|TABLE OF CONTENTS||PAGE|
|SPEECH FROM THE THRONE||8|
|ADDRESS IN REPLY TO THE SPEECH FROM THE THRONE:|
|Ms. M. McGrath - Moved||17|
|Mr. D. Morse - Seconded||21|
|DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY:|
|Mr. Robert Chisholm||27|
|ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Oct. 8th at 11:00 a.m.||30|
[The Legislature rose on Friday, August 20, 1999 to meet again at the call of the Speaker.
The First Session of the 58th General Assembly was ceremonially opened on a cold, dull day.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: His Honour, the Lieutenant Governor.
[The Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable John James Kinley, preceded by his escort and aides and by Mr. Peter Theriault, Acting Sergeant-at-Arms, bearing the Mace, entered the House of Assembly Chamber. The Lieutenant Governor then took his seat on the Throne.
The Sergeant-at-Arms then departed and re-entered the Chamber followed by the Speaker, the Honourable Murray Scott; the Chief Clerk of the House, Roderick MacArthur, Q.C.; and the Assistant Clerk, Arthur Fordham, Q.C.
The Speaker, with the Sergeant-at-Arms on his right and the Clerks on either side, took up his position at the foot of the Speaker's Table.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: It is the wish of His Honour that the ladies and gentlemen be seated.
SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Mr. Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly:
I am pleased to welcome our families, friends, and guests. Indeed, I welcome all Nova Scotians to this historic House, the birthplace of responsible government in our nation.
As is customary, we pause for a moment to remember those who are no longer with us, but who made lasting contributions to our province and deserve our gratitude on this day. Doug Giles was a friend to many of us in this House. We will miss his aid, comfort, and friendship as we conduct the people's business. Fisher Hudson served his country in time of war as an air force navigator, and his province in time of peace as a member of the Executive Council. We note with regret that the voice of Robert Lindsay, known for his eloquence in this House as well his harmonious tones as a singer, has been silenced. We extend our sympathies to their families.
Building on Strong Values
While we respect and honour the traditions and heritage of this noble institution, our commitment to Nova Scotians is that, from this day forward, government in this province will be very different. It is the belief of this government that Nova Scotians are prepared to embrace a new set of values and principles as the basis for a new relationship with their government. That belief is based upon the honest recognition that government cannot, and should not, attempt to be all things to all people. It is rooted in the understanding that all authority vested in government comes from the people. The people therefore, individually and in communities, must be permitted and encouraged to share in the deliberations, the decisions, and the responsibilities that come with governance.
Government must be there in times of need. Government must meet the highest standard in delivery of certain vital, well-defined public services. But government must also know its place. Government must respect the right of Nova Scotians to direct their own lives and chart their own futures. Government must encourage a strong private sector economy where individual initiative and the courage to take risks are rewarded. Government must live within its means and ensure that Nova Scotians get the maximum benefit from every tax dollar spent.
Government must also respect the right of peaceable, law-abiding individuals to go about their lives. Government must recognize the right of legitimate enterprise to go about its business. This government believes that in the final analysis self-reliance and personal responsibility are the keys to building strong families, strong communities, and a better province.
These beliefs represent a philosophical change in governance for this province. These beliefs establish the principles that will guide us through the next four years as we work with Nova Scotians to achieve our goals. This government realizes it faces difficult choices, but it also sees great new opportunities and exciting challenges for Nova Scotians and Nova Scotia. This government has confidence that, together, Nova Scotians can and will meet the challenges that lie ahead.
Building a Healthier Province
Our first goal must, by definition, be our first priority. That goal is to build a healthy society. This means an approach to health care that spans our lives, from early intervention programs to long-term-care beds. Nova Scotians must know that their health comes first and that responsibility for ensuring good health rests with them, as well as with the health system. Neither individuals nor governments can simply buy good health by pouring money into the system. We have learned that hard and expensive lesson over the last six years.
Investments in health care must be timely and strategic in order to minimize costs and maximize results. This government will meet its commitment to deliver better health care to its citizens and to achieve greater value from every dollar spent on health care. This government will establish a single-entry system for assessing the care needs of Nova Scotians and for delivering health care tailored to meet those needs. This government will meet its commitment to invest in wellness and disease prevention. This government will meet its commitment to establish the position of Health Care Advocate to work with caregivers in identifying interventions that make sense both for individuals with exceptional medical needs and for the system as a whole.
This government will ensure that accountability is tied to authority. This government will meet its commitment to measure outcomes and redirect resources away from failed approaches and into proven successes. This government will meet its commitment to invest in new information technologies in order to reduce duplication and speed the delivery of care.
This government knows that paper cannot be used to bind wounds, nor ink used as medicine. Where choices need to be made we will invest in hands that heal. Our commitment to provide 100 full-time nurses, or equivalent, within six months of assuming office will be met.
Nova Scotians must be confident that steps are being taken to preserve their health care system for the future, and this means securing the services of tomorrow's health care professionals. This government will meet the commitment to secure nurses for the future by providing bursaries to students who remain in Nova Scotia. This government will meet its commitment to establish the position of Nursing Policy Advisor to work with the profession in bringing about a positive work environment where nurses know they are valued. This government will meet its commitment to secure physicians for the future by providing medical bursaries to students who commit to practising in under-serviced areas. This government will introduce legislation governing the responsibilities and duties of various health professionals. And in keeping with our belief that families also offer hands that heal, your government will immediately move to enhance respite services for those who provide care at home.
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing government is restoring Nova Scotians' confidence in their health system.
This government believes that as long as caregivers, communities, and volunteers are shut out of the decision-making process we will fail to meet our goal of building a truly responsive, efficient, and affordable system.
While we recognize the need for regional cooperation and planning, government firmly believes that both can be accomplished without alienating communities or adding another layer to the bureaucracy through regional health boards.
The system will be changed, but unlike in the past, it will be done in a planned, thoughtful, and step-wise fashion. This government will proceed with our commitment to legislate the roles and responsibilities of community health boards and eliminate the existing regional health board structure.
This government also believes that all of its citizens should have equitable access to core clinical services and that standards must be applied.
This government will, through the Provincial Health Council, hold public discussions on these two critical initiatives. Preparations are well under way, and this government will meet its commitment.
These steps represent only our early efforts to support the most valuable asset in our health care system - the caregivers themselves. These steps begin the initiative of supporting Nova Scotians who take a greater stake in their own well-being and that of their families. And they lay the foundations for ensuring that Nova Scotians will have a health care system that provides what they need, in times of need.
Rebuilding Our Economy
The second goal for our government is to reassert Nova Scotia's position as the leading economic force in Atlantic Canada and a force to be reckoned with nationally and internationally.
This government is dedicated to ensuring that Nova Scotia offers a business climate that encourages individual initiative and entrepreneurial spirit.
This government believes that there must be clearly defined policies for supporting business and job growth. We will work with business in establishing binding principles for attracting new investment to Nova Scotia.
We will encourage business, and small business in particular, by freeing the business environment of unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles. We will meet our commitment to establish a Red Tape Commissioner.
This government will meet its commitment to the reasonable and orderly divestiture of public business enterprises in favour of private sector involvement.
Government should not try to direct or control the natural economic growth of the province. It must support entrepreneurial efforts through strategic investments in infrastructure, training, and marketing. We must also recognize the importance of our traditional resources - forestry, agriculture, and fishing.
Over the next few months this government will initiate discussions with the federal government to secure an agreement on sustainable forestry practices, which will ensure that our forests are a renewable asset for future generations.
This government recognizes the importance of helping young farmers and will meet its commitment to provide relief from the high cost of borrowing.
This government has met, and will continue to meet, its commitment to pursue the federal government on the issue of treating Nova Scotia farmers fairly and equitably through a farm drought program.
This government will meet its commitment to demonstrate leadership in supporting Nova Scotia's entrepreneurial spirit by developing Nova Scotia Brand and Buy Nova Scotia programs, which will extend and enhance our image in the market place.
Nova Scotia is enjoying an economic renaissance as it enters the 21st Century, and government must capitalize on new industries and economic enablers such as information technology, biomedical research, and the oil and gas sector.
We will meet our commitment to establish a Technology Council with members from business and post-secondary institutions to promote technological change while improving productivity and quality.
The emerging oil and gas industry has yet to hit critical mass in Nova Scotia but it holds the potential to transform many sectors of the economy by providing a secure source of clean energy, in addition to spin-off industries and direct and indirect jobs. This government is dedicated to ensuring that each stage in the building and development of a gas and oil industry maximizes benefits for Nova Scotians.
We will fulfil our commitment to establish an Energy Council that will monitor the development of the industry and make certain that all regions of Nova Scotia benefit from offshore resources.
One of Nova Scotia's most exciting opportunities is in the tourism and culture sectors, which continue to grow in leaps and bounds each year. In the first eight months of this year, more than 690,000 people stopped at Tourist Information Centres across this province. Having hit the $1-billion-a-year mark, tourism is headed for $1.5 billion. This government has set that as a tourism goal during its first mandate. This government recognized the importance of this industry - so key to the economic future of rural Nova Scotians - by establishing a separate Department of Tourism and Culture.
This government will meet its commitment to build on the success of cultural industries by taking initiatives in the field of film and television production.
Infrastructure is critical to continued growth of the tourism industry and other sectors of the economy, especially in rural areas where visitors must travel by car or bus. This government will support the tourism industry by meeting its commitment to invest strategically in primary and secondary highway systems. This government will meet its commitment to increase highway funding in future budgets and to develop a 10 year road improvement plan based on need.
This government's top priority in dealings with the federal government is a new federal-provincial highways cost-sharing agreement.
The Island of Cape Breton has been forced to deal with harsh economic realities in the 1990's. That region of our province has experienced more hardship than any other. This government will honour its commitment to devolve the powers and authority of economic development to the community level so that decisions, including funding decisions, can be made at the local level. This government realizes it does not hold a monopoly on good ideas,
and it will listen intently to the ideas of Cape Bretoners themselves, as together we work to build a new and lasting economy for the future of the Island.
We will establish a committee to explore with industrial Cape Breton communities their vision of the economic future of their Island and how government can best support them in turning that vision into reality.
This government, in consultation with the people of Cape Breton and other levels of government, will move forward with its commitment to initiate a long-term remediation plan for declining heavy industries. Nova Scotians know that government cannot invent jobs, nor do loans and grants often buy jobs of lasting value. We have learned that lesson in the past and need not learn it again in the future.
This province has never had so many or such a wide variety of economic opportunities. Government's role is to help the private sector capitalize on that potential. The government does have a role to play in helping to prepare Nova Scotians for the opportunities that lie just ahead. Therefore, working in partnership with the Nova Scotia Community College and Collège de l'Acadie, strategic public and private investments will ensure we develop the skills and the knowledge that Nova Scotians will need to participate fully in our more prosperous future. This government believes that support for the fundamentals of our economy will allow the private sector to generate jobs that have a future.
Building Our Human Potential
While quality health care and a strong and vibrant economy are critical to this province's success in the 21st Century, it is the skill, talent, and resourcefulness of Nova Scotians that will take us there. Education holds the key. Every available tax dollar directed to the education of young Nova Scotians must help improve the learning opportunities of our students. This opportunity must be provided in an equitable manner so that students themselves are the determining factor in their level of success.
This government will meet its commitment to review the P3 construction and financing process to ensure that all future schools are built to a standard of quality that provides taxpayers with the maximum benefit for their tax dollars.
We will meet our commitment to work with the Nova Scotia Community College to increase the number of training seats so that more Nova Scotians, and particularly young Nova Scotians, will have access to training that leads to employment.
This government will proceed with its commitment to develop a code of conduct for students and teachers that recognizes and supports a respectful and healthy atmosphere of learning. This government will meet its commitment to review school board funding with the intention of providing long-term funding that allows greater flexibility in planning. Nova
Scotian teachers, together with Nova Scotian students, in a safe, healthy learning environment, will define our future success.
This government recognizes the important role of education and training in building strong Nova Scotian communities. Strong communities also need to know that workers and volunteers engaged in the most crucial aspects of community life have the support of government. This government will proceed with plans to assist continuing care workers by providing new curriculum to upgrade their skills through the Nova Scotia Community College.
We will recognize the valuable contribution of volunteer firefighters by meeting this government's commitment to move toward legislation that tangibly supports their dedication to their communities.
Nova Scotian seniors have contributed so much of their lives to their communities and they have so much more to give through their experience, wisdom, and guidance. This government will recognize that contribution by fulfilling its commitment to help seniors remain in their homes. We will immediately amend the Senior Citizens' Financial Aid Act to extend the property tax rebate to more low-income seniors next year.
This government will immediately meet its commitment to provide seniors with a strong voice through increased funding for the Senior Citizens' Secretariat. Strong communities mean safe and secure communities for the young in our society. The young must be protected from those who would prey upon them.
This government will immediately meet its commitment to allow for the apprehension of children involved in prostitution through legislative and policy changes in our justice and child protection systems. Adult prostitution is also a scourge on our communities and this government will immediately make good on its commitment to look for increased penalties for those who seek out prostitutes.
We will introduce the Youth Pathways and Transition initiative through the high school curriculum to better meet the needs of at-risk students.
Those who do face hardships in their younger years must know that this government will not give up on them as long as they don't give up on themselves. This government will immediately fulfil its commitment to move forward with a secure treatment facility for youth with severe behavioural problems who need treatment and secure care.
Building Better Government
Over the next four years this province will undergo many changes. Government must lead the way by setting an example of openness and accountability. It must demonstrate that it respects and will be responsive to the wishes of the people. This government recognizes the legitimate right of people to have access to the information upon which decisions are based. This government will respect that process by meeting its commitment to amend the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to offer a more secure term of office for the Review Officer.
This government has and will continue to keep its commitment to give Nova Scotians a true picture of the state of the province's finances. Sharing information must extend to those who are most affected by provincial laws governing privacy.
This government will fulfil its commitment to amend existing legislation to improve access to adoption information for adult adoptees and birth parents.
This government will also extend to communities, whether they be cultural, geographic, linguistic, or communities of interest, the respect due them by allowing proper input into critical decisions.
We will move to honour our commitment to review existing school board boundaries where prior concerns have been raised over the process for assessing public input.
We are committed to developing a more inclusive relationship with Nova Scotia's Aboriginal peoples in finding resolutions to issues of ongoing concern. Together we must find a means for protecting the natural resources of this province for future generations while recognizing the rights of all Nova Scotians to benefit from the land and sea. This government will move forward with its commitment to establish a process for meaningful dialogue in dealing with the Aboriginal peoples of this province.
This government is committed to respecting the rights of its employees who provide service in a responsible and professional manner to Nova Scotians.
We will immediately move to fulfil our commitment to implement the Ghiz Report and the Kaufman Report, which recognize the important contribution of our Public Prosecution Service.
It is important that government continually earn the respect of the people by demonstrating our belief that capable work will be rewarded and that proper conduct by officials is mandatory. This government has, and will continue to implement, a policy of performance pay for senior officials that will reward effective performance by senior executives.
This government will immediately honour its commitment to introduce and make public a Code of Conduct for members of the Executive Council and senior government employees, which sets clear standards for ethical behaviour.
This government is philosophically committed to removing itself as an unwanted intrusion into the lives of Nova Scotians where and when it can. The government that remains will be a testament to our understanding that we are servants of the people. This is a government determined to do - and do well - those things that are truly important to Nova Scotians. We are guardians of their interests, bound by duty to respond to their needs and commanded by conscience to respect their will.
Building the Future
Nova Scotia's future has never been brighter. This government is dedicated to ensuring we do not risk that future or fritter it away because this province is unwilling or unable to live within its means. Our health care and educational systems are already jeopardized, not by program reviews or planned economies, but by a mounting debt that is nearing the $10 billion mark. Unless action is taken we will lose control of our own destiny, and our children will lose their right to make the choices that are still available to us. We can, and together will, prevent that from happening.
This government has kept its promise of smaller and more efficient government by reducing the size of Cabinet. It will continue that policy through reductions in non-essential government services.
This government will move forward aggressively with its commitment to balance the budget, after undertaking a comprehensive review to help determine a rational, planned program of expenditure reduction.
In the coming months we will also move towards creating a new and flexible work environment for our employees. We will offer them options to improve their family lives and make government a more efficient and cost-effective organization in the process.
This government is based on the firm belief that, just as we all share in a future here in Nova Scotia, we also share in the responsibilities of the present.
God bless Nova Scotia;
God bless Canada;
God bless the Queen.
[The Speaker and Clerks left the Chamber.
The Lieutenant Governor left the Chamber preceded by his escorts and the Sergeant-at-Arms.
Mr. Speaker took the Chair.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: His Honour the Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated.
His Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to make a Speech to the members met in the General Assembly of which, for greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy which the Chief Clerk will now read.
THE CLERK: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speech be taken as read.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the speech be taken as read. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin. (Applause)
MS. MARY ANN MCGRATH: Mr. Speaker, Hon. James Kinley, Mrs. Kinley, Premier Hamm, fellow MLAs and honoured guests. It is truly a privilege to be asked to move the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, particularly for a new MLA. On behalf of the people of Halifax Bedford Basin, thank you for this opportunity.
Mr. Speaker, congratulations on your election, as only the second elected Speaker of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly. Please be assured of our confidence in your ability to meet the challenges presented by this important office. Also, congratulations to Mr. Taylor, Mr. Deveaux and Mr. Gaudet, our first three elected Deputy Speakers. May you also enjoy the confidence of this House in the discharge of your duties.
I would also like to extend congratulations to all newly elected and re-elected MLAs. May we all be guided by wisdom and understanding in our service to our constituents and our province.
Mr. Speaker, I have lived in Halifax Bedford Basin for over 40 years. During that time my riding has grown from a few scattered communities along the Bedford Highway and the Kearney Lake Road to become a multicultured, vibrant urban constituency, one of the fastest
growing in the province. Our sense of community is strong. Many who grew up in the communities of Halifax Bedford Basin have stayed here, many who had left, now return.
We have bought homes, sometimes our parents' homes, and are raising our families where we were raised. Why? Because of the strength of our communities, because of the quality of life in Halifax Bedford Basin and the support system that is found in our neighbourhoods.
This loyalty and strength in community is repeated all across this beautiful province. This sense of community and belonging is what keeps Nova Scotians focused on the really important issues that challenge all of us, including this government, issues such as the strength of our health care and education systems, the management of our resources and our fiscal realities.
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my community I wish to express my gratitude that the strength and ability of our communities to assist in charting our future has been recognized by this government. Communities should and will be involved in the decisions which will shape our future course. Who better to assist government in realizing our potential than the citizens of this great province. It is time for governments at all levels to put aside paternalistic policies, dismantle the bureaucracy of turf protection, and get down to work in an open, cooperative manner, one which benefits the people of Nova Scotia. (Applause)
We must never lose sight of the fact that we are the servants of the public and that the wise and careful spending of their hard-earned money is of far more importance than the preservation of the power and authority of government.
Mr. Speaker, many challenges face this government as we attempt to make the necessary but difficult decisions regarding the distribution of our many resources. The first and most important area of concern must be our health care system. The steps just outlined by the Honourable Mr. Kinley will begin the process of providing the necessary support for our doctors, nurses, paramedics and other dedicated health care providers as they work faithfully to deliver health services to the people of Nova Scotia. In health care, as elsewhere, communities must be involved in the decisions of how best to meet their own needs. I applaud the direction that this government is taking in ensuring that communities will have a real say in this and in other important decisions affecting the everyday lives of Nova Scotians.
Mr. Speaker, this past Sunday I was honoured to witness first-hand the strength and commitment of Nova Scotians in overcoming obstacles that affect our health and well-being. I was asked to represent the Minister of Health at the Run for the Cure, the fifth such run held in Nova Scotia. This amazing event saw the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and corporate sponsors giving of their time and money to provide funds for breast cancer research. This disease is one of the number one killers of women in our country. Their efforts resulted in over 4,000 people combining their energy and raised $380,000 for breast cancer research.
When added to the other monies raised simultaneously across this great country, $6 million will be available for breast cancer research. (Applause)
I use this example, Mr. Speaker, to illustrate the power and commitment of the people of this province. It is this giving spirit and commitment to improve the quality of life here in Nova Scotia that will enable this province to realize its rightful potential. What we have needed is a government willing to listen to ordinary people, a government that recognizes the valuable contribution of volunteers and a government that shows respect and concern for senior Nova Scotians. This Speech from the Throne points us in this direction.
The other important task and certainly something I have long supported, Mr. Speaker, is a reinvestment in the importance of education. The value of education can never be overemphasized. It is the one thing, above all others, that allows us to move forward and ensures our continued progress as a society. This government's commitment to review the P3 process is proof of our determination to provide quality education in an equitable manner to all of our students whether they attend a new building or an old one. The recent program to build new schools with private money has gained much attention in this province, but buildings do not teach. Teachers, armed with textbooks, teach.
These new buildings which have recently been trumpeted as the cure to the education woes in this province have been allowed to take precedence over students. We will change that perception and make students the rightful focus of our education system.
I am also pleased to see that this government recognizes the importance of supporting our school boards in their struggle to deliver quality education to our students. The issue of a stable, secure funding strategy is paramount to our school boards' ability to deliver the highest possible level of education to our children - an education capable of taking them into the next millennium, secure in their ability to provide a future for generations of Nova Scotians.
Mr. Speaker, we are fortunate to live in the best province in the country, in the best country in the world. Now our province has the opportunity, possibly the best opportunity in generations, to realize the full potential and economic prosperity we have always dreamed of for ourselves and for our children. Our province has been built on our natural resources and the strength and ingenuity of our people. Now, we have exciting new economic opportunities ahead of us: natural gas, the biomedical and information technology industries and our emerging film industry, to name a few. We are on the edge of a new chapter, full of promise for all Nova Scotians.
During the election campaign I hosted a youth rally at my campaign office, focused on the issues of education and employment affecting young Nova Scotians. The rally also served to highlight the loss of talent and energy suffered by this province when our young people are forced to look outside of our boundaries to gain employment. The economic policies to be
undertaken by this government will secure a brighter future for the people of this province and allow our children to come home to make a life for themselves and their families in the province of their birth.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, the beauty of Nova Scotia and the talent of our citizens have caught the attention of the world. Fully one in 20 jobs in Nova Scotia is now related to culture. This government's recognition of the importance of tourism and culture, by the creation of a separate department, will provide Nova Scotia with a vehicle to promote one of our best assets. Proper marketing of tourism and culture will provide a sustainable economic base for our province, stretching from Yarmouth to Sydney. Location of a community will, for once, have no bearing on the success or failure of this wonderful opportunity - all will benefit.
Mr. Speaker, much reference has been made over the years of Nova Scotia being a have-not province. Perhaps the time has come instead for us to recognize how very much we do have and will have in the future. (Applause)
Mr. Speaker, I have spoken about the strength of our communities, but I must take this opportunity to thank my own community for the privilege of representing my province as the MLA for Halifax Bedford Basin. I am an unlikely choice for a political career. I have no professional designation or social standing. I have never held office or run a company. I am a mother, a wife, an employee, a volunteer. I have been a fund-raiser and a PTA member. I am an ordinary person. But, here I am, a member of the government of the province I love, representing the community that nurtured me all of my life.
I have many to thank. First, my husband, Brayne, and our children for their encouragement and support over the last 24 years. Their willingness to do without my company on many occasions has allowed me to grow as a person and contribute to my community. I must thank the executive of my riding association for urging me to take up the challenge to run, as well as the volunteers and my neighbours who supported me during the election, dragging me up every hill in Halifax Bedford Basin.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I must especially thank the voters who put their faith in me, an ordinary person, as their choice to represent them in this government. It is a testament to the type of government we now enjoy in this province, in the great country of Canada, that not only could an ordinary person become an MLA, but that the constituents I represent, can have faith that the voice of this ordinary person will be heard by the government of this wonderful province. (Applause)
The direction outlined in this Speech from the Throne honours the hard work of all Nova Scotians, and sets a clear course for the future of this province. I, an ordinary Nova Scotian, am proud and very honoured to move that the Speech from the Throne do pass, as read by the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, may it please His Honour Lieutenant Governor James Kinley that we, Her Majesty's cheerful and loyal subjects in this House of Assembly for the Province of Nova Scotia during this First Session of the 58th General Assembly, assure Your Honour of our loyal support and affection. May God bless you and keep you well. Thank you. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings South. (Applause)
MR. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, Lieutenant Governor James Kinley, Mrs. Kinley, honourable members of this House of Assembly, invited guests and citizens of this great province, I proudly rise here today to second the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. On behalf of the good people from Kings South, for whom it is my distinct privilege of representing, I bring warmest greetings.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to acknowledge Lieutenant Governor James Kinley's fine delivery of our government's intentions on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia. To both Their Honours, the Lieutenant Governor and Mrs. Kinley, I pledge my support for their loyal service to Her Majesty and to the people of Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to recognize members from all Parties returning to this House on this historic occasion. You have stood the test of time and your success in the July 27th election is a tribute to the service you bring to your constituents. I extend congratulations to the new members for earning the honour of representing their respective constituents in this House of Assembly, the birthplace of responsible government outside of Mother Britain.
We are all charged with conducting ourselves in a manner that earns the respect of the citizens we are sworn to serve, a responsibility we should not take lightly. The expectation that we represent our constituents' wishes in the appropriate forum, whether here on the floor or to our respective caucuses, is critical to how Nova Scotians will judge us in carrying out the trust they have bestowed upon us.
I congratulate Premier Hamm for his foresight in recognizing this critical change in how we represent our constituents as crucial to the success of this government. To each of you, I extend my best wishes for success as we endeavour to serve, to the best of our abilities, both our constituents and our province.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to offer my complete cooperation in trying to do not only justice to the traditions and history of this Chamber, but to be congenial and respectful of all the other honourable members. I share and welcome what I believe to be all the Leaders' common wish that the people of Nova Scotia see our conduct as worthy of this office and one our children would want to emulate. I know you, Mr. Speaker, will carry out your duties in a like fashion while holding sacred Nova Scotia's parliamentary traditions.
Again through you, Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to extend my congratulations to Premier Hamm for his electoral success. The citizens of Nova Scotia know that Premier Hamm always conducts himself with thoughtfulness, vision and integrity. They look to him, with the assistance of all members present, to deliver good government, as enunciated in the Speech from the Throne. They recognize that a new standard for openness, fairness, inclusiveness, accountability, and fiscal prudence has been established, and they will hold us to it.
While I am the representative for Kings South, I believe the principles outlined in the Speech from the Throne are critical for the prosperity and growth not only of my own constituency, but for the entire province. The success of any one constituency is inextricably intertwined with all 52 constituencies from Yarmouth to Cape Breton, Amherst to Halifax. We are our brother's keeper.
Mr. Speaker, the services we are duty-bound to deliver, such as health and education, must be done in a sustainable manner. To do this we must be open for scrutiny not only to the members of the House, but to the public we are sworn to serve. Nova Scotians have a tremendous amount to offer all members of this House, but our accounting practices must be transparent in order to effectively tap this community wisdom.
The change to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles announced by the honourable Minister of Finance, Neil LeBlanc - and I am sure supported by all members of this Chamber - set the stage for a new relationship with not only the public, but with our trusted and valued Auditor General, Mr. Roy Salmon. Government cannot manage public spending effectively, efficiently or with economy unless it is forthright about the ongoing state of the books. Good government requires honest accounting in every area and the Speech from the Throne makes it very clear that this is what we shall provide.
Mr. Speaker, the Speech from the Throne speaks of fairness. We made a commitment in our platform to make sure students across this province have equitable allocation of resources. There needs to be parity in our schools physically, emotionally, environmentally and scholastically. The people of Kings South, Kings West and Kings North, who depend upon the Central Kings High School, wish me to acknowledge the honourable Minister of Education, Jane Purves, on her recognition of the badly needed renovations to this sick school and its continued priority to the people of Kings County.
I am pleased my neighbouring constituency of Kings West is also accorded the same priority in dealing with problems at West Kings District High School. As a parent, myself, I cannot imagine the anguish of sending one of my children to a school every day knowing it makes them sick. I further wish to recognize the efforts of the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board, staff and parent volunteers in dealing with this situation until the Department of Education is able to make the necessary renovations.
Mr. Speaker, on the subject of school construction, I wish to acknowledge that the Honourable Minister Purves has followed through on our commitment to honour the existing 39 signed P3 leases, but she has also kept our commitment to review the P3 process to ensure only the best possible approach is used in school construction, renovation and operation for the delivery of the remaining 16 schools promised by the previous government. I see the move to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles may have a decisive impact on the way government finances these large capital projects in the future offering hope for significant savings which benefit all Nova Scotians. The ability to deliver an education focused on students, rather than on structures, requires that we must rationalize the costs of providing schools.
Mr. Speaker, as outlined in the Speech from the Throne, I wish to acknowledge our government's commitment to a sustainable, results-driven health care system with measurable outcomes. The Minister of Health, James Muir, tackles a critical portion of our platform, as the price of delivering quality health care at an affordable cost will determine the success of our government. The importance of scrutinizing every dollar spent is nowhere more apparent than in health care.
Mr. Speaker, as was the case with many areas of this province, my own was devastated with the sudden closure of its community-owned Eastern Kings Memorial Hospital in 1994. The community is working hard to address the void left from the closing of the EKM, and a proposal is going forth to the Western Regional Health Board for a community health centre. We know how critical health care is to the people of Nova Scotia, and it is no different for the people of Kings South. The activation of community health boards for the provision of primary health care is a cornerstone of our health care platform.
Again, Mr. Speaker, Kings County is an area of the province blessed with a diversity of resources. We have one of the most fertile regions of the country; breathtaking scenery; a balanced mix of agriculture, industry and residential development; Acadia, one of the top- ranked undergraduate universities in the country; and a growing population base of hard-working, friendly and generous people. Those of us who are able to live in the Annapolis Valley are truly fortunate.
Our reputation is growing internationally and with the population growth, our highways and secondary roads are being tested beyond capacity. This was exacerbated by the shutting down of the railway service several years ago, placing an inordinate number of trucks on our Highway No. 101, which was not designed for this volume of heavy truck traffic. This is the time for Nova Scotia to recognize the importance of infrastructure to our economy and public safety right across the province.
As the member for Kings South, I would like to acknowledge those people who died or were injured needlessly in head-on collisions on Highway No. 101, most of which were in Kings South and adjoining Hants West. On the twinning of Highway No. 101, I salute the
efforts of the Twin to Win organization and particularly acknowledge Dr. Ian Verryn-Stuart, Ms. Joan Tracey, Ms. Anne Cameron and many other individuals and organizations working toward a national highway program to address dangerous roads like Highway No. 101.
Ms. Sonja Wood started a roadside vigil September 26th to national media attention, camping out metres away from the site of her head-on collision that cost her the use of her legs. The constant stream of honks as the 8,000 to 13,000 vehicles go by every day is tangible proof of support for this noble cause. I wish to thank Premier Hamm on behalf of all those who use Highway No. 101, for his leadership in having a National Highways Program added to the agenda of his first First Ministers Conference so soon after his election and his commitment to twinning Highway No. 101 as the government's new highway construction priority.
I further wish to thank the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, Honourable Gordon Balser, for his continuing efforts in advancing such a program with his federal and provincial counterparts. This is an excellent example of how grass roots democracy works with our new government and I am confident all the people who worked and continue to work so hard on Highway No. 101 will be rewarded with a twinned highway. The pressure on our highway systems extends beyond Highway No. 101.
New Minas evolved into the commercial hub of the Annapolis Valley because of its central location but the traffic this brings, which is the Village's greatest asset, also threatens to be its greatest liability. Unless we can manage the traffic flow with an adequate highway system, congestion will smother further expansion. Plans for another interchange to Highway No. 101 and a Commercial Street bypass to the north delivered on a timely basis are critical to ensuring the traffic remains an asset.
Coldbrook, as with New Minas, is rapidly developing into a commercial district along Highway No. 1. Again, the congestion is diverting traffic onto residential streets and rural roads where possible - not a desirable situation. I congratulate the Coldbrook Ratepayers Association for drawing attention to this with a petition in 1997. Your efforts have yielded a third lane on the busiest section of Highway No. 1, and soon two sets of traffic lights to allow egress and access from Highway No. 101.
The growth in Kings County stresses the existing highway infrastructure system in many places besides Commercial Street, New Minas, and Highway No. 1 in Coldbrook. I know the Premier and Minister of Transportation and Public Works are working hard to address these and similar concerns across the province, as shown in the Speech from the Throne.
Mr. Speaker, I send congratulations to the New Minas Village Commission and their ratepayers. New Minas cut the village property taxes by over 17 per cent this year after retiring some long-term debt. The fiscal dividend is exactly what the steps outlined in the
Speech from the Throne will yield some day for this province, ultimately making Nova Scotia the most tax-friendly place to live in Atlantic Canada.
As mentioned previously, Wolfville is the home to Acadia University. Acadia University is entering its fourth year of its cutting edge Acadia Advantage Program, where the curriculum is taught on-line. This and other difficult decisions allow Acadia University to compete internationally for the best university students. The technologies required to computerize the campus to accommodate the Acadia Advantage Program are being put to good use to create the Valley Technology Innovation Centre, a technologically enhanced incubator mall on campus. This will help high tech business develop with the accompanying high paying jobs here in the beautiful Annapolis Valley instead of out of province. The Acadia Advantage infrastructure also impacts Wolfville's Smart Communities federal application to build on the town's academic and technical foundation already in place. Wolfville, like several other communities in Nova Scotia, is vying to become the one chosen to further develop its use of information and communication technologies for economic, social and cultural development.
Acadia is also the beneficiary of considerable corporate generosity, as the Irving family commences construction of a multimillion dollar, world-class botanical gardens on campus. The capital and ongoing operating costs are covered entirely by their corporate benefactors and the facilities will allow for research and a major tourist attraction. The botanical gardens work synergically with an already strong core of tourist attractions in beautiful Wolfville and the surrounding area.
Mr. Speaker, the historic town of Wolfville is also the home to the Atlantic Theatre Festival (ATF) acclaimed for its first-class live theatre. This spring the Atlantic Theatre Festival took a giant step to overcoming the fiscal difficulties accumulated over its early years, without sacrificing the quality of their performances. The community rallied in the spring under the chairmanship of Mr. John Stuart and the concerted efforts of a large group of community volunteers to address its debt and more importantly continue to provide world-class live theatre at a sustainable cost under the new artistic director, Mr. Jerry Etienne. The future of the Atlantic Theatre Festival has never been more secure and we as the new government recognize Nova Scotians expect the same responsible fiscal performance from their government.
Mr. Speaker, Wolfville has done a tremendous job as the academic and cultural hub of the Annapolis Valley despite a severely curtailed residential and commercial property tax base, unlike the extent borne by many other university towns, due to the tax status of Acadia as the town's major property owner.
Cet été dans le cadre du deuxième Congrès Mondial Acadien en Louisiane, il fut annoné officiellement que le troisième Congrès Mondial Acadien aura lieu en Nouvelle-Écosse en 2004. Des événéments se derouleront dans differentes communautés acadiennes mais le lieu historique national de Grand-Pré sera un lieu de ralliement du peuple acadien. Les participants au troisième Congrès Mondial Acadien ne quitteront pas la Nouvelle-Écosse sans avoir fait leur perlérinage a Grand-Pré, dans le Kings South. (Applause)
As mentioned before, Mr. Speaker, we in the Annapolis Valley have one of the most fertile regions in the country, but a changing climate has left our farmers struggling from the third major drought in a row. Clearly, agriculture, as the cornerstone of our economy, needs not only some short-term assistance to weather these droughts, but investment to allow farmers to operate successfully in the long term without depending upon the whims of weather. The growing global scarcity of groundwater suggests governments must better ascertain our supply and move to tap and protect our aquifers. We will then be in a position to manage this precious community resource as a crucial step in securing the future of our agricultural community.
Having spent my teenage years in Yarmouth, I recognize the tremendous ramifications of the September 17th Supreme Court decision in the Donald Marshall case. I am the elected representative for all citizens in Kings South, native and non-native, and I appreciate the implications of this decision to both parties. The efforts of the chiefs to recognize the devastating impact on the non-native fishermen and their families and negotiating a sustainable agreement with them is crucial to resolving this crisis. The manner in which both parties, both native and non-native, conduct themselves will speak to the wisdom of those elected representatives.
Mr. Speaker, I was blessed to be brought up in a home with parents Dr. William Morse and Mrs. Jean Morse, here with us in the gallery today, who welcomed and still welcome people of all ethnic backgrounds, religions, sexual orientation, and abilities into their home as equals. Having grown up in this environment I have espoused these same values and greatly appreciate Nova Scotia's rich cultural mosaic. While we should be proud of our individuality, let us not allow it to be a reason to divide us, but rather celebrate the commonality that we are all Nova Scotians. I thank you, Mum and Dad, for giving me an upbringing that allows me to focus on the good in people.
I also wish to acknowledge publicly my best friend, my wife, Lynn, in the gallery. My presence here today would not have been possible without her tireless support and her wonderful way with people. She gave up a considerable amount of our time, our privacy and our income to allow me to pursue public life. There is no doubt that Lynn is seen by our supporters as perhaps the best part of the package and I agree. (Applause)
Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians have placed their trust in Premier John Hamm to lead our province in a fiscally responsible manner which ensures those services best provided by government are delivered in a timely and efficient manner, in a manner that is sustainable and in a manner which respects the existing tax structure.
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to second this Speech from the Throne as the blueprint for achieving the governance expected of us by the people of Nova Scotia we are sworn to represent. Thank you. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party. (Applause)
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am going to make a few comments about the Throne Speech and what it says with respect to the direction of our province today, but mainly I will be reserving the details for tomorrow. I will take an opportunity to take a look at the document and what it said.
I think it is fair to say that it said a lot and it is important that we reflect on it. In fact, the last couple of days, people have said to me, what do you expect to see in the Throne Speech? I guess what I was looking for, and I think what is there to some extent was an indication of where the government is going, what its take is on the challenges facing this province and some of its solutions. It was important to see how that fit in together with the recent campaign and what the government proposed to Nova Scotians as their solutions to the problems as they went out and sought their vote.
From first blush, I think what I would say is that the Throne Speech is a bit of a departure from the approach taken by the Premier and the Progressive Conservatives in the election campaign. If you go back and look at - even though I don't necessarily want to all the time - and reflect on the campaign, when you look at the Conservative platform, when it was unveiled it promised a compassionate, responsive and a caring government. The Premier promised in his own words, in fact, that to ensure that health care and education would be safe and sound, he said that the Conservative plan was short on abstractions and long on nuts and bolts.
Today's Throne Speech, I would submit, is, in fact, long on abstractions. It proclaims a set of beliefs and declares that these beliefs represent a philosophical change in government for this province. I guess we will have to wait and see whether or not it is the philosophers or the mechanics who are going to be in charge of this province. I will talk about that a little bit more tomorrow. (Applause)
Right now, I want to offer congratulations to all MLAs who were elected on July 27th. Each of us has been given a great privilege by our constituents. Each of us is here as a legitimate representative of Nova Scotians. Each of us has much to be grateful for, regardless of the overall outcomes of the election for our respective Parties. In fact, if anyone doubts
whether they should be grateful to be here, let me remind everyone that only 11 of us were MLAs back in 1993 when we listened to the first Throne Speech by the then Liberal Government.
Mr. Speaker, the New Democratic Party and our caucus recognize and respect - we don't necessarily enjoy or appreciate - the outcome of this election, a Conservative Government. It is only natural for Nova Scotians to wish a new government well, likewise it is only natural for our Party to temper our approach with the reality that on July 27th people were not ready or willing to put us into power. MLAs from all Parties are here to serve our constituents and to advance the best interests of Nova Scotia as we see them. Again, I offer congratulations to all of those who were elected for the first time and to those who were re-elected. Congratulations.
Politics is a tough business. Only one person can win, but I think it is important that we not forget the qualities and the contributions of the former MLAs from all sides of this House. I want to acknowledge the hard work and the dedication of those who were defeated as well as those who chose not to run again.
Mr. Speaker, my colleagues and I feel a deep loss of eight fine MLAs, among them: Helen MacDonald, the first woman elected to this House by Cape Bretoners; Yvonne Atwell, the first black woman to sit in this Chamber; and the six others who made political history when they first won their seats.
I want to join those who spoke before me in thanking Their Honours, the Lieutenant Governor and Mrs. Kinley, for coming and for participating in the ceremonies today and for reading the Speech from the Throne.
I also extend my congratulations to you, Mr. Speaker. This is the first time that we have ever had a majority government in this province with a Speaker who is elected by the whole House under the rules permitting a secret ballot. You, sir, are a role model for future Speakers in a similar situation. I say to you that our caucus will continue to cooperate with you and make suggestions for how this House can best deal with the ongoing challenges and changes of Nova Scotia politics.
Mr. Speaker, this is also a time to extend my condolences, and those of the New Democratic Party, to all who have lost loved ones since we last met. I think of course of Doug Giles, a faithful servant of this House and a friend to many of us. We will miss him. He kept things in perspective. He helped me to the door a couple of times. (Laughter) Above all, he treated each person who entered Province House with dignity and with respect.
There are always, of course, private individuals who make the political system in this province strong, who work year in and year out. I think of people like David Glover of Yarmouth, who passed away this summer, and I think of a young man, Dan Chamberlain,
who worked on each one of my campaigns in Spryfield. He also tragically passed away this past summer.
I also want to welcome back the staff, the new and returning Pages, messengers, the Acting Sergeant-at-Arms - I hope you don't have to show me to the door, Peter - Province House staff who are always so helpful, all the staff at the Legislative Library and the Clerk's Office, the Hansard Office and the Legislative Television crew. I know that they will continue to serve well the members of this House and the citizens of Nova Scotia.
I want to now say thank you to the people of Halifax Atlantic. I am honoured, for the ninth time - it is hard to believe, but nine times - I have had the opportunity to thank the residents of the community of Halifax Atlantic to bring greetings and best wishes to you, Mr. Speaker, and to all of the members of this House from these people.
I am truly honoured, Mr. Speaker, that for the fourth time the voters of Halifax Atlantic have chosen me as their representative, even though they have clearly gotten to know me even better and they still decide to send me here. I am grateful.
Mr. Speaker, there will be lots to say about the Speech from the Throne and I will continue with some of the details tomorrow. There are some important challenges facing this province that were touched on in the Speech from the Throne that need to be responded to but, for now, I would like to adjourn the debate and move on so we can all have an opportunity to meet with our friends and families who have come here to witness these events on this historic day. Thank you, and I would so adjourn. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne be adjourned. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable Premier.
HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I wish on your behalf to invite all those assembled to a reception in the lower foyer to be held immediately on the conclusion of this session of the House.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn to meet again tomorrow at the hour of 11:00 a.m. We will sit until 2:00 p.m. The order of business following the daily routine will be resumption of the debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
We stand adjourned until 11:00 a.m. tomorrow.
[The House rose at 3:30 p.m.]