, certainly I would think that members of these organizations, they do the best they can, they have their procedures. These procedures may not always be well understood or indeed well accepted by members of the public with whom they are dealing, who, you know, Mr. Speaker, we have all been in situations where we have responded in a way that we have been trained to respond to a particular situation, but there is always somebody looking over your shoulder who knows how to do it better than you just did. They sometimes can cause you a lot of personal grief if they are absolutely committed to the fact that you should have done it the way they would have done it, even if you would have followed the procedures, the protocol, to the letter of

[Page 2287]

the law in the way you have been trained and based on the experience you have had in similar situations many times over.

Affording people in this situation some measure of protection to ensure that they are not found liable, directly or indirectly, for a claim arising out of such a situation when they have done their absolute utmost, I think is really important. So if the minister were to talk to his colleagues and encourage them to do the right thing and support the amendment that was put forward by my friend, the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, then we could remove the offensive section in the Act and we could allow those other provisions that are very sensible and that will improve the emergency service system in Nova Scotia to go forward, which is what I think we all would want.

What we all want is better emergency services. We want the 911 system to work as best as we can possibly make it work. But what we also want is to make sure that we don't start to differentiate between the services that people can get because they have the ability to pay and the services that people will never get because they don't have the ability to pay. I think the challenge for any Health Minister in this province today is not a challenge about how you can levy user fees on essential services, the challenge is to look at how you can actually expand health care and meet the needs of people whose needs are different today than they were a number of years ago.

That is the challenge, how to do that and how to maintain a universally accessible system in the process. It is not a challenge that is an easy challenge. Nobody in this House would deny how difficult a task that actually is, but nevertheless, that needs to be the vision. The vision needs to be how do we expand this system to meet the current needs and maintain a universally accessible system so that we don't start to go down the path that Ralph Klein is well on his way down. (Interruption)

It is true. The minister says I don't know Mr. Klein and that is absolutely true. I haven't met the Premier of Alberta and I have absolutely no interest in meeting the Premier of Alberta. However, I know a fair amount about what Mr. Klein has been doing in terms of health care. We all know what he has been doing in terms of health care in the country. His single-minded, neo-conservative ideology is doing more to undermine a universal health care system in this country than any other politician in this country for the last 25 years and he should be ashamed of himself. This is the same man who, before he was Premier of Alberta, made his views of eastern Canadians very well known, Mr. Speaker. Do you remember that? Do you remember what he had to say about people in eastern Canada?

[5:30 p.m.]

I think what the Premier of Alberta is doing to the health care system, not only in his province but the implications of what he is doing in his province, has for every other province in this country is actually not something to be joked about, Mr. Speaker. It is something that

[Page 2288]

we need to be really concerned about, very vigilant around and absolutely refuse to allow that kind of approach to health care to enter into this province.

I think there is some evidence that the seeds of universal health care, in fact, are not in the Province of Saskatchewan but, in fact, are on the Island of Cape Breton and that the early coal mining unions and the coal miners really had a lot to do with the fight and the introduction for universal principles of health care coverage. So I think we have a heritage in this province with respect to health care coverage for people, that we should be very proud of, we should be more aware of and certainly at this point in our political lives we need to be more vigilant about the introduction of user fees that come anywhere near our health care system and the quality of care that people will need in the health care system.

I see that my time is coming to an end. Oh, I have ten minutes? Oh, thank you very much. Well, I think that in spite of the fact that I know my Leader and my colleagues would like to hear from me for the next 10 minutes, I think I am going to pass on that opportunity, as I have outlined basically the things that I have to say on this bill. I know that what I have said in 50 minutes has probably had an impact on the minister. I look forward to his voting on this amendment. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, thanks for the opportunity to speak to Bill No. 20, a tax act basically introduced here to - we are talking on the amendment, are we, to hoist? Yes, reflect and - well, I don't know if there is any hope for this, really, I just think we have to deal with it up front anyway, but we will speak to this matter. It introduces several initiatives, some of which are supportable. There was no bill briefing, it was sort of brought forward without too much fanfare and with very little description, really, of what the last part of the bill, Clause 7, Subsection 14 (1), "(ea) respecting any matter necessary or advisable for the establishment of fees to recover costs for any services or materials provided in the course of the administration of this Act or the regulations;".

So I will confine my comments to matters relative to the six months' hoist; whether that can really improve the bill or not, that remains to be seen.

It was mentioned by the minister that the MTT charge would be relevant and that they had to answer to their partners and to their shareholders. I would say in answer to that that this government also has to answer to the taxpayers and any increase, however little, on a service that is an integral part of the health care system will be viewed in a negative way. We have the issues of privatization, certainly dealing with other carriers here, other companies, but we also look at the issue of contracting out services and the issue of user fees.

[Page 2289]

I know the Premier is in favour of user fees, he stated that quite clearly, but I would suggest - and I will address this further when we are addressing the issue of hoisting the bill for six months - that I don't see this as a user fee. It is not clear how it would be, who would be affected, but it certainly would be added to the phone bill and it would mostly likely impact on others other than those using the service, it may well be businesses and others. There is the issue of liability here, and coverage for new carriers. I think that is certainly supportable.

My main reason for supporting the amendment is the initiative relative to hoisting the bill in order to give a clearer hearing what regulations may come in to administer this Act, because there will be regulations under the Act that would determine how this tax is administered, increased costs on the 911 service, who it would apply to, how it may impact on small business or large businesses or whatever.

In addressing it further, I want to just say that I can't honestly believe how the government can take such a positive initiative as 911 and start to dismantle it, to botch the system up that has been so well and hard fought for. Of all the components of the health care system, this is certainly one that very few complaints are made about. There were some initially, until the functioning was streamlined and the kinks worked out of that system, but we have a complete province now, a complete jurisdiction in Nova Scotia that is served by 911, and that is unique to the country.

Some of the amendments, as I mentioned, are merely housekeeping, to update the language and to further strengthen the exemptions of the liability clause, but a few of the amendments do warrant comments as we speak on this amendment. I don't think there is anyone in the House who would dispute the intent of the amendment which would allow competitive local exchange carriers, or CLECs as they are known or referred to, or other companies that provide local telecommunication services to be service providers under the Act.

I think that is accepted generally. My concern here would be the level of the provision of service. I would have questions on that. Today we have MTT, a Maritime company providing the 911 service to the people of Nova Scotia. Members of this House would agree that our government moving forward with the 911 system was just one of the many positive initiatives undertaken by our government.

You only have to look at the rates. I will refer to the quality in upper New York State - where we see an abundance of these community local exchange carriers - to know what happens to the rates in times of intense competition. In this particular area, upper New York State, the service has gone down, it is the consensus of opinion, and costs have gone up. In some areas basic service costs there are $72 a month. With the advent of the local carriers, there is also more effort to accommodate more players on the 911 system, more people want to get involved and there is a tendency to accommodate that.

[Page 2290]

What impact this will have on administrative costs also remains to be seen. I don't know if the honourable minister has some studies on this or what evidence he may have or whether there is a knowledge of how these extra players will in fact impact on the quality of the service, the provision and also the cost, and who in fact will pay for those costs or increased tax, really, on the service.

In terms of rates, the CRTC will play a role. This has been mentioned by the minister and was in the press release that was circulated. But, as legislators, we really don't have control over this. We must, however, have control over the legislation here today and so we have a responsibility, as an Opposition, to address this particular issue. We have to ensure that the quality of service remains top notch. It has been hard fought. It has not been an easy job to bring in emergency health services, the ambulance services throughout the province, to integrate 52 previous separate businesses under one roof, one provider and to complement that by a dispatch system and a 911 system. We have fought too hard. It is a recent victory. It has been a very positive service through a very difficult experience and it is no time to start dismantling and just detracting from that particular service at this juncture. Mr. Speaker, I will come to further comments on that particular issue as to why I feel very strongly about that.

Another amendment, Mr. Speaker, the bill enables the disabled persons, with written permission from the minister, to speed dial to access 911. We are in favour of this amendment, of course, anything that would help disabled persons access the system. It may be difficult to enforce and there may be some problems in this. There has certainly been concerns on that. Everyone here in the House today can use speed dial to access 911 and there is no switching mechanism that enables some people to use speed dial and others not to use the speed dial. The original concern with regard to speed dial was that people could hit the speed dial button accidentally, children playing with phones, or finding the appropriate speed dial button could take longer than actually dialling 911. So that is an issue, but, hopefully, it will be well thought out and will be a fail-safe procedure.

Like many pieces of legislation in the bill, Mr. Speaker, there are gaping holes in terms of how this might be enforced. I mentioned this earlier. We are assuming that the enforcement will be left up to regulations and this always causes concern. We see gaping holes in some of the legislation coming forward with the adoption bill. The Opposition Parties have to query the leaving aspects, very important supportive, resource support, to legislation to be written a later time in regulation and, obviously it will impact on very important parts of supports for this bill.

Perhaps the most distasteful amendment of this entire bill is the amendment to authorize the recovery of costs associated with the administrative services. Again, as a government, they are leaving a hole here, Mr. Speaker, that will leave the setting of those rates and who will be included to regulation and I just voice my concerns about that. Would it apply to everyone? First and foremost, I must remind all members of this House and the people of

[Page 2291]

Nova Scotia that this government raised the administrative costs of the 911 system by about $100,000 since the June budget and we have information to that extent. (Interruption)

Okay, well, it is still administrative costs that the Premier was going to fix the system, save $46 million out of the health care administrative system to fix the system. But we are chipping away at it and here we go. So we see this bill coming forward with increased costs to Nova Scotians. We see the adoption bill coming forward with increased costs. We have just reduced and took away the costs for search and disclosure on the adoption bill. We see that bill coming in with increased costs. We see this bill coming in with costs and we are really seeing, as we speak in terms of the neo-conservative Klein Administration in Alberta and some of the other provinces, speaking in terms, not afraid to really touch on privatization, contracting out and those other services that really dismantle the health care system. This one is here, stuck on the end of this bill, but very clearly showing the red flag of an increased cost to health care across the board and not a user fee.

[5:45 p.m.]

When the government, Mr. Speaker, begins to recoup these costs, we will remind all people of how the government said they would lower administration costs in government, only to raise them in four short moths. I will repeat, $100,000 administration of 911. I suppose there is an explanation of that. Maybe there are more people, but it is still an administrative cost however you cut the pie and that is where the money was going to come from to fix the health care system. Now we see it increasing. So now they are going to make up the administrative costs by levying new fees on 911.

The second point to make here is that recouping these administrative costs is not a user fee as the Premier would indicate. That is to be determined, but it has been spoken of that user fees would be difficult to administer and there will probably be most likely across the board or at least within the residential fee, or maybe the business fee, maybe large businesses, small businesses, that will be levied on them; so an increase in tax on that. A user fee is a fee charged if someone, you or anyone else, uses a service and this is more like a tax and I come back to that.

What this bill is proposing is the ability to charge all people with an amount to cover the administrative costs. While that may seem fair, it also impacts greatly on the lower income person. The honourable member for Halifax Needham mentioned seniors, disabled persons, single mothers and I would just echo that. So it is really nothing more than a tax, is really what we see, no bill briefing, it suddenly arrives, tacked on at the end of the bill - a tax. The government plans to carry through with this tax. There is no question on that. They are not going to give in to this and, after all, why would you insert the clause if you are not going to use it.

[Page 2292]

The minister said in the scrum outside - he was changing his tune - but he did say that it would be at least five months. Well, that sounds like budget time to all of us. I do not want to repeat that. He is tired of hearing that I am sure, but we are going to remind him of that, why put it in the bill. You could pull it out and bring it in the spring maybe if that is going to be part of your budget and then that will be open, we will see it more balanced. We will see where you are going to find that $46 million in administration next spring and fix the health care system. You will not have to really put that $208 million in that you put in extra this year, that you criticized our government for doing, a proposal that you did vote down, in all fairness.

How you do this and how you plan to charge the households, if you do this in amount charged, you will be over the amount that you originally stated it would be. Remember just the past week you were assuring the public the cost would be less than $1.00 a year. That remains to be seen and I will believe that when I see it. Will businesses be included in this extra tax cost? It is very complicated and increases taxes to businesses. I will bet Premier Hamm did not mention that to the chamber of commerce last week when he was speaking. I do not know how Peter O'Brien might feel about that. He is out here frequently. So maybe somebody could ask him what he thinks about that tax on small business.

Mr. Speaker, through you, I would ask the minister if MTT has been consulted, not to mention the other carriers, and ask them about the complications of billing and what sort of administrative costs that would imply and how that would impact on the eventual costs. We believe, in conversation with MTT, that has not been discussed and maybe the minister would like to comment on that. He sent me over something that was proposed and I am glad he brought this. This was, I believe, something that was proposed probably by one of our departments. Well, you can just see what a strong Health Minister was in place at that time because that never saw the light of day. There it was, $750,000 proposed, but it did not see the light of day. (Interruptions) Yes, there it is, but it never saw the light of day. That was a proposal that never carried through.

MR. SPEAKER: Is the member going to table that?

DR. SMITH: It is not mine.

MR. SPEAKER: You referred to it, though.

DR. SMITH: I didn't read from it.

MR. SPEAKER: I ask the member to table it since he did refer to it.

DR. SMITH: Well, as long as it is accredited to the minister, because I don't want to take any responsibility for that, thank you.

[Page 2293]

Mr. Speaker, people are upset about this potential tax and I don't blame them. It has shown complete disregard to administration costs when the 911 costs have been increased. Maybe that is part of the disillusionment with this government so quickly. I don't think any government has had so many difficulties with credibility and keeping their promises than this group across the way. No wonder that people are disillusioned with this.

I don't want go back through the administrative costs that were going to be decreased and cut out the extras and that. We haven't seen that but we will be looking forward to that.

The minister has sort of tried to justify this tax grab by saying that jurisdictions like Ontario have done this. Again, if he wants to play forget-me-not about what was said here earlier, I just remind him of the many times here in the House, when they were in Opposition, when it was said that something was happening in Ontario, he said, well, we are not Ontario. Remember that, Mr. Minister, that this is not Ontario? So we are not accepting that just because something is done in Ontario, and I don't want to wake up the sleeping NDP at this juncture with what Premier Rae did there but that is another issue.

Ontario is different in that they do not have a province-wide 911 system, as I mentioned earlier. We have a jurisdiction here that has a complete 911 system. Their system, Mr. Speaker, is operated by municipalities, a far different situation than here in Nova Scotia, a situation that as a government, we really move to correct. We had a system much like theirs, it was split by different administrations and that has been corrected. We have built a top-notch service here in Nova Scotia, EHS and the 911 system, and we will not just stand idly by and see that being destroyed without raising our voices in criticism and making some recommendations as well.

As a caucus, we have difficulties in charging any fee for the 911 service. As a caucus, we built the 911 system and will not stand by and watch it be dismantled. We had choices in our budget and we chose not to introduce a tax, Mr. Speaker. At a time when we see this government pondering a highway route that will cost up to $4 million to $11 million extra down on Highway No. 104, disrupt over a $1 billion tourist industry, to charge people a tax on 911 is simply unacceptable.

I could say also the jail where even the Minister of Justice has admitted that moving the jail from a good location, a well-thought-out, designated spot for the jail in the Bedford community, which wasn't even in Bedford but really in the Sackville area, even the (Interruptions) Well, that is the other issue, I guess. It has been in the blue book. For the Minister of Justice to stand up and say, oh, it is only going to be $1.2 million, what is a seat worth in Bedford? I would suggest it will be closer to more than $5 million by the time everything is done and the highways and the interchanges are built.

[Page 2294]

That is what happens when things get out of control, they have to nickel and dime a system to pay for the big stuff, so a lot of nickels and dimes, Mr. Speaker, are going to have to pay for some of the judgement calls and (Interruption) Yes, we could perhaps figure that out, how many nickels and dimes we would need. I thank the honourable member for that. I hadn't thought of that. It would take that much time to count up all the nickels and dimes it is going to take to offset all this cost (Interruption) That will be going to reallocate the jail and reallocate the highways. Shame on them for all those who wasted money. Trusting the public purse to that group across there is like getting Evel Knievel to park your car. (Laughter) That is about as much faith as I would put in them.

Mr. Speaker, we as a caucus will not stand by without a fight on this issue and watch them, as a government across there, start increasing revenues through the health care system. We talk about the cuts in administration and they found out that they are not there to make. What they are going to do is try to increase the revenues and this will be passed on to the taxpayers. So charging taxpayers for a vital service that they have not been used to, they are not going to take too kindly to this. (Interruptions)

I consider this to be a workfare. You tell that neo-conservative over there, that wanna- be Reformer, that he knows what he can do with some of his workfare. He will be cutting brush down in Musquodoboit Valley before this is over. This, Mr. Speaker, is an essential service. It is an essential service for people who are vulnerable, who knows the extra costs that might impact on a phone bill for a single mother. I have known of situations where mothers have been sent home to the Dartmouth East community with children who have what we call aborted SIDS, which is the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, that has been overcome but is still a problem. They have been home where, on social assistance, they couldn't even qualify for a phone. Their phone couldn't be paid. So what about extra costs for a person like that?

I really think that a few dollars here and there is going to make a difference. So we have extra carriers. We don't know what the rates are going to be, we don't know the level of service, and we know for some people, their vulnerability of it all. When we look at 911, what if that mother had had her phone disconnected due to non-payment of bills on Waverley Road, early on when the 911 system came to that area? Her three week old child was choking, she called 911 and she was told what to do. She stayed on the phone while the ambulance arrived and when the ambulance arrived, the child was breathing; it had not been breathing and with those types of emergencies time is crucial. The service that she received from 911 was written about. She went to the media with this so I can speak about it. That was in my riding, Mr. Speaker. Those initiatives are the types that we don't want to see fees for. The value of a child's life is too important for this government to play around with and start chipping away at.

Mr. Speaker, I know it is near the hour of interruption for the late debate. I will move adjournment of this until later.

[Page 2295]

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

The motion is carried.

[6:00 p.m.]

We have reached the moment of interruption. The subject for the late debate this evening was submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes:

Therefore be it resolved that this government immediately fulfil its election promise to give Progressive Conservative MLAs greater freedom to represent their constituents by allowing more "free" votes in this House of Assembly.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

GOV'T. (N.S.) - MLAs (PC): FREE VOTES - ALLOW

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour for me to rise tonight in this House to speak about a matter that concerns all Nova Scotians. The resolution being debated tonight is about honesty. It is about ethics, responsibility and integrity. It is about a promise that John Hamm made to his MLAs. The resolution tonight says:

"Therefore be it resolved that this government immediately fulfil its election promise to give Progressive Conservative MLAs greater freedom to represent their constituents by allowing more 'free' votes in this House of Assembly.".

Premier Hamm broke this promise to his own members, Mr. Speaker. They trusted him and he let them down. The Tory election platform was called, of course, as everyone is aware, Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course. This document contained the famous 243 promises. Halfway through the platform are their promises about Making Government Accountable.

Allow me, Mr. Speaker, to quote from the Tory election bible, "We expect our elected officials to be accountable to their constituents.". Another quote, "During its first mandate, a PC Government will: Give Members of the Legislature greater freedom to represent the views of the people they represent;".

[Page 2296]

Mr. Speaker, the most important tool a government backbencher can use to represent the views of their constituents is their vote on this floor in the House of Assembly. It does not matter if you are a Cabinet Minister, an Opposition MLA, or even the Premier. When an issue comes to a vote, every member of this House is equal. Every member only has one vote. It is the most powerful voice an MLA has. So when Premier Hamm promised greater freedom, what he really means is free votes. That means his MLAs will be allowed to vote their conscience on important issues, but this election promise has already been broken.

Mr. Speaker, it is sad that backbenchers were forced to remain silent during the longest debate this House has seen in years. Several weeks ago this House sat until after midnight for nearly a week debating back-to-work legislation for paramedics. Nova Scotians were shocked when this government turned its back on the paramedics. They were demanding that this Tory Government treat paramedics with respect and with the fairness that they deserve.

This was the perfect chance, Mr. Speaker, to allow the backbenchers the freedom to represent their constituents. Premier Hamm and the Health Minister broke their promise, they forced all the MLAs to vote according to the PC Party line, not according to their ethical better judgement.

Tory backbenchers have been forced to apologize while their government takes money away from seniors, the disabled, recovering addicts and the Sisters of Charity. The good news is that Tory MLAs have another chance, Mr. Speaker, they have another chance to prove to their constituents that they have the strength to represent their views. On Monday the Liberals introduced a bill called the Sydney Casino Profits Distribution Act. This bill would make sure that money goes to where it is supposed to go and where it was meant to go. This bill means more money for charities and non-profit groups like food banks. This bill is all about doing what is right and ethical and by voting for this bill, government backbenchers will finally be able to do what their constituents expect.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table several documents from the election. The first says, "Yarmouth Needs a Fighter. Richard Hurlburt Will Fight for You!", right here. The second is from the MLA for Shelburne, and I might add the only MLA to win his seat on a coin toss.

This document says, "John Hamm is the only Provincial Leader offering greater freedom for MLAs to represent the views of their constituents. I will use this freedom to fight for the rights of all Shelburne County Residents.". That is what it says. The third is from the MLA for Kings North. He pledges, "Open and honest government.".

Mr. Speaker, these are just three examples of MLAs who have made the promise to their constituents. They committed and made the promise. They made a promise to represent their constituents first and follow the Tory Party line second. There are other MLAs who I know have a strong voice. They have a strong voice but they have been forced into silence. The MLA for beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is one example. He has never

[Page 2297]

allowed anyone to tell him how to vote until now. Another example is the member for Dartmouth South, so is the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

One exception, of course, is the member for Preston. He promised to vote against his own government if they clawed back the HST rebate to municipalities. I have applauded him before and I will again tonight. I applaud that member for this. He is one Tory backbencher who knows what it means to represent his constituents. I would now like to quote from an article written by a distinguished former member of this House.

The article is called The Positive Role of a Government Backbencher, and was published in the Canadian Parliamentary Review in 1983. "The day a Member first sits on the government backbench, a certain awareness must hit him; his essential day-to-day business is not decision-making, but representation. One of the most positive roles government backbenchers play - on an individual basis - is that of representation. A government is only as strong as its backbench. It is from this backbench that the government must depend to pass legislation."

Mr. Speaker, these words were written by a Progressive Conservative MLA and Cabinet Minister by the name of George Moody. George Moody, we are all very much aware, spent a lot of time in this House. He knows that backbenchers do have the power over the government. He knows that. After all, backbenchers outnumber Cabinet Ministers.

In conclusion, I encourage all the government backbenchers to think about something, think about why they decided to run for office, think about the trust that was put in them by their constituents, think about the best way they can honour that trust and vote accordingly. Exercise the power Premier Hamm promised he would give you. That I lay as a challenge to the backbenchers on the government side.

Mr. Speaker, I have a few moments left, but I would like to give up my time, of course, and yield the floor to allow a member of the government backbench a chance to speak on this topic. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, during my six years in the Legislature, and I say this with all respect and appreciation for the new member for Cape Breton The Lakes, I have heard a lot of bafflegab and gibberish but I have to tell you, some of the comments that the honourable member made certainly leaves a person very perplexed because that honourable member should just take a little walk down memory lane. Perhaps I could help him, perhaps I could assist him in that walk down history, that walk back in time.

[Page 2298]

The honourable member should, if he has an opportunity, talk to his colleague, the member for Cape Breton West, Mr. MacKinnon, who had, if you will, Mr. Speaker, the courage to stand up to Premier John Savage and the government of the day and he voted against the service exchange legislation which he believed, and he believes today, would hurt his constituents. We all know what happened to the honourable member for Cape Breton West. So I encourage the member for Cape Breton The Lakes to go back and talk to the honourable member for Cape Breton West.

Now I wonder if the member has been listening to some of his senior colleagues, although I know they are very busy and are unable to be with us at the moment. It seems to me that when - I think it was called Bill No. 10, Mr. Speaker, concerning the Western Alignment Corporation, legislation that was shoved down the throats of Nova Scotians and people in Cumberland County and Colchester County were very upset when the Liberal Government en masse, en bloc, voted in favour of the Cobequid Pass legislation. People in Cumberland and Colchester Counties wanted an opportunity to talk to Premier Savage, to talk to then Minister of Transportation, Richie Mann. They begged and pleaded, some of them were almost crying in the streets for the members to provide a meeting. I think it was Mayor Gouchie, the Mayor of Amherst and the Warden of Cumberland County, begged and pleaded. You know, I talked to the Liberal backbench and they said, Brooke, that is not good legislation but, if we don't vote for it, we will face the same fate as the member for Cape Breton West when he voted against the service exchange. That is what we were told.

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Government, I can understand them talking about free votes. Do you remember (Interruptions) Some honourable members in the House would remember when the Savage Government closed the Nova Scotia Teachers College. Do you know what? The honourable member for Colchester North, Ed Lorraine, because he wasn't in Cabinet, did not know that the Nova Scotia Teachers College was closing until he came to the Legislature and found out. That is how much the Liberals vet major public policy with their caucus.

What I am saying, Mr. Speaker, yes, the point is, and they understand full well the point I am making is, wouldn't it be nice if Savage and company had provided free votes to the Liberal backbenchers. Fortunately, in my six years in the Legislature, and the record will clearly show, I had an opportunity to vote my conscience and Premier John Hamm gave me the opportunity and time and time again . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We had it in stereo for a minute.

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: A point of order, Mr. Speaker. I don't think it is very gentlemanly. The honourable member, obviously, knows I was not here during the Premier Savage days or any other, and I am here basically, Mr. Speaker, because my constituents recognized the need for change and that is what I stand for. I challenge that member to initiate that change.

[Page 2299]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. You sound like a rehearsal of Question Period this afternoon. Thank you, but it is not a point of order.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I know full well that honourable member did not just fall off the turnip truck or this is not the first time off the Island. He must have some idea what his Liberal Party is all about and, if he doesn't know, I am taking him politely down memory lane and advising him of some of the things. Perhaps this would be more to the honourable member's liking. The Cape Breton Regional Municipality legislation, or the Halifax Regional Municipality legislation, Mr. Speaker, a number of Liberal backbenchers would have dearly loved to have had the opportunity to vote against the Halifax regional amalgamation legislation and that is a mouthful.

[6:15 p.m.]

Do you know what the Liberal Government did so autocratically, so anti-democratically? They shoved that down the throats of everybody in Halifax County, Halifax, Dartmouth and Bedford, they shoved it down their throats and what opportunity did the Liberal backbenchers have to get up and vote against that legislation? Do you know what would have happened, Mr. Speaker, they would have been thrown out to the wolves, they would have been thrown out on the streets, the same as Russell MacKinnon had happen to him. That is what would have happened. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I am receiving all kinds of help here tonight and I really appreciate it but that former government, that Savage/MacLellan lot, they closed the Nova Scotia Teachers College without consultation with the backbenchers, without consultation with the people of Nova Scotia. They closed the Nova Scotia Youth Training Centre. They closed hospitals and wouldn't those backbenchers have loved to have had an opportunity (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about free votes and this is what this says, he brought it forward and what a (Interruption) I hope this is a point of order this time.

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I am puzzled to understand what this has to do with this topic this evening. The honourable member is just rambling off about history.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, we have an opportunity today . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is not a point of order. The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has the floor.

[Page 2300]

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate and respect your rulings and I agree, that was not a point of order, again.

Mr. Speaker, do you remember - yes, you do - that government had the audacity and they weren't even shamefaced when they shoved the HST, the BST legislation through and wouldn't the backbenchers in that Liberal Government have loved to have had the opportunity to vote with their conscience regarding the BST legislation. I know how I voted in my caucus.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order.

MR. TAYLOR: I know how I voted and I was permitted to vote my conscience, Mr. Speaker, free vote.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. TAYLOR: He is up for the third time on a point of order. He hasn't made one yet.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes and I hope it is a point of order this time.

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: My point of order, Mr. Speaker, is that it is obvious to all members of this House that I have never been a part of any government in this House and that member continually points his finger toward me indicating that I was part of a government. I am not and have never been a part of a government in this House and I ask for you to rule that this member provide an apology.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It was not a point of order. The honourable member did not accuse that. (Interruptions) Would the honourable take his seat please. Thank you.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, it is very difficult to get a word in edgewise with that honourable member. He brings a resolution to the floor of the Legislature and he doesn't want to debate the issue. He has to know about his own Party and he indicated he is only a new member and he isn't aware of some of these things so I think it is only fair to tell him how dictatorial and how undemocratic the previous MacLellan Liberal Government was. (Interruptions)

I will just quickly tell that member because I only have a few seconds left, I want to tell the honourable member, regarding major public policy, we have the opportunity, major public policy is vetted through caucus. It is not like the former Liberals when they just surprised everybody, including their own backbenchers. That is no way to treat your colleagues, your backbenchers, come in with policy that is going close down the Youth Training Centre, you are going to amalgamate the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, you are going to throw

[Page 2301]

them all into one big lump and, Mr. Speaker, you should have seen the look of surprise on the Liberal backbenchers when they learned that the Youth Training Centre, the Teachers College, amalgamation, the Cobequid toll highway, BST, HST was taking place because we knew in Opposition before they did. That is how much you guys vetted legislation. It is an absolute travesty . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. TAYLOR: . . . the way your government treats backbenchers. It is an absolute travesty.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I want you to know that I will be sharing my time with my friend, the member for Hants East. I would only point out that you don't have to be loud to be listened to but, in this House, I want all members to know that in future late debates, this side, and this Party in particular, would much appreciate it if we knew that the honourable member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is going to speak on behalf of the Tory caucus because, I will assure you, that we will be here in numbers and we much appreciate the great example he has shown other backbenchers who have not spoken. I thank him for the very thorough history lesson. I turn the floor over to my colleague, the member for Hants East.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the honourable member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley did get up to speak. (Interruption) Well, I was. I was starting to worry about the honourable member and, to be honest, I have to tell all members of the House that I was getting to the point of wondering what good it is to get up and speak anyway, because it is almost like the words bounce off the other wall and you are sure that nobody over there hears anything that you say.

This resolution, I will read it again, as the honourable member for the Liberal Party had done. "Therefore be it resolved that this government immediately fulfil its election promise to give Progressive Conservative MLAs greater freedom to represent their constituents by allowing more 'free' votes in this House of Assembly."

AN HON. MEMBER: They have that beautiful blue book.

[Page 2302]

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: In the beautiful blue book, Making Government Accountable, that is exactly what it says, give MLAs greater freedom to represent the views of their constituents. Mr. Speaker, it really is a question of whether it is worth anybody's time anymore to bother referring to the blue book. (Interruptions) Certainly, when we look at this resolution for allowing more free votes, I would like to see them allow one free vote. I know that this is basically a philosophical question, whether or not you allow the members of your caucus to speak their conscience. That is what this is really all about.

Since our caucus has not formed a government, all that we have done is take the government to task for those issues that we feel they are definitely walking down the wrong road on, and we have unanimous consent among the caucus because we feel that these issues are issues that we should be fighting for. We haven't really had an issue that, I would say, was divisive enough that we couldn't take a united front to attack.

With that being said, I think the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley raised some good points when he talked about the Liberal caucus and when the Liberal caucus was the former Liberal Government. I think we can all stand back and we can point fingers at the Liberals or at the Tories for various things that have happened in the past, but the honourable member should remember - I think the way, at least, the electorate in Nova Scotia would perceive events in his Party - certain comments he made regarding his Leader that has made people wonder whether or not it has affected his ability to get into Cabinet. So I certainly would question just how much freedom the honourable members opposite do have.

I know that it is an important issue of whether or not you can actually stand up and say anything in your caucus, but saying something about your Leader is probably pretty thin ice. On any other particular issue, philosophically a person's conscience is an important thing and, in my short time in this House, the only individual I know of who did that wound up coming over to this caucus from the Tory caucus. (Interruptions)

I think all members in that caucus, at least who were here at that time, who knew that individual, would certainly have to agree that the decisions he made on how he voted were purely philosophical. That is the reason he crossed the floor and I would say, when he did that, he certainly took the risk that came with it. That risk was the possibility of not being re-elected. Certainly I have watched the members of the Tory caucus when they were in Opposition and I know that on a couple of votes, particularly the budget in 1998 and workers' compensation legislation, if those members were allowed to vote their conscience, I would say that some of them rose to their feet pretty slowly when they agreed to vote with the rest of their caucus.

AN HON. MEMBER: Workers' compensation, for sure.

[Page 2303]

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: For sure. (Interruptions) So, Mr. Speaker, this resolution does speak to what it is all about being here. All members must realize by now that your chance of being re-elected has to do solely with representing your constituents. You have to do that to the best of your ability, whether you are in the government or in Opposition. Maybe one of the saving graces for members when they are in government is the fact that it is the spin that goes out from this Legislature on what they have done in here that the people never really know for sure what happened in here. That is what saves some people.

The members in the backbench for sure, I have to admit, I feel sorry for you because (Interruptions) well, the honourable member for Preston, I encourage him to get on his feet anytime. (Interruptions) On this side of the House, at least, we are able to talk and the honourable member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, he certainly had a talent for doing that when he was on this side of the House. He mentioned being here six years and he definitely perfected his craft, I have to admit. (Interruptions)

My honourable colleague, holding up the blue book, the very statement about giving more freedom to MLAs is under the heading of making government accountable. I haven't really seen that from this government to this date. If there is any one piece of legislation that I think emphasizes more than any other piece of legislation that has come through this House recently, that was the legislation dealing with the paramedics. I will tell you, the silence of the members opposite was deafening on that piece of legislation. (Interruptions) If anybody wanted to acknowledge this resolution, they had a great opportunity there and they didn't take anybody up on it.

So I start the question whether or not any of the statements in the blue book - we won't say buzzwords, but buzz statements - those things that Parties do, they run for election, they say whatever they think the public will swallow, that they will be keen on, but when they get into power they don't deliver on any of it. Mr. Speaker, I think we are starting to see a lot of that so I encourage any of the members, if they believe, do it. Thank you. (Applause)

[6:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: I would certainly like to thank the honourable members for their lively debate this evening.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING]

MR. SPEAKER: We now return to debate on the amendment to Bill No. 20.

Bill No. 20 - Emergency "911" Act. [Debate resumed.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

[Page 2304]

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to rise tonight and say a few words in defence of the amendment to put this bill away, to tuck it away, to hoist it and look at it at a future time. I think there are really good reasons for that.

I think there is a sense in which this bill is kind of a last straw for this government. When you think about it, Mr. Speaker, this government has not been in power very long in this province, and I think already we have come to the point where Nova Scotians are seeing the straw that is going to break the voting camel's back, if you like - if the government does not hoist this, put it away, give it some second thought, I think the voters in this province are going to find themselves grinding their teeth at night, clenching their teeth all day and waiting for four or four and one-half long, unhappy years to pass.

Now if you look at it, I remember in 1993 when the Liberals were first elected in this province and I remember something called 30-60-90, which was not viewed universally as a success; I think it was a jobs initiative or something. I would like to suggest that this government has its own version of 30-60-90, Mr. Speaker. I think initially they annoyed 30 per cent of the voters and, within a short time, 60 per cent - 30 per cent more, for 60 per cent - and then they moved straight up to 90 per cent. I would like to suggest that the last 10 per cent may lie very well within the confines of this bill.

Look at it, Mr. Speaker, I made a partial list, if you like, of who might be in the 30-60-90 per cent of Nova Scotians who are already grinding their teeth and frustrated with this government. We have the nurses, both the union and student nurses; we have the disabled; and we have seniors. We have all kinds of groups already who are saying publicly and to their friends and neighbours, what did we do in this province? I think very close to the last straw was the Sisters of Charity.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I don't want to go down a side road but let me just say that the Sisters of Charity - the last insult before this current one - provided, what is it, 125 years of service to the people of this province and have poured their hearts and their souls and their finances into the care and education of Nova Scotians and, on top of this ridiculous proposition of telling the Sisters of Charity that somehow their work has been inadequate, we now have Bill No. 20. I would suggest that if this government wants to keep its credibility for another 90 days or so, or perhaps six months, that it would be a really good idea for the members on the opposite side of the House to put their heads together, come to their senses and realize that they are on the brink already of failing just about every last Nova Scotian.

Now there are two clauses in the bill which I have a great of difficulty with and which I think ought to be certainly hoisted - well, I guess it is most of the bill when I look at it, it is a very small bill - the two main clauses I think I have enormous difficulty with, Mr. Speaker, is the question of charging people for a 911 service, I cannot tell from reading this bill what form that would take. I know what the government members have said, well, we are not doing it, we are just making it possible. I have got a bridge I can sell them if it does not

[Page 2305]

happen. There are only two possibilities that I can think of, there may be more, but there are two possibilities I can think of about how the government could recoup this money, which I presume, I assume, I take the liberty of assuming, it is some attempt to recompense itself for the notion of fair wages to paramedics in this province, some device to raise money so that these people, who should have had a fair wage all along, might in fact get one.

The two possibilities would be a monthly charge on your phone bill, which I guess would be what you would call a regressive tax, Mr. Speaker. It would be more of a tax than a user fee because it would not be charged for each service. So I would consider that a tax, but it is a very bad tax. It is a regressive tax because it is a kind of flat tax, and that means, for the edification of the members on the government side, there is no linkage between what a person can afford to pay and the rate charged to that person. That makes it a regressive tax as opposed to an income tax which, if it is not too badly damaged and confused, can be a progressive sort of tax because people pay according to their abilities.

So if we have a monthly service charge on all Nova Scotians and, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that it is all Nova Scotians because anybody who is alive in this province, I believe, has a telephone. There is no choice about this any more. So the tax that would be charged as a monthly fee on the telephone bill is a tax and it is bad tax. As the member for Halifax Needham so eloquently explained to the members on the other side, there are a great many Nova Scotians who are poor. There are Nova Scotians on fixed incomes who are poor. There are many seniors in this province who are poor. I am sure that members of this House, at least on this side, know family members, relatives and friends who can afford nothing but basic service in this age of rampant consumer choice because they cannot afford to pay anything more than the minimum for their telephone bills. (Interruption)

The other one, the more insidious version of this (Interruption) I am just ignoring him. The other more insidious one, Mr. Speaker, is of course a user fee for dialling 911. I get really bizarre visual images here. I mean there are people poor enough in this province, there are people who count their pennies in this province, so they fall down the stairs, do they actually have to think about whether they can push 911 and get the help that they need? I cannot imagine the notion of ever having to consider that, when a person is in a state of health emergency or desperate need and I find it horrifying to even think about. So those are the alternatives, neither of which, it seems to me, is very palatable, in fact, palatable at all to Nova Scotians.

I would like to know, Mr. Speaker, who is really making the decisions here. As I said, we just get one thing after another, which seems to have two left feet. There is no sensitivity to the people who with good faith and honesty elected this government. There is no sense of reasonableness, and sometimes we have to wonder about their competence because there is just so much that people are scratching their heads about and saying what are we going to do about it.

[Page 2306]

Mr. Speaker, the other thing about telephone service, we are in an age of so-called consumer choice. What that means to me is that every time you are home at dinner time, you have to get a call from three different companies trying to sell you some service, whether it is your own provider or some other provider that is trying to take a piece of the market. We are inundated with telephone services and fees and options that many of us have no particular use for, in particular I think the poorer among us and the seniors who have fixed incomes were inundated with all this service or consumer options, when what we really need, we don't need any more stars running around in yellow suits telling us it is okay to push away because we can't find the tent for the fishing trip.

What we need in this province and what we have always needed is basic telephone service for all of us because sooner or later everyone needs a telephone in this day and age for the most minimal of uses and one of them is survival. That is where the 911 service comes in. It makes me laugh because I was thinking about telephone service when I was growing up in Antigonish, our number was 270.

AN HON. MEMBER: Call the operator.

MS. O'CONNELL: Call the operator. The fire alarm would go off downtown, you would call the operator and say where is the fire? She said it is at Farrell's barn. She didn't say that will be $2.75 please. She also, if you called up and asked for the correct time so that you could fix your household clock, she would give you the correct time.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did she charge you for that?

MS. O'CONNELL: She didn't charge you for that either. I can remember, in the very beginnings of our sense of alienation from all this useless, frequently useless and bone-headed technology, I can remember when the station . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Like laptop computers.

MS. O'CONNELL: Like laptop computers. (Interruptions) I can remember the sense of alienation in the town when the telephone operators were moved to New Glasgow because they were not people that you could interact with anymore because they were not people you knew because they were no longer from the town.

Mr. Speaker, I only tell you that because I think that we have to understand that somehow in this age of inundation of perceived consumer choices, we have forgotten the essentials and the essential, I would say there is nothing more essential in this world, in this province than being able to call for help when an emergency faces you.

[Page 2307]

I think that if there was a good reason for hoisting anything, any bill in this House, this would be it, because one ought to go home, the members on the government side ought to go home and think about what is essential to the people of this province. What do people have a right to in this province in their time of need? I cannot say strongly enough . . .

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the honourable member for Halifax Fairview would entertain a question?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview, would you entertain a question?

MS. O'CONNELL: Yes. I have lots of time to fill. Go for it. (Laughter)

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member. The honourable member, as well as other members opposite, have mentioned the fact of the $1.00 surcharge, they call it a tax. Since Nova Scotia is the only province in the country that doesn't have third party billing for 911, I wonder if the member for Halifax Fairview would comment on the fact that the Government of Saskatchewan, in fact, is preparing to put a $1.00 third party billing on their bills to cover 911 costs. How would she qualify that with what she perceives to be the same situation in Nova Scotia?

[6:45 p.m.]

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question because the government members have been saying they weren't necessarily going to do this. Now we find out they are going to do it and it is going to be $1.00. (Applause) Well, that is very useful information. We can now go out and tell Nova Scotians exactly what it is going to cost them to have their life saved when they pick up the telephone in Nova Scotia. So I am very appreciative of the information that the member has inadvertently revealed, by asking his question. It changes not a whit anything that I have said, because it seems to me that whatever the charge, there is absolutely no reason for it to happen and there is no reason to undermine the essential security of the most vulnerable members of our society, at their most vulnerable moments, by making it clear to them that everything has a price on it. I think it is just shameful. I do.

Now, Mr. Speaker, there is another clause of this bill (Interruption) No, and I have no intention of answering. You can ask, but I have no intention of answering. In Clause 3(5)(9) it says, "The Province, the Minister, a regional municipality, a town, a rural municipality, Maritime, a CLEC . . .". What do you suppose that is?

AN HON. MEMBER: Competitive local exchange carrier.

[Page 2308]

MS. O'CONNELL: Thank you. " . . . the Emergency Measures Organization and emergency service agencies are not liable, directly or indirectly, for a claim arising out of, relating to or attributable to personal injury, property damage, death or economic loss or for any contribution, reimbursement or indemnification in respect thereof, or a suit, a fine, a demand, an action, a loss, costs or damage of any nature or kind arising out of the operation of, failure of or failure to operate the system or any part of it.".

AN HON. MEMBER: Really?

MS. O'CONNELL: It says it right here in the bill. Didn't you know that? Mr. Speaker, I am not a lawyer. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind the honourable member that she is speaking to the amendment and the reasoning for the six months' hoist. So I would ask the member to keep her comments to the hoist and the reasons for the amendment and not to the principle or the clauses of the bill.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I hear you. I understand you, but I was reading the clause in order to discuss the second reason why this bill should be hoisted and perhaps I hadn't made that perfectly clear. In fact, I did make it clear at the very beginning. I said that very thing. So, surely, we are entitled to have more than one reason to hoist a bill. If a bill is rotten from beginning to end, surely everything in it could be a reason for hoisting it. I was hoping to address the second major reason for hoisting this bill.

Mr. Speaker, I am not a lawyer. I am a good reader, but I am not a lawyer, but it sounds to me that this clause suggests that the people of this province who require 911, who have called a service, a private company that has been contracted for this service, have absolutely no recourse, under any circumstances, no matter how negligible or careless or destructive anyone involved in this operation may be. Notwithstanding the great respect that we have and have demonstrated in this House for the paramedics who have worked so hard and so long for such miserable wages up until recently. Things can happen and people can make mistakes. People can be negligible and companies can be negligible. I don't understand why I should, right now, without it being clear to me that I am wrong about this, and I hope I am, I don't see why I should be voting on this bill right now. I say hoist it, get it out of here, and let's take a look at what we are really saying about emergency services in Nova Scotia.

So, Mr. Speaker, I can't imagine a bill more worthy of being hoisted, a more hoistable bill, if you want to say that, a hoistable bill. I urge the members on the other side of the House to think clearly, to take their time, to think about what it is we stand for in this province. Who are we? The member for Dartmouth South can blather away all he wants, . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: And he does.

[Page 2309]

MS. O'CONNELL: And he does, about Saskatchewan, British Columbia or Outer Mongolia or Timbuktu, whatever he wants to blather on about. But, Mr. Speaker, we are talking about Nova Scotia. We are talking about our own culture and our own values and we are talking about what it is that we together, even you, even the member for Dartmouth South, we must share some values. We come from the same province, the same heritage, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

Again, I would remind the member that she is talking about the amendments to the bill, please, not about some of the subjects that you have brought up to this point. I would ask the member to please stick to the reasons for the hoist and the amendment. Not about Saskatchewan or other things, amendments to this bill.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I thought I was doing that. I thought I was making the point that this bill should be hoisted because even the government members share common values with the members on the other side and maybe what we have to do is examine carefully what values Nova Scotians share and want us all to share. One of them, I suggest, is that at our most vulnerable times, we do not want to say to Nova Scotians, this is going to cost you. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, thanks for the opportunity to join debate again. I shall not be taking much time because I know there are others who want to speak. (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: He adjourned the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: Did the honourable member close debate for the late debate? (Interruptions) Order, please.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: On a point of order, we are in the House, we are not in a Committee of the Whole House on Bills. In the House you can only speak once on a bill up to a maximum of one hour. Once you finish, in ten minutes, you are out. (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: He adjourned the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member, at my request, closed debate for the late debate. It was my understanding that he could get up and finish his hour after we had the late debate. (Interruption)

[Page 2310]

MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, just my understanding of the way the rules were and that is, if a member does adjourn the debate prior to the late debate, or any other reason, they are the first speaker who would then resume afterwards. Now he wasn't, so therefore he would lose if he wasn't in the Chamber, however, we can, by unanimous consent, and I know in our caucus we are more than prepared to allow the member for Dartmouth East to conclude his remarks. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I have just taken the matter under advisement and I am advised that because the member was not here when we finished the late debate, he actually would lose his place to finish his hour. However, if it is the wish of the House, with the unanimous consent to allow him to continue.

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The honourable member for Richmond. (Interruptions)

Order, please.

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on a point or order. Didn't the honourable member for Richmond speak on the amendment yesterday?

MR. SPEAKER: Not according to my record, he has not.

The honourable member for Richmond has the floor. (Interruptions)

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I was not going to speak on this bill, but certainly seeing the oppression of the government backbenchers in refusing to allow my good colleague, the member for Dartmouth East, to complete his remarks, I am left with no choice but to speak. We hear some more clucking from the government backbenchers over there. We will have to bring some chicken feed into this House soon if this keeps up.

AN HON. MEMBER: Just like what they are giving to charities.

MR. SAMSON: Yes, exactly, it is chicken feed what charities get also but, Mr. Speaker, I cannot say it is a pleasure to rise tonight because, once again, this is just another example of this Tory oppression in how it is dealing with Nova Scotians. (Interruption) The member for Halifax Bedford Basin says that oppression is a big word. We have not heard enough from her to find out if she knows anything.

[Page 2311]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind the member that he is speaking in regard to the amendment for the hoist and I would appreciate it if he would stick to the matter, please. Thank you.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, if government members would show courtesy and listen to what I have to say, I would be more than happy to stick to the bill. On the amendment certainly, again, it is unfortunate that members of this House have to rise in the defence of Nova Scotians from the oppression being shown by this Tory Government in, once again, trying to slip in a tax on the people of Nova Scotia.

How ironic again, Mr. Speaker, that this bill came before us, simply dumped on the floor of this Legislature. The very busy Minister of Health, as he has described himself, did not have the time or the courtesy to have a bill briefing to be able to explain to Nova Scotians, to members of this House and the media exactly what his intentions were with this bill. I know that in the debate that he has taken some exception to some of the statements from members of this House and saying that those statements were untrue. It is unfortunate.

Had he been able to have this bill briefing and better explain this to us, maybe members of this House would not be left trying to guess or predict the intentions of this minister because I know that the minister is an honourable man and I would not want to try to guess at what his intentions are. It would have been much easier had he just come forward and told us, but certainly I support the amendment to hoist this bill because if this government is going to stick to its message of being open and accountable, then Nova Scotians deserve a right to be heard.

I heard the member for Dartmouth South clucking earlier and saying that every other province had such type of fees. I am sure if Nova Scotians had an opportunity to be consulted on this and to be told exactly what the intentions are of this government, maybe they would have a different opinion. Maybe members of this House would have a different opinion of what Bill No. 20 potentially can do. Unfortunately, the fact is that the Minister of Health's assurances have certainly not been sufficient for members on this side of the House. It is our belief that this is nothing but a hidden tax on the good people of Nova Scotia.

[7:00 p.m.]

The amendment to hoist this for six months is an opportunity for this government once again to be able to put this out for public consultation and allow Nova Scotians to give their input into that. I know that the honourable member for Halifax Fairview spoke eloquently on the need for 911 and the importance of 911. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that I know the importance of 911. I have had the opportunity to use the service on a couple of occasions myself. (Interruption) Well, the member for Dartmouth South laughs at that but they were unfortunate situations. One was a crash, a young lady flipped over her vehicle in New Glasgow. It was a very horrendous-looking crash. Fortunately, she managed to walk out of

[Page 2312]

the vehicle and was not hurt - and the member for Dartmouth South hollers "relevance", showing his ignorance for this topic and not even wanting to give respect to members on the floor of this House when they speak on such an important issue as 911 and what it does to save lives here in this province.

Fortunately, as I said, both ambulance and police services arrived very quickly and the lady was brought to hospital where she received attention. As I said, fortunately she did not receive serious injuries. The next time I had the opportunity to use the service, ironically, was as I returned home to have my next door neighbour running to the house, asking me to call 911 because she believed her house to be on fire. There was billowing smoke coming out of her chimney and fortunately it ended up that it was just a back-up in the feed system of the furnace that was creating such smoke and there actually was no fire damage to the home.

It just gives you an example of the importance of 911, Mr. Speaker, and the fact that it is just a phone call away. In fact, on both opportunities I actually had a cell phone which I used to call 911 and that just shows you where this province has come under the system and that today simply wherever you are in the province, if you have cellular service you can call 911 and receive emergency help immediately.

Mr. Speaker, it is distressing, as a member of this House, in the most recent months especially it appears to me - it didn't seem to me this way when I first got elected - recently I have been meeting with constituents more and more and, as I take down their information, I ask for their address and other pertinent information, on a number of occasions, too frequently, when I ask what is your phone number, the answer was, I don't have a phone. They say I can't afford a phone, that is a luxury for me now and I can't have one. Unfortunately, the costs of (Interruptions) (Applause) phone service in this province is already quite high as it is and, unfortunately, it is these people with low incomes who are hurt the most. I can tell you that this is seen especially in my area; in rural Nova Scotia, this is a serious problem because in many cases these very people who can no longer afford phone service are in areas, in many cases, which are very far away from emergency service. It is bad enough that they don't have telephone service but the fact that they are in isolated rural areas makes it even more challenging to get the proper emergency service out to those people.

Now, for those people fortunate enough to own a phone to be told that this government intends to put a service charge for the 911 service, as a result of its re-juggling of its $1.7 billion budget, it is a pretty sad statement here in this House, Mr. Speaker, if one thinks of every person who has a phone, and I believe the member for Dartmouth South said it would be a $1.00 per month charge, if I am not mistaken, (Interruptions) one has to, well I believe he used the figure $1.00, if I am not mistaken. (Interruptions) Well, Saskatchewan, okay, (Interruptions) Saskatchewan.

AN HON. MEMBER: Theirs is probably $5.00.

[Page 2313]

MR. SAMSON: Exactly, if it was $1.00 there, one can only expect it will be about $5.00 here in this province under this government. It is pretty sad when you have a government that has a $1.7 billion budget, that they haven't been able to find the necessary funding to fund 911 properly so that all Nova Scotians can enjoy the service free of charge. (Interruptions)

Well, again the member for Dartmouth South clucked something from the other side, but on your direction I won't be distracted by his clucking on the other side although it continues . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck.

MR. SAMSON: . . . and it becomes more and more annoying by the minute. But again, under your direction I won't pay too much attention or focus on his annoying clucking from the other side of the House.

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that this amendment is necessary to give Nova Scotians an opportunity to see what this government is really about. The open and accountable government they promised Nova Scotians leading up to July 27th, it is important that Nova Scotians really know what is going on in this bill and what this Tory Government is again planning to do. Not only download, but it is the additional charge they are putting on Nova Scotians at a time when Nova Scotians have come to demand, from this government and previous governments, the need for tax cuts and the need for relief from the financial burden which already faces them.

This will give an opportunity, in the six months, for Nova Scotians to clearly tell Premier John Hamm and to tell the members of his government what they really think about having another service fee added to the already over-burdensome fees that they are paying as a result of the oppression of this Tory Government and their need to try to get control of the books by putting it on the backs of Nova Scotians, putting it on the backs of the people who can least afford additional charges from this government.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, the Liberal Government put together the 911 service, which I would submit to you is probably one of the most state-of-the-art services in our entire country here in Nova Scotia. Certainly this has gone a long way to improving emergency health services in this province, and it has well complemented the changes made with our paramedics and with our emergency health service, and the fact that we have the most state-of-the-art ambulances here in this province, and I will submit probably the highest qualified paramedics working on our behalf.

It is important that Nova Scotians know that when they dial 911 they are not going to be charged for it. There is not going to be a bill coming in the mail because they did the right thing in trying to get assistance for themselves or for a neighbour or even for a complete

[Page 2314]

stranger - in my case, with the example I gave of that lady in New Glasgow - in doing what is right, trying to help our fellow person, and having that service there knowing that at the touch of a phone this service is going to be made available.

Mr. Speaker, again, the six months, as I indicated, is an absolute necessity to try to bring some accountability to this government, and to indicate to them that the members of this Opposition and Nova Scotians themselves are not going to allow them to dump such legislation on the floor of this House without letting Nova Scotians know what their true intentions are. As I indicated, the Minister of Health gets upset when we indicate that this is a tax and that this is what they are going to do, yet he doesn't stand on his feet to indicate anything different.

One of the concerns that we have with this is with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The question becomes, does this government even have a plan, a plan on how they are going to implement any service charge on MTT. The question is, are they going to charge every household in Nova Scotia? Are they going to charge frequent users, if there is even such thing? Who are they going to charge? Will it be rural Nova Scotia they stick it to one more time? Who is going to get this service? Will it be the same fee if you live in metro? Will it be the same fee if you live in Yarmouth. Will it be the same fee if you live in Cape Breton, or even the same fee if you live in Cumberland County? Those are questions that are left unanswered and the Minister of Health tells us to have faith in him and he will lead us down the golden path.

One is also left to ask, what impact will this have on business? As we know, many businesses have numerous phone lines in their different operations. I know, just in my own constituency office, I have three different lines. One has to ask, is this a service charge that will be put on every different phone number that one person might have? Will business be having a charge on every single number? Who is it exactly who is going to pay for this? Those are the answers that we have not been given, Mr. Speaker, and that is why the Opposition felt necessary, the NDP in this case, to bring forward a motion to hoist this bill, because it is bad legislation. It is legislation that was sneaked in hoping that the Opposition would not see what it is truly about and that Nova Scotians would not know that this Tory Government was, again, trying to tax them.

It is interesting because a colleague asked, well, why didn't they just increase this fee by Order in Council and avoid having to take this accountability here in the House of Assembly? They could have sneaked it through, through an Order in Council. It was my belief that the purpose behind Bill No. 20 was that the Minister of Health was trying to be clever with us and actually was trying to sneak in the bill and hoping that by the fact that this user fee was only included in the very last paragraph that, maybe, just maybe, they could slip it by and nobody would notice and nobody would pick up on it.

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: It comes from your report.

[Page 2315]

MR. SAMSON: The member for Dartmouth South says it comes from our report. Well, that goes to show you, once again, that they are trying to follow the coat-tails of the good Liberal Party in trying to develop their policy and rather than be accountable to Nova Scotians, he simply clucks again from the other side of the House. That is where they hide. They say, well, no, we didn't do this. This is something that we have been led to do.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Again, I would remind the member to speak to the amendment.

MR. SAMSON: Yes, Mr. Speaker, and that is exactly what I am speaking on, the amendment to hoist this bill and describing why we will be supporting this hoist and exactly what parts of the bill are causing us to support this very motion and asking that this House give support to the motion to hoist this bill so that there can be further consideration. Again, as I indicated earlier, that Nova Scotians be given an opportunity to exactly see what this government is trying to do to them, that it is another tax that they are trying to throw on them.

It is ironic, because, in the July 27th blue book, I didn't see anything about tax increases for 911. So I don't know where to put the check mark in this case, to say that they have accomplished another one of their goals. One is only left to wonder. I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that when voters voted on July 27th, they did not vote for an increase in 911 service costs and they did not vote for an additional tax from this government.

As I indicated earlier, the 911 system has proven to be a tremendous success in the Province of Nova Scotia. As I said earlier, it is probably one of the most state-of-the-art systems anywhere in this country. My fear, Mr. Speaker, is the people at home tonight watching this debate and wondering, well, what kind of service charges are there going to be. Should I maybe think twice before I dial 911. Maybe I should take it off my speed dial if I am a disabled person or someone with a bad medical condition because maybe I can't really afford - well, there are special exemptions, if I am not mistaken. So if one of those people falling under the exemptions happens to wish to call, my fears are that they are going to say, well, no, I can't afford this. I am going to go see my neighbour instead and hope that they will be a good Samaritan and they will call for me. I can't afford that additional $5.00 or $10 on my bill.

One has to wonder if this will be a flat fee across the board for everyone or maybe the good Minister of Health will, in his ingenuity, say, each time you call, we will charge you, plus a basic service for everyone. That is the question.

Mr. Speaker, I have done my best to . . .

[Page 2316]

[7:15 p.m.]

MR. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the honourable member would perhaps entertain a question?

MR. SAMSON: Well, as I have said before, that honourable member knows very well he has one full hour to speak on this bill. I will not have the voice of the people from Richmond County interrupted by the people of Kings South. No, Mr. Speaker, no.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Was the answer no?

MR. SAMSON: No and non, that would be the answer, Mr. Speaker. Again, that member for Kings South knows very well he has one full hour to stand on his feet and speak on behalf of his residents and tell us what the people of Kings South think about an additional user charge for using the 911 service. He can tell us if, in his election platform, he indicated that there would be a 911 fee, when he tells the people of Kings South how he stood on this bill, he can at least say, well, I tried to talk when the member for Richmond was up but, unfortunately, he wouldn't let me get a few little peeps in, so at least he will be able to say he tried to talk.

Mr. Speaker, what this Opposition is doing is speaking for all of the Nova Scotians out there who can't speak on this and who didn't know that this was going to happen. No one on that Tory side said, we are going to stick it to you with a tax; no one on that Tory side told Nova Scotians, we are going to slip in a bill without a bill briefing. (Interruption)

Again, Mr. Speaker, I am doing my best not to be disrupted by the clucking of the member for Dartmouth South. Again, I would point out to you it is getting very difficult, the annoyance coming from that side. Again, that member could very well stand on his feet and the people from Dartmouth South - well, he is going to read Hansard so at least we know he is doing something in this House, rather than just the annoying clucking on that side. (Interruptions) Well, yes, he hasn't been doing much else, if he is reading. But anyway, I don't want to be distracted by the annoyance of that member (Interruption) Well, it doesn't take much but I could have said something nasty there, but anyway, I am not going to. I will not go down where that member is at, where he hangs around. I will stay above that, especially following your instructions earlier not to pay particular attention to him.

Again, there are certain parts of this bill that certainly can be supported. As we know, there are many long-distance suppliers here in this province today with deregulation. We have an open market now and it is important that we be able to make the necessary adjustments, so that at no time are Nova Scotians left without 911 service, regardless of the long-distance carrier that they have. It is interesting because basically how the bill is and what is objectionable in this bill and the reason for the hoisting is that there are some provisions in there which are supportable, I would say, in principle, but the fact is that they kind of sneaked

[Page 2317]

that user fee in there and that is the problem that has left us, as members of the House, asking for this six months' extension which will give this government time to rethink its decision.

Maybe the Minister of Health can talk to the Minister of Finance, l'honorable membre d'Argyle and ask him and see if there isn't a little bit more money there that he could squeeze out of his budget and give it to health, so that Nova Scotians will not be faced with this tax. Then maybe the Premier can go to Nova Scotians in the spring and clearly indicate to them, when he brings in his budget, and say, Nova Scotians, you elected me on July 27th and rather than cut taxes right now, I am going to just add on one more in this budget. Nova Scotians can say, well, at least we knew. Before the budget came in, the Premier and his leadership in his openness and accountability, he stood before us and he said, look, Nova Scotians I have no choice, I have to put a tax on you in order for us to keep 911.

While I do not think Nova Scotians would be very crazy about that, I would submit that politically at least they would respect the fact that the Premier told them the situation he was in, that he told them this is what I have to do, I have no choice and again, as I say, I do not think it would be the most popular move, but in the end it would be respectful. It would be an honourable move for the Premier to do. It would be an honourable move for this government to do, to actually tell Nova Scotians what they are going to do, not to come to this House, dump Bill No. 20, not have any sort of bill briefing to allow members of the media or members of the Opposition, or Nova Scotians, to come in and be properly briefed on what this bill is meant to do, what they intend to do with the bill, and that we could move forward from there.

That is why with six months, Mr. Speaker, I submit we might not even need a full six months because the budget is coming along soon, I would imagine. I do not know if I would say very soon, but it is coming along at some point in the spring.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, could I ask him to clarify something that he said a little while ago earlier in debate? I thought I heard him say he regularly speed-dialled 911 which is not allowed without this bill passed. Well, I hope that I misheard him. I just want to know if he . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. SAMSON: Again, Mr. Speaker, they do not focus in on the tax portion of this bill and what this bill is going to do.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. As a way of doing this, I wonder if the minister was suggesting that he would delete the tax provision from the legislation. If he was asking if he deleted the tax portion, would we support the bill going through, just to leave the speed-dial provision, and I just want to say that if all you are interested in is the speed-dial provision, we in our caucus will support that if you take the tax provisions out.

[Page 2318]

MR. SPEAKER: It was not a point of order.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, again, it is a pleasure to continue to make a few points on Bill No. 20. It is now 7:23 p.m. on Thursday evening. Nova Scotians are sitting at home watching TV tonight, maybe the Drew Carey Show, or maybe even watching Do You Want to be a Millionaire with Regis Philbin. Nova Scotians are probably hoping they will become millionaires following the actions of this government because with all of these taxes, eventually it will require Nova Scotians to be millionaires to be able to fund the very poor decisions of this government.

Again, I go to you about this openness and accountability and, you know, Nova Scotians are forgiving people I would submit. They are very honourable people and I would certainly submit to you while no one likes taxes, had this government at least had the fortitude to come forward beforehand and clearly indicate where it was going and say this is what we have to do, again, as I said, they may not like it, but then they would have said the Premier is being honourable, the Minister of Health is being honourable. He is not trying to sneak anything past us. We know exactly what it is he is doing. He can come to us and give us an example of what the cost will be. Will it be 5 cents per month for phone user, 10 cents, $1.00, $5.00? Nova Scotians watching tonight do not know. Members of this Opposition do not know. I would submit to you very strongly that most of the members of that government do not know either.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are not reviewing that, are you?

MR. SAMSON: No. As my colleague asks, it is strange (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If I do not soon hear some mention of the amendment, or hoist, or something, I am going to look for a new speaker. (Applause)

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated before, we are speaking on the amendment and we are speaking as to why we support hoisting this bill for six months and the reasoning behind that. I think I have quite clearly indicated why we are doing this. It is the Nova Scotians watching at home tonight who are wondering what this government is up to, what it is that they are trying to do and we are trying to get to the bottom of that. That is why we have come to the conclusion that this bill cannot be supported at this time because of the provision in it that will put a hidden tax on Nova Scotians, something that this government did not say that they would do.

It is important for us, as Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, to be able to decipher what this bill actually does, what it is trying to do to Nova Scotians, ensuring that Nova Scotians know exactly what this government is trying to do. That is why at this point in time, Mr. Speaker, we will be supporting the motion to hoist this bill. We do feel that an additional six months and I would submit even a year might have been a bit more appropriate rather than

[Page 2319]

just six months so Nova Scotians would have had lots of time to e-mail Premier Hamm or write to him or write to the Minister of Health and tell them what they think of this hidden tax and the importance it might have to Nova Scotians' confidence in the 911 system. That is the greatest fear that I have, that Nova Scotians will lose confidence in the 911 system and will see it as just another tax grab by this government, not something that is put there for the health, safety and security of Nova Scotians but just another money grabbing attempt by this Tory Government here in this province. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, as reprehensible as it is for this government to try to earn revenue off the backs of the 911 system, not only under this bill would they be earning a tax, I would submit to you, that private companies will be making a profit on the backs of the people of Nova Scotia if this tax goes through which makes it again even more reprehensible. Reprehensible to think that Nova Scotians are being railroaded, I would say, with this sort of legislation. It was slipped into this House in the darkness of night, brought in, in the morning, . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Under a blanket.

MR. SAMSON: . . . under a blanket, in secrecy. The Minister of Health introduced it and it was probably the quickest bill that has ever come into this House. Getting it into his hand and leaving his hand so quickly, and getting into the hands of the Clerk, hoping that nobody would actually pick up on it and maybe, just maybe, when they were going at 2:00 a.m. and hours like that, they might be able to slip this bill by, that the Opposition would not see it. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, they have not given proper credit to Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition or to Nova Scotians because I would submit that not only on this bill, which we are moving to hoist for six months, I think Nova Scotians have come to be very suspicious of this government in general.

I would submit to you not only will we be examining this bill very carefully, we will be examining all legislation, as we have done, to represent the best interests of Nova Scotians. As I said, within six months we can come back to this House and hopefully, by that time, the Minister of Finance and the Premier will have brought forward a budget, a budget hopefully that will not include a service fee on 911, they can come back after they have had a chance to look at the books and say, we don't need to do this. Mr. Speaker, I think what is important in this is that, when we looked at the budget that just came in, I think in many ways the government said, well we didn't have enough time to look at the books so that is why we had to rely on the Liberal budget so much.

So what I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, and to members of this government, is that maybe it is true, they haven't had enough time to look at the proper state of the books. I would submit to you that this bill is inappropriate at this time. I don't think the Minister of Health has had the opportunity to truly look at the $1.7 billion in his budget. I think with more time and with sober second thought within the next six months, then our very busy Minister of Health may find that there is money in his budget that would provide the

[Page 2320]

necessary funding for 911 and thus there is no need for this very tax. That is what I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that if the minister does look down the road in six months, he does look at his budget, he has already told us in this House how busy he is, and I don't question how busy he is with such a large department.

Maybe some day, he will find the necessary funding and that by this Opposition giving him an opportunity to delay this bill, and he can save face, I don't think he will lose face if this bill is hoisted for six months, I think it is an opportunity for him to stand in this House and say, I have listened to the Opposition, maybe we were being a bit too rushed with this bill. I am going to take it for six months, I am going to hold on to it, I am going to work with my colleagues, I am going to examine it, and then maybe at the end, we might not have needed to put that tax on after all.

Then he can come back to this House, when he says no need for user fees. I can tell you right now, I will give my word, I will stand at that time and I will commend the Minister of Health for having been able to do that. One will give compliments where compliments are due. I can assure the minister. If that helps him in his decision to support hoisting this bill for six months, I would be more than happy to indicate that I will give my compliments when he comes back and says that he has not put an additional burden on the people of Nova Scotia, especially those people in our constituencies, we all have people in our constituencies who unfortunately have very little money, our poor, and do not have the necessities of life. Adding this service fee on them (Interruptions)

Well, the member for Dartmouth South laughs when I speak of the poor, and that just shows his arrogance towards poor people here in this province, and that is unfortunate. That is very unfortunate. It is just a sign of the arrogance of that member. Again, I am trying to disregard his statements and stick on the amendment before us, which would be to hoist Bill No. 20, the Emergency "911" Act.

Mr. Speaker, when I spoke on the paramedics bill, I said that democracy had left this House. Tonight I am hoping that this government will see fit to return democracy here. And as Joseph Howe looks down upon them, that they will see fit to support this amendment, they will see fit to delay this legislation, this legislation which Nova Scotians did not ask for, this legislation which Nova Scotians do not need. In the end with second sober thought, after six months, hopefully they will come back and say that it was absolutely unnecessary.

M. le Président, ça me fait plaisir d'être capable de dire quelques mots sur la loi 20 et de parler de l'amendement qui est devant nous pour voir cette loi suspendue pour six mois.

I have never had so much silence in the House when I spoke.

[Page 2321]

Je veux avoir l'occasion devant nous aujourd'hui, j'avait un amendement qui pourrait prendre cette loi, loi no. 20 - pas le détruire - c'est juste à la prendre et l'éloigner pour six mois et à dire, on ne va pas, on ne va pas parle des votes sur cette loi au moment. Il y a trop de questions que nous - dans le position en cette loi - il y a trop de questions que les gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse sont entrain de regarder ce soir qui se demandent vraiment quel type te taxes qui vont etre mis quand qu'il vont avoir leurs frais pour leurs services de téléphone.

Et c'est comme j'ai dit avant, c'est une occasion pour le ministre de la Santé à dire, j'ai ecoute à l'opposition, j'ai ecoute aux gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse, et (Interruptions.) le ministre de la Santé nous dit qu'il entendait trop de l'opposition de gens. Je lui dirait que ca mais qu'il se preparait parce que j'espere que de ca j'ai vu ce soir et ca j'ai vu de ce gouvernment ici, qu'ils ne veulent entendre non plus ce bord ici de la maison.

Et tout ce que le ministre de la Santé en vous ait dire, M. le Président, c'est juste, il s'est leve et il disait, "je vous ai ecoute, je vous ai entendu, je comprends ce que vous disais. Oui, on a reagit vite avec la loi no. 20. Tel que c'est mieux, je vais vous ecouter, c'est une bonne idee, je vais prendre le six mois et puis durant le six mois je vais avoir l'occasion de parler avec mes collegues. C'est dommage que le membre pour Argyle n'est pas ici - celui qui pourrait me comprendre, ce que je lui dit ce soir. Et c'est lui qui est le ministre des Finances, c'est lui qui a l'argent; c'est lui qui determine quelle ministere va avoir quelle budget.

Et quand qu'on pense que le ministre de la Santé a eu budget de $1.6 billion et puis je pense de service, si je ne suis pas trompe, le service de 911 nous coute $800,000 ou $900,000 par annee. Je ne sais pas combien d'appels qui'ils avont par annee - mais on sait que c'est beaucoup. Les vies qui sont sauvees, les personnes qui ont de l'assistance - $800,000 ou $900,000 - qu'ils peuvent pas trouver ca dans leur budget de $1.6 billion, incroyable.

C'est ca que les gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse qui sont entrain de regarder ce soir nous disent, "incroyable que ce gouvernment conservateur" - six annees en opposition, six annees sur ce bord ici de la Maison, qu'ils ont dit ce que le gouvernement liberale fait, ce n'est pas correct. Six annees que le ministre de la Santé a eu l'occasion de s'assoir la et a dire, qu'est-ce que c'est que moi je ferai pour ameliorer le systeme de 911? Qu'est-ce que c'est que je ferai? J'ai eu six ans, six ans - le premier ministre a eu six ans; il etait ici pour les six ans. Le ministre de la Santé n'etait pas ici pour six annees, mais (Interruptions.) dans ce temps-la, le membre de Dartmouth South se mocque, il se mocque. Il ne veut pas se lever vous parler, c'est dommage. (Interruptions.) Et ce conscription qu'il n'a pas de voix ici dans cette Maison, c'est juste qu'il a eu chez l'autre bord de la Maison.

AN HON. MEMBER: Rise up. (Laughter.)

MR. SAMSON: . . . a peu pres tout. M. le Président, on a une occasion ce soir, on a vraiment une occasion ce soir a prendre la loi no. 20, qui n'est pas une bonne loi - les gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse n'ont pas demande pour. Je vais vous soumettre que c'est une loi

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qu'ils n'ont pas besoin. Pour ce gouvernment ici a dire qu'on peut pas trouver $800,000 ou $900,000 pour la Santé et la securite des gens de la province, qu'on considere qu'ils ont pris $2 million des charites, je pense de la 300,000 des gens qui ont des problemes de mobilite - et aujourd'hui de nous dire qu'ils peuvent pas trouver $800,000 ou $900,000.

J'espere, M. le Président, que quand ca va venir a une vote sur cette amendment, pour avoir cette loi eloigner (Interruptions.) pour six mois.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honorable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Would the honorable member take a question?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond, will you take a question?

MR. SAMSON: In what language, Mr. Speaker?

MR. PARENT: Did he say yes?

MR. SPEAKER: In what language?

MR. PARENT: In the language I choose.

MR. SAMSON: No. (Interruptions)

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

MR. SAMSON: It is unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, because it is not too often in this House that we have the opportunity to speak in Canada's second official language and it is unfortunate that it is during that time that the member for Kings North feels it appropriate to interrupt me and wish to ask a question in English. I find that offensive and it is unfortunate that when I spoke in English that he did not ask me to answer a question. It is quite unfortunate that he would choose the time I speak in Canada's second official language to interrupt me.

M. le Président, comme je l'ai dis, c'est le ministre de la Santé sur - content que le membre du Kings South est entre du cote j'espère, qui a la fin de la journée, peut-être, qui aura plus de mots français. Je veux lui donner mes compliments pour - quand il a parle, la, il a fait son mieux de parler français. Et puis, un de mes collègues a dit que ca lui faisait souvenir a Diefenbaker quand que lui il essayait de parler français, mais du fait que le membre de Kings South est de ce bord-la de la Maison est du partie conservateur, j'espère que d'être mis comme Diefenbaker, ca ne va pas l'insulter. J'espère que ca sera plus comme un compliment pour lui.

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M. le Président, en terminant, je sais que mon temps est bien sur enfin. Et puis c'est dommage quand qu'on avait la loi No. 20 devant nous, quand nous sommes assis pour des 14 heures, des 15 heures a la fois pour essayer de faire ce gouvernement nous écouter, écouter aux gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse, et puis qu'ils n'ont pas voulu faire ca.

Aujourd'hui, j'avais la loi no. 20, aujourd'hui il n'y a pas - on n'est pas au point ou il est essentiel que cette loi ici soit passer, comme la loi No. 9. On était prêt à avoir un crise, les gens qui travaillent pour EMS est après aller en grève est c'était important pour nous pour être capable de parler sur la loi No. 9 aussitôt que possible. Mais la loi No. 20, il n'y a aucun raison que le ministre de la Santé ne peut pas dire, "Oui, je vais supporter les membres de l'opposition. On va pousser ca six mois. Six mois - ce n'est pas long, je peut parler encore au premier ministre."

Ca fait que les yeux ce soir, qu'ils sont un peu fatigue, mais comme nous sentons tous. Mais c'est un occasion pour aller et dire aux gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse qu'on ne va pas mettre de taxes sur vous, sans vous le dire en avance. Quand notre budget va venir, s'il décide qu'il faut faire vous le saurez et la vous avez l'occasion de nous questionner dessus. Ici, on voit que le gouvernement conservateur encore utilise sa majorité pour forcer la loi No. 20 dans cette Maison et sur les gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse et je vous soumets, M. le Président que ce n'est pas bien, ce n'est pas correcte, que ce gouvernement vous vouloir faire ca. Les gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse vont les juger sur les devisions qu'ils se fait sur la loi No. 20 et parle dont qui ca au gouvernement maintenant les cadrans approchent vite et les gens de la Nouvelle Écosse ont encore une occasion a passer jugement sur les bords du gouvernement dans cette maison. Merci, M. le Président. (Applause.)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I suppose that, as we make our way home this evening, should any of us happen to spy any poor, unfortunate donkeys missing their hind legs, we won't have to look too far to figure out the reason why. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, the metaphor of the hoist is one that appeals to me enormously. I like to think of the big cranes that are down at the container terminal by the harbour. I like to think of them picking up this bill and moving it out into the middle of the harbour and dropping it into the harbour. Although I suppose, in some deference to the member who introduced the bill, we might think of it not so much in Halifax Harbour, but in the middle of muddy Cobequid Bay. I think that there are many reasons why that, or equivalent watery graves, is where this bill actually belongs. There are serious problems with it.

I would actually like to start by trying to contribute what I think might be, so far, the one and only hard fact that might have emerged, or be able to emerge, in this debate. I don't think I have heard anyone actually tell us how many calls there are every year to 911. So I looked it up. Now 911, as a province-wide service, has only been in effect since July 1997 and

[Page 2324]

the most up-to-date information I could find was in a newspaper article published about 19 or 20 months into the operation of the service.

Members may recall that, at that time, there was talk of some dissatisfaction on the part of some of the local fire chiefs within HRM. This talk occasioned a special report on the 911 service and, as part of the incidental information that was included there, was a statement about the number of calls that were coming into 911. At that point, there were about 300,000 calls that had been logged into the 911 service province-wide. But, of course, that was only in the first 19 months of its operation. But if we take it at something like that rate, we are looking at about 200,000 calls a year into 911, province-wide, for a service that is still relatively new as a province-wide service. This may give us, at least, a start in understanding the extent of the potential tax grab that is involved here.

Now if it is $1.00 a call then we are talking about $200,000. Of course at $200,000 that would just about pay for the new Deputy Minister of Health, so it may be that there is a certain kind of logic to what we are looking at here.

Mr. Speaker, you won't often catch me referring to authors associated with the Fraser Institute but I am going to do so this evening because when you look for information about user fees in government, you have to look at what the Fraser Institute has to say. Now make no mistake, I read what the Fraser Institute and its authors publish and report. It is a kind of "know the enemy" philosophy I have. It seems to me that in my perusal of the Fraser Institute publications I had not seen a huge amount bearing directly on the central point of this bill, which is imposing a user fee for emergency services. I had seen plenty from the Fraser Institute about user fees generally, but not on that particular point.

Do you know what? It turns out there actually is a Fraser Institute author who advocates user fees for emergency services. It is in a little book called . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Did the honourable member mention something about an amendment? This is about an amendment.

MR. EPSTEIN: I am not making an amendment, I am speaking to the amendment that is proposed.

MR. SPEAKER: I am sorry, I didn't hear the honourable member mentioning anything about amendment, hoist or anything.

MR. EPSTEIN: I started out talking about a hoist, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: I would appreciate it if the honourable member would stick to the motion of the amendment, please.

[Page 2325]

MR. EPSTEIN: I am sticking to it, Mr. Speaker. Now the book in which this philosophy that is central to the bill and, that because it is so central, justifies the hoist motion, is Home on the Urban Range, a book by economist Filip Palda. In a moment I will table the extract from this book that I think members will find exceedingly interesting - I know I did. It turns out that Mr. Palda, in line with the same kind of philosophy that we are looking at here, advocates that all kinds of - in this case - urban services ought to be paid for exclusively on a user fee basis, including police and fire. He suggests police and fire. I want to read you what he says about it because he gives a wonderful historical example of the central problem here. "In the Roman Republic, Marcus Crassus ran the biggest fire-extinguishing business. His technique was to set a fire, rush his men to the scene, buy the burning building at a knockdown price from the distraught owner, and put the flames out fast.". (Interruption)

Well, someone from the other side has just asked me what I think the point might be. I think it is pretty obvious; there are good reasons why you don't run essential emergency services on a user fee basis, and that illustrates it right then and there.

Why do you ever use user fees? Now there are reasons, and I will table this extract because I am sure there are lots of members who would like to amuse themselves by looking at this silliness because the question arises, what next? But you do not even have to go to the what next because it does not make sense for this example.

When do you use user fees? When does it make sense perhaps to use user fees? You use them when you want to discourage the use of a service. That is one traditional well-recognized solid economist's reason for using a user fee - when you want to discourage someone from using the service. Is that the message that the honourable minister is trying to send here because it sure looks like it. Is there some other reason?

You have user fees when you are buying something special, a particular service that is not part of the normal run of what ought to be provided in your tax dollars. If, for example, you were going along and you are using - here is something else we have been discussing recently - the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, if you are going to call upon the government to give a service and actually look up a document for you, photostat it and so on, there is a user fee. You pay for the photostating. It makes a certain amount of sense, but does it make sense for an emergency service? I do not think so. What is it that you are buying that is so special here that it should attract a user fee? It does not make sense.

If there is any justification for this, I think that there has to be an examination of the logic of it, the underlying thought which is why constantly, as I think about these justifications that are sometimes put forward for user fees, they do not seem to match the thought behind this bill which is why the hoist makes sense.

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There is another circumstance in which a user fee might sometimes make sense. It is in a situation of competition where you get competing services, where you might have your choice. So you are buying something, this makes sense if you are thinking of going to a restaurant - you have got to pay for it - if you are going to hire a taxi, there are competing restaurants and there are competing taxis. That makes sense, but it does not make sense where there is a monopoly service and it is an essential service used in emergencies. That does not make sense. Except for Filip Palda I have not been able to find any writer anywhere who remotely suggests that user fees for emergency services somehow have an efficiency or other justification in the structure of the economy. No one else suggests it and the example that he gives illustrates very well how laughable it is. That is why, failing to find any justifications, I think that the hoist makes sense.

Mr. Speaker, I see that we are fast approaching the end of the evening. I would like to interrupt and continue my remarks, if I may, tomorrow when we return to this matter. I would like to move interruption, if I may.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn the debate. 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: I move the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow at the hour at 9:00 a.m. We will sit from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The order of business will be second reading, third reading of bills, Committee of the Whole House on Bills and Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.

I move that the House do now rise to meet tomorrow at the hour of 9:00 a.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

We stand adjourned until 9:00 a.m. on Friday.

[The House rose at 7:57 p.m.]