The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House adjourned:
October 26, 2017.

Hansard -- Thur., Oct. 21, 1999

First Session

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 21, 1999

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
STATEMENTS BY MINISTER:
Environ.: Waste Diversion - Progress, Hon. R. Russell 610
Health: Reg. Bds. - Disbanded, Hon. J. Muir 612
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 8, Municipal Elections Act, Hon. A. MacIsaac 616
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 236, Culture - Highland Village (Iona): Top Community Museum
(N.S.) - Congrats., Mr. B. Boudreau 616
Vote - Affirmative 617
Res. 237, Fin. - Expenditure: Review Internal - Details Release,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 617
Res. 238, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Victoria Co.: Ferries -
Fares Eliminate, Mr. K. MacAskill 617
Res. 239, Lbr. - Bedford Vol. Fire Dept.: Anniv. 60th - Congrats.,
Mr. J. Holm 618
Vote - Affirmative 619
Res. 240, Gov't. (N.S.): Cuts - Unpromised, Mr. P. MacEwan 619
Res. 241, Econ. Dev. - Halifax-Herald: Newspaper Carrier of the Week -
Elaina Parsons (Fairview JHS) Congrats., Ms. E. O'Connell 619
Vote - Affirmative 620
Res. 242, Gov't. (N.S.) - Hamm Plan: Hamm Sham - Admit,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 620
Res. 243, Educ. - Hfx. Reg. School Bd.: Neighbourhood School
(Hfx. North End) - Preservation Congrats., Ms. Maureen MacDonald 620
Vote - Affirmative 621
Res. 244, Econ. Dev. - Poor/Unemployment: Approach Cold Hearted -
Condemn, Mr. D. Wilson 621
Res. 245, Cons. & Bus. Serv.: Credit Union Day - Salute, Mr. F. Corbett 622
Vote - Affirmative 622
Res. 246, Lbr. - Occupational Health & Safety Regs.: Implementation
Delay - Advice Source, Mr. R. MacKinnon 623
Res. 247, Fin. - Poor: Suffering - Unacceptable, Mr. K. Deveaux 623
Res. 248, Educ. - School Milk Prog.: Review - Exempt, Mr. D. Downe 624
Res. 249, Nat. Res. - Lewis Lake Prov. Park: Staff Efforts - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 625
Vote - Affirmative 625
Res. 250, Culture: Celtic Colours Internat. Festival - Applaud,
Mr. K. MacAskill 625
Vote - Affirmative 626
Res. 251, Women: Public Service (Can.) - Fin. Discrimination,
Mr. H. Epstein 626
Vote - Affirmative 627
Res. 252, Econ. Dev. - Job Creation: Commun. Groups - Meet,
Mr. W. Gaudet 627
Res. 253, Lbr. - Kennetcook Vol. Fire Dept.: Awards Ceremony -
Congrats., Mr. John MacDonell 627
Vote - Affirmative 628
Res. 254, Gov't. (N.S.) - Political Philosophy (NDP): Espousal -
Shock Express, Mr. P. MacEwan 628
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 99, Health: Reg. Bds. - Disbanded, Mr. R. MacLellan 629
No. 100, Human Res. - Public Serv.: Gov't. Line - Follow,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 630
No. 101, Health: Reg. Bds. - Disbanded, Mr. R. MacLellan 631
No. 102, Health - Reg. Bds.: Disbanded - Rationale, Mr. Robert Chisholm 633
No. 103, Health - Reg. Bds.: Disbanded - Notification, Dr. J. Smith 634
No. 104, Health - Care: Committee - Commitment, Mr. D. Dexter 636
No. 105, Health - Deputy Minister: Position - Advertise, Dr. J. Smith 637
No. 106, Econ. Dev.: Winter Wks. Prog. - Cancellation, Mr. F. Corbett 638
No. 107, Health - Nurses: Recruitment (May 1999 to Oct. 1999) -
Number, Dr. J. Smith 639
No. 108, Econ. Dev. - Voluntary Planning: Task Force -
Terms of Reference, Mr. Robert Chisholm 640
No. 109, Health - Reg. Bds.: Chairmen - Contact, Mr. R. MacLellan 642
No. 110, Lbr. - Call Centre (R. Webber & Assoc.): Workers -
Rights Protect, Mr. W. Estabrooks 643
No. 111, Health - Yar. Reg. Hosp.: Expansion - Future, Mr. W. Gaudet 644
No. 112, Abor. Affs.: Sable Gas - Pipeline Dispute, Mr. Robert Chisholm 645
No. 113, Econ. Dev. - C.B.: Assist. ($12M) - Commitment Honour,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 646
No. 114, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. 101 Twinning: Gov't. (Cdn.)
Advance - Request, Mr. W. Estabrooks 647
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
ON MOTION FOR SUPPLY:
Mr. R. MacKinnon 649
Mr. John MacDonell 652
Mr. T. Olive 656
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 2:30 P.M. 661
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 5:59 P.M. 661
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Educ.: Sir John A. Macdonald HS - Plans:
Mr. W. Estabrooks 662
Hon. J. Purves 664
Mr. W. Gaudet 667
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Oct. 22nd at 9:00 a.m. 669

[Page 609]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, OCTOBER 21, 1999

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The subject for the late debate tonight was submitted by the honourable member for Halifax Fairview. It reads:

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education should immediately inform the students, teachers and parents of this community of her department's plans for Sir John A. Macdonald High School.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

609

[Page 610]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of the Environment.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to share with you and my colleagues here in the House my congratulations to Nova Scotians as we continue to lead the nation in waste diversion, now diverting 44 per cent of all our solid waste from landfills.

Mr. Speaker, this is remarkable progress in waste diversion and though we still have a small bit of distance to reach our goal of 50 per cent by 2000, we are well ahead of other provinces in Canada in waste diversion and well on target for achieving this ambitious 50 per cent goal.

It has only been a few short years since Nova Scotia adopted its solid waste management plan. In that time, we have become leaders in recycling and composting in North America. Groups visit our province from all over the world to study what we have done in such a short time. Through reduce, reuse and recycle programs, this province has been able to divert some 317,000 tons of solid waste from our landfills every year - that is 2 million pounds of waste per day. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise today to respond to the ministerial statement by the Minister of the Environment. I must say from the onset, when I was minister, critics opposite were quite adamant at getting proper notice of ministerial statements. I must say that while I don't require too much notice, having it on my desk when I get in the House would be a little bit of short notice. I certainly hope the minister, for future statements, will at least give us a bit more courtesy the next time.

Certainly, Mr. Speaker, hearing the minister's statement today, it is almost a flashback to my time sitting on that side of the House and giving good news statements on behalf of the Department of the Environment. I used to take some ribbing from colleagues across the floor but the fact was that Nova Scotians should be proud of what is being done for our environment here in this province.

The Solid Waste Management Plan put in by the Liberal Government has proven to be a tremendous success here in this province as witnessed today by the minister's statement that we have now achieved 44 per cent of the 50 per cent solid waste diversion goal for the year 2000. Certainly today, as indicated in the minister's statement, the winners are the people of Nova Scotia. They are the beneficiaries of our efforts and are the ones who have made this a success. As government and as policy makers we simply try to implement and design programs but we cannot make them happen if Nova Scotians do not adopt them and they clearly have in this regard.

[Page 611]

I do want to remind the member that, for our Party, we remain very concerned concerning this government's program review of all programs. It is my hope that the Solid Waste Management Plan and other programs in place at the Department of the Environment that deal with waste diversion in this province will be maintained and not slashed or cut by this Tory Administration.

I also want to point out to the minister that while we have achieved 44 per cent, the fact is Nova Scotians continue to see litter on the sides of our roads and highways. There are many more solid waste components out there, especially on the sides of our roads, which should be included in this Solid Waste Management Plan. I certainly hope that the minister, his government and his department will look at including those as part of this plan so that not only will we achieve 50 per cent, we hope to one day get as close as possible to the 100 per cent mark. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for having this statement on my desk - you arrive early enough and it is there, you have the opportunity to look at it. Of course, if you have a landfill site and a compost facility in your constituency, you really do not have to look much further at garbage recycling than your own. Come on out to the landfill site sometime.

Nova Scotians and municipalities should be congratulated on this 44 per cent diversion. Unfortunately I should point out that in certain municipalities, particularly the HRM, it has been an enormously costly experiment. In the HRM, it has been said that they did it backwards, that they had the landfill and then they got into the composting. I would like to point out to the minister, and hopefully members of his department, that when other municipalities get fully involved in solid waste management they follow the Lunenburg example. The Lunenburg example has the composting facilities well in place and then they do the landfill and that is the example that should be followed.

I hope other municipalities follow that lead. That model is the one that many people throughout North America come to see. The cost factor is something you are always involved with for municipalities, downloading the costs on municipalities when municipalities in many cases have to really take the lead.

In particular, I hope that we are not satisfied with 44 per cent, but I hope that environment officials also want to take the lead in such ideas as energy efficiency and toxic waste. These are the types of goals that we could also be working for as an environment department and as Nova Scotians. I would like to thank Nova Scotians, particularly the residents of HRM, for being so dutiful about waste management and I look forward to having the Lunenburg example followed by other municipalities throughout our province. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 612]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we must deliver health care differently. We have to deliver it more effectively and more efficiently. We have to make sure that communities are able to influence health care decisions. This will occur only if we change the current delivery system.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians have made it clear that they are disenchanted with the current regional health board structure. People complain that the regional boards are too large and too far removed from local communities. Working with Nova Scotians and with health care providers, we will change that. In the government's election platform, and again in the Speech from the Throne, this government promised to eliminate the current regional health board structure. Today I am announcing the first step in the transition to a new health care delivery system.

Effective immediately, governance of the four regional health boards is being transferred to the Department of Health. While board responsibilities are being transferred to the department, the boards' administrative support and professional employees will remain in place. Staff of the existing boards will play an important and vital role during the transition to a more responsive system.

Governance of the four non-designated organizations, the QE II Health Sciences Centre, the IWK-Grace Health Centre, the Cape Breton Regional and the Nova Scotia Hospital will remain in place. Mr. Speaker, transfer of governance from the regional boards to the Health Department is necessary to ensure consistency in all four regions during the transition process. Transferring board responsibilities will also provide stability during transition, ensure minimum disruption to staff and ensure continuity of health care delivery.

Later this month, Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Minister of Health and senior departmental staff will be meeting with officials from the regional health boards to explain the transitional process and to establish a timetable for the creation of new district health authorities. Nova Scotians must and will have access to a health care system that is focused on the patient, community-based, and delivering an appropriate range of services.

Mr. Speaker, we will honour our promise to legislate greater responsibility for community health boards in this province. (Applause) Community health boards will help assess local needs, develop plans for the district health authorities and identify ways of improving the overall health of the community. To ensure that community health boards can influence decision making, they will be given representation on the new district boards.

Mr. Speaker, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, this is just the first step in the transition to a more community responsive health care system. Over the next few months we will engage health care providers, staff, and consumers in putting this new system in place.

[Page 613]

Unlike the previous government, we will take the time to do it right. (Applause) We recognize and support the need for regional planning as a way of improving patient care and achieving efficiencies; however day-to-day administration of health care must not ignore the right of communities to participate in the decision-making process. Local representation and control will help ensure that the health care system is more accountable to both government and health care consumer alike. As local communities begin to see that their concerns have a voice, then public confidence in the Nova Scotia health care system will grow.

[12:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute and thank the many volunteers who have served on the regional health boards for their contribution of time and effort over the past several years. As we move into a new health care structure, I would hope that many of those who served on the regional boards will continue their interest and offer their advice and support. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I think it is very ironic that we are here today seeing disbandment without notice of a volunteer board that has served the last several years, over five years, in this province - disbanded without a thank you and following which the announcement on the creation of yet another board to review social programs. It is really very ironic.

I really want to say, Mr. Speaker, the idea of the previous member on our side here, mentioned about press releases or statements by ministers being available. I must say I received this statement a few minutes after the House sat and I think in all fairness there could be better courtesy there. I would appreciate it in future. Fortunately, I do have some comments that I made earlier this morning and I will take the time of the House to respond. I think they will still be very legitimate in this response to the statement that I did not receive prior notice on.

Mr. Speaker, we should know that for 48 hours all powers and responsibilities of the regional health boards have been in the hands of the Deputy Minister of Health in this province. This was done through an Order in Council dated October 19, 1999. So that was the day before the announcement of the Social Review Board that I mentioned earlier. All regional and community hospitals, drug dependency, public health and mental health programs are now being run out of downtown Halifax.

Although this government has indicated that they would eliminate regional health boards, the minister mentioned that and I agree with him that was certainly part of their promise, they did make a commitment to the people of Nova Scotia that they would be replaced with volunteer community-driven boards.

[Page 614]

It is clear that this government does not have a plan, Mr. Speaker. No legislation has been tabled that would place in the hands of the community the authority to plan programs to meet local priorities. This is going to cost taxpayers money. When you transition a program, you disband one, eliminate one with a slash of a knife, you cannot move into another system without costing extra money. We have learned that certainly in health care programs in other areas as well. So this move, today, is costing taxpayers even more money as they yet disrupt the system that is under a lot of stress.

By eliminating regional health boards without a plan, they have centralized the whole delivery of health care in the province back into the hands of downtown Halifax. They have taken the health care system back to the old days when volunteers, such as members of our regional health boards, did not have a say in developing programs in their own communities.

There is, however, another issue for today's revelation, Mr. Speaker, that I would like to bring to the attention of the House. Once again, this government has shown complete disregard to the volunteers of these boards. The chairs and the board members of each of these regions were not aware that they were being stripped of their power and responsibilities. They were not phoned and informed of this decision, nor were they thanked for the thousands of hours that they have spent truly making the health care system reflective of the needs of their respective regions. If the minister and his Premier have this much contempt for the regional health boards, how much respect, or indeed contempt, will he show for the community health boards whenever they are established?

During the estimates' debate, Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to question the Minister of Health as to whether he had met with the regional health board chairs to inform them of his government's decision to eliminate regional health boards. I was told, yes, he had met with them and informed them of his government's intention. In speaking with the regional health board chairs, I have been made aware that the minister has never met with the regional health board chairs as a group. He has never met with them to discuss the programs that they are offering or would like to offer. He has never met to tell them of his government's intention.

In summary, and in closing, this not only once again demonstrates clearly that this government has no plan to manage the health care system; they have wanton disregard for the hard-working volunteers who have done such a great job in improving health care in Nova Scotia under very demanding and financially-challenging times. (Applause)

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond to the minister's statement, with respect to the regional health boards. I must say I came early today knowing that this statement would be made in order to perhaps have an advance look at what the statement was going to be. Unfortunately, it wasn't here. We didn't have an opportunity to have a look at

[Page 615]

it before the words actually came out of the minister's mouth. Although I must say, we did know that this was the intention of the government.

I have to say that I thought that perhaps after the minister had been in this portfolio for a few months and he had had an opportunity to actually honestly look at the system that was in place, that he would change his mind about this, that he would understand what the intention of the regional health boards were, that he would understand that great sacrifices have already been made by the health care community, particularly the health care workers, to put in place the system that is there now. I look at this, in light of other health care commitments that have been broken by this government, the Pharmacare promise, the children's dental promise, and I thought, perhaps they will also break this promise. In fact, I was hoping they would because a bad promise is better broken. A bad promise is better broken. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, this statement today flies in the face of the Royal Commission on Health Care, 1989, on the recommendations of the Blueprint Committee. It flies in the face of the recommendations of the Goldbloom task force. It is another example of their inability to listen to what people are saying. They haven't carried out any kind of consultation, and in fact, what they have done is they have proceeded without even consulting the regional health boards themselves on this decision.

What it is is a throwback. It is a throwback to a centralized system where power in the health care system is concentrated in Halifax. We have seen this before, the pandering of the government to those who are against reform in health care. We have seen it before with a Tory Government. We know that what we are going to be left with is yet more chaos. I must say, we were vocal critics of the former government for the chaos that they created in this system, but this is compound chaos.

When the Minister of Health was asked in estimates to table the evidence that he had that changing the regional health board structure was going to provide some savings for the government, he said he had no evidence. He couldn't table any evidence, because he had none. They are doing this knowing that this transition is going to cost the government. It is going to cost the government at a time that they are carrying out a program review, whose intention is very clear; which is to cut health care and to cut other programs of government to the people of this province.

Mr. Speaker, we know now that the efficiencies that have been gained through the regional health board process have been paid for out of the hard work and the sacrifices of the health care workers of this province, and they are, today, being sacrificed on the altar of the rhetoric of this Tory Government, and that is a shame. (Applause)

[Page 616]

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

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, the other day my colleague for the eastern region of Halifax, MLA Bill Dooks, had been given an opportunity to introduce a class from our area. Now it is my turn today to have that honour. I would like to recognize the class of Grade 12 students who are studying law. They are from the Eastern Shore District High School, Musquodoboit Harbour, better known as the home of the Schooners. I would like to introduce Mr. LeBlanc and Ms. MacDonald who are teachers for the classroom as well as their chaperons, Ms. Larade and Ms. Day and the students of the Eastern Shore District High School Grade 12 law class, please stand to be acknowledge and receive the applause of the House. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 8 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 300 of the Revised Statues of 1989. The Municipal Elections Act. (Hon. Angus MacIssac)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 236

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Highland Village in Iona has been rated as the top community museum in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Highland Village is considered to be one of the top Scottish sites in North America and highlights the daily life of Scottish settlers; and

Whereas the Highland Village employs up to 30 people at its peak period and keeps many volunteers busy throughout the year;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the staff and the many volunteers of the Highland Village who work so hard to make it the best community museum in this province.

[Page 617]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 237

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

Whereas the government's internal review of spending priorities was announced in August; and

Whereas the government has already chosen to exempt some programs, including Government House and subsidies for the banks, while cancelling others, including access for persons with disabilities; and

Whereas the initial choices, priorities and direction established by the government's internal review have not been shared with Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that the government should be open and honest enough to tell Nova Scotians the details of its internal spending review so people can offer informed comment about real decisions.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 238

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

[Page 618]

Whereas Victoria County has two provincially-owned and operated cable ferries, one in Little Narrows and one in Englishtown; and

Whereas people of the local area complain about the fares charged to use these ferries, they say it creates a hardship for daily users and small businesses; and

Whereas the candidate for the PC Party for Victoria in the last campaign promised a PC Government would eliminate such fares;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works make good on that promise and let the people of Victoria County know when these fares will be eliminated.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

[12:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 239

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

Whereas the Bedford Volunteer Fire Department has just turned 60 years old; and

Whereas volunteers give of their time unselfishly to their community in times of need and often put their personal safety at risk; and

Whereas in many communities in Nova Scotia, volunteer firefighters organizations remain the centre of the communities;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its congratulations and best wishes to the Bedford Volunteer Fire Department on their 60th Anniversary of their service to the residents of Bedford.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 619]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 240

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

Whereas Tory propaganda in the recent election invited voters to call 422-0552 to get your copy of the Hamm plan; and

Whereas The Chronicle-Herald of July 9th boasted that the Tories win the prize, hands down, for the most detailed platform - price tags and all; and

Whereas the Hamm plan in action is asking for public input to help choose cuts, as this demolition crew sets out to destroy the program of public services built up by past governments, both Liberal and Conservative;

Therefore be it resolved that those who dialed 422-0552 to get their copy of the Hamm plan were sadly misled at election time and The Chronicle-Herald was taken in big time as the dial-a-cut plan is in no way what the Tory Party advertised when seeking votes.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 241

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

Whereas Elaina Parsons, a Grade 8 student at Fairview Junior High School, has been serving 41 paper route customers for three years; and

Whereas The Halifax Chronicle-Herald and The Mail-Star has honoured her dedication by selecting her as newspaper carrier of the week;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Elaina Parsons, newspaper carrier of the week, and wish her well in current and future endeavours.

[Page 620]

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 242

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

Whereas Premier John Hamm's Tory Government has just established a dog and pony show to travel across Nova Scotia to hear the views of Nova Scotians on ways to reduce the provincial debt; and

Whereas this initiative is simply a rehash of a similar dog and pony show that took place under the direction of former Tory Finance Minister, Greg Kerr; and

Whereas the net result of the former Tory Finance Minister's travelling circus was an unprecedented deficit and debt burden on the people of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the chaotic John Hamm Government admit to the people of Nova Scotia that the Hamm plan is nothing but a Hamm sham.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 243

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

Whereas neighbourhood schools are at the heart of strong, healthy communities; and

[Page 621]

Whereas the Halifax Regional School Board has embarked on a unique program in north end Halifax to preserve the role of the neighbourhood school; and

Whereas St. Patrick-Alexandra School is the first full service school of its kind, with programs such as an adult high school, a day care centre, a theatre company, a worker's co-op and a recycling project, to name a few;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend our sincere congratulations to all those whose hard work, commitment and vision has resulted in such an innovative community development project.

Mr. Speaker, I see waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 244

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

Whereas the Minister of Economic Development believes that Cape Bretoners should create their own jobs; and

Whereas perhaps the good Minister of Economic Development thinks those who cannot create their own jobs should go to a food bank if they want to eat; and

Whereas the necessity of eating will be that much harder on the underprivileged in Glace Bay as the Winter Works Program cancelled two jobs at the Glace Bay Food Bank;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House condemn the Minister of Economic Development for his cold-hearted approach to the plight of the poor and unemployed.

[Page 622]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 245

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

Whereas today is Credit Union Day in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas credit unions have long been an important player in the Nova Scotia economy, serving 162,000 members, with assets over $1 billion and employing over 800 Nova Scotians; and

Whereas the Task Force on the Future of the Canadian Financial Services Sector recommended new powers for credit unions to make them an even more effective economic engine;

Therefore be it resolved that this House salute the credit union movement for its ongoing success on this, the Credit Union Day, and wish it an increasing presence in the economic development of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 623]

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 246

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

Whereas the Minister of Labour met recently with the minister's Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Panel; and

Whereas this panel, which consists of representatives from labour and industry across Nova Scotia, asked the minister why he decided to put the new Occupational Health and Safety Regulations on hold, contrary to their wishes; and

Whereas the Minister of Labour displayed a horrendous lack of accountability by asking the Deputy Minister of Labour to respond to this straightforward question;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Labour explain to the members of this House and to all Nova Scotians, who advised him to go against the wishes of the minister's own Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Panel when he declined to implement the Nova Scotia's new Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.

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

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

Is it agreed.

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 247

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

Whereas the Titanic sank in the frigid waters off our Atlantic coast so many years ago; and

[Page 624]

Whereas it was the poorest people on board who were left to sink with the doomed vessel; and

Whereas this Tory Government is following the same old Victorian practice by allowing the poorest Nova Scotias to go down with the ship;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government accept that allowing the poorest among us to suffer the most is still as unacceptable today as it was back in 1912.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 248

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

Whereas the School Milk Program has been beneficial to the health of young Nova Scotians by building strong healthy Nova Scotians; and

Whereas the dairy industry is also served well by a program that introduces a healthy wholesome drink in the daily lives of Nova Scotia school children; and

Whereas the School Milk Program is now under review by the province in an effort to cut costs while the subsidized veterinary fees are being reinstated as one of the 243 Tory election promises;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House urge the current government to exempt the School Milk Program from review, as it has done with the stabilization and subsidization of veterinary fees for large farm animals.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 625]

RESOLUTION NO. 249

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

Whereas the wonderful provincial park in Lewis Lake is now closed for the season; and

Whereas this park is thoroughly enjoyed by area residents; and

Whereas the Department of Natural Resources staff has conscientiously maintained a high level of service while facing budget restraints;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Natural Resources congratulate department staff for their efforts at the Lewis Lake Provincial Park.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 250

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

Whereas a very successful Third Annual Celtic Colours International Festival concluded on October 16, 1999; and

Whereas each year this event attracts visitors to Cape Breton from many parts of North America; and

Whereas it also provides the opportunity for many local entertainers, as well as up and coming young people who feel strongly about our culture, to display their talent to large audiences;

[Page 626]

Therefore be it resolved that in the opinion of all members of the Legislature that we applaud the board of directors and the volunteers who make this event a special shoulder season attraction for tourism in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 251

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

Whereas the Federal Court of Canada has upheld a human rights tribunal decision that the federal government must pay up to $5 billion in back pay to federal civil servants; and

Whereas these employees are primarily women who were discriminated against on the job due to their gender; and

Whereas this legal battle has been going on for 16 years;

Therefore be it resolved that this House encourage the federal government to do the right thing, pay up and end years of financial discrimination against its female employees.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 627]

The motion is carried. (Applause)

The honourable member for Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 252

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: 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 Economic Development admitted he did not consult with non-profit groups in Digby before cutting the popular Winter Works Program; and

Whereas the minister also admitted the impact of these cruel cuts creates hardships for non-profit groups; and

Whereas many groups in Digby County and across Nova Scotia depend on the Winter Works Program to provide much needed employment in economically depressed areas;

Therefore be it resolved that if the Tory Minister of Economic Development plans to think outside the box on creating jobs, he should start by talking with those community groups most affected.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for 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 Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 253

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

Whereas firefighters show the ultimate essence of the spirit of volunteerism by risking their lives to save others; and

[Page 628]

Whereas firefighters are a model for young people to recognize commitment and dedication to their community; and

Whereas the Kennetcook Volunteer Fire Department is holding its awards and dedication ceremony on Saturday, October 23rd;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate all recipients and participants at the awards ceremony and wish Chief Brian Walbeck and his members safety in pursuit of their duties.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 254

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

Whereas it was the British Columbia New Democratic Party of Glen Clark that enunciated the position that deceiving the public in elections is not fraud; and

Whereas the British Columbia New Democratic Party defended telling voters things that are not true to influence how they vote at great length in a famous 1997 court trial held at Vancouver; and

Whereas these doctrines have infiltrated the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party as demonstrated by what they promised on the hustings compared with what they are now delivering while in power;

Therefore be it resolved that this House is shocked and appalled to note the espousal by this Tory Government of the worst aspects of New Democratic Party political philosophy.

[Page 629]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period is starting at 12:45 p.m. and will end at 1:45 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

[12:45 p.m.]

HEALTH: REG. BDS. - DISBANDED

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the actions of this government just become more bizarre and chaotic as each day passes. I honestly believe that this government would make the Keystone Kops look like the U.S.A. Marine Drill Team. There is a government that did away with regional health boards before they legislated in the community health boards, before they put in place a community framework to replace these regional health boards and, by doing that, they broke their own election promise. I want to ask the Premier, why were the regional health boards disbanded before the community health boards were ready to take over from them?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I can say to the member opposite the reason that this government disbanded the regional health boards is because it made a commitment to the people of Nova Scotia to do so.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, they also made a commitment to the people of Nova Scotia to put community health boards in place. Instead of doing that, they focused all the responsibility now with the deputy minister here in Halifax, and at the end of the month there is not going to be a deputy minister here in Halifax.

To use the words of the Minister of Health where he said they, "will take the time to do it right", I want to know from the Premier why, when he made this decision to do away with regional health boards, did he not call the members of the regional health boards who volunteered their time for years, the workers in the regional health boards, to tell them that the government had just legislated them out of existence?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, in response to the question, one of the greatest difficulties that this government is facing is the chaotic state in which it has found the affairs of this province. In an attempt to start us down the right road we are going to be doing a lot of fundamental things to this province and one of those is a reorganization of the health care

[Page 630]

system that will restore community confidence and the confidence of all Nova Scotians in the health care that they receive.

The first of many planned steps was taken by the Minister of Health today in which he made the regional organization and health board accountable to the government. One of the greatest criticisms of the regional health board system is that they were accountable to no one but themselves.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, one of the greatest challenges this government is facing is the fact that it cannot walk and chew gum at the same time. To go back to the Minister of Health where he says they are going to take the time to do it right, I want to ask the Premier, why did they came forward with the ministerial statement today when the regional health boards have been legislated out of existence for two days? The Order in Council took place on October 19th and they are just coming forward with the statement today. Didn't the Premier or the Minister of Health know what the Order in Council said? Couldn't they read their own . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member has already asked a question.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I find it a little surprising that one with so much political experience does not understand, after reading an Order in Council, what exactly it said. The Order in Council did not disband the regional health boards. What it did is transfer the accountability of the regions back to the deputy minister. That is what has occurred today.

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

HUMAN RES. - PUBLIC SERV.: GOV'T. LINE - FOLLOW

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Premier. The government is sending a document throughout the Civil Service, at least to managers. It is called Government Theme's Messages, Fall 1999. I am going to table this. The document says it is important to use what opportunities present themselves to define what this government stands for and where the Conservatives want to take Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Premier, why is this government using public servants to spin the government's line?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the Leader of the New Democratic Party that in the government system that we have in this province, it is the responsibility of government to provide policy. What that document simply is saying is that as this government provides policy that it should be reflected in the actions of the departments of government who are there to administer policy.

[Page 631]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, according to this spin-o-matic, protection of the vulnerable, help for those who need help, are the legitimate functions of the province. At the same time the government is spinning this line, they have singled out charities, people with disabilities and communities with extremely high unemployment for the first Tory cuts. I want to ask the Premier, does he expect Nova Scotians to ignore the choices that his government has made, choices like helping a bank instead of helping people with disabilities?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the Leader of the New Democratic Party that I find it somewhat surprising after listening to him since 1993, when we both found ourselves in the House - I know that the Leader was there before that - on the other hand criticizing the actions of the government day in and day out in Question Period. Now, when he sees a government that is prepared to address, and effectively address, the concerns of Nova Scotians and the affairs of the province he seems disappointed that this government is moving ahead on an agenda when he, himself, criticized the inactivity and the lack of action of the previous government.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I think what the Premier is proving, Mr. Speaker, that it is a lot easier to stand up and say I have a plan, than it is to actually do something about a plan.

My final supplementary, Mr. Speaker. This document suggests that civil servants illustrate this government's themes by stating that it is immoral for the province to borrow money. What is more moral about spending $1.2 million on a jail site that is opposed by the local community or $100,000 to add a 12th Cabinet Minister? I want to ask the Premier, how do other government choices measure up on the Conservatives' moral yardstick?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it must be very disconcerting to Nova Scotians who are faced with real problems. The Leader of the New Democratic Party is very good at identifying real problems but he still wants to talk about philosophies instead of real solutions, addressing the real concerns of Nova Scotians, so that we will, in fact, have a future.

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

HEALTH: REG. BDS. - DISBANDED

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is wrong, this government has stripped the authority of the regional health boards. Their governance has been taken over by the Department of Health, where the deputy minister has the final say. The only catch is that there isn't going to be a deputy minister after October 31st and this government hasn't replaced her.

[Page 632]

Mr. Speaker, they have taken away the power of the regional health boards, centralized it in Halifax with the Department of Health, ignored their responsibility and their promise to community health boards. I want to know from this government, why have they broken so crassly and so completely their promise to the people of Nova Scotia without consultation and without any concern for what they have done to health care in the Province of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can understand the Leader of the Liberal Party expressing some dismay at a government that only has one deputy minister at a time, because he led the government that had two Deputy Ministers of Health at the same time.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, we had two deputy ministers, this government doesn't have any. I ask the people of Nova Scotia which would they rather have, centralized health care and a deputy minister that doesn't exist or regional health boards that were functioning extremely well, whether they wanted a Party that . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: . . . abided by its promises or a Party that made promises that it didn't keep. Mr. Speaker, I want to know, when did this government call the members of the regional health boards to notify them that their authority had been stripped away and that they were now subject to the whims of the Department of Health? When did he extend them that courtesy?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the Minister of Health, who is primarily responsible for this change, to respond to your question.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in response to the question, I can tell the honourable member that the affected officials were called this morning.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Minister of Health, not the one who is responsible but irresponsible for this action (Interruptions) I want to ask him soon after what he did to the directors who oversaw the charity in the Province of Nova Scotia, the $2.2 million, why so soon after that omission did he actually wait two days after they were stripped of their power to tell these people that they were no longer welcome in the Province of Nova Scotia and the fact that they were going to have to volunteer their services but all authorities were going to . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Health.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure about the $2.2 million, I didn't really focus in on that part of the question. I am not sure what the point was but all I can say is that we did notify the people who are involved, the board members have all been written as well and we did it in a time and a manner which we thought was appropriate.

[Page 633]

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

HEALTH - REG. BDS.: DISBANDED - RATIONALE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Premier if he would advise this House on what basis did his government make the decision to eliminate regional health boards? What evidence has his government collected that regional health boards will either, number one, make the delivery of health more efficient or, number two, make it more cost effective? What evidence does he have and if he has any, will he table it?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, in reply to the member's question, the member opposite has been extremely critical of the way in which the previous government has handled health care. The member opposite supports community control of health care and that is the road down which we are travelling to restore community control to health care delivery in this province, something that that member has endorsed time after time.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I can understand the Premier wanting to talk about what we stand for because he doesn't have a clue what he stands for when it comes to health care. The point is here, that this move centralizes power just like it was back in the 1980's when the Royal Commission recommended that we had to move toward regionalization. I want to ask the Premier again, because he is having real trouble with this, what evidence does your government have that leads you to make the decision to eliminate regional health boards which is going to cause chaos upon chaos in this system? What evidence do you have, does your government have . . .

HON. JAMES MUIR: July 27th.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh-h-h.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: The Minister of Health says July 27th.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: So in other words, you got the voters' support, now you can do anything you want.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Premier . . .

MR. SPEAKER: You have already asked the question. The honourable Premier.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I haven't, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 634]

MR. SPEAKER: Well, please ask it.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I was going to ask the Premier, what evidence does he have to make this move and will he table it that so Nova Scotians will see that he has some idea of what is going on?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, to the member opposite, the Leader of the New Democratic Party well knows that without community control of health care delivery in this province, Nova Scotians will never have the kind of confidence that they must have in their health care delivery system. We are going to return that kind of control and we are going to do it with an orderly transition from what we have today to a community-based and controlled health care delivery system.

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Once again, in the early stages of this government, we are seeing them make decisions without any idea of what the implications of those decisions are, Mr. Speaker. I want to ask the Premier, does he at least have any idea what it is going to cost the government and the health care system to eliminate regional health boards? What is it going to cost? Do you have any idea?

THE PREMIER: One of the hallmarks of this government will always be effective use of taxpayer dollars, and the road down which we are travelling is one that will restore the confidence of Nova Scotians in the health care delivery system. Until we are able to achieve that, regardless of the amount of taxpayer dollars placed in the health care budget, then they will not really have the kind of confidence that they must have in the health care delivery system.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - REG. BDS.: DISBANDED - NOTIFICATION

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Several days ago in the House the Minister of Health indicated that he had met with the chairmen of the regional health boards. Today for the House could the minister clarify for all members when these meetings took place and whether, in fact, he informed the chairmen in advance of his government's decision to eliminate the regional health boards?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am really surprised that the member for Dartmouth East thinks that this announcement today came as any great surprise. Clearly it was in the blue book, it has been reiterated in the Speech from the Throne, and it has been said time and time again, but this Party of which he is a member was never very good at listening so I guess I should not be terribly surprised.

[Page 635]

I did personally call the chairmen of the boards this morning and spoke with all four of them. The CEOs were also phoned by the deputy and my understanding is that all of them were reached. I met about three days after I was in office with, I believe it was the provincial Leadership Council, and I informed the CEOs at that time of our intention to proceed with this.

DR. SMITH: It was mid-morning, Mr. Speaker. We were in contact with some of the chairmen as late as last evening and they were caught by surprise with the news that the government had, in fact, abolished them on Tuesday. My question to the minister is, why would the minister leave the members of the House with the impression that he had met with the chairmen when indeed he did not?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it would not be my intent to mislead the House and if I did in terms of saying that I had a formal meeting with the chairmen, that was not my intent. I did speak with Dr. Perkin and I spoke with Mr. Creighton, I spoke with - I have to think of the third name.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, he may have spoken with them but I do not think he told them the truth of what was happening to their boards. To the Premier, Mr. Speaker, (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable member to retract that, accusing him of not telling the truth, please.

DR. SMITH: I will retract that he did not tell the truth. I mean he was not complete in his information. I did not mean that he gave them misinformation at the time, but there was information that decisions had been made, or were being made, that they were not informed of and I will retract that.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

DR. SMITH: I did not mean that he told an untruth to them. He did not communicate; he was not complete. I would like to ask the Premier, though, in the lack of courtesy extended to these volunteers that he expounded so largely on the other day and the lack of consultation and the lack of informing the people like the chairmen and the volunteers of the regional boards who have played a great role, how can the Premier, in fact, justify these actions by his government?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the member for Dartmouth East and former Minister of Health, that the actions of this government are necessary. This province needs fundamental change. If change is not forthcoming, then the same results will simply sink us. This government is not prepared to stand by and see Nova Scotia sink.

[Page 636]

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

HEALTH - CARE: COMMITTEE - COMMITMENT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, in the recent election, this government promised to establish a core committee of government and non-government representatives of review and oversee all aspects of the health care system. In Estimates, the Minister of Health didn't recall that commitment. My question is to the Premier. In light of the complete program review of health programming you announced, will you remind the Minister of Health of this commitment and establish that committee immediately?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it would appear that the question really should have been directed to the Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am remembering back to our conversation during the Estimates and I don't recall making that statement.

MR. DEXTER: If he doesn't recall, Mr. Speaker, making the statement, perhaps he could tell us whether or not they have struck the committee which was part of the blue book promises and if they have, when will they begin the review of the elimination of the regional health boards?

MR. MUIR: I think there are two questions there, Mr. Speaker. What I will say is that there are some elements of that in place right now. The Provincial Health Council is now functioning. The review of the facilities is ongoing, which involves people from my staff and officials from within the regional health boards and we also have a Nursing Action Committee which is examining aspects of the health system. There are a number of initiatives ongoing and the committee, to which the member is specifically referring, will be set up in due time.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health should really read the platform that he ran on. (Laughter) It would be most helpful and instructive to him. The government didn't listen to the Goldbloom task force, it dismissed the Blueprint Committee's recommendations. What I want to know from the Premier is whether or not he will live up to one of the promises he made, he committed to in his document, and appoint the committee and listen to the advice that the health care community will give to him?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am having difficulty understanding from the questioning from the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour and all members of the New Democratic Party. Are we going too fast? Are we going too slow? Because when we move along at a decent rate of speed, they accuse us of going too quickly and the member then, on another issue, says we are going too slow. It might be helpful if the New Democrats would indicate by way of their questioning, by way of their critiques, do they want us to go more quickly or do they want us to slow up?

[Page 637]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - DEPUTY MINISTER: POSITION - ADVERTISE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. I will just point out to the House the Strong Leadership . . . a clear course, the pre-election plan creating a positive work environment in the Department of Health at no cost. (Interruption) I wonder what cost they are paying for the actions of this government?

Mr. Speaker, the Order in Council that we referred to earlier puts a great deal of responsibility in the hands of the Deputy Minister of Health, the governance of the regional health boards directly to the deputy minister's office. Could the minister please inform the members of this House if, in fact, his department has advertised for the position of Deputy Minister of Health?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, our department, in conjunction with the Premier's Office, is actively seeking a new Deputy Minister of Health.

DR. SMITH: I hope you are going beyond the Tory poll captains for that one. Would the minister agree that, given today's news, putting someone in this position is even more urgent, given that there will not be a deputy minister in place by the end of October, which is what it looks like at this time, if they have not advertised and had a broad search that is fair and open?

MR. MUIR: What was the question? I am sorry. I don't really understand the question. If the question was, are we going to have a new deputy minister in place, a permanent full-time deputy minister, by October 31st, November 1st, I would hope so but I can't guarantee it.

DR. SMITH: I think the position that that person will find themselves in, it is very important that they are up and running. A little overlap, I know the Premier is concerned about having two deputies, but it is going to be a steep learning curve. Would the Minister of Health, today, not admit that his decision and his government's decision regarding the regional health boards was premature, and given that come the end of October there will not be a person in place to discharge the duties and responsibilities of the regional health board, there will not be a full permanent Deputy Minister of Health?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member for Dartmouth East and the House that the responsibilities that have been devolved by the department will be adequately handled today, tomorrow, November 1st or November 2nd.

[Page 638]

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

ECON. DEV.: WINTER WKS. PROG. - CANCELLATION

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Economic Development. Yesterday in this House, the minister confirmed he was axing the Winter Works Program, a program that provided seasonal jobs in areas of high unemployment, while he was providing millions of dollars for a billion dollar company. This was to create jobs in metro. For the people of rural Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, he just gave some advice, think outside the box, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Now, will this minister explain how thinking outside the box is going to provide jobs for people so that their families can enjoy a decent Christmas and, indeed, a decent winter?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. Obviously the issue of economic renewal for rural Nova Scotia is critical and very much a part of our platform policy. Last evening I met with the RDAs as part of an overall strategy to ensure that rural Nova Scotia does have a mechanism that will in fact create jobs for the long term.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, if they made a movie about this minister, they would call it The Many Faces of Eve, because he says one thing one day, one thing the next. Yes indeed, he did meet with the RDAs, and he is suggesting that the more than 43,000 Nova Scotians descend on the RDAs with an idea of how they can get a job. That is what he told reporters outside this House yesterday.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, when he did meet with these people, what did he tell them? Will he tell this House how do you tell them to prepare for an influx of people looking for jobs? What did you tell the RDAs to do?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, in the course of the conversations we held last evening, we talked about how we can, in fact, work together to use scarce resources to ensure that the jobs that are created last longer than a specific funding period. The problem in this province is that for too long we have relied on stop-gap measures to shore up the economy. We need to make sure that community-driven initiatives have the resources and the expertise to make real job creation happen.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, he says one thing in this House and certainly another to the RDAs, because when he spoke to the Director of the RDAs, the minister did not bother to mention anything about getting jobs for the unemployed people last night. No. The theme he did stress was, don't be all things to all people, only set your sights on goals you can achieve.

[Page 639]

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CORBETT: The minister knows full well, RDAs are not employment agencies. I ask this minister . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Your question.

MR. CORBETT: . . . why is he cutting programs for the unemployed and the vulnerable in Nova Scotia and replacing them with false hopes and illusions?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, what we talked about last evening was the way in which rural communities can focus on a strategy that will work for the long term. Certainly, there is recognition that the regional development agencies are a very perfect vehicle to make that happen. So we had discussions around how to move forward not how to dwell on the past and past failures.

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - NURSES: RECRUITMENT

(MAY 1999 TO OCT. 1999) - NUMBER

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. As the minister is well aware, nursing issues played a prominent role during the last election campaign. The issue of nurse training, work life issues and the necessity of recruitment are all areas that deserve government's immediate attention. My question is, would the minister please indicate approximately how many nurses have been recruited in the last six months?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in about the last six months, there have been about 130 nurses who have moved into full-time positions.

DR. SMITH: My supplementary to the minister, Mr. Speaker. So there has been a reasonable degree of success in recruitment. Could the minister inform the House who he feels is responsible for recruiting those nurses? You don't have to say the previous Minister of Health.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would think our government has to take some responsibility for that because of the confidence that people had and they knew that we would be addressing some of the situations that created some instability in the health care system. They felt confident enough that when we assumed leadership that there would be sufficient - according to our platform promises we guaranteed nursing positions, and therefore the regional authorities acted on and filled those positions.

[Page 640]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I really didn't think I would get that answer. I thought he was more of a humble man. Given that the regional health boards know their communities best, these nurses were recruited by the regional health boards. That is who they were recruited by and everybody in Nova Scotia knows that.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

DR. SMITH: Now that a void has been left, could the minister please indicate who will be responsible for recruiting nurses in the recruitment process, given that you have turned all of the powers over to downtown Halifax and all the successes of the regional boards have been turned over to downtown Halifax . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Health.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the Premier indicated in response to an earlier question, the administrative structure in those boards remains in place. The responsibility for the recruitment of nurses would still be in the boards with our support.

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

ECON. DEV. - VOLUNTARY PLANNING:

TASK FORCE - TERMS OF REFERENCE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to return to the Premier and I want again talk about the document, Government Themes/Messages Fall '99. The government's spin lines say that the people deserve nothing less than the whole truth all of the time. In that context, I want to thank the Premier for having promptly provided me with a copy of the Voluntary Planning Task Force terms of reference we were talking about in here yesterday. He announced this task force as an exercise in public consultation and he placed great stress on the terms of reference. I want to ask the Premier, why is public consultation not mentioned anywhere in the terms of reference?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member attended the press conference. The member heard how the committee is going to function. The member heard that they will be receiving responses from all Nova Scotians, electronically and by all other methods, followed up by a public consultation process. Now, if the Leader of the New Democratic Party wants to play with that - is he unhappy with the fact that there is going to be a public consultation system or is he unhappy with the fact that we are doing what we said we are going to do?

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am trying to get this nailed down a bit because yesterday the Premier, in response to why didn't he accept the recommendations of the Goldbloom task force, said because there was a problem with the terms of reference. I just want to make sure that his terms of reference, in fact, are clear.

[Page 641]

Mr. Speaker, the terms of reference are very clear. Consultation is one part of the task force process. The words public consultation do not appear once in the terms of reference. The nine distinguished, though unrepresentative task force members . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . . are the only folks who will have the government's ear, according to these terms of reference. I want to ask the Premier, will he amend the terms of reference to mandate the task force to undertake a legitimate public consultation on the important choices required in this province? Will he do that?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the New Democratic Party is simply a day too late because obviously the committee has already made a commitment to do extensive consultation both through telephone, e-mail, mail and as well, a public consultation process. So in reality what the member opposite is asking for has already been achieved.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, as each day goes by, Nova Scotians are beginning to think that they are three months too late. My final question to the Premier, the government's spin lines talk about the whole truth. Yesterday, the government flatly refused an FOI request for material on anticipated or required administrative savings because it is part of a presentation of policy options. This adds to our concerns . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . . that Nova Scotians are not being given the straight goods on what is really on the table here for cuts.

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Premier, will he release the policy options for cost savings so Nova Scotians have the whole truth and people can then give him informed advice?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have no direct knowledge of the issue that the member brings to the floor of the House, but if he would provide me with some details I would be prepared to look at it.

[Page 642]

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

HEALTH - REG. BDS.: CHAIRMEN - CONTACT

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Minister of Health when he belatedly called the chairmen of the regional health boards and advised them that two days ago they were stripped of all authority and the regional health boards were now without any jurisdiction other than to do administrative work, did he ask them if they would stay on and did he ask them as to whether the others who worked for the regional health boards voluntarily would agree to stay on?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, when I spoke with the chairmen of the boards, Dr. Perkin, Dr. French, Mr. Creighton and Mr. O'Connor this morning and I informed them of our government's decision, it was absolutely no surprise to them. I did thank them and expressed my hope that they would remain interested in the health care of the province.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, if these people decide they don't want to participate anymore, there is a terrible void and there will be an absolute breach of the channel of communications and activity that is needed in health care in this province. Has he any assurance that all of the people who have now been told they no longer have any authority, have they agreed to stay? Will they stay?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, if I could, just prior to answering the honourable member's question, what we announced today was a transfer of authority for a transition period. There was going to be a new structure and there will be a new structure put in place and at that point, obviously, the deputy minister and the department will return decision-making authority to these other things. I think it is important to keep in mind, as I think the member understands, that the CEOs of those boards are still intact. As far as we know, none of the administrative officials, those who run the boards operation day to day, we did ask them if they would stay and we have not heard that the operation of those boards, other than taking the responsibility from the appointed boards, those who are I guess advisory, accountable and those that we have transferred that authority to the Department of Health and, specifically, to the Deputy Minister of Health.

MR. MACLELLAN: My final supplementary is to the Premier. Now, as the Minister of Health has said that all responsibility is transferred to the Department of Health, is it not reasonable to assume that the Minister of Health, like other ministers, will have to approve any expenditure over $1,000 now that he is, through his deputy, the final say on expenditures where health matters are involved?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Liberal Party has really hit the nail on the head. One of the real drawbacks of the regional health board system is that his government did not have any control over expenditures and evidence of that was brought

[Page 643]

forth on far too regular a basis. One of the challenges that we had is to make the system accountable to those who should be accountable and that is the minister through the deputy.

What has happened through the Order in Council is to return the accountability so this government will have control on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia and the taxpayers on expenditures in the Department of Health.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

LBR. - CALL CENTRE (R. WEBBER & ASSOC.):

WORKERS - RIGHTS PROTECT

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Labour. Yesterday it became clear that this government intends to follow the Liberal lead on making call centres a major source of new employment in this province, but call centres are not always such a wonderful thing. It was reported yesterday, and we have confirmed, that employees of Ron Webber and Associates in Sydney are being intimidated. In particular, it is reported that two workers were fired for attempting to organize the workplace. Can the Minister of Labour tell us, what does his department know about these dismissals and how is he going to protect the rights of the workers at this call centre?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I have received no notification of the matter that the member for Timberlea-Prospect has brought to the floor. However, there is a process and I believe he knows that process very well whereby the Labour Relations Board investigates such matters.

MR. ESTABROOKS: That disappoints me, Mr. Speaker. Workers at Ron Webber and Associates report many serious problems including, for example, there is not an Occupational Health and Safety Committee on that site but, as the minister is aware, a workplace of that size must have one. Mr. Minister, what will you do to ensure that proper labour standards are met in this place of work?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member seems to have a lot of information. I would have thought that he would have relayed it properly to the Department of Labour so they could have taken action.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, there is no point in talking to the Minister of Labour further. I would like to talk to the Minister of Economic Development. When the former government promised nearly $1 million to run Ron Webber and Associates in wage rebates in a pre-election spending spree, they also identified employment targets; by September the company was to have hired and trained 100 workers.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

[Page 644]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, they currently have only about 80. I ask the Minister of Economic Development, how much of the $900,000 wage rebate has been given to the company and what is being done to ensure that they meet stated employment targets?

HON. GORDON BALSER: I would take that under advisement and get back to the honourable member.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

HEALTH - YAR. REG. HOSP.: EXPANSION - FUTURE

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. As the minister may be aware, the Yarmouth Regional Hospital is currently going through an expansion, which is due to open next June. Mr. Minister, all residents in southwestern Nova Scotia can thank the dedication and hard work of the Western Regional Health Board for identifying this expansion as a priority. Could the minister please confirm whether this expansion will be delayed given that all powers of the Western Regional Health Board have been turned over to the Deputy Minister of Health?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, that project, if it is ongoing now as the honourable member indicates it is, as far as I know it is going to continue, and if it doesn't, it has nothing to do with the change that we announced today.

[1:30 p.m.]

MR.GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister, there is no question that this expansion may not have taken place if decision-making powers rested in downtown Halifax. This expansion involves more than physical space. There will be a new patient call system, as well as a new system for delivering oxygen. My question is, given that the Premier has made a huge issue of the minister signing off on expenditures over $1,000 and given that all responsibilities now rest in downtown Halifax, will the minister please reassure the people of southwestern Nova Scotia that they will not experience a delay in the opening of the Yarmouth Regional Hospital as a result of this secret Order in Council decision.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, with regard to that project, the project is ongoing. I am told that it is slightly behind schedule but as I said in the answer to the previous question, that project is going to stand over and above any administrative changes that were made to the Western Regional Health Board today.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my final question to the Minister of Health is, would the minister please indicate how local input and regional decisions will be dealt with in downtown Halifax?

[Page 645]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as part of my statement today, I talked about community health boards. We will be going forth with legislation to ensure their appropriate role in the health care of Nova Scotians. As well, the current administrative structure still is there. It is not our intention to take communities out of decision making; they haven't been very much in it, of course, is one of the reasons we have to make this change in the structure. So we certainly will express the wishes of the community.

I would like to emphasize again, Mr. Speaker, with your indulgence, that there seems to be some misunderstanding by members of the House. The transfer of the authority from the regional health boards to the deputy minister is a transitional thing. When the new structures are put in place, that authority will be transferred back into the regions.

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

ABOR. AFFS.: SABLE GAS - PIPELINE DISPUTE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, yesterday in Ottawa, the federal Court of Appeal issued a ruling that may bring the final stages of construction of the natural gas pipeline to a halt. The court agreed in an oral decision that Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline hadn't dealt adequately with aboriginal rights. The court sent the matter back to the National Energy Board for a rehearing. In the meantime, construction of the pipeline may have to stop. My question to the Premier is, what is the Government of Nova Scotia doing in response to yesterday's groundbreaking decision?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that was an important decision that was delivered yesterday and makes a requirement of the pipeline company to satisfy certain requirements. It will be the position of this government that the decision is honoured.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, this court decision is an important comment on the whole issue of Aboriginal title. Aboriginal title is clearly a provincial issue as well as a federal issue. I want to ask the Premier, will he agree to put immediately the issue of Aboriginal title on the agenda of the tripartite forum?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I know the member opposite has concerns about the relationship that has existed and continues to exist in this province between Aboriginal peoples and non-Aboriginal people. It is something that, as yet, has not been satisfactorily addressed. This government will go down the road every day to establishing a relationship that will allow the rights of the Aboriginal people of Nova Scotia to be realized. On the other hand, we have even more pressing problems right now, with the acute situations that are present in the province and we will be looking to have a good resolution of that before we address, perhaps, the ongoing situation with the Aboriginal peoples.

[Page 646]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the problems we have today are because past governments have failed to act, have failed to negotiate upfront. I want to say to the Premier that he must know that the provincial government has consistently refused to have Aboriginal title and other issues that are subject to litigation on the agenda of the tripartite forum. That has been the big stumbling block.

I want to ask the Premier if he, in fact, is sincere in his commitment to try to repair and resolve relations with the Aboriginal community and come up with some solutions? Will he change this policy and see that the issues are dealt with by the tripartite forum that the issue of Aboriginal title comes to the agenda of that forum?

THE PREMIER: The answer to the first question is yes, because the Leader of the New Democratic Party clearly asked two questions. The whole issue of how we are going to proceed, I believe, should, perhaps, at this point, in the short term, take a back seat in terms of coming up with a rational solution for the situation that now occurs in the fisheries. Statements of ongoing or long-term policy at this point are irrelevant. What we and this government are looking for is a practical solution of the situation that is occurring in the fishing communities of this province.

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

ECON. DEV. - C.B. : ASSIST. ($12 M) - COMMITMENT HONOUR

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Yesterday, I asked the Minister of Economic Development to tell Cape Bretoners if the Premier's government is going to honour the MacLellan Government's commitment of a $12 million financial top-up to the $68 million federal pledge to help the ailing Cape Breton economy. The Minister of Economic Development did not come within light years of answering the question and, indeed, appeared confused when asked that simple question. In light of your assurances, Mr. Premier, that your government will not forget Cape Breton, will you honour this commitment of $12 million today?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I do welcome the question from the member for Cape Breton South. This government is committed to the people of Cape Breton and we are working out a relationship to cooperate with the federal government as part of their economic development package that they have indicated they will make available as part of the solution for their backing away from the coal mining industry in Cape Breton. We are looking for a way and are prepared to make a commitment once we have established the proper working relationship with the federal government. So what we are looking for is a cooperative approach by the two levels of government to looking and solving the economic problems of Cape Breton.

[Page 647]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that's all very fine but that is not what I asked him. Again, to the Premier, Mr. Premier, recently in Sydney you confirmed your willingness to cooperate with the federal government to assist Cape Bretoners in what you refer to as a new direction. Mr. Premier, what can Cape Bretoners expect from you other than useless rhetoric? Will you commit to this $12 million that was previously committed by the MacLellan Government now, today, in this House?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, Cape Bretoners are not going to be disappointed in the response of this government to the issue that the member brings to the floor. However, the proper announcement of that will be made by the government in due time. (Interruption)

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Yes, have a barbecue and don't worry about it.

Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is again to the Premier. Mr. Premier, two things are obvious to me, this government led by Prince John and his Finance Minister, the Sheriff of Nottingham, have no intention of doing anything in Cape Breton. Will the Premier admit that he has written off Cape Breton because his political masters have told him to do so? Mr. Premier, please come clean with the people of Cape Breton, you have no intentions of doing anything down there and you know it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I believe that question is below the usual standard of the member opposite. I will say to the member opposite that this government will keep its commitments to the people of Cape Breton, it will keep its commitments to all Nova Scotians, and it will participate in an economic revival in cooperation with the federal government, something that has not been able to be achieved by the previous government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - HWY. NO. 101 TWINNING:

GOV'T. (CDN.) ADVANCE - REQUEST

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the part-time Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Sonja Wood, a concerned Nova Scotian who was paralysed in a care accident on Highway No. 101 has recently met with federal Transportation Minister, the Honourable David Collenette. The federal minister, in the company of the good Senator Bernie Boudreau, informed her that Nova Scotia could ask for an advance on federal money for the twinning of Highway No. 101. I would like to ask the part-time minister, has the minister asked Mr. Collenette for this advance?

[Page 648]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. I would like to begin by commending Sonja Wood and the others who have raised the entire issue of the twinning of Highway No. 101 and highway safety concerns right straight across this province to a federal forum. I appreciated very much the fact that the federal minister made time to hear her concerns, and that, in fact, he was willing to entertain the need for this province to have funding. Are we looking at what that could do for this province in terms of our need to address the infrastructure shortfalls? Absolutely.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. part-time minister, you are learning quickly. Sonja Wood and the Twin-to-Win Ladies, my congratulations, of course. I realize the part-time minister, with his many responsibilities is extremely busy, but I ask you again, have you ever approached the federal minister, as Ms. Wood did, about funding for the twinning of Highway No. 101?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, yes, we have. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, I believe it was, we had a meeting in Saint John where that was the number one issue on the table, not just for Nova Scotia but for every province in Canada, the need for a highway investment strategy that will address the concerns not just of Nova Scotia but of every province. The reality is that the federal government has to come to the table with their share of the funding so that we can move forward.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, as the government is aware, because it is on their caucus website, the Government House Leader, the good member for Hants West, issued a press release during the election. In it, he promised, unequivocally, that a Tory Government would begin twinning Highway No. 101 immediately. I ask the part-time minister, when will the twinning of Highway No. 101 begin; immediately?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I am proud to say that, in fact, preliminary work has been done over the summer on the stretch of highway from Uniacke down. We will, once we have the funding in place, look at proceeding.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. In August, the federal Minister of Transportation visited the Marine Atlantic in North Sydney and the facility there. During his visits, he snubbed local elected representation as well as municipal leaders. He also, it has come to my knowledge, snubbed this government. Now we learn that Newfoundland, through Premier Brian Tobin is pushing for . . .

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

[Page 649]

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

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

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

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

[1:45 p.m.]

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and make a number of interventions on occupational health and safety in the Province of Nova Scotia as we prepare for our debates going in the Supply. One of the issues that was identified in the Tory election platform in the recent election, was the plan to combine the Workers' Compensation Board and the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Department of Labour under one umbrella, or indeed as someone referred to it, as one entity. There are some benefits to that particular proposal, but there are also some downsides given the circumstances and the dynamics of the particular business environment that exists between management and labour and, indeed, with government.

Mr. Speaker, as you will recall, in the early time of this particular year, we had approved the Workers' Compensation Act, which was a substantive overhaul of the Act from a number of previous years, an Act that was supported by members of the government when they were in Opposition. Ironically, this is the same Party that is now suggesting that they review this particular piece of legislation, before it has really been given an opportunity to work itself over a period of time to see if, in fact, it is fruitful and productive for all stakeholders concerned.

Mr. Speaker, what I find equally disturbing - and you can see it through some of the activities that are taking place in Nova Scotia now across Nova Scotia - is the rather dangerous and negative signal that the Minister of Labour has sent to industry and labour in Nova Scotia, by putting on hold the new occupational health and safety regulations. Regulations, by the way, that took two and one-half years through a consultative process between all stakeholders representing labour groups from across this province, industry from

[Page 650]

across this province - from the manufacturers' alliance to the Federation of Independent Business and from the agriculture community, you name it - all the stakeholders were afforded an opportunity to participate in this.

One of the key factors to occupational health and safety, Mr. Speaker, under the umbrella of the new Act, is the fact that this new Act is, in fact, working for the people of Nova Scotia. It is working for industry, it is working for labour and it is preventing deaths and preventable injuries in the market place. The evidence speaks for itself.

Since the new Occupational Health and Safety Act came into being, the total number of preventable deaths in the market place have been reduced by 50 per cent over the last two and one-half years. Mr. Speaker, that is clear, documented evidence. Further, from an industry point of view - if you want to look at it strictly from an economics point of view - industry is actually making money by the incorporation, the inclusion, the adoption and the implementation of this particular piece of legislation. The workers' compensation figures alone will show that despite the cost to industry, through the Department of Labour's Occupational Health and Safety Division, the appropriation of some $5 million on an annual basis will find that the total saving to industry is somewhere between $7 million and $8 million a year.

The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that is having a positive impact by leaning towards reduced rates for industry in Nova Scotia and that puts us in a very competitive position contrary to what this government and the previous Liberal Administration had inherited after the Regime of John Buchanan. The unfunded liability at that particular point in time was $475 million. Over an amortized plan in concert with industry the government prepared a very comprehensive and detailed plan to reduce that over a 40 year plan. We are way ahead of schedule because of action that was taken when we were in government. That unfunded liability is more like $350 million. It may be closer to $355 million compared to $475 million. If you continue at that rate, within half the period of time scheduled we will have the unfunded liability eliminated at the Workers' Compensation Board.

What the minister is signalling is that we are going to revert to the old days. Mr. Speaker, we are going to pillage that fund and we are going to compromise safety in Nova Scotia by putting those regulations on hold. The Progressive Conservative platform states quite clearly that they are going to leave the operation of this restructured plan of occupational health and safety and the Workers' Compensation Board together under the representation of business and labour, but where is the arm's length independent watchdog - government?

The division within the Department of Labour - Occupational Health and Safety Division - is second to none anywhere in any jurisdiction in Canada and it has been rated as such, Mr. Speaker. Why would anyone want to tamper with that structure before it has been given an opportunity to realize the full value. The initial results are absolutely positive. To gut

[Page 651]

that portion of the Department of Labour, which by the way represents 60 per cent of the Department of Labour, notwithstanding the fact that the Minister of Labour has sent signals out through the fire marshal's office, if you read between the lines, what we will see is a further dismantling of that department by shifting the fire marshal's office over to the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs, we will effectively eliminate 70 per cent of the Department of Labour. Where is the watchdog to protect the workers of Nova Scotia? It will not be here.

I cannot believe that any government which is motivated purely on politics - now, either they know what is in their document or they do not. If they believe that this is correct, Mr. Speaker, we have a major problem. We are turning back the clock on occupational health and safety. The issue that was raised on the Safety Committee at Webber and Associates in Sydney, that is just the tip of the iceberg of what will happen.

There has also been a suggestion that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works will now start to release and to eliminate that section of the tendering documents that requires anyone who applies for a tender contract, that if they want to get government work, presently they have to have that occupational health and safety certificate. That, Mr. Speaker, I am advised from people within the Department of Transportation and Public Works will not be a requirement in the future under that minister's direction.

What is motivating this government? Yes, if we have to have deregulation because there is too much red tape, yes, I will support that but I will not support compromising the health and safety of the people of Nova Scotia and the evidence is clear. I have spoken with members of the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Panel who met with the minister and they tell me that the Minister of Labour, who is responsible for safety in this province, refuses to tell them who he is getting the advice for to put the regulations on hold. Ask the Minister of Labour, Mr. Speaker, to table that evidence here in this House so we can evaluate it. After two and one-half years of one of the most exhaustive, extensive consultative process anywhere in Canada, this Minister of Labour, by the stroke of a pen has said no to safety, no to workers' protection the market place and, yes, let us go for the free-for-all and let the chips fall where they may. I am absolutely aghast at the rather regressive and Draconian measures that have been taken by this government.

Mr. Speaker, if you speak to any of the safety agencies that provide training for workers and indeed for various industries in Nova Scotia, they will tell you, without exception, everybody supports that program because it is a win-win situation. There has been no shred of evidence, of logic, as to why those regulations have been put on hold other than the crass political motivation to try and download on the private sector. Just laissez-faire, let everybody fight for themselves. If you get hurt in the market place, tough tickle. Go see if you can find yourself through a maze, like it used to be.

[Page 652]

MR. JOHN HOLM: It is the workplace, not the market place, that is investments.

MR. MACKINNON: The work place. I stand corrected by my colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid. The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, after what we went through in adopting the Workers' Compensation Act, which we did under a minority government situation, unlike the minister when he was Minister of Labour sitting in that chair over in the corner on a previous day with a majority of 41 members, he couldn't even get his own bill, Bill No. 99 approved. It had to be withdrawn within days, it was that terrible. They started with a consultative process that took almost two years, until the Liberals took control of the situation, reduced the unfunded liability and put some stability back in the workplace for the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, that minister has the audacity to stand up and say he is trying to correct somebody else's problems that were left for him. He is the cause of the problem. Talk about a millennium bug. We will never go ahead with that type of logic. It is absolutely unacceptable to have workers of Nova Scotia subject to such crass political motivation. In the spring session, when we adopted the Workers' Compensation Act, the Tory caucus was absolutely adamant that industry were paying too much, that we had to shift that burden on to government as well. So we went with that 75/25 per cent cost of workers' compensation, and now what are they doing? They are going to shift it back over when they roll the two of them together, and they are going to stick it to industry once again by making it 100 per cent.

I can't believe the crass political motivation because this government is in disarray and doesn't have a concrete, clear plan. Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely appalled that a senior member of this House with so much experience on industry and labour relations would allow such activity to take place. What is he saying to all those volunteers from across Nova Scotia? He is saying that their opinion counts for nothing, nothing and that is absolutely shameful that this government, this minister who is there, who has delegated the responsibility for protection of peoples' lives, will absolutely compromise day in and day out.

Mr. Speaker, the evidence is there. It is clear; it is documented. When is this government going to get the message that we cannot turn back the hands of time? We are not going back to the pre-Westray days. If any government should know about this, this government, this lot over there, should know about it. If anything, this is a major, major, issue that should be re-examined on the floor of this Legislature, in full debate.

Mr. Speaker, I realize my time has expired. I will be back on this issue.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I certainly will try to hold to the time.

AN HON. MEMBER: The volume, too, please.

[Page 653]

[2:00 p.m.]

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Yes, I will try to keep the volume respectable. Mr. Speaker, I just want to make some comments that I didn't get to make during my Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, and feel that given an opportunity, I would certainly like to. One of the things I didn't do in my speech that day, and since I didn't have a formal script, going by memory, I left out thanks to my constituents for the two elections that I won. I certainly want them to know that the confidence and the faith that they put in me has not gone unnoticed. I am not sure that I can give the best representation that they ever had, but it certainly won't be from lack of trying. I thank them very much.

The other day, as well, I had mentioned the new schools, and the former Minister of Education was very quick to remind me that it was due to the efforts of his ministry at that time that those schools came to my communities. I thanked him the other day for that, and I still thank him. Certainly there is one community that I hadn't mentioned, and that is the community of Elmsdale. This community had a new school approved, which is supposed to open in 2001. The minister at the time was aware and certainly his former colleague, Robbie Harrison, who I sat down with on a couple of occasions to try to spell out the need for a new school in that community. I was glad to see that the minister listened.

The major concern in that community is not the idea that this present school is 10 or 20 years old and they are looking for a new school, that is not the case. This school is between 35 and 40 years old, and if it was in perfect condition then people might think, well, why are you coming to government for a new school? About a year ago, there was an oil leak at that site. The board had to remove the soil in the area, and in doing so, actually had to tear down part of the building, remove classrooms and the gymnasium.

As you might well expect, to do this at the start of the school year left a major problem for the school community and the community as a whole. The Grade 5 students had to be shipped to Lantz because there was no space in the building as it was for those students, and presently, this year, they are still in the community of Lantz. The students are carrying out physical education, because their gymnasium was destroyed, in the hallways of the school. The parents of . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber. I would ask the members to take their conversations outside. The honourable member for Hants East has the floor.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the parents of Elmsdale and their advisory council are extremely concerned, especially in light of the growing population in the area, about the condition of their building and the age of the building. They certainly would like to see their children have as good an advantage as other children in the area.

[Page 654]

I think on that note, I would encourage the Minister of Education to proceed with her review. I would like to be assured, and I think this community would like to be assured, that the minister is reviewing the funding process and not whether or not this building would need to be replaced. I would offer an invitation to the minister, certainly not while the House is sitting but at the point when the House rises, to meet the community, to take a look at the school, and to become aware of the concerns that the community has.

There was a room built on the school, which is actually more like an echo chamber. I am not sure how much use the school is able to get from that. The situation there is a serious one. I think the people in that community deserve to be treated as well as any other community and I think the condition there is above and beyond just an ordinary review. It is an emergency situation and it has actually gone on too long.

I was surprised that the former government, as much as I was pleased to hear them say they were going to build another school, that they were going to put it to 2001 considering the condition of that present facility. I hope the minister will consider my offer if not to go there with me, but certainly to go there with anybody to have a look. I think it would be an eye-opener and would bring home to her the urgency for doing something for that community.

Hants East has a variety of sport organizations and I just want to mention one in particular. That is the Hants East Penquins that have been there for a number of years. I am sure the honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill, with the Truro Bearcats, would know of the rivalry for years between the two. The community there is very proud of the Penquins.

Mr. Speaker, I want to mention some of the people of Hants East. I think the people there are one of our most valuable resources. Here in the House I have read a resolution that was passed congratulating Rainbow Farms for receiving the Canada Export Award and Rainbow Farms actually deals with a blueberry operation and have established their own freezing operation. This is to the credit of Mr. Bud Weatherhead, the owner of the farm. They also they have a strawberry operation which is one of two in Hants East, the other one is Telder Berry farm but Rainbow Farms certainly by getting that award shows the initiative, the determination and commitment to the agricultural sector. I think I mentioned that 18 per cent of the province's dairy production comes from that area, but certainly it is a slightly more diversified economy than just agriculture.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, other Canadians feel so assured by the quality of the dairy producers in Hants East that the President of the Canadian Dairy Association comes from West Gore, Barren Blois, so I think that indicates what other Canadians think about the quality of the dairy producers in my riding. Also the Upper Rawdon area there are two other businesses I would like to mention. One is somewhat untraditional actually for a lot of areas, it is a relatively new business in Nova Scotia and I think I would like to see that it gets some attention; that is Scotia Slate. This operation produces slate products for patios, et cetera, and

[Page 655]

I think if anybody had a chance to see their brochure, they would be quite impressed by the quality of the material they produce.

The other one is one of two meat packing operations, Meehans Meat Packers, which actually slaughter up to 25 per cent of all the beef in Nova Scotia. They are a provincially inspected plant as is the other one which is Moxsoms in Shubenacadie. So 25 per cent of the province's beef being slaughtered there, I think, is significant. I would certainly hope that this government, I know in discussion with the Minister of Agriculture, beef production is important to him and I would certainly like to see initiatives that would help raise that sector of the economy.

Before sitting, there are some people that I would like to thank. I did not make enough of my campaign workers and I know they know who they are, but certainly I wanted to thank them for all their efforts. In some cases the campaigns are so busy that quite often there are people helping your campaign, that you don't actually get to see, so for their faith in me, I appreciate it, and for their efforts in helping me get re-elected.

I would also like to thank my own caucus for their help in getting me through the last year and one-half in the House. Their guidance has been great, and especially to the staff in our caucus office and also to my Leader, Robert Chisholm, I would like to say thanks for his help through what seemed to be kind of a quick introduction to the parliamentary process. I know some of the new members in the House would realize that you don't really get enough in-servicing on what the whole process is in the House. You have to kind of learn by the seat of your pants, so I think it is great to have good people around to guide you, and I thank them.

One other individual that I see almost on a daily basis, or try to, is my constituency assistant, Mr. Randy Leighton. Our history goes back a long way, to high school days, and he has proved to be a valuable help in my office. Our backgrounds are similar, rural agrarian backgrounds, so therefore we can easily come to a similar vision on a wide variety of points. I think it has been helpful in my constituency for the people who call my office to have someone like Randy there. It has been a great help. I know in the responses we get that people certainly make use of us and I think that indicates a little bit about the job that we do.

Before I close, I would also like to make a comment to the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank who raised the issue of us sharing a limb on the same family tree, I won't be in a rush to prune that tree, knowing that. I want to let the honourable member know that if he looks on the MacDonell branches of that family tree, he will find another Tory member, a Member of Parliament, and he might be interested to know that it is the present federal Leader of the Tory Party in Canada. So when you have a chance to cross paths, I am sure that will be the first question on his mind for you.

[Page 656]

Mr. Speaker, before I sit down, one other point. I want to mention to the Minister of Health that health is a major concern in my riding, because it is a large rural riding. Also, I would hope the former Minister of Health will listen to this. We have a group of people in my riding, I think, who are unselfish and always giving, and one of those people is the former councillor for the Kennetcook area, Dr. Tim Snow. Dr. Snow is retired, has been for some time, but he worked for over a year and one-half at the medical clinic in Kennetcook without a salary. That, I hope, will indicate to members what the doctor situation in my riding is, and we hear about rural, and we talk about Amherst and Truro in terms of rural, but I am talking about a part of Nova Scotia that is really rural. I hope the Minister of Health will come to my riding to meet some of the people there and address some of these concerns.

Dr. Snow, his history of giving is well-known; he was a former warden and was a councillor until he recently suffered bad health with a stroke and is now in Windsor in a nursing home, which is another serious concern in my riding that there isn't a nursing home. I raise these concerns to the Minister of Health and I hope I can bring him to my riding to meet with some of those people to help address and listen to those concerns. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you members of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond, on an introduction.

M. MICHEL SAMSON: Merci, Monsieur le président. Au nom de mon collègue, honourable membre de Clare qui ne peut pas être ici car il est au comité au moment, ça me fait un grand plaisir de pointer l'attention aux membres à votre galerie, monsieur le président. Aujourd'hui nous avons de la visite de quatre élèves de l'École Secondaire de Clare. Puis avec eux est leur professeur Monsieur Gilles LeBlanc et je demandenais à tous les membres à leur donner la bienvenue ici à L'Assemblé Provinciale. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to get involved in the discussions in the House. I find it interesting that the honourable member for Hants East - I grew up out in Hants East and know a number of the people that he speaks of - he didn't mention, for example, Ted Isenor and Clifford Isenor and the immense contribution that they made to the success of the Dutch Settlement Lumber Mill and the Isenor Box Factory, and just a tremendous family all around.

[2:15 p.m.]

It is very interesting that he would talk about the community focus and the community aspect of Hants East. I certainly enjoyed growing up there. It kind of reminds me of where I am now, in Dartmouth. We have a very cohesive group of individuals in Dartmouth trying to maintain some identity in an ever-enlarging environment, that being the Halifax Regional Municipality.

[Page 657]

Mr. Speaker, it has been interesting the last couple of days in the debate, when we talk about such major institutions as the new forensic and prison facility being built on the Dartmouth side of the harbour, still in metro but on the Dartmouth side of the harbour. It just adds so much more to the initiatives of the businesspeople in Dartmouth and also the residents of Dartmouth to help further expand the history of Dartmouth in that it was built on industry many years ago. Here we are getting back to a foundation in Dartmouth that will see spin-off and growth as a result of a government initiative to support such an institution in an area like Dartmouth.

We, as a business community and as a residential community, have been working very hard to bring revitalization to downtown Dartmouth. It was interesting, I attended a hearing yesterday on an application for another beverage room licence in Dartmouth; the tremendous amount of support that came from the residents and the business community for a properly managed development and expansion of services in Dartmouth. There was general concern about the quality of the establishment. There was concern about, again I use the word, spin-off quite frequently, but so many things you do when you are expanding business, when you are expanding communities, when you are building subdivisions around the province, as does the Housing Commission promote, there are so many things that spin off from those initiatives.

Sometimes people get focused on a very narrow road in their efforts to promote stability and social programs in their constituencies, and don't step back and take a look at the really big picture of how major expansion in industry and in housing and in institutional expansion, what a great effect that has on the overall community. It is unfortunate that some people do that. It is almost like they have blinders on and they don't see that if it happens in Dartmouth North or if it happens in Dartmouth East or if it happens in Dartmouth-Cole Harbour or if it happens in Eastern Shore or in our case, if it happens in Canso or in Guysborough, bringing credit to our member for Guysborough; the things that happen in Guysborough affect Dartmouth South.

I made a comment about the institution going in Burnside will create jobs in Dartmouth South, and a comment came back, no, it won't. You see that is what happens when you focus on a very narrow channel and don't look at the big picture for the benefits that such an institution like that will bring to all of metro. (Applause)

I think one of the many things that our government will continue to promote is the idea that when you do something, you do it for the benefit of all the people of Nova Scotia and you don't pick one little issue to satisfy one segment or one interest group, but you make sure that what you do benefits all the people when you spend those kinds of dollars and make those kinds of decisions. It is important that we continue to do that and I think we have set the tone for that already.

[Page 658]

Getting back to Dartmouth, many people have been involved both politically and otherwise in the Dartmouth scene. I am not going to be political here. There are people from across the board, whether it is Joe Zatzman, Gloria McCluskey, Rollie Thornhill, Danny Brownlow, Charlie Keating and many other people who are ongoing with their support to ensure that Dartmouth does come back to the position that it held in the greater Halifax community, a position we can then go on and be as proud as we were 20 years to 25 years ago. Unfortunately things have happened over the last six years to 10 years that have been regressive for Dartmouth.

AN HON. MEMBER: Mayor Savage.

MR. OLIVE: I would rather not talk about being savaged because we certainly have been savaged in Dartmouth. In keeping with trying to keep the decorum above the bar that we have now set, I don't intend to get personal against any individual. Enough to say that we have been savaged and then I will leave it at that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Not the time for apologies.

MR. OLIVE: Thank you very much, member for Richmond. I don't anticipate that I will have to do that again.

Mr. Speaker, we have some major developments occurring in Dartmouth that are on the boards to be processed; I think of one being the Dartmouth Cove area. We have had a lot of discussion in the last 25 years to 30 years about developing Dartmouth Cove and I am very optimistic now that in recent discussions with the Waterfront Development Corporation and the plans that they are now having and the attention they are now paying to Dartmouth, will certainly benefit development in Dartmouth Cove.

We have people involved in the offshore in Dartmouth Cove. Again, I go back to institutions. When you have companies like Secunda Marine who are so involved in the offshore, the spin-offs to Dartmouth and Halifax alone are immense. The honourable member for Eastern Shore, the spin-offs to the Sheet Harbour area are immense. So it is very important that when we talk about development and we talk about what we as a government can do for the people of Nova Scotia, that we don't only consider how it affects the people of Dartmouth South, Dartmouth North or Dartmouth East, but what the benefits are to the majority of Nova Scotians and indeed to our future so that our kids and our grandchildren can in fact stay here and work.

It was very interesting, one of the individuals at the hearing yesterday, just a young man with a wife and a young child who lives downtown, it was quite incredible. An individual who wasn't originally from Dartmouth, bought an older home, spent some money, fixed it up - I would suggest probably doubled it in value because he has done a wonderful job fixing it up - but I looked at him and I see the future of downtown Dartmouth and I see the future of

[Page 659]

Dartmouth as a whole. This young gentleman works in Halifax; he takes the ferry ride, which is probably the most beautiful and inexpensive harbour tour or water tour, for that matter, in Canada, every morning and every night and he gets an opportunity by taking that tour, to read up on the news of the day, to talk to other people who are enjoying the quiet life in Dartmouth, living in refurbished homes and looking forward to the revitalization. I think it is exciting, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member consider an introduction?

MR. OLIVE: Yes, I would, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: I appreciate you relinquishing the floor. I would like to call the attention of members of the House to the gallery opposite. We have two visitors here today: Mr. Brian Cullen who is the Clerk for the Municipality of Digby and with him is Patsy Schofield and she, I believe, works in the Municipality of Argyle. I would like the members of the House to give them recognition. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Human Resources on an introduction.

HON. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I rise also on a matter of an introduction. I would like to point out in the gallery that we have visiting us today the Warden of the Municipality of the District of Chester, Mr. Allen Webber. I would ask him to stand. (Applause)

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: Four minutes.

MR. OLIVE: Four minutes is not a long time when you want to promote your lovely City of Dartmouth.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Dartmouth South entertain another introduction?

MR. OLIVE: I will, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

[Page 660]

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I believe there is a Mr. and Mrs. Bowen from Ontario in the gallery. I am not sure if they are still up there. I have got a note from them. Are they up in the gallery? Yes, they are well-known individuals. (Applause) Anyway, I will go get them. Thank you very much.

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, that is very interesting. The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid indicates that Dartmouth is a community and I am so pleased that he recognizes it as a community.

AN HON. MEMBER: Not a city.

MR. OLIVE: Not a city, as a community, Mr. Speaker, that includes Dartmouth North, Dartmouth East, Dartmouth South, Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, and all the surrounding areas, and what a wonderful community it is. It is so important that as a community and I know the . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member yield the floor for an introduction?

MR. OLIVE: Yes, Mr. Speaker, of course I will.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, the people are in the gallery now, Peter and Linda Bowen. Linda is from Ontario and so is Peter but Peter is originally from the lovely community of Mahone Bay and they are back visiting the wonderful Province of Nova Scotia, if they would stand up and be recognized. (Applause)

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, if there are no more introductions, I was very briefly going to mention the member for Dartmouth East who I know is a . . .

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

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I would, yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: I would like to introduce in the gallery just opposite there, Mr. Speaker, two people from the Truro area: Mr. Prem Dhir and Mr. Ray Merriam. Ray is a county councillor in the County of Colchester. We would like to welcome you to the House. (Applause)

[Page 661]

MR. OLIVE: There cannot be that many people in the gallery, Mr. Speaker. I think I have 30 seconds or less. I would just want to finish off by saying that while we may not be on the same political team, I believe the member for Dartmouth East is in fact a true Dartmouthian in every sense of the word and does work and support and has worked to support the community aspect of our side of the harbour and I would commend him for his efforts. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[2:30 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mr. Kevin Deveaux in the Chair.]

[5:59 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened with Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, in the Chair.]

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

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and made some progress in considering Supply and asks leave to sit again.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow at the hour of 9:00 a.m. and we will sit until 5:00 p.m., if necessary. The order of business will be the daily routine, followed by estimates and then Committee of the Whole House on Bills and we will be dealing with Bill No. 2. When that business is finished, the House will adjourn.

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

The motion carried.

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

[Page 662]

"Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education should immediately inform the students, teachers and parents of this community of her department's plans for Sir John A. Macdonald High School."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

EDUC.: SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD HS - PLANS

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, again, it is a privilege and a honour to stand in my place to talk about this wonderful high school. At the outset, I must thank and congratulate the minister for following up on providing staff an important meeting that was held in my community last night. I do appreciate and on behalf of the community, I express that thanks and appreciation to the minister. The member of her staff who was present, Mr. Gerald Muise, was helpful. He answered some of the questions that were directed towards him and he assured staff and parents present that he would return to them with the proper information on other questions.

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to inform the House that at last evening's meeting, I had the opportunity to meet a Grade 12 student there who is the co-chair of the Student Council, an outstanding young lady named Marianne Campbell. As I came into the lobby of the school, Marianne said to me, Mr. Estabrooks, don't let them close our school. I have known Marianne for a long time and I assured her that we would, certainly, be looking at all kinds of alternatives before and under any circumstances we would close this 32 year old school. She also said, I don't want to hear about contingency plans, either.

Mr. Speaker, when I was in Grade 12, I had no idea what contingency plans were all about, but the staff and students of the school have been made aware of the fact that there are contingency plans if the air quality problems at Sir. John A. Macdonald High School continue. I think it is time for clarity to answer some of these types of questions for the students, the staff, for the parents and all interested citizens of the community of Timberlea-Prospect.

Also at that meeting, I had the occasion to listen to the Occupational Health & Safety Committee Chairman, Mr. Harry Covert, who spoke at length about the long-standing problem with air quality in that school. However, the resolution deals with the long-term plans and it says that we would like to know, the community that is, they should immediately inform the students, the parents and the teachers of this community about the department's plans for Sir John A. Macdonald High School. We are not talking just short-term plans here, Mr. Speaker. We are talking long-term plans.

[Page 663]

Does this older school have a future? There are other older schools throughout this province. To mind comes Halifax West and Duncan MacMillan. We have heard of the previous government's plans on how they built or plan to build all these wonderful new Taj Mahals throughout the province. I don't mean that as sarcasm towards the past Minister of Education. I don't think we should go out of our way to constantly be comparing Horton High School to other schools, but, Mr. Speaker, it hurts me as a parent and as a past teacher at Sir John A. Macdonald High School to see the inequality of education when you have a Horton High with all the bells and whistles, all the computers and all the wonderful new technology and then I see Sir John A. Macdonald High School. I can compare Sir John A. Macdonald to other schools in our own regional board. There is also a disparity there, a disparity between a new facility such as Auburn High School and Sir John A. Macdonald High School.

I know the minister has committed to take a tour of that school and I thank him for that. In particular, I know that Marianne Campbell would love to be on the tour with you. I encourage the minister, when she does go to Sir. John A. Macdonald High School, to look at these factors. In back of the school, Mr. Speaker, are two portables with two scheduled for next year and two the following year, which means we are in a growth area. As I have said to you before, and I see the smile coming to your face, I am not Einstein, but with a growing population in BLT, Beechville, Lakeside and Timberlea, with a growing population in the Hammonds Plains corridor and in St. Margaret's Bay, we are going to have to have an expansion to Sir John A. Macdonald High School.

I want the minister, also, to look at the school gymnasium. Mr. Speaker, it is a junior high size gymnasium. There is no way that you can host major tournaments, major events in that gymnasium. There is no auditorium at Sir John A. Macdonald. Graduation from this beloved high school is held at the Atlantic Winter Fair site, which is a good spot to have it, but these young people do not actually physically graduate from their own high school because they do not have an auditorium or a gymnasium big enough to host the event.

I urge the minister, on her tour, to go to the library. In that library, she will see that there have been a lot of changes in the school business in the last 30 years. Libraries are more than just books. Libraries in the 1990's and in the 2000 years ahead are going to be multi-faceted facilities. It is important that the library in this older high school is upgraded. The cafeteria is small. The labs are outdated. I can go on, as you well know.

There is a double standard. The double standard is, are the young people who are served by this high school receiving the same quality of education? Do the teachers who work at Sir John A. Macdonald High School have the same equipment, the same materials as some of these other, better equipped, multi-faceted high schools?

[Page 664]

Madam Minister, Mr. Speaker and members present, unfortunately, the answer is no. There is inequality. Young people and parents want to know that in this fast-growing community that I have the privilege of serving, where our young people will be going to high school in the year 2000 and beyond? Will they be going to an overcrowded, under-serviced building such as Sir John A., with its notorious air quality problems?

The air quality problems are temporarily taken care of. Mr. Muise, last evening, informed parents that there were plans in effect that the problem should be solved, that over the Christmas vacation, there should be an air-handling facility that will solve the problem for now. However, I am talking long range. I am talking not tomorrow, I am talking next year and the following year.

This high school cannot be forgotten. Under no circumstances can portable classrooms be allowed to pop up behind that school like mushrooms, because that is what is going to happen. I have had the opportunity to serve in other high schools in the Halifax Regional Municipality; Sackville High School, before it was on split shift. We had portables galore. I have seen more portables in my teaching career than enough. They are not the way to solve overcrowding problems in schools. Portables are stopgap motions only.

Those stopgap solutions are not what is needed at Sir John A. Young people are continuing to move into our community. I was sharing, earlier today, a moment with the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, who shares part of my riding, on a boundary. Students from C.P. Allen and Sir John A., where are they going to be going to school? We have a fast-growing community.

I look forward to the challenge of continuing to serve that community. I look forward to the challenge as an educator and as the MLA to meet the demands of the young people who have the privilege of attending this high school. I look forward to the minister's report, after her tour, and I don't expect it right away. Madam Minister, I know that you are busy and you have other commitments. I encourage you, when you go, to ask for Marianne Campbell. I encourage you to also listen to the vice-principal, Mr. Al Rayner. Mr. Rayner used to be a student of mine, and everything he knows, I taught him. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, this is my first attempt at a late show, and before I address the question, I think I should say that it is very difficult for someone who spent 25 years trying to use the fewest words to make a point quickly and now has to turn around and learn to use the most words to avoid making a point at all. (Laughter)(Applause)

Mr. Speaker, all members of the House are interested in safe, healthy schools. I want to thank the honourable member and the other honourable member for bringing forward this issue for debate this evening. As the member mentioned, the air quality issue is not just an

[Page 665]

issue at Sir John A. There are schools right across the province that need repairs, they need renovations, they need new buildings. It could be a high school in Central Kings, where the renovation costs are looking to be very high, or the kids who are crowded into portables at Whycocomagh that are in just desperate shape.

All those children and students deserve better. The member opposite is quite correct, there is not equality as such in the system. Some schools are physically better than others, some have better technology, some have better teachers. Some of this inequality we cannot get rid of. We could be in the same school and one of us has a rotten teacher and one of us has a great teacher. Where it can be gotten rid of, we will attempt to do it, but that is going to be an ongoing process and nothing will be all right all the time.

In terms of short-term measures, we can try to come to grips with the costs of these versus the costs of long-term measures. It is obvious you cannot put a price tag on the health and safety of children, but the problem is that you sometimes have to put some kind of a price tag on health and safety. That is an issue that any government has to grapple with. Right now it is our government; it was the Liberals; and next time it may be the NDP. These problems will not go away, we all know that, but regardless, we have to find a way to address these problems in a way the taxpayers can afford, because the ones paying for it will be the children of the children in the schools now.

I would like to say a few words about the history of Sir John A. I am sure all of what I say is well known to the member for Timberlea-Prospect - and he might be able to help me with the pronounciation here - but other members may also be interested. The school was built more than 30 years ago. Actually it was built for $870,000, but of course that was 30 years ago and tuition at Dalhousie was $500. So times may not have changed that much, but the value of money certainly has.

Sir John A. has graduated a lot of very successful people, from athletes to academics. That may be why your friend, the student, did not want the school closed because in spite of the fact that it is in bad condition, it is a great school. I have the names of a few of the graduates here. One of them is Dr. Stephen Couban. Is that the right pronunciation?

MR. ESTABROOKS: He was a student of mine.

MISS PURVES: Yes. He is a heart surgeon now, as you probably know, sorry, a heart transplant specialist at the VGH.

MR. ESTABROOKS: He must have learned something more than I taught him. (Laughter)

MISS PURVES: Rachel Dennis, now in Olympic sailing trials; Peter McCreath . . .

[Page 666]

MR. ESTABROOKS: We won't go there.

MISS PURVES: Okay, we will not go there any further.Vicki Brown, the former chair of the Halifax Regional School Board; and on a personal note we have Suzanne Cirtwill, a secretary who really helps keep our office going over at the Department of Education. There are many successful graduates, teachers, principals, et cetera.

I would like to touch on the air quality problems and just repeat that we have tried, that there have been many studies. Parents have seen probably too many studies, Vaughn Engineering - I cannot even pronounce this one, Mycotaxon Consulting, and CBCL. Lots of work has been carried out on the school. Siding and windows have been replaced; the boiler was isolated from the air-handling units, and the units were relocated.

The school's Occupational Health and Safety Committee and the community council should be commended because I know they have been very frustrated trying to deal with this air quality problem and they deserve the applause of this House. Despite their best efforts though, the latest chapter started last week when children and staff were sent home due to fumes and poor air circulation.

Mr. Speaker, I did table a report concerning Sir John A. in the House earlier this week. It is part of the ongoing commitment of the Department of Education to deal with these environmental problems as soon as they crop up. Mr. Muise did go out and make sure the problem was dealt, with and the member is correct, there is a temporary solution at work now, and there will be a better air handling system. Probably the whole thing will cost about $310,000 by early in the new year.

The resolution talked about the long-term plan, Mr. Speaker, for this school. I do not

have a long-term plan for the school because at the moment this plan is being worked on by the school board, together with the Department of Education, because they are looking at a long-term plan for all the high schools in the HRM.

[6:15 p.m.]

Sir John A. Macdonald, I can assure the member, will not be forgotten but we have problems or potential problems of whether it is over-enrolment or declining enrolment in many other high schools, including Halifax West. The monster problems that are not mentioned much at QEH and St. Pats, it won't be too long before something will have to be done about those schools as well.

So we are working with the board to come up with the best possible long-term plan to accommodate all the high school students in the metro area, including those at Sir John A. Macdonald.

[Page 667]

How much time do I have, Mr. Speaker? Three minutes - not too bad.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, the big picture. This winter we will be able to respond, we will be able to inform parents what we plan to do with their schools, with their students. We will probably have a good idea of the time-frame. There is no question in any of this, whether it is P3 or not P3, however we finance them. The department is continuing to identify the need for new schools. We will do the best we can for the students of this province and Sir John A. Macdonald will not be forgotten.

That is all the time I can fill. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate, "Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education should immediately inform the students, teachers and parents of this community of her department's plans for Sir John A. Macdonald High School.".

Mr. Speaker, I recall when I was Minister of Education not long ago that I did have some discussions with staff in the department about Sir John A. Macdonald High School. Sir John A. Macdonald was built in 1968, it opened in September of that year with approximately 1,000 students in Grades 7 to 12, as well as a special education wing. In the mid-1970's it became a Grades 10 to 12 school with an intermediate education program.

This school serves the communities of Timberlea, Beechville, Lakeside, Brookside, Prospect, Terence Bay, Shad Bay, Dover, Peggy's Cove, Glen Margaret, Hacketts Cove, Seabright, Tantallon, St. Margarets Bay, Boutilier's Point, Black Point, Queensland and Hubbards. The community served by this school is one of the fastest growing areas in the Halifax Regional Municipality, as the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect so well informed us earlier.

Mr. Speaker, as I understand it, and I stand to be corrected, there have been no major repairs or renovations carried out in this school since it opened back in the late 1960's. When you take this into account, this school was built to 1960's standards. Yes, standards have changed but yet the school is still waiting to be upgraded to meet the new requirements now in place in our province. The school is in need of extensive renovations or remodelling. Sir John A. Macdonald needs major exterior and interior work, so when you take into account that this school, since it opened its doors, the repairs have been neglected or delayed.

On top of many years of neglecting this facility, Sir John A. Macdonald has had air quality problems. Yes, Mr. Speaker, some work was carried out over this past summer on the ventilation system of the school. The Department of Education provided somewhere around $350,000 in emergency funding to help fix - and I stress to help fix - the air quality problem.

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But the air quality at Sir John A. Macdonald continues to be a concern at that school. Again, and the minister indicated this earlier, late last week the school was closed, so I guess everyone attending that school is thinking how long the school will remain open.

Sir John A. Macdonald High School needs major attention. The time has come for this Tory Government and for this Minister of Education to respond to the needs of students, staff, parents and all of these communities that are now being served by Sir John A. Macdonald High School.

Mr. Speaker, back in May when our former Liberal Government announced a series of much-needed new schools to be built across this province - and this was after these projects had been recommended by the regional school boards across the province to our government - I did indicate to the media at that time that while I was minister that I did recognize there were other projects that needed to be addressed, and Sir John A. Macdonald High School was one of those. Among those was the need to address the problems that Sir John A. Macdonald is faced with and has been facing for many years. It hasn't started overnight.

I hope that this new Tory Government will continue to work with all regional school boards, not just the Halifax Regional School Board, to help them address the needs of all students in all parts of the province. I encourage the minister not to wait until there is a crisis at Sir John A. Macdonald, but to plan for the future.

As we have heard in recent days, this Tory Government is reviewing all programs, all services, but there is no need for a review on Sir John A. Macdonald High School in this case at all. I think the facts are known. There has been lots of discussion with the staff of the Department of Education, along with the Halifax Regional School Board and with staff at Sir John A. Macdonald. So I encourage the minister not to wait too long, but to certainly start now.

As the minister indicated earlier, yes, she certainly has a long list, on her desk, of schools that need immediate attention for major renovation projects, and also to address whatever problems. I am not going to get involved in those tonight because I don't have time, but we certainly recognize there are many communities out there. Sir John A. Macdonald High School is another one that needs either a major renovation job or it needs a brand new school for that community in order to respond to the urgent, pressing needs of that community.

In closing, I certainly would encourage the minister to work with her staff, with the Halifax Regional School Board, and I hope in the very near future we will be hearing from this minister with some good news for my colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect and for the students of those communities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving me this opportunity.

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MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank the honourable members for taking part in this debate this evening. We stand adjourned.

[The House rose at 6:24 p.m.]