The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Thur., Oct. 28, 1999

First Session

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 28, 1999

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Econ. Dev. - Jail (Burnside): Correspondence (Post 16/08/99) -
None, Hon. G. Balser 1149
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 347, Sports - Hall of Fame (N.S.): Bob Boucher (SMU Hockey) -
Inductee Congrats, Mr. Robert Chisholm 1150
Vote - Affirmative 1150
Res. 348, Health - S. Shore Reg. Hosp.: CAT Scanner - Ozzie Stiles/
Health Serv. Fdn.-Congrats., Mr. D. Downe 1151
Vote - Affirmative 1151
Res. 349, Justice - Missing Person: Arlene MacLean (Eastern Passage) -
Vigil Efforts Recognize, Mr. K. Deveaux 1151
Vote - Affirmative 1152
Res. 350, PC Caucus (N.S.) - Free Vote: "Silence of the Hamms" -
New Dimension, Mr. R. MacKinnon 1152
Res. 351, Gov't. (N.S.): Credibility - Burned-Up, Mr. D. Dexter 1153
Res. 352, Brunswick St. Utd. Ch.: Anniv. 27th - Congrats.,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1153
Vote - Affirmative 1154
Res. 353, Sports - Hall of Fame (N.S.): Inductees - John & Edith
MacGlashen (Dart.)- Congrats., Dr. J. Smith 1154
Vote - Affirmative 1155
Res. 354, Fin. - Min.: Children Understanding (Gov't. [N.S.]) Limited -
Remember, Mr. F. Corbett 1155
Res. 355, Veterans Affs. (Can.) - C.R. MacKinnon (Glace Bay):
Rep. (CBH) Italy - Honour, Mr. D. Wilson 1155
Vote - Affirmative 1156
Res. 356, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Timberlea-Prospect:
Rds. (Subdivisions) Cost-Sharing - Clarify, Mr. W. Estabrooks
(By Mr. H. Epstein) 1156
Res. 357, Lbr. - Paramedics: Occupational Health and Safety Regs. -
Adopt, Mr. R. MacKinnon 1157
Res. 358, Educ. - HRM: User Fees (School Fields) - Prevent,
Mr. K. Deveaux 1157
Res. 359, Culture - Brenda Doucet (Clare): CD Launch - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Gaudet 1158
Vote - Affirmative 1159
Res. 360, Health - Breast Cancer Awareness Day: Cdn. Breast Cancer
Fdn. (Atl. Chair) - Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 1159
Vote - Affirmative 1159
Res. 361, Educ. - Antigonish Career Fair: Success - Extend,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1160
Vote - Affirmative 1160
Res. 362, Gov't. (N.S.) - Bills: Normalcy Return - Direct,
Mr. P. MacEwan 1160
Res. 363, Lbr. - Enfield Vol. Fire Dept.: Awards Ceremony - Congrats.,
Mr. John MacDonell (Mr. J. Pye) 1161
Vote - Affirmative 1161
Res. 364, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Yarmouth: Roads - Plans Reveal,
Mr. W. Estabrooks (by Mr. H. Epstein) 1162
Res. 365, Allan T. McDonell - Descendants: Reunion - Congrats.,
Mr. John MacDonell (Mr. J. Pye) 1162
Vote - Affirmative 1163
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Justice - FOI: Applicant Info. - Policy, The Premier 1163
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 159, Justice - FOI: Applicant Info. - Policy, Mr. Robert Chisholm 1168
No. 160, Justice - FOI: Act Amendments - Plan, Mr. D. Downe 1170
No. 161, Justice - FOI: Act - Violation, Mr. Robert Chisholm 1172
No. 162, Justice - FOI: Request - Security, Mr. D. Downe 1173
No. 163, Exco: Code of Conduct - Introduce, Mr. Robert Chisholm 1175
No. 164, Human Res. - Min.: Resignation - Willingness, Mr. D. Wilson 1177
No. 165, Justice - FOI: Applicant Info. - Disclosure, Mr. Robert Chisholm 1179
No. 166, Justice - FOI: Info. Release - Approval, Mr. R. MacLellan 1180
No. 167, Exco: Oath - Meaning, Mr. Robert Chisholm 1182
No. 168, Justice - FOI: Act - Compliance, Mr. M. Samson 1183
No. 169, Justice - FOI: Applicant Info. - Release Consent,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 1184
No. 170, Justice - FOI: Act (Info. Release) - Change, Mr. R. MacLellan 1185
No. 171, Health - Paramedics: Retroactivity Cost - Table, Mr. D. Dexter 1187
No. 172, Human Res. - Applicants: Confidentiality - Assure,
Mr. D. Wilson 1187
No. 173, Exco - Size: Reduced - Costs Static, Mr. J. Holm 1189
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 9:38 A.M. 1191
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:00 P.M. 1191
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Lbr.: Occupational Health and Safety Regs. - Implement:
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1191
Hon. R. Russell 1193
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1196
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 6:30 P.M. 1199
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 1:56 A.M. 1199
CWH REPORTS 1199^^
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Oct. 29th at 8:00 a.m. 1200

[Page 1149]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, OCTOBER 28, 1999

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

8:00 A.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, yesterday a member of the Opposition requested information around an interchange at the Burnside Industrial Park relating specifically to the jail. My department reports there is no such correspondence dated after August 16th.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I don't think that was the question yesterday. The question was to table the report in this House if there was such a report.

MR. BALSER: To my knowledge there is none.

1149

[Page 1150]

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 347

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

Whereas tonight Bob Boucher will be inducted into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame; and

Whereas he is being inducted into the Hall of Fame due to his outstanding hockey coaching; and

Whereas he revived hockey at Saint Mary's University and began the Saint Mary's Hockey Camp of Champions;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its congratulations to Bob Boucher on his induction into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame tonight.

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.

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

[Page 1151]

RESOLUTION NO. 348

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

Whereas on October 14, 1999, the South Shore Regional Hospital unveiled a new CAT scanner; and

Whereas this million dollar, state-of-the-art diagnostic tool ensures the highest standard of diagnostic services on the South Shore; and

Whereas the Health Services Foundation under the direction of honorary Chairman, Ozzie Stiles, raised $250,000 in eight months from South Shore communities to support the CAT scanner;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House extend their congratulations to Ozzie Stiles and the Health Services Foundation, and through them, to the people of Nova Scotia and the South Shore for their successful efforts in improving health care services at the South Shore Regional Hospital.

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 349

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

Whereas Arlene MacLean, a resident of Eastern Passage went missing from her home on September 8, 1999; and

[Page 1152]

Whereas Arlene MacLean is desperately missed by her husband Cliff Hall and their son Kevin; and

Whereas on October 13th, a candlelight vigil was held in hopes of Arlene hearing the hopes and prayers of her friends and family for her safe return;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the efforts of those who organized the vigil for Arlene, including Tracey Bartlett, Renee White, Melanie Robitaille, Diana Marlow, Kelly Ellis, Kary Ohlhauser, and Patricia Hussey, and send on our best wishes to Cliff and Kevin as they wait for Arlene's safe return.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 350

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

Whereas prior to the July 27, 1999, provincial election, the Leader of the Tory Party boasted that members of his Tory caucus would be allowed to express their opinions in this House and participate in a free vote according to the dictates of their conscience; and

Whereas during second reading of Bill No. 9, the Government House Leader, also the Minister of Labour, one of two former Buchananites in the Tory caucus refused to allow Tory private members to speak on behalf of their constituents; and

Whereas the only exception was the member for Kings North who agreed to speak only if it compromised the rights and privileges of the member for Richmond;

Therefore be it resolved that the John Hamm plan adds new dimension to the phrase, silence of the Hamms.

[Page 1153]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 351

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

Whereas last night, the people of Atlantic Canada saw a great fireball in the sky; and

Whereas try as they might, officials have yet to identify what caused the fireball to shoot across the sky; and

Whereas we in the New Democratic Party believe that such mysteries should be solved so as to not frighten small children so close to All Hallows Eve;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize that it was the credibility of the Progressive Conservative Government that burned up on re-entry into the atmosphere and plummeted to the ground last night near Oyster Pond on the Eastern Shore.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 352

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

Whereas Brunswick Street United Church is, this year, celebrating 217 years of service to and solidarity with its diverse community; and

Whereas the theme of this year's anniversary is, Up from the Ashes, marking 20 years since a fire levelled the former church structure but not its spirit; and

Whereas an evening of reminiscing and celebration is planned for Saturday, October 30th, followed by an anniversary worship service on Sunday, October 31st;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend our sincere congratulations and best wishes to Reverend Gus and Lorna Pendleton, members of the anniversary committee and the entire congregation for the selfless contribution they make in their community.

[Page 1154]

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 Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 353

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

Whereas Edith and John MacGlashen of Dartmouth East will be inducted into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame at a ceremony later today at the World Trade and Convention Centre; and

Whereas Edith MacGlashen will be inducted into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame representing the Halifax Arcade Ladies Softball Team of 1947; and

Whereas John MacGlashen will be inducted into the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame for his support and commitment to the sport of canoeing;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Edith and John MacGlashen of Dartmouth East on this very special occasion and thank both of them for the commitment they have shown to the sports of softball and canoeing.

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.

[Page 1155]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 354

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

Whereas this weekend many children will take UNICEF boxes with them when they go trick or treating; and

Whereas this year this Finance Minister may try to take these boxes of money meant for the poor away; and

Whereas the Finance Minister will try to give this money to multi-billion-dollar corporations;

Therefore be it resolved that the Finance Minister remember that children collecting that money are too young to understand that in Nova Scotia, under a Tory Government, that the rich get richer and the poor get nothing.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 355

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

Whereas C.R. MacKinnon of Glace Bay has been chosen to represent the Cape Breton Highlanders in a memorial tour of Italy's battlefields and military cemeteries organized by the Department of Veteran Affairs; and

Whereas the tour will mark the passage of 55 years since the long and bloody struggle that began with the invasion of Sicily in 1943; and

Whereas C.R. MacKinnon's late brother, Jimmy, was wounded in combat and left a double-amputee; his brother, Josie, was killed in action; and C.R., himself, was wounded by a German shell;

[Page 1156]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House honour C.R. MacKinnon and his family for their sacrifice and offer C.R. MacKinnon our best wishes as he represents his comrades in Italy.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 356

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

Whereas the residents of numerous growing subdivisions in the Timberlea-Prospect constituency conscientiously collect signatures for petitions to have their roads placed on a cost-sharing basis with the municipality; and

Whereas this process is both frustrating and time-consuming for all involved, while these petitions sit on both municipal and provincial Transportation officials' desks; and

Whereas these residents already pay disproportionate taxes compared to the services they receive;

Therefore be it resolved that the part-time Minister of Transportation and Public Works immediately instruct his staff to meet with municipal officials to clarify the petition process in determining priorities for subdivision roads.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

[Page 1157]

RESOLUTION NO. 357

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

Whereas the Minister of Labour refuses to protect Nova Scotia's paramedics by adopting the Occupational General Safety Regulations and claiming at the same time that safety is not being compromised; and

Whereas in a television interview on Wednesday, October 27th, the Minister of Health stated, "Definitely, working conditions need to be improved for paramedics"; and

Whereas the adoption of Bill No. 9, An Act to Provide for the Continuation of Ground Ambulance Services in the Province, before the proclamation of the much delayed Occupational General Safety Regulations, puts financial opportunity ahead of workers' safety;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Labour concede the error of his ways and do the honourable thing by immediately adopting the safety regulations so that paramedics are no longer forced to work in unsafe working conditions.

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 358

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

[8:15 a.m.]

Whereas the Halifax Regional Municipality has imposed user fees on the use of soccer and ball fields in the city; and

[Page 1158]

Whereas soccer and ball fields are not available for use by the schools without paying a user fee; and

Whereas the Department of Education has done nothing to prevent the downloading of user fees to local schools, parents and students;

Therefore be it resolved that this House encourage the Minister of Education to work with the Halifax Regional Municipality to prevent unnecessary user fees and the further taxation of our schools and the children who use them.

I would ask for waiver, Mr. Speaker.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 359

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

Whereas last night in Belliveaus Cove, singer-songwriter Brenda Doucet, from Clare, launched her CD called Feelings From My Heart; and

Whereas Brenda's music is inspired by such events as the crash of Swissair Flight 111 and her own mother's battle with cancer; and

Whereas songs from her CD have been featured on CIFA, Clare's own French language radio station;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Brenda Doucet on the launch of her new CD and wish her well as she continues to produce music with a distinctly Nova Scotian flavour.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

[Page 1159]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 360

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

Whereas one in nine Canadian women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime and one in 25 Canadian women will die from it; and

Whereas the Atlantic Chapter of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation will today hold its Fourth Annual Breast Cancer Awareness Day; and

Whereas this year, in addition to the luncheon, an educational component will be held featuring Dr. Maureen Nolan, Dr. Bruce Colwell, Dr. Trevor Topp, Heather Hogg, Marsha Hurshman and Angela Veechio-Ozman;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Atlantic Chapter for its continued strong support of research, education diagnosis and treatment of this devastating disease.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 1160]

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 361

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

Whereas the week of October 31st to November 6th is Canada Career Week when youth are assisted with career planning; and

Whereas Canada Career Week is a national campaign held each year to help communities and schools to focus on career planning; and

Whereas a career fair is scheduled at the Antigonish Regional High School on November 2nd, where more that 50 career-related booths will be represented;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House extend best wishes for a successful event to organizers and participants of the Antigonish career fair.

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 Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 362

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

Whereas the Rules of the House permit 20 hours of debate in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills; and

Whereas the conventions of this House permit extensive debate on third reading of public bills, especially when these are contentious; and

[Page 1161]

Whereas it is mathematically impossible for this government to ram through its legislative priority by 12:00 midnight this evening, so they need not try;

Therefore be it resolved that this House directs the government to return to normalcy in the passing of bills in this House so that they may receive adequate and appropriate consideration before being imposed on the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 363

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

Whereas unselfish giving is the hallmark of voluntarism; and

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

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

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Chief Francis Ledwedge and all members of the Enfield Volunteer Fire Department.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

[Page 1162]

RESOLUTION NO. 364

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

Whereas the previous exceptional member for Yarmouth, during the last sitting of this Legislature, pressed the then Minister of Transportation about his department's plans for roads in his constituency; and

Whereas roads in rural Nova Scotia must not be allowed to be forgotten by this Tory Government; and

Whereas the part-time Minister of Transportation is obviously too busy with other responsibilities to address these matters;

Therefore be it resolved that the current member for Yarmouth attempt to follow in the big footsteps of his predecessor and ask the part-time Minister of Transportation to clarify his department's plans for the constituents of Yarmouth.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 365

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

Whereas recognition of family roots is important to connect people to their past, and it also connects them to their communities; and

Whereas it is a tribute to the character of people who try to keep connected to their relatives, both close and distant by blood and by miles; and

Whereas the descendants of Allan Thomas McDonell held their family reunion on the family homestead in Enfield on August 15th;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the descendants of Allan T. McDonell for a reunion well-organized, well-attended and now well-recognized.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 1163]

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.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if we could have the concurrence of the House to revert to the order of business, Statements of Ministers.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, my government committed to be one that is open and accountable to the people of Nova Scotia. In that spirit, I rise today to make the following statement.

The people of Nova Scotia have a right to know information about their public officials. The people of Nova Scotia have a right to know the details of most government business. Unfortunately, the people of Nova Scotia are burdened with laws in need of improvement. I would like to take a few minutes to clarify a media report regarding the actions of my office.

On October 8th, my office received a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act for correspondence and records involved with the selection of the member for Chester-St. Margaret's as Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. It was forwarded to Rob Batherson of my office on the same date. For the record, although Mr. Batherson had agreed to serve as coordinator for the Office of the Premier under Section 44 of the Act, at that time, I had not formally designated him as such in writing.

Following his briefing on the Statutes and regulations with the appropriate Department of Justice officials on October 18th, Mr. Batherson received the appropriate documentation to be named Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy coordinator, which I signed on October 19th.

[Page 1164]

The problem my office faced with this request, our first in this office, was an honest, yet complicated one. Because the information Mr. MacLeod sought was obtained prior to this government assuming office on August 16th, it was unclear whether the present Statute would allow my office to release information of a personal nature. At the time of selecting the initial Cabinet, the member for Chester-St. Margaret's had yet to be sworn in as a member of the Executive Council.

This is not a trivial subject. The existing legislation deals as much with the protection of personal privacy as it does with the public's right to know. Under Section 47 of the Act, anybody found guilty of maliciously disclosing personal information in contravention of this Act or its statutory regulations can end up in jail for six months or pay a $2,000 fine. The choice to disclose, therefore, does not rest solely on the shoulders of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy coordinator. He or she must respect the law, which is unclear in many places.

If it was determined that the law permitted the release of information prior to assuming office, the member for Chester-St. Margaret's could become a third party, consistent with the provisions of Section 20 through Section 23 of the Act, who had the right to be informed of the nature of this request.

Mr. Batherson therefore consulted with my chief of staff, my deputy minister, the secretary to the Executive Council and the senior FOIPOP coordinator of the Department of Justice to determine the appropriate response to the request of October 8th. These consultations are ongoing and have not been concluded. They were expected to include personal contact between Mr. Batherson as FOIPOP coordinator and Mr. MacLeod as the applicant. This form of dialogue is standard practice among the provincial government's FOIPOP coordinators.

Mr. Speaker, rest assured, my office will respect the 30 day time limit prescribed by the Act for a response to Mr. MacLeod. With such confusion surrounding what the law did or did not permit, my chief of staff requested the Secretary to the Executive Council to inform the honourable member, as a member of the Executive Council, that he was the subject of this request for information made under the Act.

This was not done to allow for intimidation or interrogation, as has been suggested. It was done to allow the member for Chester-St. Margaret's to disclose in a prompt and timely fashion whatever information was being sought by Sheldon MacLeod. These actions were taken to help Mr. MacLeod get the information he requested in a manner that didn't cause my staff to break the law. Indeed, these actions were taken, as noted by FOIPOP review officer Darce Fardy, in accordance with the law.

[Page 1165]

I do recognize and acknowledge Mr. Fardy's other reported concerns. Many of his concerns are ones I share as they originate primarily from the flaws within the existing law. These are flaws my government intends to correct through amendments to be tabled in this House very soon, to allow for much greater disclosure of government information and the appointment of a full-time review officer. Make no mistake, we will deliver on a stronger, more transparent Freedom of Information Act. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I don't know what we just witnessed, to tell you the truth. (Interruptions) I think the Premier said, I am sorry. I think the Premier said he was sorry but it wasn't his fault, it was the law. The law is wrong and he just didn't know and they are new and it is the staff and they were really trying to sort it out but they got into problems. I don't accept that. The Freedom of Information Act has been around now for long enough, as have the Premier and his staff been around long enough, that they ought to get it and they ought to get it right. One of the key parts of this whole question of freedom of information is that applicants' names be secret, be confidential, not be bandied around the Premier's Office or supplied to ministers who are being asked for information.

The question here has nothing to do with Mr. Chataway knowing who made the application. That is not the way to get the information. Mr. Chataway could have been informed that there was an application made for this information, not who had made the application. That is a fundamental problem with how the Premier's Office handled this whole issue. I don't see in this statement any recognition from the Premier that he understands that he and his office were wrong and that Mr. Chataway, in having used that information to go out and intimidate that applicant was wrong. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, it was absolutely wrong.

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

MR. DAVID MORSE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I would like you to rule on the appropriateness of naming a member here in the Chamber. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. JOHN HOLM: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, I think that the member for Kings South should listen because had he done so, he would have heard his boss, the Premier, in fact, do the same thing.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I believe the member was named in the Premier's statement. Carry on please.

[Page 1166]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: There are two principles at issue here; one is the whole question of the confidentiality of the applicant; and the second is the fact that a Minister of the Crown went to that applicant and whether intentionally or not, intimidated that applicant, which is a way to chill anybody applying for information. I think the Premier should start recognizing, really quickly, because he doesn't hear that there is going to be and there has to be some accountability for that, both from his office and from the minister who conducted himself in that way. There will be additional questions asked with respect to this issue. We expect some answers from this Premier. (Interruptions)

[8:30 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I have been here for six years, and I don't think I have ever heard as much gobbledegook in trying to have damage control by a government in all the years that I have been here. It is absolutely unbelievable. It is unbelievable that the Premier would come back and realize that his so-called sacrificial lamb that is sitting up in the gallery that he basically just laid out to dry on an issue showing total incompetency by that government (Interruptions)

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

The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: This government is open and accountable.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh! Oh!

THE PREMIER: There has been an issue brought to our attention, and we have attempted to provide the kind of information that it would seem that the Opposition Parties are always asking for. In an attempt to be open and accountable, what we are saying is that this is exactly what happened (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Is the Premier (Interruptions)

THE PREMIER: I take responsibility for the actions of all my staff (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

Is the Premier raising a point of order?

Order, please.

[Page 1167]

Take your seat. (Interruptions)

If the members would listen, please. Is the Premier rising on a point of order? If he is not, I would ask him to take his seat, please.

Order, please.

Is the Premier rising on a point of order?

THE PREMIER: I am.

MR. SPEAKER: What is the point of order?

THE PREMIER: I want to assure the member opposite that I take full responsibility for the actions of my staff. What I was trying to do was clarify . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order.

THE PREMIER: . . . for the Opposition that I would be fully . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the Premier to take his seat, please. (Interruptions)

Order, please.

I would ask the Premier to take his seat.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid on a point of order.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am asking you to clearly identify, because you had asked the Premier over and over again whether he was rising on a point of order, and you asked him in fact to take his seat, I would ask you to make a ruling. Was the Premier on a point of order? I think it is very important that we know, was what the Premier said a point of order or are you ruling that it was not?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I believe I asked the Premier if he was rising on a point of order, and I believe he replied no, and I asked him to take his seat.(Interruptions) I did not hear a point of order. He said he was on a point of order, I did not hear one.

MR. HOLM: That is the ruling I was seeking.

MR. SPEAKER: There was no point of order.

[Page 1168]

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I listened to the Premier now, after reading this gobbledegook that he presented to the House here today, finally say that he is sorry for the incompetency of his government and his staff. That is the reality of what we are seeing here today. I can't believe it. We have heard for weeks of honesty and integrity and how members of this House said they were going to alleviate cynicism and everything else about this government, Mr. Speaker. The reality is, his office is giving pertinent information to the member for Chester-St. Margaret's that he should never have had and for that member then to go and speak to the individual that asked for that private information is shameful. Shameful on behalf of this government; absolutely shameful. If the Premier said he is responsible for his staff, maybe he should consider what his position should be in the government of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Furthermore, if he had any integrity, he would deal with the member that he already moved from one post and move him maybe to the Minister of non-portfolio so he can't get into any trouble, Mr. Speaker.

I am going to say, Mr. Speaker, that I have heard a lot of comments and I expected the Premier today, the member today, would have stood up and simply said, they made a mistake again; their government screwed up again and he apologizes to Nova Scotians for that. But instead we go through this long, written out, detailed, convoluted process here when I know that member better to simply being able to say, as he would normally would, I am sorry, I made a mistake and my government made a mistake and let's get on with it. That is what I expected from the Premier. I further expect from this Premier that he gets his act together and his government get its act together and not do what we have seen in the last number of weeks in this Legislative Assembly. (Applause)

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Oral Question Period will begin at 8:37 a.m. and we will end at 9:37 a.m.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

JUSTICE - FOI: APPLICANT INFO. - POLICY

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Premier. The incident that we were just talking about involving the former Minister of Housing and now Minister of Human Resources is a breach, I would suggest a serious breach, of the Freedom of Information and the Protection of Privacy Act. Let's be clear, under the

[Page 1169]

Act, the name of the applicant is itself personal information that is protected from disclosure outside the department to which the request is directed. The review officer, who is the central authority on the release of the information says, "The name (of an applicant) should not be disclosed to anybody unless it is absolutely necessary,".

My question to the Premier is, is it the policy of this government that the name of an applicant under FOI for information should be freely distributed within government?

THE PREMIER: No.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, one of the more disturbing aspects of this whole story is the way it was handled by the Premier's office and the fact that the breach was conducted by and completed by the Premier's office. The Minister of Human Resources was notified by the Premier's office of both the fact that an application had been made and the name of the applicant.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: It goes to say, Mr. Speaker, that the Premier is responsible for what takes place in his office. I want to ask the Premier, when did he become aware that serious breaches of the Freedom of Information Act had occurred and what has he done about it?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is two questions.

The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the answer to the first question is about an hour and one-half ago. The answer to the second question is, we are looking at the Freedom of Information Act to provide changes that will provide greater clarity particularly those provisions that are contained in Section 20 to Section 23 when certain information has to be made available to the person of whom the information is requested.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is clear the Act has been breached, the Premier has acknowledged that, while not admitting to the fact that he is responsible. I want to ask the Premier in order to send a message, finally, to Nova Scotians that this Premier understands that he is accountable, he is responsible for the conduct of his office and of his ministers . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . . will he indicate to Nova Scotians what he will do to repair the damage that he has done to the viability of the Freedom of Information Act?

[Page 1170]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the New Democratic Party Leader is running off on one of his usual tangents. (Interruption) The review officer . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that the Opposition has no interest in answers. All they are interested in is theatrics. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: If I could have the attention of the Opposition Parties long enough so we could answer the question, what I would like to say to the Leader of the New Democratic Party, the review officer (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: . . . of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act has said, the law has not been broken. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

JUSTICE - FOI: ACT AMENDMENTS - PLAN

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. I first want to welcome him back. I hope he had a good few days off.

Mr. Speaker, to the Premier, the freedom of information legislation became effective back in July 1994. The introduction of this legislation was a landmark for this province after almost 20 years of anything goes in the Premier's former Tory offices in the Province of Nova Scotia. My question to the Premier today is, would the Premier tell us what plans, if any, he has to change this integral piece of legislation and when?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I do welcome that question because I think the member opposite knows there are flaws in the legislation, while the legislation was well intended and certainly, at the time, was worthy of support. On the other hand, with the passage of time and the application of the legislation, it has serious flaws. We have identified those flaws. A flaw has appeared in the application of the law in this particular instance and we will be bringing forward the amendments to correct those flaws.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, of course there is a flaw. The flaw is the Premier's office. The flaw is the staff of the Premier by leaking information to a minister, personal information about an individual who applied for information under the Freedom of Information Act. That is the flaw. It is not the legislation, . . .

[Page 1171]

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. DOWNE: . . . it is the incompetency of that government . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: . . . that is the flaw. It is unfortunate this government has shown absolutely no respect for the freedom of information legislation. Recently, a member of the media made an application for the information concerning very short-term . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: . . . information on the former Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. We read it in the paper today.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: My question to the Premier is, can the Premier tell me if this lack of respect for the freedom of information process is a standard which this government will follow in the future?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite reads so quickly, it is hard, really, to understand what he is saying. What I can assure the member opposite is that this government will continue to apply the Freedom of Information Act legally, including Section 20 to Section 23, until such time as we have had an opportunity to change the Act to reflect the flaws that have been uncovered by this application of the law.

MR. DOWNE: It doesn't matter how they change the Act, the legislation is very clear, that his office is not to leak pertinent, private and confidential information to other members of the Cabinet and the Executive Council. My question is to the Premier. Although he is trying to make some of his staff that are in the House here today the sacrificial lamb, the reality is that the minister, himself, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: . . . is in breach of that and I ask the Premier today . . .

MR SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: . . . not only is he going to restructure his staff but is he also . . .

MR SPEAKER: Question, please.

[Page 1172]

MR. DOWNE: . . . going to take a look at the ability for that member of Chester-St. Margaret's to still hold the office of the Executive Council or, in fact, ask for his resignation, as he should? (Applause)

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it would appear by the nature of the question that the member opposite is encouraging this government to break the law. That is what, in reality, that question suggests. This government will apply the law as it exists in the Province of Nova Scotia today, even though there is evidence that the law is flawed and we will correct the law and when it is corrected, we will apply it as it is corrected.

[8:45 a.m.]

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

JUSTICE - FOI: ACT - VIOLATION

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, to the Premier, less than a month ago, the government delivered its Throne Speech which said that it recognizes the legitimate right of people to have access to information upon which decisions are based. Yet we now find that the Premier's office flouted the rules of the Act by transferring the name of an applicant to one of his ministers, a minister with no responsibility for that portfolio. The minister then used that information to protect his own interests while inappropriately confronting the applicant.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier's office has interfered in the freedom of information process. I want to ask him, will he explain to Nova Scotians why he has so badly violated the integrity of the freedom of information process and the credibility of one of his government's own principles?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I will say to the people of Nova Scotia in response to the Leader of the New Democratic Party's question, is that the Freedom of Information commissioner has said that this is a loophole in the law that needs to be closed. He also stated that the law, as written by the Liberals and introduced and made law, is not clear.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, to the Premier my first supplementary, it is not news to anyone that the former Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs, the minister who benefited from the Premier's secret tip, has been the subject of controversy before. While the Minister of Housing, he ignored fire safety rules and now as Minister of Human Resources is protecting himself by using confidential information to thwart the freedom of information process.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

[Page 1173]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, what else does the Premier have to know about the conduct of the former Minister of Housing to decide that he does not deserve to sit at the Cabinet table?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it will continue to be the intention of the government that all Nova Scotians, including those who sit in this House, will receive the full protection of the law as it exists in Nova Scotia today. Section 20 through Section 23 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act does provide protection for Nova Scotians, and as long as that is the law we will provide that protection to all Nova Scotians.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier made a pledge to Nova Scotians when he was running for their vote, for their support, in the election. He made a commitment on a basis of principle to Nova Scotians in his Speech from the Throne on behalf of government, but when it comes time to act, this Premier does something different and then he tries to hide behind a bad law.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, what is he going to do to try to correct the perception that he has no commitment to the principles of ensuring that his government is open and accessible to the people of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, by way of his question the Leader of the New Democratic Party has indicated it is a bad law. I would then expect that when we come forward with amendments to improve the law, that we will have the full support of the Leader of the New Democratic Party and his caucus.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

JUSTICE - FOI: REQUEST - SECURITY

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I and many members of this House have been offended by the kind of cavalier approach that we have seen here today with regard to the way the Progressive Conservative Government is treating the freedom of information requests of a journalist. My question to the Premier is, how are Nova Scotians supposed to believe in the security of the information that his government is entrusted to keep?

THE PREMIER: In response to the member opposite, I believe Nova Scotians want the law applied fairly to all Nova Scotians. That is what happened. The problem is that the law as it exists is flawed, it requires improvement and we will provide those improvements. Until such time it will be the intention of this government to follow the law as it exists today. (Interruptions)

[Page 1174]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DOWNE: Can you possibly believe that kind of response. You can blame the law, blame the Liberals for bringing in the law in the first place because that government never had any kind of scruples or credibility with regard to the information flow, but now he wants to blame the Liberals for bringing it in. Then he says he is going to blame . . .

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

MR. DOWNE: The point is here, Mr. Speaker, once again, a long time ago, in fact it was the summer during that barbeque time, the PC Party produced the platform that included some 30 promises to . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: . . . establish and enforce a code of conduct for Cabinet Ministers . . .

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

Question, please. If the honourable member does not put the question, I will have the next question.

MR. DOWNE: My question to the Premier is, can the Premier inform us when this code will be introduced and if the recent actions of the Human Resources Minister and the Premier's office staff, with respect to the freedom of information requests, would have been passed on or would that . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Two questions.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is extremely difficult with the amount of noise from the back benches to hear the question opposite. (Interruptions) The question seemed to be, will the government be bringing forward a code of conduct? The answer is yes and you will see it before the House rises.

MR. DOWNE: That's great, Mr. Speaker, we are going to have it after the fact. After the breach of information that flowed out of your office, the incompetency of your office, and the incompetency and the leak of information by the Minister of Human Resources is absolutely unbelievable, now we are going to bring it in . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: . . . you had 70 days to bring it in.

[Page 1175]

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please. Do you have a question?

MR. DOWNE: I am watching the Premier's credibility fly out the window . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Does the honourable member have a question?

MR. DOWNE: . . . along with all Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order.

Does the honourable member have a question?Ask the question please.

MR. DOWNE: My question. Can the Premier inform this House why he continues to stand by his Human Resources Minister when he won't stand beside the paramedics and won't stand beside the people that haven't got any money and he won't stand beside those disabled and (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. Sit down.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I find it difficult to understand why the member opposite gets exercised when the government of which he was a member promised a code of conduct back in 1993. Up until 1999, we didn't see it and now he is exercised because it is taking us a few weeks to bring forward something that they were unable to do in six years. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

EXCO: CODE OF CONDUCT - INTRODUCE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr Speaker, the issue of a Minister of the Crown confronting and intimidating a person who has applied for information under the Freedom of Information Act is extremely serious and a matter of much concern. It is only the latest incident involving the troubled Minister of Human Resources. It does remind us of the promise that the Premier made about his code of conduct that he was going to bring into this House. I want to ask the Premier, will this latest incident finally spur the Premier on to put pen to paper and introduce in this House once and for all a code of conduct rule for Cabinet Ministers?

[Page 1176]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I do agree with the Leader of the New Democratic Party that a code of conduct is important. It is probably at this point about 85 per cent to 90 per cent complete. It is undergoing the final improvements before we make it a public document, so it is - I would say at this point - 90 per cent ready to be introduced.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to address my first supplementary through you to the Minister of Human Resources. I want to ask the minister if he would explain to Nova Scotians why they should not be extremely concerned with his action which, on the basis of a secret tip from the Premier's office, he went to protect his own interests and confronted someone who had made an application under the Freedom of Information Act in the Province of Nova Scotia? Will he explain to Nova Scotians why they shouldn't feel concerned with his ability to carry out his responsibilities?

HON. JOHN CHATAWAY: Do I have to answer this, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: The question has nothing to do with the minister's responsibilities as far as the department goes, so I rule the question out of order.

AN HON. MEMBER: A Minister of the Crown.

MR. SPEAKER: With his department.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it doesn't matter what you say, it doesn't matter what the Premier says to try to hide the fact. This minister is part of this government and his actions reflect on this Premier and this government.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Premier then to explain why Nova Scotians should not be extremely concerned about his credibility when he allows that a secret tip be given to a minister of his Cabinet and that that Cabinet turns around and tries to use that information to intimidate somebody who is trying to get access to information from the Government of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: I really am disappointed that the Leader of the New Democratic Party tries to present things in a way other than as they are. Is the Leader of the New Democratic Party saying that Section 22 to Section 23 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act should not be adhered to?

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: To the Premier, my final supplementary, a minister of his government has intimidated an applicant under the Freedom of Information Act - a member of the press - and clearly overstepped his bounds in order to protect, in order to try to restore

[Page 1177]

the credibility of, his government. Will the Premier explain to this House and to all Nova Scotians why it is that he should not ask this minister to resign here today?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it would appear that the Leader of the New Democratic Party is finally starting to get it, that Section 20 to Section 23 makes it mandatory, because of the nature of the request, that the person of whom the information is required is made aware that this is, in fact, happening. He finally seems to have gotten it.

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

HUMAN RES. - MIN.: RESIGNATION - WILLINGNESS

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Human Resources. The minister has been delegated confidential matters. Can he please explain to Nova Scotians and to the members of this House why he has compromised that position?

MR. SPEAKER: I still believe the question has been directed to the minister's actual ministry. I believe that question could be directed to the Premier but not to the minister responsible.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I believe the Minister of Human Resources has been delegated to deal with confidential matters. He deals with civil servants. He deals with applications. He deals with these requests. Again, the question would be, how after being delegated with these confidential matters, would he explain please to the House and to Nova Scotians why he has compromised his position? How can people now put trust in this minister? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I don't understand the question.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I think the question is very clear. I want to know, on behalf of the members of this House, on behalf of Nova Scotians, how we can now trust this minister after compromising the position that he is in?

MR. SPEAKER: Again, it is not a question about the minister's ministry. It is not about the minister's department. (Interruptions) It is not. It is not about the minister's department.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I will change my question.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

MR. WILSON: Would the Minister of Human Resources please tell this House whether or not he is now willing to resign?

[Page 1178]

[9:00 a.m.]

HON. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the question from the honourable member. In a word, I am not willing to resign. I will be more than glad to resign if you have some information that says I discharged my duties as a Minister of this Cabinet in any untoward manner or any manner that doesn't meet muster. (Interruptions) Thank you very much, I enjoy the repeat there. (Interruptions) It certainly seems evident, as many people have told me in my riding, it seems more like a crusade against the minister than anything else because there is nothing there. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, as I understood it on this side of the House, the minister said that certainly he would be willing to resign at some point. Anyway, we will deal with that when it happens. Let me ask the minister then, again my question is to the Minister of Human Resources, how can anyone in this province who applies for work in this province, now put any kind of trust in this minister?

MR. CHATAWAY: That is an unbelievable question. Anybody applies . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: And you are an unbelievable minister.

MR. CHATAWAY: Anybody can apply. There is a process that the whole application goes through, that an applicant goes through, and we have a fair hiring process. You are aware of the way things go with that. (Interruption) The law and the procedure will be applied. Thank you.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I believe in process too but it is the same process that that side of the House has been using all along for its friends, okay? Mary Lloyd, for instance. You have used the process before on that side of the House.

Again, my question this time is to the Premier of Nova Scotia. How can Nova Scotians, Mr. Premier, trust your government now that the confidence has been shaken by this latest controversy?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the member for Cape Breton East that Nova Scotians expect this government to apply the law fairly and equally to all Nova Scotians. The law is flawed. We all accept that and the law will be changed but until the law is changed, we will apply this, and every law, as it is written and as it is the law here in Nova Scotia.

[Page 1179]

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

JUSTICE - FOI: APPLICANT INFO. - DISCLOSURE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the Premier on this issue because I am extremely concerned about the fact that on the one hand, when he is running for election, when he is delivering the Throne Speech, he talks to Nova Scotians about how his government is the model of integrity and his government is going to do things differently and yet as soon as they get under a bit of heat, he starts to hide behind details, he starts to hide behind loopholes.

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Premier, he is over there laughing because he feels quite self-satisfied that he has found a way to hide behind this. I want to ask him, under Section 27 of the Freedom of Information Act, it reads, "A public body may disclose personal information only . . . (b) if the individual the information is about has identified the information and consented in writing to its disclosure;". I want to ask the Premier, who says that his actions are all determined by the way this Act is written, will he, in fact, advise whether his office got permission from the applicant in writing and that that is why they disclosed the information?

THE PREMIER: That is a question that I am going to have to research. I became aware of the issue less than two hours ago. What I have been reassured is that the law has been applied accurately and appropriately. (Interruptions) The specific question I will have to take under advisement and I'll seek to get the answer.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I said that the Premier breached the integrity of the Freedom of Information Act. He said, no, no, no it says under section such and such, which is a problem; that it is okay; so it is a bit of a loophole.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I just presented to him a clause in this Act which if he can't confirm that they followed, he is legally in breach of this Act.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I want the Premier, Mr. Speaker, to advise this House immediately whether, in fact, he got permission to release this confidential information, and if he didn't, he owes a very sincere apology to the people of this province. (Applause)

[Page 1180]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, again I would remind the member opposite that the review officer for the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act said the law has not been broken. It has not been breached.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Premier, not only has his credibility been seriously impaired by this whole affair, but so too has the ability of a minister of the front benches to conduct his affairs and the affairs of his department in a manner of confidentiality, and that with respect to the Minister of Human Resources that is . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . . a very responsible position. He has important details . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Would the member ask the question, please?

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . . on every employee in this government. I want to ask the Premier, given the fact that the ability of his minister to handle confidential information has been questioned, will he ask that minister to resign in order to protect the integrity of his government?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting in Question Period when the Opposition Parties are demanding the government to be fair, to follow the law, to be open and yet we see the Leader of the New Democratic Party dancing all over the question in providing his interpretation of what the law means. (Interruptions) I would suggest to the member opposite that Mr. Fardy, the commissioner, is a far better judge of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act than the Leader of the New Democratic Party . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: . . . and he has said the law has not been broken.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

JUSTICE - FOI: INFO. RELEASE - APPROVAL

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the tragedy here is not only has the law been broken, but this government will not admit they do not believe in upholding the laws of this province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear! Hear!

[Page 1181]

MR. MACLELLAN: It is an unmitigated disgrace and I want to know the same thing the Leader of the New Democratic Party wants to know, was approval given for the release of this information? Was it, yes or no?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Yes or no. Yes or no.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Liberal Party wasn't here to hear my earlier answers. I am pleased to be able to inform the Leader of the Liberal Party that Mr. Fardy has said that there is a loophole in the law. The loophole needs to be closed. The law as written is not clear, but he has as stated emphatically that the law has not been broken.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, it has taken this province six years to get away from the scungy politics of the Buchanan and Cameron Governments. We are now, within a few months, back into the old ways that we had before the Liberal Government was elected in 1993. (Interruptions) The Premier talks about a code of conduct. Would this be allowed under the Premier's code of conduct?

THE PREMIER: It is like déjà vu here in Question Period. I can say to the member opposite that for six years the government, of which he had recently been Leader, was promising a code of conduct. This government is going to do what the other government said it was going to do and didn't do, and you will see that code of conduct before the House rises.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Government promised ethics in government, and those ethics in government were delivered for six years, not one scandal during the six years of Liberal Administration. (Interruptions) Not one. (Applause)

In under three months, this government has had at least three. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I want to know, has there been approval given for the release of this information? I want to know, all Nova Scotians want to know, because this whole system has become corrupt and the Premier is condoning it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. I would ask the honourable member to retract that word corrupt. I would ask you to retract that, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. I would ask the honourable member . . .

MR. MACLELLAN: This whole system has become underhanded and the Premier is condoning it.

[Page 1182]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party Leader's recollections are at best laughable. On the other hand, what it seems to be to me is the Leader of the Liberal Party doesn't seem to understand that Section 20 to Section 23 requires, in this kind of situation, that the person of whom the information is required is made aware of the request. That is clearly a part of the Freedom of Information Act that the previous government had introduced, and it is a flaw, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: . . . but it is part of the law.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

EXCO: OATH - MEANING

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to read something to you. "I, . . . being appointed to be one of Her Majesty's Executive Council for the Province of Nova Scotia, do swear that I will in all things be a true and faithful councillor and will not reveal any of the secrets entrusted to my care as such.". That is the Oath of Executive Council. I want to ask the Premier, when he made this oath, what did he think it meant, everything except any information that he could shift off to the Minister of Human Resources?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it would appear that the Leader of the New Democratic Party again is suggesting that a Nova Scotian is not going to have the benefit of Section 20 to Section 23, the law of this province which clearly states that the person of whom the request is made has a right to the information when it is private information. That is what the law says, and my office followed the law. (Applause)

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is wrong. We are talking about an oath. I want to ask the Minister of Human Resources, when the Minister of Human Resources took this Oath of Executive Council, did he think that it was then okay to use secret information for his own personal benefit?

HON. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, through you to the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party, secret information as to my own benefit, I do not understand the question. Could you . . .

[Page 1183]

[9:15 a.m.]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I think once again Nova Scotians' confidence in this government has been severely shaken. The minister responsible is not responding. We have the Premier of this province trying to hide behind anything he can find. It is not good enough.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: My question to the Premier, would he explain to Nova Scotians why it is when he has breached one of his own principles, his government's principles, when he has breached one of the laws of this province, when he has breached his own oath to the Executive Council, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . . why they should have any confidence in the integrity of him and his government?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite, his question is far-reaching. I would ask in the interest of clarity if the member opposite could tell me what law has been breached when we have provided information that clearly says the law has not been breached.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

JUSTICE - FOI: ACT - COMPLIANCE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Justice for the Province of Nova Scotia. The actions of the Premier's office and the Minister of Human Resources have clearly called into question the integrity of the Freedom of Information Act. My question to the Minister of Justice is, does he agree that the Premier's office and the Minister of Human Resources have not violated this Act?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: For the benefit of that member, I think the Premier has clearly answered it. The law has not been broken.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, yes, we have all heard the Premier hide behind specific sections of the Act, sections which someone wrote to him and sent it down here to the floor for him to read. The question is to the Minister of Justice. While the Act itself, sections of it may not have been violated, will the minister tell this House today whether the spirit of the Freedom of Information Act has been violated by his government?

[Page 1184]

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, in answer to the member's question, again, the law has not been broken. This government is committed to bringing in amendments to that legislation which will end any question. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice will bring in amendments to try to make up for the lack of integrity of his government and to cover their tracks in what they have done here. The integrity of this government has clearly been compromised today. Will the Minister of Justice today commit to Nova Scotians that he will have his staff investigate the Premier's office and the actions of the Minister of Human Resources to determine whether the Freedom of Information Act has been breached?

MR. BAKER: As the honourable member knows, it is not the responsibility of the Department of Justice to investigate anyone.

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

JUSTICE - FOI: APPLICANT INFO. - RELEASE CONSENT

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I certainly do not accept, and I do not think many Nova Scotians will accept the Premier of this province trying to hide behind some technicalities to answer the question of integrity of his government, but on that matter I wanted to make it clear that Section 20 and Section 22 that the Premier refers to deal with third party information; they do not deal with this case at all. The section that is relevant is Section 27(b) that I referred to earlier that says that if the individual the information is about has identified the information and consented in writing to its disclosure, then it may be disclosed.

I want to ask the Premier, again, will he advise this House whether in fact they got consent, the Premier's office, his staff got consent in writing before they released the information to the Minister of Human Resources?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have already answered that question for the benefit of the Leader of the New Democratic Party and all Nova Scotians, that I don't have that information but I will obtain it.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, to the Premier again, and it is important, and I will tell you why it is important. The Premier has stood up here and said that the Freedom of Information Officer says we haven't broken any laws, he says there is not a problem. But I want to quote from something that the freedom of information officer did say, as it relates to Section 27. He says, "The name of the applicant should not be disclosed to anybody unless it is absolutely necessary.".

[Page 1185]

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Will the Premier tell us here in this House today whether he believes that it was absolutely necessary that the Minister of Human Resources be given that confidential information?

THE PREMIER: Again, I will have to research the information relative to the section that the member opposite brings forward. The application of the law applies to all Nova Scotians and Section 20 to Section 23 indicates that those sections were not broken.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I say once again, Mr. Speaker, that on a matter of credibility of this government, the Premier stands in this House and tries to use as his defence, an inapplicable section of the legislation.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please. Question.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Unbelievable. I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, will he commit to this House today that he will do his research, that he will provide the information to this House and to all Nova Scotians and that he will apologize for having released private information to the Minister of Human Resources who has used it for his own personal benefit?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say again to the Leader of the New Democratic Party that the opinion of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Commissioner is, the law has not been broken. I have to accept that at face value; that is his statement. We have not broken the law. If, in fact, an opinion comes forward that (Interruptions) It would appear that the member opposite is not interested in an answer. (Interruptions) If this government has inaccurately applied the law, then we will make the appropriate apologies.

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

JUSTICE - FOI: ACT (INFO. RELEASE) - CHANGE

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I personally feel that the law has been broken, but suppose the Premier is right that by some technicality the law hasn't been broken, is the Premier saying that what has transpired here is all right because in a court of law there cannot be any culpability found for any alleged wrongdoing? Does he honestly say that this is all right? Is he actually condoning what has transpired here, and if he doesn't condone it, what is he going to do about it?

MR. SPEAKER: Again, two or three questions.

[Page 1186]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what this government does, it condones applying the law and we have applied the law, we have acknowledged that the law requires change and we will be introducing those changes, but it is the responsibility of this government to uphold the law and we will continue to do that to the benefit of all of those Nova Scotians who require the protection of the law.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, we have just heard the Premier actually condone wrongdoings. We have had the Premier condone a matter here that is completely reprehensible, throwing away privileges and rights in this province that have lasted for years. There is freedom of the press. The press has the right to have . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: . . . their confidentiality respected. Does the Premier agree with that and if he does, what is he going to do to correct the situation that has taken place?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member is quite right. All Nova Scotians, including the press, have the right to the protection of the law, the law as it exists in the Province of Nova Scotia. This law has been applied accurately and fairly. The law is flawed, but the government must uphold the laws of the land as they exist today and has done so.

MR. MACLELLAN: There are principles and conventions on which this province is built. Generations have worked to make them better, to hone the rights and the moral fibre of this province.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: This Premier is set on destroying this. I want him to tell me, is he going to ask for the resignation of the Minister of Human Resources, yes or no?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite, obviously, has given up on his attack that the government has broken the law because that is where he started. What we will require is that every member of this government will, in fact, uphold the law and that has been the case. This government has upheld the law despite the legal opinion that is being offered by the Leader of the Liberal Party.

[Page 1187]

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

HEALTH - PARAMEDICS: RETROACTIVITY COST - TABLE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I have to give them credit, they sure know how to deflect attention from Bill No. 9; that is for certain. It appears that the government is putting its foot down on the question of retroactivity for paramedics. The government wants to limit the retroactivity of the eventual wage settlements between EMC and paramedics. Yet despite what the government says, this clause has nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with money. My question to the Minister of Health is, will the minister table, today, his department's analysis of the cost implications of retroactivity?

HON. JAMES MUIR: No.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this government likes to say that it is not directly involved in the negotiations between EMC and the paramedics. Conveniently, the government has interposed a for-profit company between itself and accountability for the way that paramedics are being treated. My question to the Minister of Health, what discussions have taken place between EMC and the Department of Health about retroactivity?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, the matter of negotiation is between the NSGEU and EMC.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is quite possible, and it is our understanding, that EMC does not object to submitting the issue of retroactivity to arbitration. If that is the case, then the real question about why this government would risk public safety and a paramedic strike over that issue, my question to the Minister of Health is, how long has it been the policy of the government to oppose retroactive wage settlements no matter what the consequences?

MR. MUIR: I am rather surprised at that question, Mr. Speaker, simply because there is a provision in that contract for retroactivity and it is in the bill.

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

HUMAN RES. - APPLICANTS: CONFIDENTIALITY - ASSURE

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Human Resources. Why should any Nova Scotian, now applying for a job through the Department of Human Resources, take confidence that this minister will not interfere in the hiring process and leak confidential information?

[Page 1188]

[9:30 a.m.]

HON. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, every Nova Scotian should have confidence and there are literally thousands and thousands that make application every day. They should have confidence in the process that is there, the confidence that there is a fair hiring process, that there is an appeal if they feel that somehow they have been put at a disadvantage or something hasn't been quite according Hoyle. They should have every confidence that it is a fair and open process.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I think I was addressing the confidence in a minister, I think that is what I was trying to get at there. Anyway, my first supplementary, this government has already demonstrated political bias for friends of the Tory Government. Let me ask, again to the Minister of Human Resources, if he is not going to resign, then what action is the minister going to take to reinstate the shattered confidence of Nova Scotians?

MR. CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the honourable member. The actions (Interruptions) Sorry, could you repeat the question again, I am a bit flustered. Would the honourable member just repeat the question?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton East, repeat the question.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, I didn't hear that reply, could the honourable minister repeat his reply?

MR. SPEAKER: There was no reply. He asked for the question to be repeated.

MR. WILSON: That would make sense. I haven't heard a reply yet. Let me repeat the question then. As I said, this government has already demonstrated political bias for friends. If the minister is not resigning, what action is the minister going to take to reinstate the shattered confidence of Nova Scotians?

MR. CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I apologize for not hearing the question accurately the first time. We are going to continue to apply a fair and accurate process of people applying for jobs within the government, and that is going to be applied fairly, and we are going to continue with the fair hiring practices that we have within this government.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is to the Premier of Nova Scotia. Mr. Premier, I would ask you now to ask the Minister of Human Resources to apologize to the reporter involved in this case and also to apologize to all Nova Scotians.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the member for Cape Breton East that if it is determined that this government has broken the law or inappropriately applied the law, it will apologize, but there is no evidence at this point that that has occurred.

[Page 1189]

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

EXCO - SIZE: REDUCED - COSTS STATIC

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question through you, sir, is to the Premier. The Premier, in his election platform, stated quite clearly that it would be saving money by reducing the size of government, starting first with Cabinet. Although the Premier did fudge on that a little bit when he brought an additional Cabinet member on board, the Cabinet is still nonetheless smaller than that of the former government, and one would therefore expect that you would see, by having a smaller Cabinet, that there was going to be some money saved.

My question to the Premier is quite simply this, why is it costing this government the exact same amount of money for its 12 Cabinet Ministers as the former Liberal Government for 14?

THE PREMIER: I can say to the member opposite that I am not sure where he is getting his information. For example, right now, this government has approximately one-third fewer executive assistants appointed to Cabinet Ministers, a great saving to the Province of Nova Scotia. I am not really sure where the member is coming from with his question. (Applause)

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is not the first time that the Premier is a little unsure where a lot of things are coming from. Maybe the Premier will speak to the Deputy Premier, Minister of Finance, to get a little bit of information on the budget that he has brought forward.

I want to continue on the topic of saving money. His government also hired a former member of this House, Alfie MacLeod, to occupy the lone Cabinet Office in Sydney. I should say lonely Cabinet Office. I wonder if the Premier could tell us . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HOLM: . . . if he considers setting up the former Tory MLA in an office in Cape Breton, at an expense to taxpayers of over $70,000, is a good way to save money?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would hope that the member opposite is not suggesting that this government should not be sensitive to the issues in Cape Breton because that is clearly what this question seems to imply. (Applause) It is very important that this government represent all Nova Scotians. That is why the Cabinet Office was set up and I believe it is a good investment, to make sure that the very serious issues that are facing Cape Bretoners are adequately and accurately acted on by this government. That is why there is a Cabinet Office in industrial Cape Breton.

[Page 1190]

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier's spin answer which doesn't address the question leads very well into my next one because we also know that the Tories have chosen to increase . . .

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

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: We are joined in the House today by two guests from Richmond County. We have Gloria Hill who is the manager and executive producer of TelIle. Rhonda LeBlanc is a producer and a host. TelIle grew out of Community Economic Development on the Island. It has been a great promoter of cultural awareness and leadership in our community and I would ask both Gloria and Rhonda to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Submissions for the late debate were not received in the appropriate time, but because of the hours of the House, they have been submitted and will require the unanimous agreement of the House for the submission.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton North:

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Labour immediately implement occupational safety regulations as agreed to by industry and labour.

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 1191]

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[9:38 a.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mr. Wayne Gaudet in the Chair.]

[6:00 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened with Deputy Speaker Mr. Wayne Gaudet in the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Adjournment debate had been chosen earlier and won by the honourable member for Cape Breton West. We will debate the following resolution:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Labour immediately implement occupational safety regulations as agreed to by industry and labour.".

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

LBR.: OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND

SAFETY REGS. - IMPLEMENT

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and make a number of observations on this most important issue. First of all, we will give a little bit of history so people will understand why I am so strong on supporting this particular resolution and how profound the impact is going to be should the Minister of Labour continue to delay this most worthy piece of public policy, i.e., the General Occupational Safety Regulations.

Mr. Speaker, in 1992, the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Council conducted an overall review of the occupational health and safety laws administered by the Nova Scotia Department of Labour. In 1993, six working groups were formed to develop a draft of the General Occupational Safety Regulations. Employee, employer and Department of Labour representatives were included in all of these working groups. In late 1995, the working groups developed individual reports which were combined to produce a draft version of the new regulations. This draft regulation was circulated to over 1,000 individuals and groups of

[Page 1192]

individuals, for example, the Federation of Independent Business, the Manufacturers' Alliance, the Federation of Labour, farm groups across this province and so on.

Mr. Speaker, again in 1997, the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Department of Labour reviewed the draft, incorporated these comments where possible and made changes with a view to increasing enforceability and reader access.

In the spring of 1998, a total of 270 copies of the revised draft were distributed to individuals and associations across this province. On April 28, 1999, through an Order in Council, the regulations were approved. These regulations were scheduled to be implemented on October 1, 1999. The Department of Labour has prepared a list of all the standards referenced in the regulations and issuing bodies and that list is presently on the Nova Scotia Department of Labour website.

The minister's advisory council on safety made up of worker and employer representatives wasn't - and I emphasize wasn't - consulted about the delay in the implementation until after the minister had made his announcement. Without implementation of these new regulations, Mr. Speaker, the rate of accidents and loss of life in the workplace will increase. Regulations, as I have stated, are already available on the Department of Labour's website and I believe that the minister has caved in on a very important issue.

Mr. Speaker, as we recall, back in the spring sitting of the Legislature, when I was sitting on the other side of the House, the honourable member for Digby-Annapolis, the Minister of Economic Development, introduced a Private Member's Bill, an Act to Amend Chapter 7 of the Act of 1996, The Occupational Health and Safety Act. Lo and behold, this particular Private Member's Bill was an Act to start providing exemptions from individuals operating businesses in their own home or out of their own home or attachment or garage, whatever, whether it be a trucking company, a small machine shop, a small carpentry shop or whatever, at that point in time and again today, I believe that that was a counterproductive piece of legislation; counterproductive, Mr. Speaker, because first of all we have to bear in mind that under the present Occupational Health and Safety Act there is provision for anyone in this province to apply to the director for an exemption under Section 83 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The minister is shaking his head and acknowledging that.

Mr. Speaker, I think we have to be cognizant of the rationale that is being put into the minister's efforts on withholding these particular regulations. The minister has, to date, not been able to produce the list of any of the names of the individuals or organizations that have objected to these regulations. We have to bear in mind, too, we can go anywhere in this province, on just about any issue and we will never get unanimous consent. This was a consensus-building document that was developed over a two and one-half year period. Probably one of the most extensive, thorough, consultative processes undertaken in the history of this province, it cost over $1.5 million to produce.

[Page 1193]

Mr. Speaker, the figures for themselves are quite evident, the savings. Back when this Act was first contemplated and introduced, there was a total of 26 workplace deaths in the market place. Several years later, in 1998, that was down to 12 at one point, or it was reduced by almost 50 per cent. I stand to be corrected, but I think the minister will readily agree that there was a significant reduction in accidental deaths in the workplace.

As well, the saving to employers was quite significant. The Workers' Compensation Board officials will readily confirm that the cost to employers is significantly less than the savings because of the prevented workplace injuries that would have cost employers. I believe at one time, the figure last year, the cost to employers was, I think through the Occupational Health and Safety Division at the Department of Labour, somewhere in the vicinity of $5.5 million, whereas the savings to employers was somewhere in the vicinity of $7.5 milllion. I am going by memory because I don't have those actual figures, but I think they are readily available.

So Mr. Speaker, we can see that these regulations have had a thorough venting. What other agenda is at play? Perhaps the honourable minister could explain. To date I don't believe a satisfactory answer has been provided. Are certain elements within industry putting pressure on the government because of this somewhat right-wing approach to doing business in Nova Scotia? We cannot afford to compromise worker safety, and, yes, if there are particular instances where the regulations show and demonstrate that they are not to the full benefit as was contemplated or anticipated, one only has to apply to the director. But why throw out the baby with the bathwater? There is too much at stake here. There is a cause-and- effect relationship with Bill No. 9 in terms of the obligations that the employer has with its paramedics, its employees, for worker safety.

Mr. Speaker, I realize my time is somewhat short, but I can't help but be somewhat amused by the question that was raised by the honourable member - he is now the Minister of Transportation and Public Works - when he complained about not having a hard hat in a photo op when we were cutting a ribbon at a non-work site. Now that was the best objection that that member could come up with on the Tory team, to try to embarrass the Minister of Labour. We were doing things right and we were making things happen, Mr. Speaker, and I am very concerned that this Conservative, right-wing government is turning back the hands of time. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure this evening to address the resolution brought forward by the honourable member for Cape Breton West. The honourable member has come up with a history of the production of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the occupational health and safety regulations attendant to that Act. I have no quarrel with that, I think the process was good. I think the process of consultation was one that should have been carried out and I think it was carried out.

[Page 1194]

Mr. Speaker, the occupational health and safety regulations were originally to come into effect on October 1st of this year. As the former minister said, the plan was made on April 1st, which gave him and his staff and everybody else connected with him about six months to prepare for the introduction of those regulation.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, I am the new boy on the block down at the Department of Labour. While I was going around on the election trail, not only in my own riding but in other ridings that I visited during the election campaign, I received a number of representations, let me put it that way, from various groups and various individuals who had concern with those particular regulations. When I came to the Department of Labour, I had completely forgotten, to be quite truthful, about the implementation date of the regulations, until one day a stack of the regulations that were going to go into effect on April 1st arrived on my desk.

I am not exactly a speed reader and I would contemplate that when I looked at that stack - the honourable member for Cape Breton West held up a book about that thick when he was speaking in the House the other day about the regulations, but actually there is a companion volume to that, Mr. Speaker, which is about that thick. I think the whole thing weighs about 17 pounds. I was busy getting ready to come into the House. I was certainly briefed about the impact and the effects of the Act. As I said, I had been told as I travelled around the countryside as to some people's feelings on the Act, and I decided that I could not, in good conscience, sign off on those regulations without at least having reasonable knowledge of what was in that package and at least having read the package.

So I said okay, what can we do with this? I spoke to my deputy minister and he said, well, you can always delay the date, to have an opportunity to read them. I think he was thinking about a very short time for that. However, we were coming close to coming into the House and I thought to myself, well, I am going to give myself sufficient time to do this job properly, I am going to postpone the introduction of the regulations and I am going to do it over a period of time so that I will have ample time if something comes along that prevents me from having a go at reading and absorbing what was in those regulations. That is why the date of March 31st was picked for the target date. I would stress, Mr. Speaker, that this is a target date. It doesn't mean that I am going to go up until midnight on March 31st before I finally release those regulations.

The staff of the Department of Labour has been working on these regulations for a long time because they wish to get it right. As I understand it, actually, the previous minister didn't help too much because he wanted to make several changes himself along the way which was somewhat disruptive, I believe, of the process. However, I probably am doing the same thing right now so I don't think this is an uncommon way to treat that kind of an exercise.

MR. SPEAKER: On the point of order, the honourable member for Cape Breton West.

[Page 1195]

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: . . . aware of any. I am certainly oblivious to what he is alluding to. I am not ashamed of any of the positions I have taken in my responsibility as minister. If there is something he can point out that I have been remiss on, I would be only too welcome to address it.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Chairman, I wasn't accusing him of doing anything wrong. I was just saying that he was interfering, as he probably should have been in the preparation of the regulations and that is exactly what I did as well. So if he is wrong, I am wrong too. We both did it and we may or may not have done it for equal reasons.

The delay in the introduction and the promulgation of these regulations is not a step backward, Mr. Speaker, it is a step forward. It is a step forward because we know that there are individual and business concerns out there who have made representations as to changes, some changes being more restrictive than the present regulations. We have to have the opportunity - I don't have to have the opportunity but the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Panel, which advises the minister, myself - is going to make presentations to me as to whether or not all or some or none of these representations that are being made to them are suitable for making changes to the present regulations.

We had 112 submissions since the original set of regulations came up and they have to be reviewed and considered. I am trying to find the figure of 62, here we go; 62 revisions, Mr. Speaker, and ex-Mr. Minister, have been recommended by the stakeholders and these are being studied and reviewed before being incorporated into the final regulations.

Now the member says, well, who submitted these changes? Mr. Speaker, I think that is an improper question. It is certainly an improper question to me because I don't know. I knew people, as I was travelling around the countryside, who spoke to me about them but I had no idea I was going to be the Minister of Labour. I didn't write down their names. In fact, I probably just listened to what they had to say and got a general impression that these regulations could, perhaps, stand some fine-tuning. The names of those who have submitted suggested changes to the regulations are within the Occupational Health and Safety Review Panel and I understand that the member has friends on that panel and I presume that is where he gets his information from.

These regulations, of course, were posted, as the minister said, the member for Cape Breton West - I keep calling him minister, he is no longer a minister, I am the minister.

AN HON. MEMBER: It's a good thing.

MR. RUSSELL: It's a good thing. It's a step in the right direction.

AN HON. MEMBER: An improvement at the Department of Labour in only a few months.

[Page 1196]

MR. RUSSELL: The minister asked me a question the other day, Mr. Speaker, . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Member, you said minister.

MR. RUSSELL: The member asked me a question - I will get this right yet - the member asked me a question the other day about why these were not posted on the web and I checked (Interruption) They are, indeed they are, but you asked me the question the other day as to why they were not and I checked with the department and they said, well, the ex-minister is suffering from amnesia because he was the one who put them on the web.

MR. MACKINNON: I said they were on the web.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, I am sorry, but that is not what you said. If you check Hansard, you will find out.

The date for the regulations, as I say, the target date is March 31st. One minute left. We are not going to throw the baby out with the bath water, as the member for Cape Breton West has suggested. We intend to have the best regulations we can possibly achieve and they will be available and they will be promulgated, enacted, sometime before March 31st. If we ever get out of this place, Mr. Speaker, in reasonable time, that is one of the first jobs that I will be getting onto is chasing after the panel to find out where we sit and when I can proceed with them. I would hope that that is going to be sometime before the start of the new year.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, you know this is a bit like watching Abbott and Costello do a routine of who is on first or who is the Minister of Labour. (Laughter) I know that that old Abbott and Costello routine, it takes two to play and it is like having a revisionism on history. It takes me back to my graduate school days when I had to put up with Goldie French in one room and Donald Creighton in the other. Goldie French thought Mackenzie King - we know who he is, of course, that good friend of Charlie MacDonald's - Mackenzie King, in Goldie French's opinion, walked on water, and Donald Creighton, next door, considered him the closest thing to the devil. Now who am I going to listen to? Abbott? Costello? Goldie French? No, I won't go any further with this.

You know as a newcomer to this position as critic, I inquired about occupational health and I have had some advice from my good friend from Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage who, for the members present, I want you to know that in a prior life, when perhaps he had a real life, he worked on these regs; in fact when he was involved in this position, two of the seven of the regulations that were approved, and they included the ones on first aid and also the fall protection and scaffolding regs, those two of the seven that were approved came from the pen of that learned member who sits next to me.

[Page 1197]

Now, the remaining five, I want to check Hansard for this because the current Minister of Transportation, excuse me, Minister of Labour . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Now you are mixed up.

MR. ESTABROOKS: . . . I know who is on first. Who is the shortstop? I want to tell the current minister that he said the regs were four inches in size and approximately five pounds. Hansard will tell us that during this debate those regs have gained 12 pounds. We are up to 17 pounds.

Now, all joking aside, Mr. Minister, the key thing is, who was consulted? This was another one of these eleventh hour, hammer-down decisions because you told me at one time - and again it is on that same date of October 12th - that you placed a call to Rick Clarke from the Federation of Labour, but he wasn't there. Then we asked you during that debate, could you table it for us - and the member for Cape Breton West, one of the revisionist historians here, disruptive, interfering Minister of Labour - now I want to tell you, I have had my differences with that member, but it seems to me that a minister is to interfere, that minister is to have his say with the people who are in his department. If that is interfering, well, as we well know, he can interfere, but considering he is doing his job . . .

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: On a point of order. Rightfully so, when I spoke about him interfering, I said he interfered and I interfered, but that interfering slows down the process. That is exactly what I said. There is nothing wrong with that; in fact as you said, a minister should interfere, and I agree that he and I at least had one thing in common.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you for the clarification.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Thank you. That other adjective, disruptive, this isn't question and answer here, but you know the two of you have this in common. I don't know who is Abbott and who is Costello. I am telling you this, that the workers of this province are inquiring of the fact that these regs should be effected. I want to go over the history that I have been told. When I look back at the ministers who have served in this position - and the honourable member for Cape Breton South at one time was the Minister of Labour - there was Gerry O'Malley, Jay Abbass and, of course, the two Russells, different names. It seems to me that ministers have sat on this for far too long.

More importantly, whose health and safety is at stake? Of course the answer is the workers of this province who have patiently waited and want to hear where are we with these regulations. These regulations that have yet to be approved include general safety, occupational health when dealing with chemicals, and some of those threatening types of things in the workplace: violence in the workplace; indoor air quality; and of course the concern about the actual committee and the health and safety regulations for that committee.

[Page 1198]

Now I understand the minister has a lot on his plate and I understand that you have other responsibilities and I congratulate you, particularly, when you go through the estimates and the Department of the Environment and some of the fine questions that I have asked and some of the finer answers that you gave. (Laughter.) However, Mr. Minister of Labour, if this job is too onerous for you. I would highly recommend that you place this at the top of the Minister of Labour's important agenda and get this issue dealt with.

This issue says to me that the Minister of Labour has too much on his plate. Now prior to this in another life, I recall much criticism from that Party at the time. A criticism to the part-time Minister of Justice and Health and it seems to me that - and you are the Government House Leader, you are the Minister of the Environment, you are the Chairman of Priorities and Planning - you have a full plate.

Yet can we sacrifice, Mr. Minister, the health and safety of workers in this province? The answer, I say to you, is no. Because if you remember the response that particular day or the day after, in the paper, when people were saying, what is going on here, we are expecting these things to be enacted. We expected, mean, what didn't we expect from that minister? When this particular Costello was the Minister of Labour, we heard many times in this House, it was going to get done, it was going to get done. Was that electioneering? Every time he stood in this House, was he not saying that soon we are going to be on the doorsteps and I have got to make sure I can say to the workers, I am going to get those regulations approved. We are going to put them out there in the public so that they will, finally, be put in effect. We don't know - an election came along.

So the ball is handed off to this collection here. Mr. Minister, I have respect for the fact that it takes time to adjust to these things, but as the Minister of Labour, must you, personally, use these regulations as bed-time reading, must you, personally, go through every one of these? I don't think so. I think that you should be trusting of your staff. You should be interfering and asking the right questions at the right time, and I have faith in you that you will do that and carry out that job.

But I come back, who have you heard from? People on the doorsteps? We are not talking about people on the doorsteps. We are talking about people who had certain reservations about these regulations. Did they have certain . . .

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, if the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect had been listening, he would have heard me say that there were 312 submissions to the panel, of which 62 have gone on to further review. They didn't come from me knocking on doors, they came directly to the panel.

MR RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, to support my colleague who should have the floor, and also in concert, the point is, that if they are over 300, and only 62 are going for revision, why doesn't he enact the 238 and then leave it to the

[Page 1199]

discretion of the Cabinet with the direction of the Director of Occupational Health and Safety for the remaining. That way, we are not holding up the bulk of the issues. (Interruptions.)

MR. ESTABROOKS: I expect to share the time with my learned friend, what's-his-name, the minister (Laughter) but you know, what's-his-name actually on all that was the shortstop. Who was on first is not the issue. What is am concerned about and this is the bottom line, I understand we are going through a long day again today, and I appreciate the fact that this resolution has been introduced but, Mr. Speaker, and members who are present, we are talking about the health and safety of workers in this province. This is not a laughing matter, something we should be making light of.

I look forward to the minister showing the necessary leadership. I look forward to the minister putting at the top of his priority list and the top of his bed-time reading, the fact that he can go ahead in a positive manner and enact these regulations. Thank you. (Applause.)

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. I would like to thank all of the honourable members who have taken part in tonight's late debate. The House will now reconvene into the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

[6:30 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mr. Brooke Taylor in the Chair.]

[1:56 a.m. (29/10/99) CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

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

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and made progress and begs leave to sit again.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow morning at the hour of 8:00 a.m. The order of business will be the continuation of the Committee of the Whole House on Bill No. 9, and following that we will do estimates for four hours, and we will rise at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow evening.

Mr. Speaker, I move that we do now adjourn.

[Page 1200]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

We stand adjourned until tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. [29/10/99]

[The House rose at 1:57 a.m. (29/10/99)]