|TABLE OF CONTENTS||PAGE|
|Res. 3, Estimates - Comm. of Whole House on Supply, Hon. N. LeBlanc||263|
|Hon. N. LeBlanc||263|
|Mr. J. Holm||272|
|TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:|
|N.S. Utility and Review Board Financial Statement, Hon. M. Baker||276|
|Anl. Rept. (8th) of the Law Reform Commission of N.S., Hon. M. Baker||276|
|Anl. Rept. of the Public Trustee of N.S., Hon. M. Baker||276|
|Anl. Rept. of the Law Foundation of N.S., Hon. M. Baker||276|
|Law Foundation of N.S. Financial Statements, Hon. M. Baker||276^|
|NOTICES OF MOTION:|
|Res. 101, Econ. Dev. - Employment: Regional Disparity - Reduce,|
|Mr. P. MacEwan||277|
|Res. 102, Health - Full-Time Nurses (Res. 20): Gov't. [N.S.] Defeat -|
|Lesson Learn, Dr. J. Smith||277|
|Res. 103, Lbr. - Windsor Fire Prevention Service: Collapse - Prevent,|
|Mr. R. MacKinnon||278|
|Res. 104, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Road Construction: Safety -|
|Prioritize, Mr. B. Boudreau||279|
|Res. 105, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Clark's Hbr.: Hard Work (238 yrs.) -|
|Commend, Mr. C. O'Donnell||279|
|Vote - Affirmative||280|
|ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:|
|No. 46, Fin. - Budget: Balanced - Date, Mr. Robert Chisholm||280|
|No. 47, Fin. - Budget (1999-2000): Savings - Underachievement,|
|Mr. R. MacLellan||282|
|No. 48, Fin. - Budget: Balanced - Date Confirm, Mr. Robert Chisholm||283|
|No. 49, Fin. - Taxation: Reduction - Date, Mr. D. Downe||284|
|No. 50, DFO - Lobster Fishery: Solution - Provide, Mr. Robert Chisholm||285|
|No. 51, Fin. - Budget (1999-2000): Deficit - Increase, Mr. R. MacLellan||286|
|No. 52, Lbr.: Workers' Advisers Prog. - Job Offer (Ms. Mary Lloyd),|
|Mr. W. Estabrooks||288|
|No. 53, Lbr. - Workers' Advisers Prog.: Job Offer (Ms. Mary Lloyd) -|
|Fair Hiring Practices Violation, Mr. R. MacKinnon||289|
|No. 54, Tech. & Sc. Sec't. - Y2K Readiness: Funding - Source,|
|Ms. E. O'Connell||290|
|No. 55, Lbr.: Workers' Advisers Prog. - Job Offer (Ms. Mary Lloyd),|
|Mr. R. MacLellan||291|
|No. 56, NSRL - Mobil Oil: ROFR - Evaluation, Mr. J. Holm||292|
|No. 57, Fin. - Budget (1999-2000): Accounting Principles - Usage,|
|Mr. D. Downe||294|
|No. 58, Devco - Mandate: Follow - Ensure, Mr. F. Corbett||296|
|No. 59, DFO - Lobster Fishery: Regs. (Gov't. [Can.]) - Info.,|
|Mr. R. MacKinnon||297|
|No. 60, Bus. & Cons. Serv. - Gas Prices: Increases - Protection,|
|Mr. J. Holm||298|
|ADDRESS IN REPLY:|
|Mr. John MacDonell||301|
|Mr. D. Wilson||310|
|Mr. P. MacEwan||315|
|Mr. B. Barnet||328|
|MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):|
|Sysco/Devco: Support - Increase:|
|Mr. P. MacEwan||331|
|Hon. G. Balser||334|
|Mr. T. Olive||336|
|Mr. F. Corbett||337|
|ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Oct. 15th at 10:00 a.m.||340|
ORDERS OF THE DAY
[Res. No. 3, re Estimates - Comm. of Whole House on Supply - notice given Oct. 8/99 - (Hon. N. LeBlanc)]
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.
HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to a notice of motion given by me on October 8, 1999, and the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly, I have the honour, by command, to present a message from His Honour the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, relating to the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the province for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2000 which is:
"I hereby transmit Estimates of Sums required for the Public Service of the province, for the year ending March 31, 2000, and in accordance with the Constitution Act, 1867, recommend them together with the Budget Address of my Minister of Finance and any resolutions or bills necessary or advisable to approve the Estimates and implement the budget measures to the House of Assembly.
J. James Kinley
MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated.
The honourable Minister of Finance.
HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, at this time I would like to table the message from His Honour the Lieutenant Governor transmitting the Estimates for the consideration of this House, table the Estimates Book, table the Crown Corporation Business Plans, table the Estimates and Crown Corporation Business Plans Resolutions, deliver my Budget Speech and move that the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the province for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2000, being Supply, to be granted to Her Majesty and the Crown Corporation Business Plans be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Supply.
MR. SPEAKER: The documents are tabled.
The honourable Minister of Finance.
HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to present to this House and to Nova Scotians a budget that represents a critical new beginning for our province. It represents the first tangible step of many on the road to turning the philosophy and goals of this government into practical policy and meaningful accomplishments.
Today we embark upon what the poet Robert Frost called, "the road less travelled.". That road is less travelled because it is a difficult one, but it is the one that leads us in the right direction. It is the right direction because Nova Scotians expect government to meet its commitments in a sensitive and sensible way.
This government believes that the importance of today's budget goes beyond the numbers it contains. It is a rededication to the commitments we made to Nova Scotians. One commitment was to present an honest accounting of the province's finances so that Nova Scotians might easily understand the magnitude of the challenges that we all face. That commitment has been kept. It is no longer possible for the bottom line to be coloured by
politics. I know that every member of this House agrees that this is the proper course to follow.
The consolidated financial statements indicate an unaudited provincial deficit of $384 million for the last fiscal year. It is grim news that strengthens our resolve - but it is not beyond the ability of Nova Scotians to overcome that negative and create a positive future. Government's role is to meet its commitment to provide high-quality essential services at a cost that taxpayers can afford. We must learn to live within our means. (Applause)
Les citoyens de la Nouvelle-Écosse ont la responsabilité de prendre part aux décisions, en tenant compte des services voulus et assurer que ces services seront offerts dans le futur. Ce n'est pas une responsabilité que les payeurs de taxes doivent au gouvernement - mais c'est plutôt une responsabilité que nous devons à nos enfants.
Nova Scotians have a responsibility to share in the decision making and to reconcile expectations for services today with the duty to protect the opportunities of tomorrow. That is not a responsibility that taxpayers owe to government - it is a responsibility each of us owes to our children.
It is important that Nova Scotians know the starting point for the journey to a truly balanced budget. The Nova Scotia economy is growing at a strong rate. In the last 12 months the economy created 16,000 new jobs and the taxes that go with them. The result of this impressive economic performance shouldn't be a deficit that is out of control, a deficit that will push the provincial debt past the $10 billion mark. But it is.
The hard-earned success of Nova Scotia taxpayers is being wasted on an excess of government. That is the reason this government is dedicated to reducing its role in the lives of the public and in the economy. That is why this government believes it must choose a few critical tasks and do them very well. (Applause)
We believe that less government offers more potential for individual Nova Scotians, families and communities to prosper. Smaller government is not an end, but rather, the means to a secure future. If there were no deficit, if our debt load were not so heavy, this government would have a little more time to work with, but the road we chose would be the same. We believe that this budget sets a clear course that will lead Nova Scotians into a secure, self-reliant and sustainable future.
Mr. Speaker, we are building on a strong economic base. Nova Scotia's economy grew by more than 3 per cent annually over the past two years. Capital spending on the development of the Sable natural gas project is a key driving force behind the solid growth, but there is strength in other sectors as well.
In future, as Sable makes the transition from construction to production, we will see continued growth, but at a somewhat slower pace. Key sectors of our economy, including information technology, manufacturing for export, entertainment and tourism will help maintain its momentum. But we recognize that parts of our province face uncertainty and difficulty.
The closure of Devco's Phalen Mine will mean the loss of many jobs one year earlier than anticipated. It makes the challenge of building a sound new economy in Cape Breton that much more difficult. This government will continue to press Ottawa for more transition funding.
This government's commitment that no new tax dollars will be allocated to sustain Sysco will be kept. The plant must be sold or closed. This government's choice is to sell it, but if need be, we are prepared to see it closed. This government also made a commitment to steelworkers and their families that they would not be abandoned. That commitment will be kept if and when the time comes. Next year this government will provide assistance for a multi-year plan to help Cape Breton begin the transition from an old-style industrial economy to a sustainable new economy.
Mr. Speaker, this government believes that it must be supportive of, but not an active participant in, the business community. Taxpayers should not, in general, own or operate businesses except under the most special circumstances. Nova Scotia Resources Limited was a product of such special circumstances - the government's desire to provide incentives for new industry in Nova Scotia through the exploration and development of Sable offshore gas. But, now the special circumstances are gone. Nova Scotia Resources Limited has served its purpose. It will soon start to earn significant revenues, and we will look to maximize the value of its assets, including options for its sale.
Mr. Speaker, in 1998-99 a strong Nova Scotia economy meant increased revenues. More people working and more consumer spending translated into a 2.3 per cent increase in provincial own-source revenues. A properly focused and efficient government should be able to pay its bills with this increasing rate of revenue, but unfortunately, the cost of program spending in Nova Scotia increased by 7 per cent over the same period. During these good times this province fell behind.
Mr. Speaker, that growth in program spending is not sustainable. Unchecked it will ultimately mean the loss of even essential health and education services. A proper accounting of Nova Scotia Resources Limited, Sysco, foreign exchange losses, regional health boards, and school boards resulted in a deficit forecast of $384 million for 1998-99. Between 1993 and 1997 government made progress toward a truly balanced budget, but never realized that goal. A review of government expenditures and revenues, using Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, indicates that after fiscal 1996-97 the deficit began to soar.
Mr. Speaker, this province is facing a debt challenge that is, by some measures, the worst in this country. More and more of Nova Scotians' tax dollars are being used to pay the interest on our debt. Taxpayers continue to pay for the excesses of governments that tried to be all things to all people. Our children are being handed the bill for benefits they will never receive. This province spends nearly $800 million each year to service its debt. That is 17 cents of every dollar we collect from hard-working Nova Scotians and more than any other province in this country. This province's total net direct debt compared to the size of its economy is also the highest in Canada.
This government will move to stabilize our debt by meeting its commitment to achieve balanced budgets. We will also meet our commitment to reduce our exposure to the turbulence of international currency movements. We will continue to reduce the amount of debt that is at risk when the value of the Canadian dollar changes.
Effective immediately, it is the policy of this government that all foreign currency debt coming due for a term exceeding one year will be refinanced in a manner that eliminates foreign currency exposure. This refinancing will be done either directly in Canadian dollars or in a fully covered non-Canadian-dollar issue. That is to say, if it is prudent to borrow in other currencies, we will fully hedge the transaction to protect us if the Canadian dollar drops.
Under this new policy, given our current stock of debt and current market levels, we would expect the province's exposure to foreign currency debt will fall below 40 per cent no later than March 31, 2004. This objective will be reviewed annually with a view toward reaching our ultimate goal of 20 per cent or less foreign currency exposure.
Mr. Speaker, the past is just that, the past. This government is concerned with securing the future. It is important that we are open with Nova Scotians about the challenges before them. Our growing economy means that our own-source revenues will grow. But there is no windfall from Ottawa this year, and so revenue from all federal sources, including Prior Years' Adjustments, is forecast to decline.
Overall, we estimate Nova Scotia's total revenues will increase by $72 million this year. Unfortunately, given the program expenditure commitments currently in place, this increase is not enough to allow this province to live within its means. Again the successes of hard-working Nova Scotians cannot feed the continuing excesses of government.
Mr. Speaker, finger-pointing will achieve nothing constructive. What this government will concentrate on are the facts and the realities that we all face. These are the facts and realities that have been brought into focus by the use of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. While the realities are not pleasant, they come as no surprise. This government will
not use them as an excuse to renege on our commitment to balance the budget in the third year of our mandate.
La somme de 250 millions de dollars, en soins de santé, n'était pas inclue dans les dépenses du budget 1999-2000. La somme prévue de 100 millions de dollars, en pertes à Sysco et NSRL, n'était aussi pas inclue. Les épargnes non réalisées, en productivité, de 60 millions de dollars étaient inclues. Mais la somme de 35 millions de dollars, en revenu du fédéral qui ne fut pas reçue, était inclue. Cette province n'était pas, n'est pas, et ne sera pas, en une position de surplus pendant l'année financière 1999-2000.
The previous government's June budget did not include $250 million in health care spending. It did not include an estimated $100 million in losses at Sysco and NSRL It did include $60 million in productivity savings that will not be achieved. And it included $35 million from the federal government that will not be realized. This province was not, is not, and will not be in a surplus position for fiscal 1999-2000.
Other accounting and pension decisions were also not reflected in the previous budget. More money was needed to cover early-retirement payments to the Teachers' Pension Plan. Millions had to be added to the budget of the Department of Economic Development to honour agreements with ACOA and to cover recommendations by the Auditor General. These legitimate expenses add up to $0.5 billion. This total did not include the cost of our initial mandate commitments, which will be kept. Nor did it include the cost of the election itself, or the unforeseen need to provide money to assist communities to recover from the effects of natural disasters.
Mr. Speaker, over the summer the Premier, then Leader of the Third Party, was honest with the people of Nova Scotia. He told them there was little room to alter the existing budget with half the year gone, and the majority of costs fixed as salaries. It is fair to say there were some initiatives, such as the increased funding to expand seats at the Nova Scotia Community Colleges, that all Parties agreed with. The commitments have been kept on those items.
This government has been in office for less than 60 days, and the changes in this budget are subtle, but they do reflect our philosophy and goals, and present our initial efforts to meet our commitments.
This government committed to presenting the provincial finances in a complete and straightforward manner. It committed to reviewing all government programs and to cutting discretionary administrative spending. These commitments are being kept. The result is that we have been able to find funding for the election, pay for our initial round of mandate commitments, and hold the line on spending at the level that was forecast when we took office.
This was accomplished because we have already made difficult decisions. We started with new programs and initiatives where work had not begun. One of the first programs affected by this criteria was the Charitable Casino Community Enhancement Program.
There are some who would like to see more sweeping changes and drastic measures immediately, but this government promised Nova Scotians they would share in the responsibility of making decisions that affect them. This government is extremely mindful of that commitment, and in the coming months it will be kept.
Mr. Speaker, all departments and agencies have had their budgets adjusted to reduce administrative costs. The immediate goal was to cut the administrative cost of government by 3 per cent for the balance of the year. Restrictions on non-essential hiring, reductions in travel, equipment purchases and related measures remain in place as we consider decisions on permanent change.
Mr. Speaker, our many commitments to Nova Scotians are clear. This government made a commitment to assume the debts of hospitals and health boards, to provide funding for nurses and for medical technologies, and to fund bursaries for nurses and medical students. Those commitments have been kept.
This government promised to support community volunteers by offering to provide firefighters complimentary licence plates, to help fund a secure treatment centre, to improve the Public Prosecution Service by implementing the Kaufman Report, and to create a separate Department of Tourism and Culture. There is money in this budget to meet all those commitments.
But our most important budget commitment is still before us. Today we put in place the foundation to meet it. That commitment is to present Nova Scotians with a truly balanced budget. That commitment is grounded in our belief that government must live within its means. Taxpayers do it; government must do it as well. Let there be no doubt, no misunderstanding: in the spring of 2002, this government will table a balanced budget. That is the commitment and it will be kept. (Applause)
Mr. Speaker, this government recognizes that one of the proper functions of government is to lend aid and comfort in situations where it is beyond the ability of individual Nova Scotians or communities to protect their interests. The ongoing drought that has hurt our farmers is one of those circumstances. This government will fulfil its duty by accelerating funding for drought relief. Six million dollars will immediately be brought forward, making a total of $10 million available this year to address the most immediate concerns of our agricultural community. The third year of drought conditions in this province makes it imperative that a long-term strategy be developed. In the meantime, moving some of the assistance ahead one year should help farmers without affecting our overall fiscal objectives.
This government will also provide $2 million more in the Transportation budget to help rebuild the infrastructure recently destroyed by flooding in northern Nova Scotia. This is an urgent, unanticipated need, and we cannot do as much as we would like to, but we are doing what we can within our limited means.
Mr. Speaker, we are reviewing all our programs and services to ensure that they meet the following critical test: If the program did not exist, would we create it today? Is government the best option for providing the service? Is this program still meeting the goals and objectives originally established? Programs that meet this test by providing an essential service at a sustainable cost will survive. That review must include every segment of government, and so today I am announcing a similar review of our tax credit system.
Over the years we have developed many tax credits, tax expenditures and rebates. We have tax rebates for fire trucks and new homes. We have tax credits for research and development and for buying a new piece of machinery. My department is now working on a report that will show the costs and the benefits associated with each such measure. We will put them on the table for public comment. Tax credits that have become tax loopholes will be closed. As a result of this review process, no new tax credit measures will go forward until we are able to report on the costs and benefits of the system we already have. In order for this process to take place without disrupting an important part of our new economy I am announcing a one year extension for the Film Development Tax Credit.(Applause)
Mr. Speaker, as the Premier indicated earlier, it is our intention to discuss the operation of the harmonized sales tax system with the federal government and the other participating provinces. Our objective is to gain more control over sales tax system decisions. We are also concerned about our ability to control our own future when it comes to personal income taxes. My department is exploring the options, and we expect to release a discussion paper on the topic next year.
Mr. Speaker, providing essential services, responding to acts of nature, and providing a climate for economic growth are legitimate roles for government. Unfortunately there are many instances where government has used its power to impose itself where it does not belong.
A volunteer fire department trying to raise money runs into a red-tape barrier on a liquor permit. A plant owner must pay a $600 inspection fee for an engineer to take a quick look at a winch. A local community that wants to renovate a church hall runs into onerous provincial Building Code requirements.
In each case a business, person or community group is thwarted by government that fails to appreciate the value of self-reliance. In each case we believe government acts without the support of the majority of Nova Scotians. That must stop. In each case government grew bigger, taxes went higher, or the debt increased.
This government believes that its presence in any field must offer taxpayers benefits that clearly outweigh the costs. This government will meet its commitment to establish a red tape commissioner. Nova Scotians must know that provincial rules and regulations are necessary, and that there is a fair and open process for those affected to make their views known, before the rules become law.
Mr. Speaker, red tape is not the cause of our difficulties, it is merely symptomatic of government's inability to judge what is important to the people, and what is best left to the people. Without a strong sense of what it should do for the people the tendency is for government to try to do everything, perhaps not very well, but everything nonetheless. That is an abdication of government's responsibility to set priorities.
This government committed to a complete review of programs and services and to share the responsibility for making decisions with Nova Scotians. We are moving to meet that commitment. Next week we will release the details of these plans for review and consultation. In the next few months we will take the recommendations and make public the criteria we will use to make decisions. This government will then ask Nova Scotians to share their views on the appropriateness of the criteria.
When our next budget is submitted to this House, this government will issue four year targets for the public sector, including our partners in the health care and education systems. We will give them the responsibility to provide Nova Scotians with essential services at a cost within taxpayers' ability to pay, and to submit a four year business plan showing how they will meet that challenge.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier was honest and open with Nova Scotians. He told them there would be a deficit this year and he told them there would be a deficit next year. He was right. In fact, we have had a deficit for many years. The attempts to put spending outside the budget have made a mockery of the Expenditure Control Act. As a matter of fundamental honesty, the government has no option but to suspend the Act.
It is important to note that the true intention of the Expenditure Control Act was to send a message that government must live within its means. Mr. Speaker, this government has always accepted and supported that message. That is why the spring budget will include new legislation on fiscal accountability and will set a firm deadline to eliminate the provincial deficit by the start of fiscal year 2002-03.
Mr. Speaker, this process is obviously going to have an impact on the public sector employees of Nova Scotia. I want to assure them that we have begun the process of collective bargaining in good faith. No doubt there will be times when the goals of the government and unions will be in conflict, but we will work toward genuine compromise. It is our intention to reach agreements that are fair to public sector employees and affordable for taxpayers. We all have a part to play in finding solutions for our province and we are all in this together.
Mr. Speaker, the 20th Century is almost behind us. If ever there was a time for each of us to reflect on what government should or should not do, this is it. If ever there was a time for government to demonstrate its respect for Nova Scotians by keeping its commitments and by returning power to its citizens, this is it. And, if ever there was a time to rededicate government to providing basic health care, to protecting and educating our children, and to creating the opportunities for individual success and personal development, that time is now.
This budget starts us down the road to that vision. I will return to this House in the spring, after seeking the advice and support of Nova Scotians, with a four year plan to implement a shared vision for the secure future of this province.
Mr. Speaker, in another decade or so our children will reflect upon the choices we have made today. Perhaps they will look to Robert Frost's words in judging our decisions. He wrote, and I agree, taking the road less travelled, "has made all the difference.".
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Extended Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hope the minister won't confuse my standing in my place as being part of the standing ovation that was given to him by his colleagues. I hope that he will not do that because while I do very much welcome the opportunity to begin my address in response to the Budget Speech of today, I must admit that I find myself doing so with a sense of sadness and very much disappointment. Because while I may be on the Opposition benches, I was like most Nova Scotians, I am sure they were sharing my hope and my optimism that what the Tories were saying during the election campaign was, in fact, true. I am sure that Nova Scotians, whether they live in Cape Breton or Yarmouth or any point in between, anticipated and expected that a government that was promising to be open and accountable and to show integrity would actually have the plan that they said they had in June.
Mr. Speaker, I think it was four or five times that the Minister of Finance in his remarks talked about there being a balanced budget in the year 2002. He talked about how he was going to begin consultations to come up with a four year plan. Well, I know that members on the government benches were very quick to get to their feet and to applaud at all of the appropriate times, whenever the minister made the appropriate sign, I don't know if there was a flash card going up or not for people to applaud and they did, but you know, they, I am sure, would be very familiar, since it is only a couple of months ago, with the campaign that each and every member of the government benches took part in. I am sure that they will all be very familiar with the words of their Leader, Dr. Hamm, as he kicked off the campaign speech and unveiled the platform. I am not going to spend a great deal of time this afternoon,
I will be concluding my remarks tomorrow when I have had even more time to evaluate the flawed document, but there are a few points that I want to touch on today.
First of all, Mr. Speaker, the Premier, then Leader of the Conservative Party only, correctly pointed out then, he said in part - and I am going to read a few quotes - "We sacrificed time with our families as we worked harder and longer every day and got no farther ahead.". Talking about the sacrifice that Nova Scotians and public sector workers and so on have made was, "We sacrificed educational opportunities for our children, and health care services for our parents.". Later on he goes on to say, "As premier I will lead a government of honesty, integrity and compassion.". (Applause) I am glad they applaud the words, too bad they weren't going to ensure that that was actually being done. Because you know, during the press interviews that took place, the Minister of Finance would not even rule out cutting those programs that are aimed at helping the most disadvantaged in the Province of Nova Scotia. Everything is on the table even those programs aimed at helping the most disadvantaged and low-income earners in the Province of Nova Scotia.
The Premier said at the time, "This plan is short on abstractions . . . " that's the blue book, ". . . and long on nuts and bolts.". Now, we hear that they are going to be developing that plan and finding out where the nuts and bolts are, I guess, Mr. Speaker, because this Budget Address tells us that that Tory plan is flushed, it is gone, they didn't have one during that election campaign. They are now trying to figure out what it is they intend to do. They said they had a plan and we voted across Nova Scotia, and when I say we I mean the majority of people voted for the Tories, because they were promised they had a plan. Nova Scotians voted for it.
Where there is need for legislative change, they are identified, we were told. Where there is need for structural change, they are spelled out, we were told. Where there is need for money, it is budgeted. You know, Mr. Speaker, the government now seems to have lost a year, somehow the clock stopped. They are in a time warp of some sort, because you know then, just a couple of short months ago, it is amazing how selective their memory is, it is amazing how quickly they forget, just a few months ago they were promising $46.5 million in new spending in year one. Well, in this budget document that is introduced today - and I haven't gone through all the details - but the $1.5 million that was supposed to be in there for the Prosecution Service to correct problems that have been identified in the justice system. They are not there. There was supposed to be $30 million in the new budget. (Interruption) No I didn't. There was supposed to be over $30 million in this new budget for new medical technology and, what was the term, information technology and medical technology. Not there, Mr. Speaker.
AN HON. MEMBER: You are on the wrong page.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker there are a whole bunch of things that were supposed to be in it. It goes on to say, turning to Page 3 of that very informative speech, in talking about when the deficit and so on can be erased, "But I won't have a deficit due to waste and mismanagement. And I won't work without a plan.". Well, they are already working without a plan, so that idea is gone. "It is possible to balance it in year two, . . .", the then Leader of the Third Party said, in the year " . . . 2000-2001. That's my goal, . . ." that is 2000 and 2001, that is year two. That is next year's budget, the one that is going to be introduced in June or February or whenever they happen to bring it in, in the year 2000. "That's my goal, and it would be easy for me to make that promise - but I won't." Good thing. "I say that because I am committed to a real plan for Nova Scotia. A plan people can trust in today, next year, and the year after that.". (Applause) I appreciate the applause. Good sentiments, Mr. Speaker, and he said, "There will be no fine print.". Well, it is not very fine, it is actually rather blatant. It is in bold print, the minister's statement of today, compared to what he said, because the budget will be balanced. I mean really balanced in year three, 2001-02 a full year earlier than the minister is now talking about in his Budget Address.
Mr. Speaker, no more red ink for Nova Scotia. Now, the Tories, on the campaign trail, were mocking our caucus because we said that we could not promise a balanced budget before year four. Guess what, they have adopted our time lines already. Only, the one other thing is, they don't have a plan. They are now in the process of trying to develop that plan.
I started off by saying this budget was a true disappointment. That is an underscoring of it. This budget is a true disappointment to the people of this province. It is a true disappointment because the Tories' campaign, very convincingly obviously because they have a majority, were critical of the former government for having no vision and for having no plan. I agreed that was absolutely correct.
They ran on integrity, on the commitment that they knew where they were going, what they were doing and that they had their blueprint laid out. It cannot be further from the truth, Mr. Speaker. The minister's statement of today underscores it. They have lost a year; they have gone into time warp. They don't want to be reminded about that and I guess that is why the minister repeats that later date so often in his speech. He keeps repeating and repeating it. That sort of reminds me of an advertising philosophy, the more you say it - as people hear it more and more - they must begin to believe that it is true. Here the government is now trying to state over and over again that their position that they announced back then was not their position really. They are now trying to rewrite history and after the fact state what they supposedly believed in in the hopes that people will forget.
AN HON. MEMBER: Buchananese.
MR. HOLM: It is Buchananese, as one of my colleagues said.
The Minister of Finance, in his locked-up press scrum, it is very interesting what he would not do. When asked questions about tax increases, the minister said that philosophically he is opposed to tax increases. Philosophically he is opposed to them, but when pushed, well, philosophically that is great, but are you committing that there will not be any? The minister, of course, backed off. He would not make any such commitments. The minister made the point of saying that everything is on the line and that, yes, hospital boards, school boards, public sector workers, everybody in this province can expect to see some changes.
Mr. Speaker, when the Tories ran during the spring election, I do not know, it cannot have been fine print because they said that they do not have fine print in their promises, so they must have screamed it from the rooftops, but I do not remember hearing the Tories talking about deregulation. I do not remember hearing the Tories talking about privatization. I do not remember hearing the Tories talking about government as being the enemy. I suggest to those opposite who are suggesting that I should turn the page in their blue book, that some members of the government benches should go back and read some of the speeches and look at exactly what their Party stood for during that campaign and actually look at what information they said they had.
Mr. Speaker, when one takes a look at some of the revenue projections and a number of other things - and I want to go through some of those in more detail, but I am not going to be doing all of that today - it is very interesting - and we will be looking for answers on certain things, questions about equalization payments - how they have come up with the numbers and projections they have, why it is that they have also decided to book in this year all, for example, of the CHST figure - what was it? $107 million, I think it was, in the fund -the total amount that is coming forward - which, again, they were critical of the former government for doing - because of the difficulties that are going to be arising next year.
Mr. Speaker, I think I have probably spoken about 10 minutes today, 10 minutes or 15 minutes.
MR. SPEAKER: Twenty minutes.
MR. HOLM: About 20 minutes, then I should probably wrap up because I am going to want to have some more time tomorrow.
Mr. Speaker, I certainly hope, as I close today, that all Nova Scotians will look very carefully at the Premier's speech kicking off his 1999 election campaign, to see what this now Tory Government promised then. Nova Scotians better hold onto their hats if what we had presented today is any sample of what Nova Scotians can expect in the years to come, because certainly this Budget Address of today is very much a betrayal and a backtracking from the commitments that were made just a little over two months ago. I think that all Nova Scotians should pay very close attention to the hidden agenda of this government. With those
brief remarks, I will adjourn the debate for today. I intend to continue my remarks the next day this is called for debate, probably tomorrow. Thank you. (Applause)
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.
Before we begin the daily routine, the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova submitted the topic for the late debate tonight. It reads:
Therefore be it resolved that this House express its concern over the situation in the Cape Breton steel and coal industries and urge this government to support Sydney Steel and to be more actively involved in all efforts to bring about a better solution to the problems of the Cape Breton Development Corporation.
That debate will be heard this evening at 6:00 p.m.
The honourable Premier on an introduction.
HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I wish to draw the attention of all members of the House to guests in the west gallery, Betina Hamilton and representatives of the anti-poverty network, who are here to remind all of us that we have an ongoing responsibility to address their particular issues. I would ask all members of the House to give them a welcome. Would our guests please rise? (Applause)
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.
HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to table today the following reports and statements: the financial statement of the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board; the 8th Annual Report of the Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia for the fiscal year April 1, 1998 to March 31, 1999; the Annual Report of the Public Trustee for Nova Scotia for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1999; the Annual Report of the Law Foundation of Nova Scotia, 1998-99; and the financial statements for the Law Foundation of Nova Scotia for the year ended March 31, 1999.
MR. SPEAKER: The documents are tabled.
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
NOTICES OF MOTION
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.
MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas front page headlines in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald of September 28th boasted that things are good at Halifax; and
Whereas this item boasts that nearly 4,000 more people in Halifax Regional Municipality are working now as compared with a year ago and the total number employed in the municipality is almost 200,000; and
Whereas while things are good in Halifax, in industrial Cape Breton with its existing unemployment rate of 25 per cent or more, the outlook is for the complete loss of the Cape Breton Development Corporation coupled with the possible additional loss of Sysco, the other cornerstone industry;
Therefore be it resolved that it is the duty of this government to work diligently for equalized opportunity throughout all Nova Scotia, to reduce existing disparities between have and have-not areas, and that to date this government stands wanting in demonstrating evidence of serious intent to work towards these ends.
MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Dartmouth East.
DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas yesterday the new Progressive Conservative Government lost the first vote to come before the House; and
Whereas this resolution sought to clarify the government's intention to fund full-time nursing positions as originally committed; and
Whereas the Minister of Health was also confused on how to honour his government's promise;
Therefore be it resolved that this be a lesson to all government members of the danger of reneging on campaign promises.
Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver.
MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.
Is it agreed?
I hear several Noes.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas a recent internal Fire Marshal's Report confirms the intent to download fire investigations onto local volunteer fire departments; and
Whereas on October 6, 1999, Windsor Fire Chief Fred Fox expressed concern over his fire department's shrinking numbers and professional training capabilities and rising fire insurance premiums for downtown Windsor businesses;
Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Labour take immediate action to prevent a collapse in volunteer fire prevention service in the Windsor area.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.
Is it agreed?
I hear a No.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.
MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas yesterday in this House, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works said dangerous speeding trucks and high levels of dirt and noise is the price rural Nova Scotia must pay for road work; and
Whereas this is the same minister who thinks $4 million to $10 million is a small price to pay for moving a highway route; and
Whereas the people of Cape Breton The Lakes would welcome an additional $4 million to $10 million for road improvements;
Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works make safety a priority in the design, location and construction of all roads in Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.
MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.
Is it agreed?
I hear a No.
The notice is tabled.
The honourable member for Shelburne.
MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:
Whereas the Town of Clark's Harbour, located on the south side of Cape Sable Island, was incorporated in the year 1919, and this year is celebrating its 80th birthday; and
Whereas despite being 80 years old as a town, the origin of Clark's Harbour dates back to 1761; and
Whereas Clark's Harbour and Cape Sable Island is connected to the rest of Shelburne County via a causeway that opened in 1949 and recently celebrated its 50th Anniversary;
Therefore be it resolved that while the Deputy Mayor of Clark's Harbour, Marlene Atkinson and a friend, Marlene Smith, are looking on at the proceedings of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly today, all members of this Legislature commend the residents of Clark's Harbour for their hard work over the past 238 years and wish them every success in all future endeavours.
Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.
MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request for waiver.
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS
MR. SPEAKER: The time is 2:58 p.m., and we will be finished at 3:58 p.m.
The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to send my question through you over to the Premier. A few months ago while we were in the midst of an election campaign in this province, the then Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party released a platform where he made a commitment to Nova Scotians on the basis of a plan. He said that it was his goal to balance the budget in the next year, in the year 2000-2001, but he didn't know whether that was realistic or not, so, what he said was that we would definitely do it in the year 2001-02. This was the Progressive Conservative's real plan for Nova Scotia.
Now we hear that they are going to, hopefully, balance the budget sometime in 2002-03. I want to ask the Premier if he would explain what he didn't know at the time of the election that has justified such a dramatic change in the Progressive Conservative's plan for Nova Scotia?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, to the Leader of the New Democratic Party, I would ask him, if he has a copy of the blue book there, to turn to the final pages where he will see it in black and white, that in the third year of our mandate there will be a balanced budget. It is in black and white.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, interesting distinction. I have here, and maybe what was in the speech of the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party on Friday, July 25, 1999 was wrong, or maybe what is in the plan itself is wrong, I don't know which. Perhaps the now Premier could clarify that, but I would be happy to table it where it says, quite clearly, "It is possible to balance it in year two, 2000-2001. That's my goal, and it would be easy for me to make that promise - but I won't.". He then goes on to say, "The budget will be balanced - and I mean really balanced - in year three, 2001-2002.".
MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I would like to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, if he would tell us whether what he said on July 25th is wrong or is the information in the blue book wrong?
THE PREMIER: Yes, exactly as you said, year three.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I think the Premier feels quite proud of himself that he is suggesting to Nova Scotians that he didn't really mean it when he said it was going to be in the year 2000-01 or that it was definitely going to be balanced in the year 2001-02. I think Nova Scotians deserve better than that from this Premier who promised honesty and integrity. I want to ask him to explain, why it is that he promised in a statement to Nova Scotians on July 25th that he would balance the books by the year 2001-02 and now he is changing that, he is backing off and he does not have a plan. Explain that to Nova Scotians, Mr. Premier?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, to the Leader of the New Democratic Party, I know the Leader of the New Democratic Party has spent some time looking at our plan and I know that the Leader of the New Democratic Party, as he already mentioned in the House - and he quoted it - that in the third year the budget will be balanced. It is in the blue book, the budget will be balanced in the third year. The difficulty that I am having with the questioning is that
I am not sure if the Leader of the New Democratic Party is saying we are not going fast enough or we are going too fast.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.
MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I just want to say, unequivocally, that this so-called budget is an unmitigated disgrace. I have never seen anything so haphazard in all my life - deficits so that the government can use money for which they never sought a mandate, to try, through some miracle, to keep their promises. There is no excuse why this government cannot get on with cost-cutting immediately. They say here in this budget, when they talk about the former budget in June, that it did include $60 million in productivity savings that will not be achieved.
MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.
MR. MACLELLAN: How can this government, in any way, even be giving any indication that they want to cut costs when they are absolutely jettisoning the need to save $60 million?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Liberal Party knows full well that they abandoned cost-cutting measures when they were in power. We saw and learned during their stewardship of the province that cost-cutting measures were ignored, both at the Queen Elizabeth II and, as well, when his own Minister of Finance got up, just before last Christmas, and announced a $27 million cost-cutting program that never, ever was introduced.
MR. MACLELLAN: Just listen to the nonsense of the Premier. I want an answer as to why this government has forgone the opportunity to save $60 million in this fiscal year. Why has he postponed cost-cutting until the next fiscal year? That is an absolute disgrace considering what needs to be done in this province.
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, may I assure the member opposite that this government, every day, is working towards cost-cutting measures that in this province are long overdue and that are destined to put the finances of this province in order. There is never a day goes by that we are not addressing that problem.
MR. MACLELLAN: Except for the day they drafted this budget and this clause. There is no reason - and I reiterate - there is no reason this government cannot start cost- cutting immediately. The former government pledged to reduce the spending in government by $60 million . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.
MR. MACLELLAN: . . . this government has waived that, has abandoned it. Why?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am having a little difficulty following the logic of the questioning, but I can assure the member opposite that cost-cutting is an issue that we deal with each and every day. I would also indicate to the member opposite if he has some useful initiatives that we can do to deliver the agenda that the people of Nova Scotia are anxious for us to deliver, then we are open to those suggestions.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the Premier and ask him if the statement he made on July 25th, that year three was the 2001-02 budget year, was that wrong? Was that a statement that was not accurate?
THE PREMIER: I can assure the member opposite that the commitments that we made that were included in the plan that we put forward in writing to the people of Nova Scotia called for a balanced budget in the year three, as he quoted to me just a few minutes ago in Question Period, the third year.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I thought I presented a fairly simple question but I guess I got an answer. Believe the blue book; don't believe what I said myself and what was recorded in the media on July 25, 1999. It is important because what the Premier is trying to do is let his government off the hook for six or seven or eight months in terms of presenting a plan to the people of Nova Scotia.
I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, if he would explain to Nova Scotians why it is that he didn't have the information that he felt was necessary on July 25, 1999, to give the correct year that he is now citing?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the New Democratic Party is very concerned about the finances of the province, and I have heard him speak about it many, many times, as we all did during the election campaign. We came forward with a very clear plan as to what it is we are intending to do. I would hope that at some point that the Leader of the New Democratic Party would indicate to the government if, in carrying out their criticism of government policy, clearly indicate to the government, they want us to go more quickly or do they want us to take our time and do it right?
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, when I can get some assurance that I can believe what this government says, then I will be able to know what to believe and what to respond to. That is the issue here. It is not about balanced budgets any more, it is about what do you believe was true. Was it when the Premier made his statement to the people of Nova
Scotia on June 25, 1999, or was it some later equivocation that was presented in his plan? This Premier will not answer . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . . the question as to whether he was telling the truth on June 25th, as to whether 2001-02 was the third year that he was going to balance the budget. He said it then, why won't he tell us now whether he was right or wrong?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that this government will keep its commitment to the people of Nova Scotia. This government will, as articulated a number of times - or written, perhaps I should say - in the document that we provided the people of Nova Scotia during the election campaign, that on the third year, we will deliver that balanced budget.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.
MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Mr. Premier, you stated that tax cuts will be in your mandate in the third year. Is the government committing and promising that this will be dealt with by the Progressive Conservative Government, that you will actually reduce taxes in the third year?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the member opposite that if he would check the document, it is in the fourth year that the tax cuts are indicated in our plan.
MR. DOWNE: It says very clearly that tax cuts cannot be made until the province's finances are on a solid footing. In fact, today's budget indicates that the province is going through what we call a tax review. I note in here that the fact sheet talks about a number of issues that are under review; such items, Mr. Speaker, as books, charities, universities, municipalities - and the list goes on - volunteer fire departments. This has been circulated today. Does this mean Nova Scotians will see their taxes rise so that they can keep their election promise on the fourth year of lowering taxes?
THE PREMIER: No.
MR. DOWNE: . . . Mr. Speaker, that this review is not going to, by any means, say that these tax reductions and these tax benefits that are out there currently will be changed. The Premier just said they will not change this review process, that the tax programs that are currently there will be in place in the fourth year. Is that what you are saying, Mr. Premier?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I took from the question is that the tax review would not result in any increased taxes. I may have misunderstood your question. In fact, the answer to that question is no.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question is through you to the Premier. We learned today that the Chiefs in Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada have withdrawn the 30 day moratorium on fishing for lobster. It is clear that DFO, that Ottawa, is failing to resolve this issue. I want to ask the Premier, what is he and his government doing to ensure that this problem, this whole confusion and chaos over the Supreme Court decision, doesn't further dissolve into confrontation and violence?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I know all members of the House are concerned about the current state of the fishery here in Nova Scotia, particularly, at this time, the lobster fishery. It might be appropriate, since the Minister of Fisheries actually spoke a short time ago today with the federal minister, that I would ask him to field the question.
HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I spoke earlier today with the federal Fisheries Minister and he assures me he is there to regulate but from our perspective, the Province of Nova Scotia, our two priorities at this point are safety and conservation. We have certainly conveyed that to the federal minister and also conveyed that a management plan and conservation have been respected in Zone 35 to allow the fishery to continue. The traps were set today and that is exactly where we stand. The federal minister will have to make his determination.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the Premier and I do so because what we have seen once again, on another issue, is that the federal government handles anything that happens in Atlantic Canada in a ham-fisted way - not to show any disrespect with that pun. The point is that ill-advised strategies by the federal government on issues like this are creating serious problems in our province and it is not being resolved. I want to ask the Premier, will he show some leadership, his government, and take this issue on by convening a meeting between the Chiefs and the commercial fishery in order to try to find a resolve so that this matter does not dissolve into confrontation and violence.
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows full well that the jurisdiction relative to the control of the fishery is not within the jurisdiction of this province. We are committed to a shared cooperative fishery, but a regulated fishery. It is only a regulated fishery that can, in fact, achieve the conservation issues that are part and parcel of
the Supreme Court ruling. We are urging the federal government to adopt this kind of position and to now establish their authority to allow the Supreme Court ruling to be applied with fairness and with conservation as the prime requisite.
MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the federal government is mishandling an issue that is very important to the people of Nova Scotia, again. They did the same with Devco and when the Premier was sitting on this side in Opposition, he was advocating that the provincial government show leadership and get involved in resolving the problems that were affecting Cape Breton with respect to Devco.
What I am asking the Premier to do is that very thing. This is about Nova Scotia; it is about Nova Scotians; it is about our economy. Why will the Premier not show some leadership? To him and his ministers, put some words to your rhetoric about doing things differently in this province, show some leadership, and take some initiative to help resolve this issue in a non-confrontational way?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the New Democratic Party has certainly articulated the problem. The issue, however, is a solution. It is far easier at this point to articulate the problem. The position that we are taking and the position that we would like the federal government to take, because only they have the legal jurisdiction to do so, is very clear - a shared cooperative fishery and a negotiated agreement that recognizes that conservation must continue to be part of the lobster fishery as all parts of the fishery here in Nova Scotia. I believe that is a very clear position that we have articulated and we are trying to impress the federal government and, in particular, the DFO Minister, to implement that strategy. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.
MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, once again I will say to the Premier that this government has intentionally driven up the deficit in this budget unnecessarily to try to fulfil promises that they made and for which Nova Scotians did not ask for. During the election campaign this government talked about $46.5 million in deficit funding. We see the figure is much higher, figures here for which they have absolutely no mandate, and I want to know from the Minister of Finance on what basis he has listed these deficit items?
HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, we have presented this in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles according to what the Auditor General said. I cannot be any clearer than that. If the honourable member has some specifics that he wants to ask, I am more than prepared to answer the question.
MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, just as one, and there will be others we will be talking about as time goes along; debt servicing cost increases of $76.6 million. Any time a budget is presented, the debt servicing costs are figured in. Yet here, again, the Minister of Finance and this government has added it in a second time, that is an example; additions for Community Services, for Transportation, for which this government had no mandate at all. The fact is . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.
MR. MACLELLAN: . . . that there were supposed to be some additions for health care.
MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.
MR. MACLELLAN: Here now these additions are put in and without any plan whatsoever and I want to know why it was done this way?
MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that the Premier does not understand the financial (Interruption) He probably wishes he was still Premier. However I would like to say that the Leader of the Liberal Party - it is one of those Freudian slips - I have to apologize. Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Liberal Party does not understand the financial statements and when he refers to those debt servicing costs, there are issues here of foreign exchange amortization that this previous government had not acted upon which the Auditor General had asked them to do, which is to show proper amortization of those foreign exchange losses that happened when the Canadian dollar dropped dramatically and we had a lot of U.S. debt. That should have been shown properly. Nova Scotians deserve to know the truth and what we have done today is we have tabled a budget that says the truth.
MR. MACLELLAN: That is totally preposterous. Everything that is correct here - and I would say things that are correct - have been factored into the debt. They have been done in accordance with good basic accounting principles. With the Auditor General taking over, he may have different things that he wants to see done, but under no circumstances has any of this information not been made known to the public. For this government to come out and say that this is all new, to me is treacherous and I don't believe that this government is interested in the welfare of Nova Scotians . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, question please.
MR. MACLELLAN: . . . and I want to know from this government what they have allowed as deficits for the hospitals and the regional health boards?
MR. LEBLANC: That, Mr. Speaker, is accountability. That is a budget that brings it in accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. If you want to question Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, talk to the Auditor General. He is there to
represent the peoples' interests and we present our statements in accordance with GAAP. We have done that. We have been honest and for you to stand here today and to say that we have misled the Province of Nova Scotia (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, for the Leader of the Liberal Party to say that we have misled the people of Nova Scotia by telling the truth is unbelievable.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.
JOB OFFER (MS. MARY LLOYD)
MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Labour. Yesterday the Minister of Labour praised Mary Lloyd, President of the Pictou County Injured Workers Association, when he said and I quote from Hansard, "She has a better comprehension of workers' compensation than probably any other person in this province.". My question to the minister is, does the minister today still stand by that assessment of Mary Lloyd?
HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. Mary Lloyd has been involved with injured workers for many years and when I was last Minister of Labour she was involved with injured workers. She knows the Act forwards and backwards and having talked to a great many injured workers across this province, she is very familiar with what she and the injured workers consider to be shortcomings within the Act.
MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I agree with the minister. Mary Lloyd does know that Act back and forwards. But after the Conservatives voted in favour of Bill No. 90 in the last sitting of the House, a bill that severely reduced benefits for injured workers, Mary Lloyd said that the Conservatives had betrayed injured workers in this province. My question to the minister is, do you accept the judgement of this very knowledgable person, that Bill No. 90 represents a betrayal of injured workers' interests?
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would not question her views on workers' compensation, but I would perhaps question her judgement on politics. (Laughter)
MR. ESTABROOKS: Let the record show there is a ripple of laughter from the audience. It appears that Mary Lloyd, Mr. Speaker, has been offered a job with the Workers' Advisers Program even though she had not applied for it and the deadline for the application had passed. Other candidates who applied in good faith were no doubt surprised when they realized that this job was not theirs and that the minister felt able to offer the job to someone who hadn't applied, hadn't been interviewed for the job.
MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.
MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question for the minister is, will the minister tell this House whether this unusual hiring practice is in keeping with this government's hiring policy?
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is fairly obvious that the hiring practices of the New Democratic Party do not include injured workers.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
(MS. MARY LLOYD) - FAIR HIRING PRACTICES VIOLATION
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, as was stated in this House yesterday, and in the media, the Minister of Labour offered Ms. Lloyd, an injured workers activist, a job within his department. As we found out, this job came with a condition that Ms. Lloyd would stop protesting, in any way, the way that government handles injured workers. Offering Ms. Lloyd a job to guarantee her silence is very reminiscent of the hiring practices of the previous Tory Regime, of which this minister was a member. I guess old tricks die hard, or old habits.
My question to the Minister of Labour is, Mr. Minister, did you violate the fair hiring practices when you offered Ms. Lloyd conditional employment?
HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't believe it was I that actually offered her the job, I think it was the deputy minister, however, we did it in consultation, and I have to agree to that. I would ask the honourable member opposite, who was Minister of Labour prior to my taking over the portfolio, what he did for injured workers in this province?
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I certainly gained the support of both sides of the House and passed Bill No. 90. (Laughter)
Mr. Speaker, as was stated in the Chronicle-Herald today by Ms. Lloyd, the deadline for applications, as has been indicated, had passed but the department said it would overlook the hiring formalities and offer her the position anyway. My question to the minister is, are the fair hiring policies laid out for your department to ensure fairness simply formalities in your mind, which can be swept away at the whim whenever you feel like it, even if you direct your deputy minister to do so?
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member for Cape Breton West that yes, indeed, the fair hiring practices are in place in the Department of Labour. I would suggest to the minister, if he had read the Chronicle-Herald this morning, he would
have noted at the end that when reference was made to the honourable member for Cape Breton West, he laughed.
MR. MACKINNON: I have a tendency to bring smiles to people's faces, that is true.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I believe you already had your final supplementary. (Interruptions)
MR. MACKINNON: No, Mr. Speaker, this is my second supplementary.
MR. SPEAKER: I stand to be corrected, but I felt that you did. I will allow the member to go ahead, but I do believe you had it.
MR. MACKINNON: Yes, it is my second supplementary. Since we now know that the government's fair hiring policy means absolutely nothing to the Minister of Labour and is subject to political interference, I would like to ask the minister, how many people has he hired in the Department of Labour without giving any consideration to the government's fair hiring practices, and also, certainly, would the minister offer an apology to all those who did apply fairly for the job of the workers' adviser and who the minister discarded in an attempt to silence a political activist?
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, when I went to the Department of Labour, I found a number of people who had been employed by the former minister without any competition.
AN HON. MEMBER: Oh no.
MR. RUSSELL: Yes, I did. I did.The number of persons who have been hired by my department without competition is zero.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.
MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Technology and Science Secretariat. When the Liberals were the government, they said they could solve the Y2K problems using funds within government departments but in their failed budget they asked for $50 million more to deal with Y2K in the Department of Health alone. Now that she is the minister, can the minister tell me and tell us which is true, can the problem be solved within existing budgets or not?
HON. JANE PURVES: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the problem can be solved within the budget that exists now but, to provide a more complete answer to the member's question, I would like to be able to get back to you with more detail on that question.
MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, in that case, while the minister is rooting around for the answers, let me add this question to the minister. As of today, which government computer system carries the highest risk of failure or malfunction due to Y2K problems?
MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that no government computer system has a high-degree risk of failure in the year 2000.
MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I am going to ask the minister, since she is feeling so confident, will she give her personal assurance today to this House and to all Nova Scotians that every social assistance cheque will run, every workers' compensation cheque will be mailed, and that no Nova Scotian will be otherwise hurt because of a breakdown in the government computer system?
MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am glad the honourable member thinks I am God, but I can assure this House that I am not. I could not give such a guarantee whether the year 2000 were coming or not; that is not a guarantee a person can be expected to make.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.
JOB OFFER (MS. MARY LLOYD)
MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I certainly hope the Premier comes in with his code of conduct soon, because all members of the House are going to get trampled by the ministers trying to get in all their mismanagement before it arrives. (Laughter) I ask the Minister of Labour, he says that the deputy minister made the offer to Mary Lloyd, is he saying that he didn't know that the offer was going to be made?
HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I did know, but I believe that actually the deputy minister made the contact on my behalf with Mary Lloyd. We had a meeting in my office with Mary Lloyd and I think it was with about five or six other persons. It was a very good meeting actually. Mary, as usual, brought in her wish list about that thick, and with every problem that she had on that page she had the reference to the pertinent part of the Workers' Compensation Act. I can tell you quite truthfully that Mary Lloyd would say a name and then she could name, chapter and verse, where there was some area of the Workers' Compensation Act that affected that particular person.
I said to the deputy minister that I have always been very impressed with Mary Lloyd, she has a wonderful knowledge of (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. RUSSELL: . . . the Workers' Compensation Act. We should give her the opportunity to serve the people, the injured workers of this province.
MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I just want to know - to the Minister of Labour or the Minister of Human Resources - if this offer that was made to Mary Lloyd, which went around the guidelines that have been in place for some time for the hiring of civil servants, is this going to be the model of how this government is going to hire civil servants in the Province of Nova Scotia?
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, as I said, the past practice of the former Minister of Labour is not going to be carried on by the new Minister of Labour.
MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, when I hear the criteria for offering Mary Lloyd a job, I guess we are all glad that she didn't occupy the Premier's office when the current Premier was there, because now she may be Minister of Housing. (Laughter)
MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.
MR. MACLELLAN: I also want to know, how does the offer to Mary Lloyd for this job fit within this government's employee hiring freeze in the Civil Service?
MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am certainly glad that the former Premier brought up the matter of the occupation of his office across the road in One Government Place which was, of course, a part of Mary Lloyd's crew of injured workers. I would ask the - well, I can't ask a question, obviously - but let me put it this way, when the former Premier wanted to get those people out of his office, I would say he came very close to making - no, I can't use the word bribe - some kind of an arrangement very much favourable in order to get them out of there. That isn't the policy of this government.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to pass a couple of easy questions to the Minister of Finance in his capacity as the Minister responsible for Nova Scotia Resources Limited. Last weekend, I heard part of a news report in which the minister was talking about NSRL and about an evaluation that had been done about the contracts that the former Liberal Government signed on their days when they were being shown the doors by Nova Scotians.
In that report that I heard, they said that the deal that was struck that gives Mobil and their partners the right of first refusal appears to be ironclad and it looks like we may be stuck with that bad deal. My question to the minister is, could he tell us who did that evaluation for the government and will he provide us with a copy of that evaluation?
HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. In regard to Nova Scotia Resources, the member brings up the fact that there was a ROFR, right of first refusal, given by NSRL to Mobil-Shell, not only on its assets, it was given on its shares. Though I don't profess to be an expert in the oil and gas exploration field, when I spoke to people, those few who I have spoken to in the gas and oil industry have told me that they have never heard of a ROFR ever being given on shares and they found that extraordinary.
There is a report that was done by the lawyers of NSRL in regard to the option that the government has. I would like to say to the member that we are considering what we will be doing with NSRL and I would like to take the chance to consider whether or not that should be made public right now. I think it is a valid request. I would like to talk about whether or not that would have any detrimental effect on our position but if the member can be so agreeable to give me some time to consider that and also talk to staff, I will give him an answer in short due. It is not an unreasonable request but I would like to have an opportunity to assess that before I give him an answer. I want to be candid with him.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows, of course, we are always cooperative on this side and so we would always want to cooperate with minister, plus I have no choice because he doesn't have to give it to me if he doesn't want to. (Laughter)
Of course the minister will know that that was only one of the many agreements that were struck on these dying days. I am personally of the view that they should not have been signing deals binding Nova Scotia while an election campaign was under way. I would like to ask the minister, those other deals, my analysis and the analysis I have had of them, or the information or advice that I have had about the other agreements is . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.
MR. HOLM: . . . they are also not very good for Nova Scotia. My question to the minister is, has the minister had those other agreements also analysed and will he also provide copies of the evaluations that were done on those as well?
MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, this gets a little technical because a lot of the agreements that were signed on the dying days of the former administration do not altogether come within my jurisdiction. Some of those would come within the mandate of the Petroleum Directorate. So I will take it under advisement, the ones that are within my purview.
I would like to say, I have made this statement before and I think it is appropriate that I say it in the House, as a business person, I know one thing, that you don't give away options unless you receive something in return. In this case, the Province of Nova Scotia gave a right of first refusal not only on its assets, which was expected, but they also gave it on its shares, which is unheard of. They gave that without receiving things in return. Nova Scotia Resources Limited should have been run as a business and if we run that as a business, that means that the dollars that we spend are the taxpayers' dollars and we should be doing the best deal possible when we make decisions. It is not somebody else's money. It is all our money.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, we do not always agree on everything, but certainly when it comes to the dealings with the offshore, I have no hesitation in saying that my view is Nova Scotians got hosed. We got hosed big time, not only in terms of the ROFR about the sale, but also in terms of royalties, in terms of most if not all of those agreements. My final question then to the minister is quite simply this. I would like to know, because we still do have some bargaining chips, is the government prepared to use the clout that it has over granting of other licences to force Mobil and their partners back to the table, to suggest that it may be in their best long-term interest, to come back to the table and finally give Nova Scotians a fair deal for our resources?
MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the member brings up a good point. He brings up a good point because I think that no matter what happens, we have to be open-minded in how we deal with the offshore. In this instance we have signed agreements. We are asking ourselves as to what options we have in that regard. (Interruption) The honourable member says he will give me some suggestions, but I will say I am going to have an open mind. I have not made decisions as to where we will go with this. I believe that I, as a new minister in regard to this responsibility, should have an open mind as to where we want to go with this. I will give assurances to that member and to other people that as minister responsible for Nova Scotia Resources Limited, that my interest is the people's interest.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.
MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I listened to the minister discussing the budget at one of the lock-ups, and I was impressed by the fact that he made the comment about honesty and integrity, openness, and above all a true picture for Nova Scotians. He held up, earlier in the House, this document saying that this is absolutely true without question. On Page 4, it says, "Nova Scotia Provincial Deficit 1992-93 to 1999-2000", and it has a bar graph showing and depicting the amount of deficit. I ask the minister the question, in the year 1992-93 showing a deficit of $617 million, were the current accounting practices that he has used to go back from 1995-96, 1996-97, 1997-98 to the year 2000, applied to the 1992-93
bar graph and if they were, could he explain why that number is not substantially higher than what it is in this book?
HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, when I hear the member opposite say that these numbers are deceiving and I hear his Leader make mention that we are adding costs to this and that we are trying to make things look worse and I hear them reaffirm that in the comments across the floor while I am answering this question, it boggles my mind. I can see the government in the past saying that we should not add these costs because it will make the numbers look worse and our efforts to balance the budget would be more difficult. How can you argue with presenting them in a consolidated form? How can you sit there or stand there and argue that we should not report it in GAAP. I just do not understand that and if you could clarify things, I would love to because the Auditor General agrees with this. What do you not agree with?
MR. DOWNE: Consolidation of debt is what we had recommended. I applaud the minister for going forward. The 60 day approach is kind of ramping it up very quickly, maybe for political gain, I will leave that for the public to determine. I am asking the question to the minister - I am not saying anything about the comments he made - is that number $617 million in the deficit for the year 1992-93, including the consolidation of debt? Is that including the issue of foreign exposure? Is that including the pension issues? Is that number reflective of the current method used to determine the graphs that he used for the year 1998-99 and the year 1999-2000? Mr. Speaker, I think he has got to come clean on that issue.
MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, he asked a specific point of 1992-93. I will bring that to my staff and I will make sure before I answer the question, but I want to say that I haven't pointed to the past because I think we have to go ahead. Today, this Party across the floor is saying that we shouldn't go with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and that we shouldn't show it this way.
Mr. Speaker, I am more than prepared to stand in my place and say with every fibre of my being that I believe in Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and I believe that Nova Scotians believe in that. Just to give an example, when I was buying groceries on the weekend, a woman came up me - I don't even know who she is - and she said, I think it is a great idea that Nova Scotians will know the truth from now on. That speaks volumes. (Applause)
MR. DOWNE: . . . according to a Liberal strategy, in fact, I happened to be the Minister of Finance in 1998-99 that brought in the paper that talked about consolidation of debt and that is the direction we are going, and that is what this Liberal Party had supported. The question I asked was an issue of definition. I think the rhetoric here is getting kind of thick.
Mr. Speaker, I asked a question of the Premier earlier about the fact sheet on tax reductions, and he indicated that there will be no tax increases to Nova Scotians. These tax initiatives that are currently under review, whether to do with new home construction, municipalities, universities, schools, hospitals, if they lose these tax credits, in effect, taxes will go up. Again yesterday, we talked to the Premier about . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.
MR. DOWNE: . . . whether or not he is going to flow through the tax benefits from the federal budget. He said no.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, what I am hearing from the Conservative . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Question.
MR. DOWNE: . . . Government is that they are going to be increasing taxes in Nova Scotia so they can live up to a commitment four years from now to reduce taxes.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.
MR. DOWNE: Nova Scotians are paying for the tax reduction four years from now.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.
MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, the Cape Breton Development Corporation's Act requires that Devco cannot close or reduce a mine unless all reasonable measures have been taken to reduce, as far as possible, any unemployment or economic hardship. The Act certainly anticipates and, indeed, requires provincial involvement in the winding down of Devco operations. My question to the Minister of Economic Development is will he tell this House what measures he has taken to date to ensure Devco is living up to its mandate?
HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. Certainly the potential impact of the closure of Devco is one of grave concern not just to Cape Breton, but to all of Nova Scotia. There is a committee struck to review the options available. We have talked about the $68 million the federal government is going to contribute. The province is looking at putting $12 million into that. As we speak, plans are being made to have a consultation process so that when we take a direction, it will be with the involvement of the communities.
MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, this government seems to have the same position on Devco as the past government had in eight months, and that is to sit on their hands and do nothing. Mr. Minister, I ask you again, the situation is doubly worse now with the sudden closure of the Phalen Mine, Ottawa has done little or nothing, so what contingency plan do you have to stabilize the Cape Breton economy once Devco closes?
MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the supplementary. Obviously, how to resolve this issue is one of grave importance. There have been countless studies as how to best approach the problem. What we need to do now, though, is commit to doing something. In fact, I met with a number of members of the New Democratic Party, both provincially and federally, to discuss how we could work together as a team to ensure there was non-partisan participation in the development of that plan. Without that common working together, we will go nowhere.
MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the minister that that was at our insistence, not his. Just recently, the Minister of Human Resources was in Cape Breton and stated that the government will look after Cape Breton, and the proof is that from now on a Cabinet Minister will spend one day a week in Cape Breton.
I hope this is not your idea of job development for Cape Breton. That didn't work in the Buchanan era, what makes you think that will work today?
MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, again to the honourable member, it is a part of a strategy to ensure that there is representation in all parts of Cape Breton. We have committed to opening an office and we have done that. In fact, we have had people there every Wednesday. We have a person in place to listen to concerns. We are in contact with people there constantly as to how to address the problems. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. BALSER: We are committed to ensuring that the issue around Cape Breton's economic development is handled and handled appropriately. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.
MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. The minister indicated earlier that he had discussions with the federal Fisheries Minister, the Honourable Herb Dhaliwal, today. My question to the minister is, did Minister Dhaliwal indicate what steps or regulations he has ready to implement to restore stability in the lobster industry, both in the short term and long term?
HON. ERNEST FAGE: Thank you for the question, an extremely important one, and one that all Nova Scotians certainly, native and non-native, are concerned with. The federal Fisheries Minister - although not wishing to speak on his behalf - indicated to me that his job was to regulate and offer conservation to the fishing industry. He claims he is prepared to regulate. Although we, as Nova Scotians in this Legislature, need to see that action.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, several weeks ago the provincial government publicly indicated that it was prepared to prohibit the sale of lobsters caught by native fishermen in an industry that was not government regulated. My question is, will the minister advise all Nova Scotians as to whether the provincial Department of Fisheries, and indeed the provincial government, will implement and enforce these regulations or policy as was announced?
MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, yes. We are prepared to enforce the regulations dealing with the buying of lobsters and that is a dealer's licence if indeed the person who is selling those lobsters to that dealer does not have a licence or permit to do so.
MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is to the Premier. I had occasion to watch, on CBC News World, Minister Dhaliwal's comments whereby he indicated - at least it was a direct inference - that ultimately the federal government would have the final say in regulating the lobster industry in Canada even if that meant intrusion on native fishing rights. My question to the Premier is, in light of that, why a little more than a week ago, did the Premier ask for a province-wide moratorium on the non-native fishery, when that sector of the industry had already been regulated and now is about to open in southwest Nova Scotia, and very important to that end of the province?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows full well that the lobster industry is an important part of the Nova Scotia economy and will continue to be so if, in fact, it is a shared cooperative approach and a regulated fishery. When I see evidence of a shared cooperative fishery that is regulated and sustainable that addresses the issues of conservation, then I will support it. When I don't see that, I won't support it.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Premier. The Premier, of course, will know that the residents in Prince Edward Island have and still do enjoy lower costs for petroleum products. Of course in Prince Edward Island, the prices are regulated. We have recently seen that Newfoundland is going to institute a program to protect consumers there. My question to the Premier is simply this, as the heating season approaches, what is the Government of Nova Scotia going to do to protect Nova Scotian consumers from excessive and unwarranted price hikes?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite probably thinks at times that we are not listening. The whole issue of gasoline prices at the pump in Nova Scotia is raising the ire of many Nova Scotians who fail to see any rationale for some of the changes that are occurring at the pumps. By way of a resolution, yesterday the member opposite, in one of his whereases - if I remember correctly - indicated a procedure that goes on in Newfoundland.
We have listened and we are going to investigate that procedure as to a method in which we can bring some semblance of rationality to gasoline prices here in Nova Scotia. I believe the member opposite will remember the issue that he brought to the House by way of resolution.
MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I have raised this issue in the House on a number of occasions. I want then to go to a very direct and specific question to the Premier, if I may. The Premier will know that big oil companies have used predatory pricing practices to force the independents to maintain higher prices and to eliminate competition in the industry. My question to the Premier is very simply this; will the Premier support or introduce legislation that will outlaw predatory pricing practices in Nova Scotia, so that we can have true competition and Nova Scotians can finally start to get a break on the prices that they are paying?
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is very aware that deregulation in this province has allowed an independent retail sector to develop in the gasoline industry here in Nova Scotia. Without deregulation, we would not have the independent dealers that we have today. The second point is that independent retail business or approach has allowed lower gasoline prices in Nova Scotia. In order to protect the independent retailers if they are in jeopardy, this government has already indicated, while in Opposition, that it supported anti-predatory pricing legislation.
MR. HOLM: The Premier knows full well and, yes, he always talks about how deregulation, and nobody is disagreeing with the fact that the deregulation made it easier for independents to get into the market, but the Premier surely also knows that big oil controls the price that they sell it to independents and all others . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.
MR. HOLM: . . . and they know that they sell it to the independents at a higher price if they try to reduce it. My question is, if you truly want competition, will you introduce a law outlawing predatory practices so that that practice will end?
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for Oral Question Period has expired.
HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the honourable member for Lunenburg West asked me a question in regard to a graph and I told him I would get him the information. Mr. Speaker, in that graph they refer to the last four years in this going back from 1992-93 to 1995-96, is in the format they were reported before and the reason being
that the work to bring about consolidation in the reporting is extensive and we are working with the Auditor General to bring those numbers up to par. That will take quite a bit of time. I wanted to make sure that the member was aware of that information. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.
MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order. I appreciate the quick efforts by staff to inform the minister that not everything in here is absolutely perfect, but I know the intent of the minister is that it is. My question and my comment back to the minister is why would they have gone back that many years if, in fact, it was not accurate; that is all I am saying. The point is comparing apples to apples and not apples to bananas.
AN HON. MEMBER: It is deceitful. Shame. Shame.
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a new point of order. The Minister of Finance got up on a point of order to answer a question from Question Period. The former Minister of Finance got up in response to that point of order to rebut what the Minister of Finance said which was not, of course, a point of order. My point of order is that if the Premier wanted to answer my last question, he also could have gotten up on a point of order and given a straight answer to Nova Scotians. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Government Motions.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the adjourned debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne be now resumed.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, this is the first opportunity that I have had to make a reply to the Speech from the Throne. Last year, after the 1998 election, an opportunity wasn't available so I certainly would like to take a few moments, and when I say a few moments, probably not in the same way as the member for Sackville-Cobequid might mention a few moments.
First of all I would like to congratulate the Speaker on his election to the Speaker's Chair and also the three Deputy Speakers. I think the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, because of his cowboy boots, is probably the only real deputy here.
The two campaigns, although 1998 and 1999 for me were quite different, certainly different in feel, but not different in the efforts put forth by some members of my community. Certainly, to my two campaign managers, I would like to say thank you for the fact that they were so easy to work with, for one thing, and considered my input into the campaign, and also for the fact that I won. (Interruption) Perhaps.
I would also like to thank my wife and my children for their patience and for the sacrifices that they have put up with, although my not being around they won't consider as a sacrifice. Certainly the increased workload that my wife took on while I was away, I want to thank her for that.
Mr. Speaker, to give members a little sense of where I come from, I have spent all my life in the Village of Enfield, have grown up on the family farm that has been in my family since 1877 on the northern tip of Grand Lake. This certainly for me has allowed me some roots and certainly when you are in a community that long, you have an extended family, so it has certainly provided me an opportunity to have a real feel for the past as well as an outlook for the future.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my parents very much. I never got an opportunity in 1998 to do so. My father passed away last October and we are almost a year to the day - it was October 16, 1998 - just as the House was opening a year ago. Certainly some of the lessons that my parents have taught I have tried to carry. I was one of seven children. One child died very early, at three months of age, a crib death, but the other six children in my family, three sisters and two brothers, our parents raised us on the idea that we were as good as anybody else but certainly no better than anybody else.
I have the unique position, I guess in my family that I am a twin and I used to know what the figure in the population was, how many people were born as twins. I am an identical twin, although my brother is not a New Democrat but that only causes me to question the whole nature versus nurture issue.
I would like to mention a little bit about my riding of Hants East. It is made up of approximately 450,000 acres. There are four main areas, at least when we think about it in election terms, of the areas you try to frequent. There is the corridor area which runs from Enfield to Shubenacadie and this is what some people would regard as a bedroom community. The communities of Enfield, Elmsdale and Lantz certainly are growing by leaps and bounds. Accessibility to the Halifax International Airport really is only minutes away from those communities and actually is a fairly major employer for people in those areas, not to mention the HRM. So for people to live there and work outside the area has become very attractive. You can have the best of what you might think is the best of the city but yet also have some of the best of rural living as well.
There is a significant rural component, even if we consider those bedroom communities, when you get to Milford and Shubenacadie in particular, because we are looking at an extremely busy agricultural area, a very profitable agricultural area; even though you run into the frictions of growing communities, also in conjunction with agricultural land base. Hants East provides 18 per cent of dairy production in this province. I have heard the member for Kings North mention Kings County and I certainly am aware of the great agricultural strength that Kings County has but I don't know if there is another part of the province that compares in dairy production to the Hants East area.
We have talked a fair bit in this House about industrial Cape Breton. I am not sure if many members would be aware that in terms of horticultural produce, Cape Breton comes second after Kings County and if we are looking for places where we can create jobs that are sustainable, I think agriculture provides one of the best avenues for that. I was a little bit disappointed actually in the address of the Minister of Finance, if I can find the appropriate location, "Key sectors of our economy, including information technology, manufacturing for export, entertainment, and tourism will help maintain its momentum.". There was no mention there of agriculture and natural resources or fisheries and these sectors provide about $1 billion a year each to the Nova Scotia economy and in the sense of anything that is renewable and sustainable and it is ours, then I think that should be more strongly emphasized in the budget.
I know that tourism is becoming a major factor in the economy of the province, and certainly in my riding we like to see that. I know in talking to people in that sector the tourist business has moved into September and October where traditionally it used to end around September 1st. So it is being extended further into the year and is increasing in what it contributes to the Nova Scotia economy.
The rural voters, if we assume that is a strength for Tory support, they may be wondering why there was not more mention of that in the budget. Then, the other more rural sector of Hants East would be comprised of what would be called the Rawdons, Upper and Centre Rawdon through to South Rawdon, and then the shore area, which would run from Walton through to Maitland. Actually I am really pleased to hear that the government, during
their election campaign, saw tourism as significant enough that they would dedicate a whole department to tourism.
They also mentioned that they were going to increase spending in the Department of Transportation by $30 million. Highway No.215, which runs from Shubenacadie to Walton, is a major tourist area for Hants East; we have four tidal rafting businesses along that route. We have the highest tides in the world, and anybody who enters Hants East, almost at every entry point, you will find a sign there that says highest tides in the world.
The Village of Maitland is a designated heritage district in this province. Actually, at one point in putting together the Village of Sherbrooke as a tourist attraction, the Village of Maitland was already there. It was already put together and the people in that community have really been working hard to try to get the government to recognize that village more strongly for the tourist route. It has a lot to offer, and I think that this time of year, with the colour in Nova Scotia the way it is, if any of the members have an opportunity to get out and about, then certainly they will find a drive along the Minas Basin would be well worth their time. I think that, certainly, the honourable member for Hants West, a former Speaker of this House, would certainly agree to that because I know part of that Minas Basin route is in his riding. I know he would want that emphasized.
Mount Uniacke, when you look at the map, seems to be a tail on Hants East. It represents not only an historical community, but also a community of a very active group of people who are involved with the Hants East Historical Society. These people work very diligently in trying to promote the Mount Uniacke area. If we consider just the Uniacke name, Richard Uniacke, the man who was responsible for the estate which is now a tourist destination for people in Hants East, was also the Attorney General of Nova Scotia.
I mentioned the Village of Maitland. Most Nova Scotians would be aware of W. D. Lawrence and the ship that he built that carried his name. Also, I am not sure if they would be aware that W. D. Lawrence was also an MLA in this Legislature.
The Village of Enfield, as I mentioned, is where I grew up. I know for some people the Horne name would be synonymous with the area, but certainly they would not be aware that Noranda-Rouyn basically was discovered by Edmund Horne from Enfield while prospecting for gold. Actually, that was the significant find that he made but it was after working that area that he discovered copper, which was the big find for Noranda-Rouyn. He made his discovery in 1921, came back a millionaire to Enfield and bought what became Monte Vista Stock Farms and retired, until the end of his days, on the shores of Grand Lake raising prize Hereford cattle. Some of that pedigree can still be found in Hereford herds in this country to this day.
On Wednesday I went to the presentation for a time capsule for a new school being built in Enfield to replace the E.H. Horne School which is the product of monies contributed by E.H. Horne many years ago, pretty near 60 years ago. The agreement, when the community gave up their school to the school board, was that it would be returned to the community when the board no longer needed it. So that is certainly something that the community is looking forward to, and also very much looking forward to the new school - the footings are already in the ground - hopefully for September of next year.
One other part of my riding is the Indian Brook Reserve in Shubenacadie. I didn't mention to members when I started to speak that I was a school teacher for 15 years in Hants East Rural High School in Milford.
AN HON. MEMBER: An excellent one I heard, too.
MR. MACDONELL: That's true. Thank you. I started out teaching junior high science and then for a number of years taught Grade 10 biology. In the 1998 election, I was teaching Grade 12. Over those years I had a number of Mi'kmaq students that would be in my charge and these were excellent individuals: very bright, hard-working, and I think for me as a teacher and certainly as a non-native, I used to wonder what I could do better or differently that might provide the most opportunity or the best opportunity for my native students. Something that I grappled with for years and I guess in a way, teachers wonder how much good they do for any of their students. I never actually got it resolved but I do meet my former students on occasion and I know the response I get, when I do meet them, makes me feel that they certainly were comfortable with John MacDonell as their teacher.
I think that it is in the best interests of all Nova Scotians, of this government and the native community for this government to take a leadership role in all of these issues regarding natural resources and harvesting, whether it is fishing or logging. I would encourage the Premier and the members of his government to ensure that this is done. I think they will find that those members of the native community are more than reasonable to deal with. Certainly, although tradition is a big thing for the native community, they are not blinded by it and they certainly have a vision for the future. I think they will find we have a similar ground of interest because they are really concerned about their families and how best to take care of them, which is a common thread for all Nova Scotians. I think if we consider that as paramount, we would have no trouble in coming to some resolve for how we can best make use of the resources in this province.
One piece of information I neglected to tell the members of the House - and actually it was a surprise to me when I learned this - my wife's parents grew up in the New Glasgow area. I was very - I won't say shocked - but very surprised to find out that on their wedding
day their best man is the man who now is Premier of this province. (Interruptions) But, I still visit them. (Laughter) They speak very highly of the Premier and I know for good reason.
The size of my constituency certainly makes it difficult to get around, as lots of members would know in their own ridings, but when I mentioned the significance of tourism in the area, and also the fact that the government's platform during the campaign committed more money to roads, I had the honourable Minister of Transportation over the roads of Hants East already and the previous minister. I hope the result is better from this minister than the previous one. I mentioned Route 215 from Shubenacadie to Walton, which covers the shore area for the most part, but also the Route 354 from Gore to Kennetcook (Interruption)
Well, you shouldn't have enjoyed that part. Both these roads lead to very interesting tourist areas and actually, for the amount of traffic it is a steady complaint we get about the condition of the road, and not to mention the people who travel those roads every day who work outside the area, it is a real concern for them so I certainly hope that the minister will take heed on my request for help in that area. I know the people there certainly would appreciate it.
The growth in the corridor area certainly brings benefits in some regards, in other words I mentioned about the school being built already in Enfield, a new P-5 school. A school in Lantz just opened this September. The previous September Riverside Education Centre, which is a middle school with Grades 6 to 8, opened. Therefore, to get three new schools opened one right after another, a year apart, is quite significant but the population growth and the condition of the old buildings that were there (Interruption) And I thank the former government for their help.
I would like to mention that there are those areas of my constituency where they worry about the population, in other words in some cases there are not a lot of young families and they worry. A year ago there was a lot of talk about closing the school in Maitland and also the one in Noel and busing the students to Kennetcook, which would have been well over an hour's drive for those students every day, and I am talking about elementary school children.
Although the school board has moved away from that idea and it seems for some time that they will, I think that when decisions like this are made I would like to see the government take a greater role in looking at the conditions under which they would consider a school to be closed. If numbers are the only condition there are probably only a number of schools that could happen to but they have to realize the long-term effect. If you close a school you are certainly not going to attract anybody to the area and in this area and the Noel Shore they have trouble now just hanging on to their doctor.
The Hants North Health Clinic, which basically is manned just by Dr. Peter Rothfels, I have phoned Dr. Rothfels on occasion at his home when he would be seeing patients in his house. This man works basically seven days a week. If he has to take a break he has to leave the community, there is no way that he could stay there. So I would like to see the
government certainly continue or bring about an initiative that works, that listens to the concerns that the doctors have. This man does have good ideas, for things that he thinks are appropriate and applicable for his community and would help to keep another doctor in that area.
There is a plan for a multi-service centre in the Elmsdale area which, we thought originally, was to be a health facility, but it looks as though multi may the key word there and that there are a number of services going to be offered and it is not sure just how much of that will be health service. We could and should have a nursing home somewhere in that area, simply because those who are elderly or even if they are not elderly but have severe health problems, have to leave the area to get to nursing homes and for their best interest and for their families a nursing home would be very valuable.
In a large constituency, and I mentioned about the size of my constituency, in a little over a year I put pretty near 70,000 kilometres on my what used to be new car. So transportation in that area is a significant (Interruptions) yes, you can tell by the dirt I bring into Halifax.
I would like the government to pursue some initiative, at least to analyze whether there is a way for government to either help or create some type of public transportation system, either alone or in conjunction with private partners. There are those individuals in these communities who are trying to generate this business on their own but probably some would fit between them and government, which would provide a better service. For areas that have low incomes or seniors who don't have accessibility, this would be a very valuable part of an agenda, I think, for any government and certainly for those on income assistance. This is one of the things that holds them back from getting out and getting a job. So at least as a stepping stone to getting people off assistance, I think this would be money well spent by any government.
I would like to turn my attention to some comments made in the Speech from the Throne. "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.". I would think that perhaps it might be somewhat more appropriate if the government would embrace the values of the people, rather than trying to convince the people to embrace the values of the government. "That belief is based on the honest recognition that government cannot, and should not, attempt to be all things to all people.". I remember during the debate on the workers' compensation legislation, Bill No. 90, that the now Minister of Justice actually made that very same statement, that government cannot be all things to all people but it should be something to all people.
"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.". Well, certainly self-reliance is a key for people to aspire to, and I think that all
Nova Scotians certainly take that as a virtue for those who can do as much as they can on their own. I am trying not to read into that that those who are vulnerable and need help may not be able to get very much help.
I did like to see in "Building a Healthier Province, This government will meet its commitment to invest in wellness and disease prevention.". I think that some lifestyle changes and any initiative that would help bring lifestyle changes to be healthier would be a good thing, certainly it would be good for the population and it would be good for how we tax the health care system with illness. So I would applaud the government if they can bring about some type of change in people's way of viewing their health, and to get out and promote good health in their everyday lifestyle.
It says that "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.". Well I am glad to see that forestry, agriculture and fishing are mentioned in the Speech from the Throne and that investment in infrastructure, but I would have to wonder what has happened with the Middleton Grain Centre if investment and infrastructure are supposed to be important. I would see that as infrastructure and it is something that the farmers in that area have talked about for a couple of years. I have not seen any action on the part of this government, as to what they have done or are going to do in that situation.
I have been told that there are 11,000 direct jobs in the forest sector in this province and that there are six indirect jobs for every one of those 11,000 jobs. So that means there is a potential of 66,000 jobs directly and indirectly in the forestry sector. If you had to wake up in the morning and create 66,000 jobs, it would be a difficult thing to do, but I do not hear of any initiative by this government, or actually there certainly was nothing much in the past government, to recognize the contribution that forestry plays. There are those in the industry who feel that we are up against the wall now that the forests in Nova Scotia are finished. If we look at the time line on developing forests, and we have always said 100 years, that is only 100 years to grow a tree. A forest is something completely different, but if we take that 100 years as the marker, then we are probably well out of sight of any possibility of actually trying to regain forests at the pace at which we cut them.
In the Village of Elmsdale, I have been told by one of the buyers for MacTara in Musquodoboit that if you stand at that intersection along Highway No. 2 on any given day, there will be 100 trucks that will go through that intersection and, of course, they are heading for the honourable Deputy Speaker's riding as well as Elmsdale Lumber Mill in my riding, Laurie Ledwidge lumber mill in the honourable Deputy Speaker's riding, and so on, and probably for mills that I am not even aware of, but that would give the members of the House some indication that we are talking about one intersection in Nova Scotia and the number of
trucks and the tons of logs that would go through there in a day and I do not think we grow them that fast.
To say that the government is willing to work with the federal government to secure an agreement on sustainable forestry practices, I would find that problematic. It certainly is within the realm of possibility for this government to develop a forestry strategy that is sustainable and renewable and long term. It is great if the federal government is willing to help, but I do not see that help as being necessary to impede this government from doing it itself. There are all kinds of people out there with lots of advice about the forest sector and some of them certainly you can listen to. I think they are people who have a stake in the industry and they are knowledgeable.
"This government recognizes the importance of helping young farmers and will meet its commitment to provide relief from the high cost of borrowing.". I think that is a welcome relief and I was glad to hear about the dollars being committed to the agricultural sector. I would like to get a little more information at some point as to how those dollars can be accessed by farmers, but helping young farmers is a key thing in this Speech from the Throne and I would like to know more about how the government intends to help young farmers. Actually even the industry regards them as new entrants because some of them are not young any more.
This is an industry that it is really difficult for people who are not raised in part of that industry to step into it. There are those who have not a lot of practical experience in lots of businesses, but can start lots of businesses and be successful. Agriculture is one that is far more difficult for people who have not been raised in that sector on farms to have good practical knowledge in farming and that is not to say that the Agricultural College does not provide certainly the components for meeting all the demands of the global economy, it certainly does, but we are finding that those people who go to the Agricultural College are raised on farms for the most part, and not off-farm people who are urban who are going to the Agricultural College with the idea of starting a farm. I do know of a couple who have a large dairy farm in Shubenacadie, and actually they grew up in Dartmouth. I think hats off to them because they have done very well. It can be done, but it is not traditionally done.
Keeping young people on the farms should be a major initiative because a lot of the infrastructure is there already. It is not as tough to maintain it as it is to rebuild it.
"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." Well, I think adherence to some consideration of an energy policy is a good thing for the government. I certainly would like to know more about how the government intends to meet commitments made by the Kyoto Summit, or if they have any thought in that direction at all.
Energy is usually that thing that is not renewable, although there are those sources that are practically inexhaustible, but I think that coming into this new millennium and into a new century we should be more forward-looking, we should have a vision and we should know that there is information out there. There are technologies out there, and there are things that people in other jurisdictions are trying; there are things that people in other jurisdictions have tried and have succeeded. There is no point reinventing the wheel, but certainly there is a point in looking at how it turns.
I think it would be in all Nova Scotians' best interests and certainly in the government's best interests to pursue an energy initiative that tends to make use of whatever sources are the cheapest and those that have the least impact on the environment. I think the members should be aware that this is something that has great potential as an industry in this province. We hear comments about tilting at windmills, but there are people who are making a lot of money doing that.
In closing, I want to thank the members in this House who came back in 1998, especially those experienced members, but certainly all members, for the way they treated me. I was not overly abused. (Laughter) I was not overly abused in this House. I thought that the members who had some experience were helpful and were willing to answer any of my questions and did not giggle too loudly at the faux pas I may have made. Certainly, the members on either side of my constituency, from the Colchester-beautiful-Musquodoboit Valley and Hants West, and actually the former Speaker of the House, the Honourable Ronald Russell was helpful on many occasions, and I really appreciated that. This was a new experience and somewhat worrisome of being at the wrong place at the wrong time or perhaps saying the wrong thing.
I welcome all new members to the House and wish them well. I will certainly endeavour to be as helpful as other members have been to me. I congratulate the member for Cape Breton Nova. I don't really look to a short career in politics, but I certainly have no aspirations of 29 years, or to break that record. It certainly says something about what your constituents in the area think of you, sir.
I listened with great interest the other day as the honourable member for Kings North delivered his joke. I thought about trying to come up with another one, but I won't. I certainly think that in many ways it is an indication of the philosophy, of how different Parties may look at a particular situation and I certainly thought, leave it to the Tories to try to sell somebody something they don't need. Thank you. I appreciate the time of the House. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton East.
MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, first of all, congratulations to everyone here on being elected. I am extremely proud to be here on behalf of the people of Cape Breton East and have the opportunity to represent them in this House. It is, indeed, an honour and a pleasure to stand before you in this Chamber and speak on behalf of the people of Glace Bay. Allow me, please, to say thank you to my family and friends, my campaign workers who gave so much of themselves this past summer to allow this to happen.
Mr. Speaker, for those who are not familiar with my community, allow me to quote from a recent pamphlet, which is published by the Glace Bay Heritage Museum Society. "Where are you from? Why, I am from the 'Bay bye'." Anyone with roots in Glace Bay is proud to be called a 'Bay bye'. The Heritage Museum Society has a very worthwhile project under way, which I will elaborate on later in this speech.
Mr. Speaker, the former Town of Glace Bay has a very proud history since its incorporation in 1901. Glace Bay is 9.2 square kilometres, with a population now of approximately 19,500. At one time, it had the distinction of being called the biggest town in Canada. There were 11 coal mines, at one time, operating in the former Town of Glace Bay. Unfortunately, now there are none. Those very mines employed thousands and, indeed, they spawned names for various communities within the community - names such as Bridgeport, Caledonia, Number 2, Number 11 and others. It gave the community an identity that carries on to this very day.
Mr. Speaker, I will remind the House that Glace Bay has always been a hotbed for politics. Outstanding people were sent to Parliament and the campaigns were hot and furious. As a matter of fact, fist fights were quite common between Grits and Tories during an election. Poets composed and the people sang songs about candidates. After witnessing the past campaign, I am not sure much has changed.
Glace Bay has had more than its fair share of native and adopted citizens, whose names reign supreme in various fields during the past 98 years. Socially, politically and athletically, they are names that are renowned throughout the land - names such as Nathan Cohen, Daniel Petrie, Guilermo Marconi, Hugh MacLennan, J.B. MacLaughlin, Clarie Gillis, Bill MacNeil, Kenneth Bagnell, Lillian Crewe Walsh and G.S. Harrington, who was a former Premier of this great province. The list is, actually, endless.
Personally, I would like to remind the House that I have spent over 20 years, Mr. Speaker, in the media, indeed, starting my career in television and radio with a fellow MLA here today, the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre, Mr. Frank Corbett. Mr. Corbett went to the dark side and I saw the light. My experience in talking to Cape Bretoners from all walks of life, I think and I hope, have left me with an understanding of my community and, indeed, my Island, and a deep pride in its people.
It was an honour and a privilege to have been the host of a very popular radio open-line show, called Talk Back, for close to 15 years, a program that aired many important issues on a daily basis and, may I say, gave a platform for many politicians of all stripes. At one point, Mr. Speaker, I can remember very fondly the Leader of the NDP delivering me coffee on a Saturday morning. I remember very fondly, as well, the Premier of this province saying to a constituent of mine who happened to be a supporter of his, that he enjoyed his interview on Talk Back with me, and I thank him for those comments at the time.
I still think it is, to this very day, unfortunate that corporate decisions led to the end of that program. I would hope that in the future common sense would prevail and such a program would return to the airwaves in Cape Breton.
Mr. Speaker, like many others, I am a rookie MLA and, as a rookie, I had high expectations for the Speech from the Throne. I read the promises the Progressive Conservatives made during the election; I didn't necessarily like what I saw because the Tory election platform put mining on the very last page of promises. This showed me how important the Cape Breton way of life is to the Conservatives, so I was eager to hear the Speech from the Throne. I wanted to hear if the new PC Government had something more concrete to say about our industry. I must say I was very disappointed in the Throne Speech. I guess you could call my high expectations for the Throne Speech a rookie mistake. After all, Cabinet Ministers are allowed to make rookie mistakes, so I guess it is okay for an Opposition MLA to make one as well.
In the Throne Speech, Mr. Speaker, it says the government realized that it did not hold a monopoly on good ideas. Well, I have yet to hear one good idea so far. It says the government will establish a committee to explore with Cape Breton communities their vision of the economic future. Another committee, Mr. Speaker, that is the one way to put Cape Bretoners back to work, maybe; put them all on committees. The plan is a waste, it is a duplication of the work already done by the Cape Breton Economic Development Authority. If this is how they plan to reduce the size of government, let's get some more ideas generated.
The Throne Speech contradicts itself about really helping Cape Breton. On one page the government says, step in to help the people of industrial Cape Breton; on another page, they say government should not try to direct or control the economic growth of this province. This is contradictory. Should government get involved in economic growth or not?
Mr. Speaker, I am also frightened over the line in the Throne Speech that says this government will move forward on a long-term remediation plan for heavy industries. What are they saying? How many more jobs will be lost and how much will this long-term plan cost the taxpayers of Nova Scotia?
On the subject of the Cape Breton Development Corporation, Mr. Speaker - or Devco as it is commonly called - I come from a family that is long associated with the coal mining industry in Cape Breton. I am very proud of the fact that my grandfather, Fred Yates, came to Cape Breton from Wales at the very young age of 12 and worked in the coal mines. My father fed his family of 10 working on the Sydney to Louisbourg Railway, hauling coal. My relatives, my neighbours and my friends are employed by Devco and now they face a very uncertain future.
I have heard the comments of men who have given most of their working life to a Crown Corporation and are now simply asking for a fair and just package as their industry is about to enter a new era. My worry is what will happen to those workers and their families and how governments help alleviate their troubles at this time. It is incumbent on the federal government in Ottawa to enhance the package initially offered and it is vital that both the federal and provincial levels carefully consider the economic impact this will have on Cape Breton East and surrounding areas, and move quickly to put in place initiatives that will not only sustain the local economy, but rejuvenate it as well.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize the tremendous effort put forth by a group called United Families, particularly two people, Edna Budden and Bev Brown, who have poured their hearts and souls into a campaign to tell everyone that families matter more than anything else. Mr. Speaker, as well, I have talked endlessly with a man who I think is a prime example of what is happening at Devco right now, a man by the name of Malcolm MacIntyre, who is 45 years old and has spent 27 years in the coal industry and faces a very uncertain future. These things are not right; something has to be done about them.
Let me tell you a little bit about our Main Street in Glace Bay, or should I say what is left of it. The commercial section is in dire straits. Road and sewer improvements are much needed. The commercial sector is crying for help with new sidewalks and store fronts. Unfortunately the area has become the butt of many jokes since there are more vacant lots than buildings that house businesses. Mr. Speaker, it is my hope that the new government will immediately tackle these problems and help restore the downtown business core to the place of pride and the bustling business area that it once was.
I also take this opportunity to call to the attention of the government a situation in the riding of Cape Breton East that I feel needs to be addressed, the Provincial Court facilities in that community. They are currently scheduled to be relocated to Sydney. Mr. Speaker, this could not come at a worse time. As I mentioned, there are already more empty buildings in Glace Bay and area than ever before. Our community and its people are hurting. Later, I will make reference to the economic situation, but does it make sense for the court facilities and staff to be transferred to a new location that will cost even more per square foot than where the courtroom is currently located? I call on the Minister of Justice to immediately review this matter and leave the court facilities where they are and prevent further economic erosion in my community. (Applause)
Recently, Mr. Speaker, I met with representatives of EMT, technicians and paramedics in the Cape Breton area. I also feel that it is my responsibility to say that these hard-working people are overworked but dedicated individuals and are appealing to all elected officials in this province to heed their cry. These men and women, in my opinion, deserve a better deal. I ask this House if it is right for someone to arrive on your doorstep to save your life to be paid just over $7.00 an hour? Should these same people in some stances work close to 100 hours per week? I urge the government of the day to direct Emergency Health Services to make things right and give these highly-trained medical professionals the settlement that they so justly deserve.
There are some things that we hope to make right in the riding of Cape Breton East. Allow me, Mr. Speaker, to tell the House about Project 2001, which is commonly called the old Glace Bay Town Hall. This building has become a symbol of Glace Bay's identity and history. The Glace Bay Heritage Society under the chairmanship of Mr. Bruce Clarke now has a fund-raising effort under way to restore the building. It has been recognized as a municipal heritage property and the society has applied for provincial heritage status. This project is estimated to cost $250,000 in the first stage, which is a relatively small amount considering the potential it has to create a major tourist site in Cape Breton East.
There is an old saying, Mr. Speaker, that you have to know where you came from before you know where you are going. With that in mind, this project seems to create something worthwhile for the local economy while also preserving our past and pride in the community. I urge the government to move quickly on this issue and declare the building a provincial heritage site. I also ask that the government work with the committee to ensure funding for renovations and staff in the future.
Mr. Speaker, Glace Bay and area have a tremendous history in sporting activities: hockey, baseball, softball, basketball, soccer, rugby, to mention a few. I would need much more time to elaborate on the number of championship teams that have come from Glace Bay and area, but recently this past summer the Glace Bay Mosquito All-star Baseball team won both the provincial and Atlantic championship under coaches, Henry Boutilier, Jimmy Wilson and Dave Cadegan. I want to congratulate the players, their coaches and their parents, Mr. Speaker. I also want to tell you about the pride that is associated with Little League in Glace Bay.
Indeed, we have become well-known throughout the world. The Glace Bay Colonels, a major Little League team, is recognized throughout this country and throughout the world as a consistent producer of national titles. They have appeared in several Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, as representatives of their country. In the past 11 years Glace Bay has hosted twice the Canadian Little League Championships.
Mr. Speaker, it is with that in mind that I can personally speak of the pride that still exists in our community. Last year I was honoured to serve as co-chair of the 1998 Canadian Little League Championships in Glace Bay which accomplished some amazing things. For instance, over $50,000 was raised during the tournament and later donated to Glace Bay Little League. That enabled close to 500 children to play Little League this past summer at no cost to them or their parents. An all-time record was set during the 1998 tournament for attendance. Close to 18,000 fans attended the championship game alone which is an incredible feat considering the size of our community. Over 350 volunteers worked tirelessly for close to two years to accomplish that feat and I wish to thank them on behalf of their community.
I would also like to take a moment to congratulate the executive and members of the Glace Bay Pensioners Club, Mr. Speaker. With the help of the then provincial Liberal Government, and specifically the Honourable Manning MacDonald, the club has renovated its facility on Commercial Street in Glace Bay. Washrooms can now accommodate those physically challenged and they are now able to hold many functions in a new environment. Thanks also to the Human Resources Development Commission in Glace Bay and the hard work of club president, Philip Nash, and his executive. There is more to be done at the facility and I hope the new government will look kindly upon these senior citizens when they come calling for your assistance.
Let me give the House another example of great things to come out of Glace Bay - the Glace Bay Schools Band which was formed in 1973. Mr. Speaker, the band has won gold medals in competitions regionally and nationally. The senior band has won gold medals from 1988 to 1999 at the regional level. The events they have played at are too numerous to mention. Presently there are 500 school children from Grade 4 to Grade 12 enrolled in the band program. What makes this even more amazing is the parents of those talented musicians supply their own instruments. The band members and parents do their own fund-raising. The band has brought acclaim to Glace Bay by representing the community, our province and our country with three separate invitations to perform at Disney World. They have played before the Queen for her Fortress of Louisbourg tour and perhaps their most prestigious honour was a performance at Carnegie Hall in 1997. They were selected from nine bands for the first International Field Studies Festival and, to date, are the only Canadian band to be chosen.
Mr. Speaker, it is through the hard work and dedication of band director, Barbara Stetter, chief fund-raiser, Barry Bisson, and the parents that such an undertaking makes us proud in Glace Bay and surrounding communities. I congratulate all involved.
As well, Mr. Speaker, now keeping its doors open, thanks to donations from Nova Scotia Power Inc. and an anonymous donor, is the Glace Bay Youth Centre. The youth there have worked hard to renovate and operate a centre under the guidance of Mr. Scott Gillard. They are looking for help from various government departments may I remind the government today.
Another great example of how my community can pull together. Recently a 14 year old by the name of Chris Campbell was injured in a swimming pool accident. He is now undergoing therapy at the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre, and we wish him well. The community raised over $33,000 so far, and turned out in full force recently for a fund-raising benefit. The organizers are to be congratulated; that is yet another example of the pride and caring that is still quite evident in this community.
Mr. Speaker, we have to create the idea of a real future in Glace Bay. This is a moment that the real needs and hopes and ideals of the constituents of Cape Breton, and in particular Cape Breton East, have to be addressed. We have to rebuild our community and restore decency, dignity and trust. The fishing industry in Glace Bay, for example, few may know, but it employs over 350 people. I call upon the government if help is still needed to the fishing companies there, such as Glace Bay Fisheries and Highland Fisheries, that that help will be awaiting.
In closing, again I would like to thank the people of Glace Bay, in particular my wife, Nancy; my sons, Jonathan and Daniel; and my daughter, Jeana. The people in Glace Bay have lost some faith in the political system in the past, and I have every intention of changing that by working as hard as I possibly can to represent them in this House. Thank you. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.
MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to address the House at this time and propose to deliver my full speech now.
Je veux présenter mes salutations et félicitations sincèrement sur votre élection comme le deputé President de l'Assemblée législative, M. le Président et l'honorable Murray Scott sur son election. J'ai aussi eu le plaisir de servir dans votre poste quelques ans passés et j'avait beaucoup aimé l'expérience. Je me rappelle avec fierté que c'était un privilège et un honeur. J'appuis tous les deputés sur leur elections, surtoût le premier ministre, les ministres du gouvernement et les chefs des deux partis qui sont représentés dans cette chambre.
I would like to say a few words of appreciation for the members of the Liberal Caucus. The Honourable Russell MacLellan, the Leader of our Party, the former Premier of Nova Scotia, is a man who is held in great admiration and is loved by the people of Cape Breton North who are very proud to have him representing them in this Chamber. I have found in my travels in his constituency, which were extensive during the by-election that brought him here in 1997, and in checking that I have done in that area since, the people of Cape Breton North are very satisfied to have him remain here as their representative and hope that he will continue for many years to come.
He is a credit and an honour to provincial politics. I have known him for many years, in the capacity of my federal Member of Parliament before he entered into provincial politics. I know that while he is no longer the Leader of the government, he certainly remains the Leader of the Liberal Party and has the full support of this caucus in their desire to see him continue in that capacity.
The honourable Donald Downe, member for Lunenburg West, former Minister of Finance, former Deputy Premier of Nova Scotia, a relative of mine, I find, through marriage because my late Uncle John MacEwan's wife, who is still living, was a Downe from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, which is where my own family is originally from and, in tracing the family tree, we found that she, who I always knew as my aunt, and the honourable Don Downe are, indeed, relatives. I think they are second cousins, or at least the honourable Don Downe's father would be my aunt's second cousin. So I am certainly very glad to see him returned by the voters of Lunenburg West and continuing to do the excellent work that he does on their behalf.
The honourable Dr. Jim Smith, who was the iron man of the Liberal Government, serving as both Minister of Health and Attorney General, certainly merited re-election and was rewarded for his enormous efforts on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia when the voters of Dartmouth East returned him, once again, in the recent election.
The honourable Manning MacDonald. I think that it is safe to say that Manning MacDonald is the true saviour of Sydney Steel. They used to say that R.B. Cameron was and I challenged that, on occasion. Certainly so long as Manning MacDonald was the Minister responsible for the Sydney Steel Corporation, there was no talk whatsoever of closing the Sydney Steel Plant because he made it clear that, as long as he remained in government, Sydney Steel would never be closed. I think that it is widely regretted in the Sydney area that he is no longer the minister in charge of that particular corporation. However, he was returned by his electorate with a substantial majority, which I think speaks well for the way in which his lifetime of public service to the Sydney area community is noted.
The honourable Ken MacAskill, the member for Victoria, is a most diligent and hard- working member, Mr. Speaker, with whom it is a tremendous privilege and honour to serve. I have often viewed the Victoria County Liberal Association as a model of successful rural organization. I have attended every meeting that I could of the Victoria County Liberal Association. I think I have been at every public function they have held in the past three years and I have noted that he, too, is held in very high esteem by his constituents and was re-elected with good cause in the recent provincial election.
M. le Président, à un autre occasion j'ai parlé des qualitiés formidables de notre député de Richmond, Michel Samson, qui est maintenant élu pour la deuxiéme fois. Agé de seulement vingt-six ans, il était déja le plus jeune ministre de servir au conseil exécutif dans l'histoire de la Nouvelle-Écosse quand il était invité d'accepter la poste du Ministre de
l'Environment. Le Deputé de Richmond, dans mon opinion, va demontré direction et inspiration à la vie publique dans l'avenir.
The honourable Russell MacKinnon, the member for Cape Breton West, is a member that is most diligent. He has a tremendous grasp of the field of labour and of knowledge of his constituency and knowing all the people and all the families that make it up, and having a considerable knowledge of many other fields as well. This man impresses me a great deal, particularly with his stamina, and his contribution to reforming the Workers' Compensation Act, I think, will be noted in history, because I think that the bill that he was able to successfully pilot through the House was the most substantial revision of that Statute to certainly have taken place during my lifetime. I believe, sir, that you will agree with me that his contribution, as Minister of Labour, certainly is noteworthy.
M. le Président, le député de Clare, Wayne Gaudet, est l'ancient ministre de l'Éducation. Sur son direction, Nouvelle-Écosse à commencer la plus grande programme de construction de nouvelles écoles dans l'histoire de notre province. Chaqun de ces écoles est un monument de la dédication au peuple du gouvernement Libérale de l'ancient premier ministre, Russell MacLellan. Je suis très heureux d'avoir reçus une de ces écoles pour ma circonscription.
The new elementary school on Victoria Road in the community of Whitney Pier. I can say, with certainty, that the people of my constituency wanted to see that new school built, supported its construction and, certainly, were not deceived by the propaganda advanced by the NDP against that school, which was masked as a crusade against what they called P3. It is a great thing to do up and down the streets saying you are against P3 and people don't know what that is, so they say, all right, you are against P3. They didn't have the courage to come out and say, we are against the new school that the Liberal Government is building down the road. They didn't have the courage to do that. In any event, their efforts were stopped and I want to note it publicly, even if you are in the Chair, Mr.[Deputy]Speaker, that the people of my constituency appreciate very much your contribution to helping make that new school possible. It was part of the largest program of construction of new schools in the history of Nova Scotia.
The honourable member for Cape Breton East, who has just addressed the House, in my view represents a breath of fresh air in the Liberal caucus and his addition to our ranks is very greatly welcomed. I am sure that his sonorous voice will echo through the chambers of this House for many years to come. I certainly look forward to his continued enunciation of the issues and problems of his constituents and of the area in general and of the province, as he sees them. I know he is a very diligent, hard-working member and I predict a very bright political future for him.
I would also like to say a few words on behalf of my good friend the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes, who has certainly been well known to me for a number of years in his capacity as Deputy Mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. I know that Mr. Boudreau, the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes, will work very hard on behalf of the people who elected him. He is a great credit to his constituency and I certainly welcome him here and welcome his election very much.
I would like to say a few words, too, about a number of former members in this House. I would like to note that I regret the absence from our ranks of Clifford Huskilson, the former member for Shelburne. I knew Mr. Huskilson, and his father before him, who represented Shelburne, between the two of them, for 29 years. They were a very diligent and dedicated family, highly involved in the public life of the community and of the province. Clifford's presence here is very greatly missed.
I also was a great friend of Charlie MacDonald, the former member for Inverness. I know that during his time in this House he gave it the best he had, did the best he could and certainly retires from public life with a sense of duty done, of mission accomplished. I will say the same for Hyland Fraser, the former member for Antigonish, and Ray White, the former member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, and without listing all those who served in the past, because there were many others, I might say that each and every one of them belonged to a team that was trying to do its best for the people of Nova Scotia and leaves office with a record that I believe will look very good in retrospect, compared to what is to follow.
I would like to thank all members of the House, Mr. Speaker, for their kind motion and standing ovation of yesterday on completing 29 years in this House and entering the 30th year of service. My years in politics have not always been easy but I came here 29 years ago yesterday, representing the constituency of Cape Breton Nova, and have continued to represent them through all the years since that time, without interruption . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: What Party was that?
MR. MACEWAN: . . . and I have been with the Party of the people over all those years.
Mr. Speaker, my constituency is a diverse constituency. It is a constituency that faces many problems but I would say that most of the people, probably virtually all of the people who live in that constituency, are very proud of their community and proud of the place where they live. It is the community of choice for them to live in and they would like to see their community, of course, doing as well as is possible. I think they have a very deep sense of love for their community and I respect that and I wish it were respected by all.
My constituency is known to contain the community of Whitney Pier but it is my no means exclusively the community of Whitney Pier. It actually runs from New Waterford to Reserve Mines by way of Sydney. That is the arc it covers. It begins where New Waterford ends and continues through until it ends on the other side, where Reserve Mines begins and contains everything in between.
My constituency is the home, for example, of the University College of Cape Breton. I don't know how well that might be known as a fact, but it, indeed, is. My constituency contains such communities as the Ashby portion of the City of Sydney; Grand Lake Road; a part of Gardiner Mines, not the main part, but a certain part of Gardiner Mines; South Bar; Victoria Mines; New Victoria Road; the 12 County Road area on the outskirts of New Waterford and Kaneville; Lingan Road, a portion of it between Sydney and River Ryan, not the entire distance, but a substantial portion of it. My constituency includes the Sydney Steel Plant. It also includes the Victoria Junction coal preparation plant and the international piers. My constituency includes fishing communities, farmers and, yes, steelworkers and miners and people of all walks of life.
Now it is not my intent to dwell, at this time, on the problems of the steel and coal industry. I have been noted that I will be raising those matters again this afternoon at 6:00 p.m. and probably, virtually daily, during this session of the House by way of resolutions and questions and speeches on the motion going into Supply and various other opportunities that arise to air concerns. So it is not my intention to dwell here this afternoon on the problems of the steel and coal industries. But I do want to say that they are most severe, they are most acute, and if the economy of the area that I represent is to become a vacuum by the loss of the two basic cornerstone key industries, the economic effect of that would be equivalent to where all government institutions here in Halifax, federal, provincial and municipal, including the dockyard and the Department of National Defence, and all the universities in Halifax, to be shut down simultaneously. That is the kind of impact that the closure of steel and coal would have on the area that I represent.
So when governments are contemplating moves of that kind, Mr. Speaker, I think they should tread cautiously because they are playing with people's lives and they are playing with the lives of communities. I don't want to get into an extensive dissertation along these lines, but the people that I represent do not buy the idea that there is some alternative plan out there, some alternative concept of setting up a committee or a new task force or a new plan, or something of that kind, that is going to replace the actual jobs that we have in hand. We have tried that since the Cape Breton Development Corporation was first established. Let it not be forgotten that the original plan for Devco was not to operate a coal mining industry at all. It was to shut it down. But, first, to develop alternative economic opportunities so that people could continue to be employed and did that happen? No. It didn't happen. So what happened as a result? They continued to operate coal mines for the past two generations. That
is what happened as a result because the plan to develop alternative industries simply did not materialize.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn, briefly, to environmental problems in Sydney, which are the result of 100 years of making steel at Sydney with very little, if any, environmental controls over that time. Sydney was built around a steel plant. That is a historical and unavoidable fact. In fact, if it hadn't of been for the building of the Sydney Steel Plant, the City of Sydney would never have developed, just as the Town of Glace Bay that we just heard from would never have developed if those coal mines had not have been built at Glace Bay. The steel plant made Sydney. Prior to the steel plant existing, Sydney was a very small town, much smaller than Antigonish. It was probably about the size of, I don't know what. I was going to say about the size of Ecum Secum, perhaps. It wasn't very big. But then the steel plant was built, beginning in 1898, and Sydney developed into a respectable sized small city within a period of about 10 years after that. This remained at approximately the same population for many years because there wasn't enough economic opportunity there for the population to grow very greatly. The reason why there is a City of Sydney is because of the Sydney Steel Plant. That is what made it happen.
Because of that fact it would stand to reason that with heavy industry of that type having operated for approximately 100 years or more without any environmental controls at all over discharges, waste products, by-products, the stacking of slag and other leftover products of the steel-making industry - they were just piled up, just stored here and there, chemical by-products industries that were located there in the past, coke ovens and so forth - it stands to reason that if those types of industries operated there for a long time, there are probably going to be problems as a result today. The ground is not going to be as clean and as pure as it might otherwise have been, but the air, water and all of the environment will be affected to some degree. This is undeniable.
I still note that Sydney is the community of choice for virtually all of its residents who choose to live there, in preference to anywhere else in the world, who love their community and they don't want - in the overwhelming majority of cases that I know - to see the city torn down or something of that kind. They want to see, however, those environmental problems that have developed, cleaned up. That is what they want to see.
I want to go on record as noting the commitment of the Honourable David Anderson, federal Minister of the Environment, to the remediation and ultimate solution of such problems as may exist. In spite of much criticism and discussion of these matters, I want to also say that to this point in time the only political Party that I know of, that has actually done anything on these matters, is the Liberal Party. Perhaps it hasn't done enough. There is a great deal to be done; I would be the first to admit that. These problems took 100 years to develop and they are not going to be solved overnight. But what did the New Democratic Party ever do? Well they issued press releases, held meetings, engaged in publicity, but in terms of actual executive arm action by government, what did they ever do? The answer is they did nothing
because they have never been in a position to do anything. They have only been in a position to make propaganda and on occasion I have suggested they have trivialized serious concerns by trying to turn them around to perceive short-term political advantage.
My view of these issues has been that the environmental concerns at Sydney are too important to be made into a political football. The Liberal Party has acted, federally and provincially, provincially as long as we were able to, and we have demonstrated, I think, a commitment to attempt a solution, not by talk but rather by action. Now those who feel that more ought to be done - and I am among those - on either environmental remediation, Devco or economic development in Cape Breton generally, I feel, ought to look at how we are represented and how we are held back by the lack of effective elected representation at the most important level of government of all, the federal government in Ottawa.
I suggest that this is one of the main reasons why we face serious problems in Cape Breton today. When one considers how we in Cape Breton through our own folly, extinguished the work of one of the most powerful political figures in Canada, the Honourable David C. Dingwall, and replaced his power to deliver by the impotent and ridiculous duo of Michelle Dockrill and Peter Mancini, no wonder we are in trouble. No wonder things are bad.
Turning to provincial politics, I want to state that the government of Premier Russell MacLellan, during the two years that it held office, was in my view the most progressive and pro-people government ever to exist in Nova Scotia, and certainly the most enlightened of any government in Canada at that time. Certainly its record stands head and shoulders over that of the motley crew that now holds office to date. (Interruptions)
The Russell MacLellan Government had the potential to be truly great. I believe that history will view it kindly, (Interruptions) much as Harry S. Truman's - Mr. Speaker, could we have a little order, please - (Interruptions) I may do what Donald MacInnis used to do in Ottawa and just simply stand until the din quiets down. (Applause)
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see such enthusiasm for the proposition that I was making, that the Russell MacLellan Government had the potential to be truly great. It is good to get a standing ovation for that kind of statement, and I believe that history will view it kindly, much as Harry S. Truman's administration in the United States has been vindicated by the passage of time and looks pretty darn good when compared with what followed.
Perhaps we could compare for a moment the government of Premier Russell MacLellan with that of the Government of Premier Roy Romanow in Saskatchewan. Here in Nova Scotia, Russell MacLellan and his government stopped hospital closures; in Saskatchewan, Premier Roy Romanow closed one-third of the hospitals in the province, 53 out of 154 I believe it was, including three hospitals that had never opened in the first place because they were under construction. They were halted. (Laughter)
In Nova Scotia, Premier Russell MacLellan and his government lifted wage controls and restored collective bargaining in the public sector; in Saskatchewan, Premier Roy Romanow and his NDP Government imposed a 2 per cent per year cap on wages in the public sector, legislated the Saskatchewan Power Corporation workers back to work after first locking them out, and did various other things to nurses.
HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, will the honourable member permit a question? I wonder if the honourable member would be prepared to inform the House as to which Party now has formed a coalition with the NDP Government in Saskatchewan? (Laughter)
MR. MACEWAN: Note that the Government of Premier Roy Romanow, in a desperate bid for survival, has formed a coalition, sir, with the Liberal Party. No secret to that. In stark contrast with the record of the NDP in Nova Scotia which, while preaching that they were going to do their utmost to make minority government work, schemed from day one to do no such thing and to make sure that the MacLellan Government came tumbling down, so it is a different situation here.
The MacLellan Government initiated the most ambitious school construction program in the history of Nova Scotia; the Romanow Government in Saskatchewan tightened the belt, sold out to big business, and abandoned the farmer to his fate.
AN HON. MEMBER: And who has joined them? (Laughter)
MR. MACEWAN: Well, sir, we could compare these two governments, but I make these observations in the context of stating that I believe that the Government of Premier Russell MacLellan was the most enlightened in Canada at the time it existed, and making the comparison that it was the MacLellan Government, rather than the Romanow Government in Saskatchewan - which critics to my left would suggest is the model to follow - actually the MacLellan Government was leading the pack and not Romanow or the NDP at all. I believe if you drew this comparison somewhat further, if you looked at the legacy of Russell MacLellan as compared with that of Bob Rae in Ontario . . .
AN HON. MEMBER: Okay.
MR. MACEWAN: All right, they don't want to hear any more of that and I won't aggravate them; I won't tell them any more because I have said enough about that one. Or, if one wanted, to compare the legacy of Premier Russell MacLellan's Government here in Nova Scotia with that of Glen Clark in British Columbia, but I am sure they wouldn't want to hear any more about that.
I think I have made the point, Mr. Speaker, the Government of Premier Russell MacLellan was one of the finest governments this province has ever had, and certainly at the time it was in office was providing as good government as any provincial government in Canada was providing. I would like to say that the record of the Liberal Party in Nova Scotia is a very proud record and I believe that those of us who have served with the Liberal Party can leave office with a sense of duty done.
Now the voters in their wisdom have decided to entrust this crowd across the way with the responsibilities of government. The next three and one-half years will be a period for the Liberal Party to reorganize and to regroup. When the group opposite has fully delivered the full dose of ineptitude, monumental incompetence, and knee-jerk response that I think they are capable of, I have no doubt that the voters of Nova Scotia will be ready to return to good Liberal Government and reject the false and vain appeals of the disciples of John Buchanan and Donald Cameron across the way, now recycled as the apostles of Hamm, Purves and Chataway. It makes you glad to be a Liberal when you reflect on what has transpired even during the brief interlude that the Conservative Party has held office so far.
Mr. Speaker, I have never restricted my interests in government to any particular level. I have commented freely on all the issues of the day - local, provincial and national - and I am proud to stand here as a member of the Liberal Party of Canada. I have no shame at all in stating that I consider Prime Minister Jean Chretien to be one of the greatest Prime Ministers that this country has ever had, and certainly one of my personal political heroes.
I was encouraged by the Prime Minister's recent announcement that he will lead the Liberal Party into the next federal election. This is, indeed, good news, as there is no greater friend in politics of the people that I represent than Jean Chretien. As proof of this, I would note that when the voters of Cape Breton so foolishly allowed themselves to be swept up by the false appeals of the so-called New Democratic Party in 1997, and to extinguish the work of David C. Dingwall, Jean Chretien could have accepted the verdict of the voters as final and left us without any representation at all at the federal Cabinet Table. He could have designated a minister from Ontario, or elsewhere, to look after our regional interests here in Nova Scotia. He could have given the people what they had voted for, which was for absolutely nothing. But, instead, the Prime Minister, in his compassion and wisdom, called on Senator Al Graham of Whitney Avenue, Sydney, to join his Cabinet and serve as Minister for Nova Scotia.
I might say that Whitney Avenue is partly in Cape Breton South and partly in Cape Breton Nova, but I had an election headquarters on Whitney Avenue so it is fairly close to where Senator Graham comes from.
Senator Graham, who had never sought such duties and who had lived to an age when one might have hoped for a lighter workload, could have said no, I can't do that, but instead he immediately responded positively and took over the responsibilities formerly held by Mr. Dingwall so that our interests were not left unrepresented or unprotected at the federal Cabinet Table for even one single day. Now that is the kind of Leader that Jean Chretien is, a man who reached beyond the perversity of the electorate and saw to it that our interests were still protected notwithstanding. I don't know of any greater magnanimous gesture in Canadian history than this. People tend to downplay the significance of this gesture, I don't. I think that the Prime Minister's constant concern for our welfare ought to be noted with appreciation and I certainly am not ashamed to stand and do so here in this Legislature.
I say this, sir, in the following context. The other day I sought to introduce a resolution here commending Senator Al Graham on his retirement from the federal Cabinet duties after over two years of the most arduous, 20 hour long work days. I had expected that all right-thinking members of the House would have known of the work that Senator Graham did and would at least allow such a motion to pass without debate on waiver of notice. I did not test the waters of the House because of the churlish chortling that emanated from the NDP ranks when I read my notice of motion.
How ironic. These honourable members dare to hoot and heckle at references to Senator Graham's work, yet they themselves and their Party have been able to do absolutely nothing of a positive nature. They look to people such as Gordon Earle as the epitome of effective representation because Mr. Earle published a 98 page catalogue listing all the times he had spoken in Parliament and sent it to his constituents; anyone who wanted one could get a copy of the catalogue. This notes how the NDP is full of talk, sound and fury, but signifies absolutely nothing.
Mr. Speaker, there is much that I could say on many issues that are of concern to us all. There are many opportunities to do so as the session of the House unfolds. I feel that there is a great deal of need for serious examination of the future of Sydney Steel. I feel there is a great deal of need for serious examination and action in the field of looking at the future of the Cape Breton coal mining industry, the communities that are affected by it, the impact on Cape Breton of the closure of Phalen Colliery, the pending privatization of Devco, the need to support the sale process, the marketing process, now under way at Sysco, the need for action to deal with long-standing environmental problems in Sydney, the need for jobs, all of our people there need jobs.
I was very disappointed to note in the budget, the elimination of the regional tax credit that the Liberal Government had introduced, and was, I thought, something that was going to help the people down in the area that I come from, but that measure has been eliminated from the budget. That is certainly very much to the detriment of the people I represent.
Mr. Speaker, I feel that the next three and one-half years are going to be years of tough sledding for the people that I come up here to represent. I don't think that we have a government that understands where you are coming from when you come from my part of Nova Scotia. I noted in the House earlier the very low level of political support for the Tory Party in the area that I come from, not just in my own constituency but in the general catchment area, the general surrounding area. Conservative candidates have not been taken seriously in the Sydney, New Waterford or surrounding areas for the last number of years.
This government is not viewed by the people that I am up here to represent as a government that is on their side. It is viewed as something that is distant and unknown and just not with it, not knowing or appreciating or understanding in any way what it is like to live with the pending closure of an industry hanging over your head, with the pending collapse of your community hanging over your head, a community in which young people can live to the age of 25, 35 sometimes into their 40's and never once held a real job at any time in their lives, a real job.
This is not a government that the people that I represent, I think, are looking to right now as those who are going to do anything significant to help them. It is looked on as a government that is centred on Halifax and on rural mainland Nova Scotia, and certainly not in tune with the needs or the aspirations of the people of Cape Breton.
Such being the case, it is certainly my duty and responsibility to use every opportunity I have to raise these concerns here. I sometimes wonder what would be the use of sitting in an Opposition political Party. Well, one thing I think that Opposition members can do is try to influence the climate of opinion to a certain extent and level. I do believe that we live in a fair society, a compassionate, a tolerant society. I don't believe that we live in a society that would wilfully want to see some part of Nova Scotia suffer very greatly while other parts of Nova Scotia were prosperous and content. I don't believe that that is the nature of the feelings of most Nova Scotians at all.
What I have to try to do is, in a responsible way, dramatize and to call attention to the facts of the tremendous disparity that exists within Nova Scotia. I know that it is virtually impossible to have equal opportunities in all parts of some very large, far-flung jurisdiction. In fact, one of the things that separates Canada from the United States is the much greater commitment by Canada to the elimination of regional disparity. You don't find this in the United States. Each state is expected to stand on its own two feet. The federal government doesn't take any active role at all in trying to make economic opportunity in Maine or Alabama or Kentucky equal to that of New York or California. It just doesn't do that. Each state is left on its own, there are no equalization payments, there are no attempts to try to redirect the national wealth from one jurisdiction to another, other than by the location of defence plants or bases or things of that kind.
In Canada, we have equalization payments and other measures that are designed to try to bring all provinces up to a common denominator, a basic standard of living that would be sufficient for the needs of all Canadians. That principle also has to apply, I suggest, within provinces. It is not right or fair that there be a have area and a have-not area under one roof. The people I represent feel that they too ought to have opportunity, they too ought to be able to get a job, they too ought to be able to make a contribution. When you have areas of chronic high unemployment, unemployment measured by official statistics that frequently drop from their numbers those, for example if you are no longer collecting Employment Insurance, as they call it now, EI, you are no longer a statistic, and that kind of computation of unemployment rates, to me, has never been a meaningful thing.
When you pick up the newspaper and you read that the latest statistics are out on unemployment in Cape Breton, it is 25 per cent, that is nonsense. The true unemployment rate is much higher. There is a far higher percentage of people in Cape Breton who attempt to seek disability pensions, for example, than is found anywhere else, not only in Nova Scotia but anywhere else in Canada. The reason for that is because these people are trying to get pensions because they cannot get jobs in many cases. Those who are professionals with HRDC, the Human Resources Development Canada, will verify what I have just said.
I have discussed this with various senior officials in charge of programs like Canada Pension and they verify that a per capita, or percentage, proportional, degree of participation in programs like CPP disability, Canada Pension disability, in the area that I come from is higher than you would find anywhere else in Canada. It is certainly higher than you would find in Halifax, in Edmonton, in Toronto, or in Montreal, and there is a reason for that.
Likewise, I am sure that the percentage of the population that is supported actively by the Department of Community Services in an area such as the area that I represent would be proportionately higher than one would find elsewhere in Nova Scotia, there are reasons for that. They are not all economic, but I think they are mainly based on a perception that there is no hope of attempting to find a job, by many people, which translates into various different compensatory measures that they take to try to survive because the basic thing that all people are motivated by, one would hope, would be the instinct for survival, and when people have to do various things to have an income to enjoy life they will do them. That is certainly the case.
How much time do I have left, Mr. Speaker?
MR. SPEAKER: It will take you to about 5:57 p.m., 15 minutes.
MR. MACEWAN: One reason why I have urged the government to support the Sydney steel industry is because this is one thing that can be done by this government to try to stabilize the economy in industrial Cape Breton. I grant that the provincial government does not have control over the Cape Breton Development Corporation. I know that there are two
provincial members on their board, but that does not give the provincial government any direct control over day-to-day operations of Devco at all, nor does the provincial government have the financial capacity that would be needed to operate Devco on its own.
So there is no sense even thinking about that and I know that, but this government does own the Sydney Steel Corporation. This government does operate the plant in Sydney, not in a direct way, but in an arm's-length-ownership capacity. The government is the sole shareholder in the Sydney Steel Corporation; therefore, those decisions that are made by this government concerning the future of the operations at Sydney will have a very direct impact, an immediate impact, because I know that if that minister over there made one phone call tomorrow, the padlock could go on the gate at Sydney Steel and he knows that too, and that is a very dangerous thing.
When my friend, the honourable member for Cape Breton South, held that portfolio, I was reassured, I could sleep at night because he told me that as long as he was minister for Sydney Steel, the steel plant would never be closed. Well, I believed him. So I told the steelworkers and their families not to worry, as long as Manning is there the industry will remain open. True, you may be laid off. If there is no steel to be produced, the plant has to go into a maintenance shutdown, into a shutdown mode, and people have to go on Employment Insurance, but the steelworkers accepted that because they believed, especially since the advent of the involvement by Hoogovens in the plant management and in the attempt to market the plant, that there was indeed a future.
In fact, there was a great surge of confidence in Sydney when Hoogovens first came aboard because it is a world-quality steel management company, a world-quality steel maker. I believe it is one of the largest in the world. I cannot rank it. It may be third; it may be fourth. It is now merging with British Steel and the merged British Steel Hoogovens Corporation will, undoubtedly, be one of the largest, if not the largest, steel company in the world. So when you get a company of that rank that is joining forces with the local effort and putting some spine, some new backbone into the operation, that breeds great confidence in the community.
I can tell you that when Hoogovens was brought about by this government, by the former Premier, Russell MacLellan, the people in Sydney responded very positively to that. Since election day, with the advent of power of a Party that openly advertised, vote for us and we will close Sydney Steel, what can you expect people to think?
I am not going to tire the House by ranting excessively on this theme right now. I will continue at 6:00 p.m. on the Adjournment motion. But I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that as long as I have the support of the people and the strength and the health to carry on, I am going to come up here and I am going to deliver this message. I am going to bring it to the
House because that is my job and I would hope that the House will take due note of the concerns that I express.
Mr. Speaker, I don't know who the next speaker is, but whoever it is, they better get ready because I want to sit down in a moment. I want to thank the House for their kind consideration in hearing these few gentle remarks this afternoon.
HON. MICHAEL BAKER: More.
MR. MACEWAN: More, says the Minister of Justice. I can assure you that he will hear more at 6:00 p.m. Thank you. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.
MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I must say I was enjoying that. (Interruption) Well, kind of. This happens to be the first time that I get to hear this repeated speech, apparently. Let me begin by saying that it is indeed an honour and a pleasure to be with you here this evening as a colleague amongst this House of Legislative Assembly and provide my response to the Speech from the Throne.
Mr. Speaker, the honour and responsibility placed upon me by the good people of Sackville-Beaver Bank, Kinsac, Hammonds Plains and, I might add, even a portion of the Town of Bedford, as we learned yesterday, is not only an honour and responsibility that I accept, but one that I intend, as their representative, to never take for granted.
Mr. Speaker, I will always strive to uphold the best interests of the constituents that I represent and the province as a whole. In fact, the honour placed upon me by the good people of Sackville-Beaver Bank may even be historic. I am not certain, but I suspect that never before in the history of the Province of Nova Scotia, with the exception of my colleague for Preston, has a riding never returned a sitting member after each and every election. Mr. Speaker, in the short life of this riding, the constituents have had the unique opportunity to be represented by all Parties in this House, as is like with my colleague for Preston. In my opinion, that does not mean that the people of Sackville-Beaver Bank are fickle, it merely means that they have yet to be satisfied politically. I would like to add, it is my hope that my hard work will end this trend in four years time and the hard work of my colleagues here in government. (Applause)
Again, Mr. Speaker, the only way that I know we can accomplish this, is to ensure that, as a Party, we fulfil our commitments, but as a government, we are responsive to the needs of Nova Scotians and that we are responsible fiscally and respectful of the desires and the wishes and the direction the people of this province have set for us. Having said that, it is important to point out in the speech that we recognize that we cannot be all things to all people. At the same time, we know that this government has to live within its means.
The Speech from the Throne sets a clear course for this government and our platform book, ". . . . a clear course", spells out the direction that we want to take this province in in the coming years. Mr. Speaker, I along with my colleagues, stand united behind this plan, a plan that has been endorsed by the people of Nova Scotia by choosing our Party as the government that will lead them into the new millennium. The riding of Sackville-Beaver Bank, by its boundaries, is new and young. Many of the people who live in Sackville-Beaver Bank have lived here for only a few years. The vast majority of the homes, the businesses and the public institutions have existed for just a few short decades. That is not to say that we don't have a long and deep history in Sackville-Beaver Bank, we do. In fact, we have recently celebrated 250 years of permanent settlement in our community, a celebration that the community was very proud of and they showed their connection to their deep roots.
Today, there still exist families living on the same lands that their ancestors settled in the mid-1700's. My own ancestors settled in Middle Sackville in the mid-18th century, just a mere few hundred feet from where I live today. Many of the original early settler names are still prominent in our community, names like Haverstock, Smith, Hamilton, Lively, Fenerty, Lucas and Oliver, just to name a few.
Mr. Speaker, in our community, we also share some history with this House. To my knowledge, the community of Sackville-Beaver Bank was never the birthplace of any of our Premiers, however, it has the distinct pleasure or honour of being the final resting place of both Angus L. Macdonald, whose grave is marked nicely with a fine monument, and James Boyle Uniacke, the first Premier under responsible government in 1848.
Mr. Speaker, the tragic fact here is that Mr. Uniacke's grave is located in an unmarked plot in St. John's Anglican Church. It is certainly something that I intend to raise with the appropriate minister in the near future. His contribution to the province in responsible government has been overwhelming. (Interruptions) Tourism and culture. It fits somewhere. I believe it is important that we honour our early leaders and their contribution.
Mr. Speaker, in the 1970's, our part of the Province of Nova Scotia began to experience substantial growth. The Nova Scotia Housing Commission started what became the beginning of decades of growth and the fulfilment of many young families' dreams and the answer to their quest of owning a home. Both the older, long-established families and the newer, young families combined to help form some of the most vibrant and active communities in the Province of Nova Scotia.
Our riding is rich in community spirit, in volunteerism, in minor sports, and is actively involved in public affairs. The Community of Sackville was the first community in the Province of Nova Scotia to have a community council help guide their municipal affairs. They often attract more members of the public to watch and participate in their meetings than the larger former County of Halifax council and the now Halifax Regional council. The community council still exists although operating one person short for now. I am certain that
Councillor Bob Harvey and Councillor Peter Kelly can handle the workload until that vacancy is filled.
Mr. Speaker, sports and recreation and healthy living have become a way of life in our constituency. In fact, there exist literally hundreds of groups and organizations and associations in which our young and old can participate. This activity helps form the fabric of life in the riding that I represent. As a community, we honour our volunteers and achievers in sports and recreation. We are proud of the hard work and the accomplishments of people such as Glen Slauenwhite, who is the President of Lake District Recreation Association, and in spite of his ailment still continues to hold that office and do very well.
Mr. Speaker, we have junior hockey players like Darrell Jarrett who plays for the Halifax Mooseheads, and Chris Barnet, who is no relation to me, who plays for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. We have Olympic boxers. We have swimmers, skiers, paddlers, gymnasts, ballplayers, bowlers, coaches and trainers, all of which we honour. We also honour those who are not achievers, those who simply participate, those who take the time to participate certainly need that honour as well, and as a community, we do that.
Mr. Speaker, in the riding of Sackville-Beaver Bank there exists a very special place, in fact it is home for many of our special, important constituents. Scotia Nursing Home is home to more than 100 people in our community. I would like to take a few minutes to acknowledge the staff and the owners of this fine facility and the important work they do. Scotia Nursing Homes is currently undergoing beautiful renovations that will help enhance the lives of those who live there. This home was originally an Air Force radar base that closed in the 1950's and has operated as a residential care facility and rented homes for the last number of decades. This facility is located at the highest point in Halifax County and features a grand view of the scenic beauty contained within my constituency.
This is also home to new and innovative technology in the area of waste water management. The owners have successfully operated a solar aquatics waste water treatment facility for more than five years, the first in the Province of Nova Scotia. This makes them leaders in the area of waste water treatment. During this time the owners and operators of this facility have come to be a model for others in this field.
Mr. Speaker, our schools and students are also something that we are very proud of in our area.
I see I have one more minute, so at this point I think what I would like to do is to adjourn the debate.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise the House that the hours tomorrow will be from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. The order of business will be responses to the Budget Speech by both Leaders of the Opposition, one concluding and one starting and concluding. Following that we will move into Committee of the Whole House on Supply where we will be for a very brief time. When we come back into the House, we will go into second reading on the bill from the Minister of Justice, Bill No. 2. We will conclude the business of the House when we are well into the second reading of that bill. If, however, it is moving along rather rapidly, I perceive that we may be able to get out of the House by perhaps 1:00 p.m. or something like that tomorrow.
Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for adjournment. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
We are adjourned until tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.
The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova was the winner of the late debate. The resolution reads:
"Therefore be it resolved that this House express its concern over the situation in the Cape Breton steel and coal industries and urge this government to support Sydney Steel and to be more actively involved in all efforts to bring about a better solution to the problems of the Cape Breton Development Corporation.".
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.
MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, what I said a few moments ago was the warm-up to the speech that I now intend to deliver. The Sysco situation, the Devco situation, the basic facts of them I think are quite well known. We have already canvassed these issues here in the House to some extent. We had questions yesterday in Question Period to the Minister
of Economic Development. I am not actually sure what he indicated, but I trust he will participate in this debate which affords him an opportunity to make a statement of some length, if he wishes, 10 minutes, to explain just exactly what the government's position is with regard to the Sydney Steel plant.
I have already explained the importance of it to the community and to the morale in the community and to investment. I believe that these considerations have also been explained by the honourable member for Cape Breton South who notes, for example, the impact it would have on the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway, were Sydney Steel to be closed. That railroad would also be lost and that would affect all of our constituencies from Truro to Sydney, going through Colchester, Pictou, and Antigonish Counties and the counties of Cape Breton Island that would be affected.
The effects of a loss of Sydney Steel would also impact very heavily on the provincial Treasury, because there are legal ownership duties that go with the operation of heavy industry. I remember making this argument to many, on both sides of the House at various times over the years, that it would cost them far less to keep Sydney Steel operational than it would to shut it down because if you just look at the immediate environmental remediation and restoration costs that would impact immediately upon the closure of such an operation, it would be far better to keep it going.
You may say, why would that be? The answer is that as long as it is a functioning operation, the environmental laws are not nearly as stringent. Once you close a heavy industry like that down, you cannot just walk away from it. You have to dismantle it. You have to restore the site. You have to restore the site to green-field conditions.
We already know the difficulties that have been involved with the former coke ovens site at Sydney. The coke ovens was just one part of the steel plant. When I worked at the steel plant, there were, I forget, maybe 17 different departments: one of them was the coke ovens department; another one was a blast furnace department; another was the open hearth department; another was the heavy mills; another was the finishing mills; another department was the mechanical department; that was the department I worked in. There were departments in the plant and the coke ovens department was one of about 17 departments and it has been closed.
The problems that we have at Sydney right now stem only from the closure of a single one of a multi-faceted operation. There are also abandoned buildings in Sydney right now that are not part of the active Sysco operation that fall under the Department of Public Works. As Critic for the Department of Public Works for the Liberal Opposition, I can say that I can probably be raising that in Question Period, but the example of how those facilities, those abandoned facilities in Sydney, are the responsibility of this government and I should think
that if the plant itself were to be closed, they would not only have to dismantle and restore the site of the active Sysco operation, but rather of the entire property, which is an enormous property. It is far bigger than you could conveniently walk from one end to the other of in 10 minutes. It is a big site. It bisects the City of Sydney and covers I would think as much square area as would the major part of the city.
That is just one aspect of it because there would be pension obligations and there would be all kinds of other costs that would kick in immediately. You could not defer this and postpone it and maybe stage it over a 10 year period in phases. It would have to be done up front. You would not have to incur any of those costs, simply to support the existing operation which is pumping payroll, benefits and spin-off into the community which is purchasing, which is producing traffic for the railroad, which is stimulating shipping, which is stimulating all kinds of other industries, service industries, banking facilities, shopping facilities, you name it. Were the Sydney Steel Plant to be lost, I would think a great number of those businesses would be lost as well.
I have observed in other communities in industrial Cape Breton the effect of either actual or impending closure on business investment. I can tell you it is bad. It is very bad. I am not going to attempt to speak for areas that I do not represent, but I know that in communities immediately adjacent to the area that I represent right now we are facing this kind of crisis where hardware facilities and other kinds of community, convenience stores and things like that, the owners of these facilities are honestly thinking of shutting them down, family businesses that have been years in existence. (Interruption)
The Boudreaus is a perfect example and I look forward to the participation of the honourable member if he wants to speak about that because I am very well aware of that and I know I have been speaking to the owner there. He is planning on closing up next spring, that is in New Waterford, because he just cannot see any future for the area. Phalen Colliery is going to be shut down. People are going to be on pension. When they go on pension, their income is reduced by more than 50 per cent. It goes from maybe $45,000 to $50,000 a year down to maybe $21,000 or $22,000 a year. They haven't got the money to spend anymore so there are no more hardware stores. That is just an example of what we are talking about.
This is a serious matter, Mr. Speaker. That is the point I am trying to make. It is a serious matter and the government cannot just walk away from it. The government cannot just take comfort and refuge in parts of Nova Scotia where things are going better and say, well, that is not our concern because that is over there, you know, it is not here. The government is responsible for all of Nova Scotia and the representatives of those communities are here and we are not going to be easily silenced on this matter except by action. I would be the first to sit down and congratulate the minister. I know that when you are in Opposition, you always hold that out as bait to a minister or to a government. If you will just do what I am asking, I will sit down and be quiet and be a good boy. Well, I will probably find
something else to talk about if these problems are solved, but I would say I do not think the resolution of them will come overnight. So I think I will be needed here for a while yet.
I do ask the government to take a serious look at these matters, do what you can to try to help with the Devco situation. This is a matter that requires government leadership. I know that there is merit in the all-Party cooperative committee concept and I am all for it, but I still think the government has to take the lead on this because the government is the government.
When a minister, a Premier, speaks for Nova Scotia, they speak for the elected government that is in office. I don't think that a committee of backbenchers or of a minister and two private members from the Opposition have the same clout as the Premier does. I don't. I know that when our Party was in power, I supported Russell MacLellan in his feeling that he was the best person to be the lead player on this matter and not to defer his responsibility to some committee of private members that might also be involved. Let them do what they can. I am all for it. I am all for anybody that can help us. I am not particularly choosy. You cannot afford to be choosy when you are in trouble. You have to take any helping hand that is offered. But, at the same time, we do need help very much on these matters and I don't know that it would be appropriate for me to try to outline them any more voluminously than I have here this afternoon.
I think that I have raised this topic, placed it on the floor and I look forward to the response of the minister and, certainly, I would expect the other Opposition Party to put a speaker on this matter too, probably the member for Cape Breton Centre, although I suppose the member for Halifax Needham would like to get into it too, but I would certainly be willing to defer if the member for Cape Breton Centre wants to go ahead.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.
HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the honourable member for Dartmouth South. I do appreciate the honourable member opposite bringing this issue once more the floor of the House. I would like to quote from the resolution. It is truly important. "Therefore be it resolved that this House express its concern over the situation in the Cape Breton steel and coal industries and urge this government to support Sydney Steel and to be more actively involved in all efforts to bring about a better solution to the problems of the Cape Breton Development Corporation.". That is truly critical, critical to this government, critical to the people of Cape Breton and critical to all residents of Nova Scotia. We have to ensure that the Cape Breton economy emerges from whatever transpires in the next while, stronger and better equipped to move forward than it is at the present time.
I would like to remind the honourable member opposite, too, that, in fact, it was the now Premier, then Leader of the Third Party, who first advocated a three-Party committee to try to lobby the federal government around the issue of the closure of the Devco operation.
He was the first one to speak out and say that there is a need to put aside partisan politics to ensure that the issues are addressed properly and appropriately.
One of the things that is very obvious is that if we are going to make change, we have to think and act differently. Sysco has a 30 year history of never having made a profit. While I commend the people who live there for their belief in the steel industry, the reality is that unless we approach it with a new solution, nothing will change.
I would also like to remind the member opposite that this government has committed to being an active participant in the committee that is being struck to address economic renewal in Cape Breton, post-Devco closure. We are, in fact, committed to the tune of possibly $12 million. But the fear I have is that the process that will see that implemented is tainted. There is a view, prevalent in much of Cape Breton, that what we are going to see is simply a replication of past bad practice. That is that the money will go into the Cape Breton economy with no purpose other than to support a number of individual initiatives, which are primarily driven by the availability of government funds. When the funds dry up, there will be nothing remaining but more empty hope and lost false promises.
What we have to do is look at how we can ensure that the money put aside to address the renewal of the Cape Breton economy is used appropriately. What we have said is that there is a vision that makes it possible to use that money to leverage real projects. If the money is just simply put forward to support individual projects, then nothing is gained. If, in fact, we use that pool of money to leverage real entrepreneurial endeavours, then that has a sustainable effect. Without that strategy, it is a waste.
I, truly, as the Minister of Economic Development and responsible for Sysco, am genuinely concerned about how we proceed. There is concern that some of the old Economic Development agencies that currently operate and exist in Cape Breton. (Interruption) Bringing down the very wrath. (Laughter) But the point being that we need to look ahead. Communities have a vision for what is necessary to sustain themselves; a prescribed method of solution from outside is viewed suspiciously by anyone from the Cape Breton area and well so, because there are many examples of failed initiatives in the past. I believe, most strongly, that this is the best hope for a renewed Cape Breton economy. There is a desire to cling to what is known and familiar when all around is changing, and change we must.
As I said earlier, there is a clear indication that we need to have a genuine paradigm shift in the thought processes around how economic renewal will take place. The communities throughout Cape Breton know what is best for them, what they need to do is have access to the opportunities. What they need to do is bring in genuine entrepreneurs who have a vision, not opportunists, but entrepreneurs who have a genuine commitment to the community.
I know the honourable member opposite dismissed the whole idea of there being opportunities in remediation projects. The reality is, as he pointed out so aptly, that that remediation project is going to be one of the largest undertaken in the world. There is an opportunity there if we use the money that is made available through the Economic Renewal Fund to provide training opportunities. I think the number put forward for the Devco miner retraining was $8,000. It costs $10,000 a year to send a student to university. Who can be retrained for $8,000? The point being, we need to look at what is going to work.
We need to look at best-practice models, not just in Nova Scotia, but throughout the world. There are definitely examples of economies that have come from being almost at the point of economic ruin to being vital economies in the new millennium: the Irish model, the Dutch model, the renewal in Michigan, the renewal in Maine and the renewal that is taking place in mainland Nova Scotia. I know there is some temptation to dismiss what has happened in mainland Nova Scotia against what has happened in Cape Breton. We need to look at best-practice models and ensure that those models are what are used to revitalize the economy in Cape Breton.
At this point I would like to turn it over to my colleague, the member for Dartmouth South.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South.
MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, yesterday I tried to take up 26 seconds of time and didn't get very far. I would like to address some of the points related to Sysco and, more importantly, to the people of Cape Breton. I think one of the issues that tends to get put by the wayside is the fact that everyone talks about a plan for Sysco and a plan for the continuation of Sysco, and nobody talks about the plan for the people, the plan for the people who work at Sysco, who live in Sydney, in industrial Cape Breton and who live on Cape Breton Island.
I have had in my previous life, my previous career, an opportunity to spend an enormous amount of time in Cape Breton. From Cheticamp through to Ingonish, down through the Margaree Valley, over through Isle Madame and Richmond County, St. Peters, down to Louisbourg, and I spent a lot of time in the Glace Bay region, in Sydney, Westmount. Truly, I must say my wife often used to say to me that she thought there was more Cape Breton in me than mainland, because I used to love going there so much. Of all the people in Nova Scotia, I think we would be hard-pressed to find a better quality and calibre of people than those who live on Cape Breton Island and consider it their home.
I love the Island, and I love the people. I get very depressed, as I am sure some people do in Cape Breton, when I see the lack of attention to a program for long-term employment and long-term success for the people in Cape Breton. I go back and think of people in previous governments, like Mike Laffin, little Donnie, big Donnie, a number of people who
were true-blue Cape Bretoners and certainly put Cape Breton first, as well they should have. I look at the plan that was developed in the late 1980's, early 1990's, for the realignment - for want of another word - for Sysco with the new arc furnace that was put in, I think in 1991. A bold step, a positive step by the government of the day to try to find ways to diversify the Sysco product, and try to provide a different avenue for sales so that we could in fact keep Sysco going.
A few short years later, in 1993-94, the plans changed, and what concerns me is when we have the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova who, no doubt in my mind, is very sincere when he talks about the needs of the people in his constituency, but he stands up and makes comment about the great member for Cape Breton North who has worked so hard for the people of Cape Breton over the last 22 years. I guess I don't see the same thing as he does when I see the results of federal initiatives to support Sydney Steel.
It seems the whole burden has been placed on the taxpayers of Nova Scotia for 30-plus years with no end in sight, up to the point of July 27th at least. Yet it just amazes me that the current Leader of the Liberal Party, the member for Cape Breton North, can stand there and say we are not doing anything, we are pulling the plug on Sysco. I think it is absolutely incredible he had - with a brand new arc furnace in there - from 1993 to 1999 to start the diversification process to work to improve the lot of the people who work in the steel plant and generally in industrial Cape Breton and, quite frankly, did not do anything and certainly could not call any of his IOUs from Ottawa. You would think after 22 years in Ottawa, being elected in the Government of Nova Scotia and subsequently elected to the Premier's job, that there would have been a few IOUs coming his way.
Mr. Speaker, in the short minute I have left, I want to assure from my perspective, the people of Cape Breton Island, that as the member for Dartmouth South and as a mainlander as they call us, that I fully support the development of industry in Cape Breton and I really hope that it does pull ahead.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.
MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, the member for Cape Breton Nova said a few times today that he intends to bring this issue forward many times during the sitting of this House and I appreciate that. The member and I may disagree on certain things, but I think we have genuine respect and enthusiasm for the people who work in and around Devco and indeed Sysco. I think we truly come from the same direction and I know, when he brings these forward, he does it in a spirit that he is trying to represent his constituents in the best possible way.
AN HON. MEMBER: He has 27 more years.
MR. CORBETT: So, with those niceties out of the way, I want to start my talk tonight. The member for Dartmouth South talked about wanting an economic plan, he should look no further than his own benches because there was a budget put forward today and it had no plan for Nova Scotia, no plan indeed for Cape Breton. It spoke of the impending closure of Devco and the possible closure of Sysco, but no plan. So one has to wonder, where is the plan going to come from.
I want to talk tonight about a few things that are not usually brought up. I mean, truly 80 per cent of the population of Cape Breton Island lives in the area that is covered by the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the vast majority of the workers at the two locations we are talking about, whether it is Sysco or Devco, live in CBRM. There are approximately 2,500 employees working for those two industries. So what happens to those industries if we shut the door? Is that being fiscally responsible to this province, if we close that mill tomorrow? If we go - and I go by what the minister said in this very House yesterday - what is the contingency plan, the what-if plan? His clear statement back to me was no signed deal on December 31, no Sysco. No signed deal. What type of message is that sending out? Does that make a customer of Sysco secure? I don't think so. So, I think there has to be a plan and a vision. I think that should be looked at and if the possibility of the sale is there, it is to take it forward.
Now, one can start saying, what is the impact? What is the impact on those industries? Basically, we have been losing, in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, 1,000 people a year by out-migration because of failed government plans. People are not seeing a future in their community where they live. The complete downsizing. With the Devco situation, this is not something in some respects that just came upon us as a downsizing effort, Devco has gradually been downsized, and last January 28th, was just the final nail in the coffin, if you will.
What does that do to the psyche? I have young children at home, a son in university and a daughter in Grade 11. What does that mean for their future? You have a labour force participation rate of 50 per cent, one-half of those available of working age participating in the workforce. What signal does that send out? It sends out a signal of despair. Yet, this government today did nothing to say we are going to help you. They told them what the problem was. The member for Cape Breton Nova said what the problem was, anybody in this House could tell you what the problem is, but when we elect governments, we elect them for solutions. That government didn't give us a solution today or any day yet.
We have had numerous conversations, whether it is Question Period or whether it is debates like this with the Minister of Economic Development, but yet we don't seem to be taking that genuine real next step. It is study, it is this, it is that. I think we need to get down, roll the shirt sleeves up and get going with it.
For instance, the unemployment rate in Cape Breton is 14.7 per cent, I think, and in Halifax County, it is half that, it is 7 per cent. Why is that happening? In my very humble estimation, it is because they allowed the hub and spoke method of economic development to take place. Everything came from Halifax. It didn't happen, it just stopped at a section.
I look over at some of the members over there, I see the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, he knows all too well, he is enjoying somewhat of a renaissance in his area because of offshore gas, natural gas, and that is good. That is an area that needs it. But we also have to look at expanding that, why wouldn't this government or previous government have said it is imperative if you are going to run lines for natural gas in this province that you run it to Cape Breton, not to disadvantage it, and to run it to other areas in this province that are financially or economically disadvantaged because of not having natural gas ready at their doorstep.
These are things that this government today did not answer. It did nothing to reassure the people of Cape Breton, indeed the people of Guysborough, the people of Shelburne, of what they are going to do. This motion deals with Cape Breton. To a large extent, I certainly understand why, because certainly if there is a problem with unemployment in this province, in areas, we are at the brink. We are not talking about, if we don't get something in two years time, we are in trouble, we are talking literally tomorrow.
There are 75 days approximately left in this year. If there is not a signed deal in 75 days, these people are thrown out on the street. It is gone. To consummate a deal that big, now I am no businessman but I would think it would take a bit more than 75 days to bring all those factions together. You have to keep in mind what that minister said, if there is no signed deal. He has drawn the line in the sand. That makes me very afraid.
We should be out there, instead of the minister or this government saying this and doing nothing, we should be in there and talking to the municipal government and find out about infrastructure things that will work, whether we should look at the wharfage area in Sydney Harbour, the crane and so on area of the Sysco plant, if that could maybe be sliced away from Sysco and used for more economic development, as opposed to just being the sole property of Sysco - maybe the coal piers. These are things you throw out not so much as they are the ideas but I think you kind of throw them and get people discussing them.
These are the things we are looking for that didn't come today. I don't know why this government has a Department of Economic Development, I really don't. I think that minister is a fine fellow. I have had occasion to socialize with that gentleman and I quite like him (Interruption) Yes, I could say but, but I won't. What I will say is maybe he is being held back and I think he should throw off the shackles and really lead a renaissance in that department to make it a department that is truly a tool of economic development. I thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The time has expired for the late debate. I would like to thank the members who took part in the discussion this evening.
We now stand adjourned until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
[The House rose at 6:27 p.m.]