The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House adjourned:
October 26, 2017.

HANSARD 01/02-75

















HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY



DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS



Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott



Published by Order of the Legislature by Hansard Reporting Services and printed by the Queen's Printer.



Available on INTERNET at http://www.gov.ns.ca/legislature/hansard/



Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.





Second Session



TUESDAY, APRIL 2, 2002





TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Health - Care: Reductions - Oppose, Mr. F. Chipman 7647
Educ. - Post-Secondary Education: Budget - Priority, Mr. D. Dexter 7648
Health - South Shore Reg. Hosp.: Pediatric Unit - Retain, Mr. D. Downe 7648
Health: Second-Hand Smoke - Risk, Dr. J. Smith 7648
Cosmetology Act: Changes - Oppose, Dr. J. Smith 7649
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. R. Russell 7649
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2814, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: Death of - Tribute,
The Premier 7650
Vote - Affirmative 7651
Res. 2815, MacDonald, Ernest Finlay: Death of - Tribute, The Premier 7651
Vote - Affirmative 7651
Res. 2816, Sports - Can. Men's Hockey Team: Olympic Gold Medal -
Congrats., Hon. Rodney MacDonald 7652
Vote - Affirmative 7652
Res. 2817, Sports - Can. Women's Hockey Team: Olympic Gold Medal -
Congrats., Hon. Rodney MacDonald 7652
Vote - Affirmative 7653
Res. 2818, SMU - Computer Science Students: Hawaiian Comp. -
Congrats., Hon. J. Purves 7653
Vote - Affirmative 7654
Res. 2819, Sports - Colleen Jones Team: Scott Tournament of Hearts -
Congrats., Hon. Rodney MacDonald 7654
Vote - Affirmative 7655
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 101, Fire Safety Act, Hon. D. Morse 7655
No. 102, Raw Gas Onshore-processing Act, Mr. Manning MacDonald 7655
No. 103, Health-care Premiums Prohibition Act, Dr. J. Smith 7655
No. 104, Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission Act,
Hon. J. Purves 7655
No. 105, Elevators and Lifts Act, Hon. D. Morse 7655
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2820, Estimates: CWH on Supply - Referred, Hon. N. LeBlanc 7656
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2821, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother: Death of - Tribute,
Mr. F. Corbett 7656
Vote - Affirmative 7657
Res. 2822, Sydney Acad.: Debating Team - Congrats.,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 7657
Vote - Affirmative 7658
Res. 2823, Fin./Educ.: Post-Secondary Students - Debt Load Reduce,
Mr. D. Dexter 7658
Res. 2824, Yarmouth MLA - Health Care: Election Promise - Fulfill,
Mr. W. Gaudet 7659
Res. 2825, Sports: Speed Skating - 2002 Cheerios Championships,
Mr. T. Olive 7659
Vote - Affirmative 7660
Res. 2826, Knockwood, Noel: Nat'l. Aboriginal Achievement Award -
Congrats., Mr. J. Holm 7660
Vote - Affirmative 7661
Res. 2827, Robertson, Jill: Canada's Most Valuable Hockey Mom -
Congrats., Hon. P. Christie 7661
Vote - Affirmative 7662
Res. 2828, Gov't. (N.S.) - Health Care: Election Promises - Fulfill,
Dr. J. Smith 7662
Res. 2829, Gov't. (N.S.) - Political Advertising: Taxpayers' Dollars -
Usage Cease, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 7662
Res. 2830, Sports: Hfx. Mooseheads - Success Wish, Mr. D. Hendsbee 7663
Vote - Affirmative 7664
Res. 2831, Gov't. (N.S.): Election Promises - Results, Mr. P. MacEwan 7664
Res. 2832, Environ. & Lbr.: Sir John A. Macdonald HS -
Environ. Assessment, Mr. W. Estabrooks 7664
Vote - Affirmative 7665
Res. 2833, RCAF Memorial - Pier 21: Unveiling - Congrats.,
Hon. R. Russell 7665
Vote - Affirmative 7666
Res. 2834, Lahey, George Charles: Gov.-Gen.'s Award - Congrats.,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 7666
Vote - Affirmative 7667
Res. 2835, Tourism & Culture: Arts Council - Reinstate,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 7667
Res. 2836, Paul, Lawrence - Millwood Chief: Re-election - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Boudreau 7668
Vote - Affirmative 7668
Res. 2837, Belliveau, Michael: Death of - Tribute, Mr. J. MacDonell 7668
Vote - Affirmative 7669
Res. 2838, Debison, Aselin: Sony Contract - Congrats., Mr. D. Wilson 7669
Vote - Affirmative 7670
Res. 2339, Premier: Speedy Recovery - Wishes Offer, Mr. D. Dexter 7670
Vote - Affirmative 7670
Res. 2840, Health: New Waterford Hosp. - Closure Plans,
Mr. P. MacEwan 7671
Res. 2841, Pet. Dir. - Laurentian Sub-basin: Boundary Dispute -
Min. Responsibility, Mr. J. Holm 7671
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 778, Pet. Dir. - Laurentian Sub-basin: Boundary Dispute - Appeal,
Mr. D. Dexter 7672
No. 779, Nat. Res.: Laurentian Sub-basin - Boundary Dispute,
Mr. W. Gaudet 7673
No. 780, Pet. Dir. - Laurentian Sub-basin: Boundary Dispute -
Premier's Stance, Mr. J. Holm 7674
No. 781, Pet. Dir. - Laurentian Sub-basin: Boundary Dispute -
C.B. Effects, Mr. Manning MacDonald 7676
No. 782, Pet. Dir. - Laurentian Sub-basin: Boundary Dispute -
Appeal Urge, Mr. F. Corbett 7678
No. 783, Health - New Waterford Hosp.: Emergency Services -
Reduction, Mr. P. MacEwan 7679
No. 784, Econ. Dev. - Canso: Assistance - Min. Advise, Mr. H. Epstein 7680
No. 785, Fin.: Budget - Balance, Mr. W. Gaudet 7681
No. 786, Health: User Fees Imposition - Min. Reasons,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 7682
No. 787, Fin. - Debt (N.S.): Increase Halt - Timeframe, Mr. D. Downe 7684
No. 788, Tourism & Culture - Arts Council: Elimination - Explain,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 7685
No. 789, Tourism & Culture: Arts Council - Replacement Explain,
Mr. D. Downe 7686
No. 790, Health - New Waterford Hosp.: Emergency Dept. - Retain,
Mr. F. Corbett 7688
No. 791, Environ. & Lbr. - Springhill: Boil Order - Status,
Mr. Russell MacKinnon 7689
No. 792, Environ. & Lbr.: Minimum Wage - Raise, Mr. F. Corbett 7690
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 98, Volunteer Protection Act 7691
Hon. M. Baker 7691
Mr. K. Deveaux 7692
Mr. M. Samson 7696
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 7698
Mr. B. Boudreau 7700
Mr. W. Estabrooks 7701
Mr. J. Pye 7703
Mr. R. MacKinnon 7706
Hon. M. Baker 7709
Vote - Affirmative 7709
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 4:57 P.M. 7710
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 5:23 P.M. 7710
CWH REPORTS 7710
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTIONUNDER RULE 5(5):
Pet. Dir. - Laurentian Sub-basin: Boundary Dispute - Costs Explain:
Mr. J. Holm 7711
Mr. Manning MacDonald 7714
Hon. G. Balser 7716
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Apr. 3rd at 2:00 p.m. 7719
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 2810, Collingwood & Dist.: Firefighters/Aux. - Acknowledge,
The Speaker 7720
Res. 2811, Mar. Museum: Signal Flags - Thank, Mr. W. Dooks 7720
Res. 2812, Foggy Farms: Expansion - Congrats., Mr. Ronald Chisholm 7721
Res. 2813, Goldsworthy, Julia: Legion Award - Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 7721

[Page 7647]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, APRIL 2, 2002

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. Brooke Taylor, Mr. Jerry Pye, Mr. David Wilson

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Halifax Fairview:

Therefore be it resolved that the government should explain why it spent $3.5 million to aggressively pursue its claim to the Laurentian Sub-basin only to claim today after losing the case that the new line only affects a small portion of our offshore exploration.

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

MR. FRANK CHIPMAN: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table petitions from citizens of Kings and Annapolis Counties opposing any reductions in beds or services at health care facilities in Kings and Annapolis Counties. There are over 25,000 signatures on these petitions, including my own and those of the members for Kings North and Kings West. I have also enclosed over 1,500 letters and e-mails. I have affixed my signature to the said petitions and letters.

7647

[Page 7648]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the students of Mount St. Vincent University, the operative clause which reads, "We the undersigned agree that the Progressive Conservative Government of Nova Scotia under the leadership of Dr. John Hamm must make post secondary education a primary budget priority. We strongly urge that the responsibility for post secondary education funding be shifted from the over burdened student population to the provincial government as their constitutional responsibility dictates."

Mr. Speaker, there are 710 signatures on the petition and I have affixed my own.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: May I also do an introduction at this time? Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to the House of Assembly Gary Logan, who is the External Vice-President of Mount St. Vincent University and Leah Lewis, who is the President of the Student Union. They are joining us here today and they are in the west gallery. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our guests to the gallery today.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by over 1,300 Nova Scotians. It is to save our pediatric unit at the South Shore Regional Hospital. It states, "We the undersigned, that live in Bridgewater and the surrounding area are very disappointed and frustrated with the option of closing our pediatric unit at the South Shore Regional Hospital. We the undersigned request that the Department of Health, keep the Pediatric Unit opened and with adequate staff to provide medical treatments for our sick children." I have affixed my signature to these petitions.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce this package from the Canadian Cancer Society, Dartmouth Branch, that contains letters from 41 concerned members from Dartmouth petitioning this government to restrict smoking in work places and

[Page 7649]

public places. The letters forming this petition read in part, "Second hand smoke is not just a nuisance, it poses a serious risk to the health of all individuals of our community."

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that Nova Scotians continue to sign petitions seeking to restrict smoking in work places and public places and that this is by no means the only group of individuals who wish to express their displeasure with the government in respect to the smoking issue. I have added my name to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition which states:

"We, the undersigned Estheticians, or registered Students of the Esthetics Programs in Nova Scotia (Specific License: Manicure/Pedicure and Facial/Make-up) are not in agreement with the proposed changes to the By-Laws of the Cosmetology Association of Nova Scotia, pursuant to the Cosmetology Act.

These changes were approved and voted in by Cosmetology Association members at the 1999 Annual General Meeting, however, Estheticians are not permitted to vote and therefore did not have proper representation or input.

The proposed changes also affect esthetic curriculum, training requirements, license categories and requirements, which we do not want to become legislated.

We appreciate your attention to this matter."

I have affixed my signature. (Applause)

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:

Bill No. 72 - Electronic Evidence Act.

[Page 7650]

and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 2814

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas on Saturday, March 30th, Her Majesty Queen Elizebeth, the Queen Mother, passed away at the age of 101; and

Whereas the Queen Mother's connection with Nova Scotia will be missed, as she enjoyed several visits, including a trip with King George VI in 1939, receiving an honorary degree from Dalhousie University, attending the Highland Games in Antigonish in 1967, and officially opening the first Nova Scotia International Tattoo in 1979; and

Whereas the Queen Mother will be remembered for her love of this country, and the grace and dedication she showed all people;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the life of Her Majesty and express our deepest condolences to Her Majesty The Queen and the House of Windsor on their loss.

I request all members now stand for a moment of silence.

MR. SPEAKER: All rise, please. A moment of silence for the Queen Mother.

[A minute of silence was observed.]

MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated.

Was there a request for waiver?

[Page 7651]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 2815

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

Whereas the Province of Nova Scotia wishes to acknowledge the accomplishments of the late Ernest Finlay MacDonald, who worked for national leaders, Robert Stanfield, Joe Clark and Brian Mulroney; and

Whereas Findlay was a leader and an innovator in broadcasting, helping build success stories such as CJCH Radio, ATV and CTV; and

Whereas Findlay's remarkable achievements were recognized with his membership in the Order of Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Hall of Fame and the Senate of Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize a lifetime of service by E. Findlay MacDonald and express our deepest condolences to his family on their loss.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 7652]

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 2816

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

Whereas the Canadian Men's Hockey Team is celebrating well-deserved success for their Olympic gold medal win; and

Whereas the win was the first time in 50 years Canada has won gold for men's hockey; and

Whereas Nova Scotia's own Al MacInnis from Port Hood played a valuable role on this year's team;

Therefore be it resolved that the House acknowledge the Canadian Men's Hockey Team as Olympic gold medal winners at the 2002 Winter Games and their hard work to achieve this goal.

[2:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission.

RESOLUTION NO. 2817

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

[Page 7653]

Whereas the Canadian Women's Hockey Team is celebrating well-deserved success for their Olympic gold medal win; and

Whereas the game was a rematch for the Olympic gold medal played in Nagano in 1998; and

Whereas the Canadian women beat their arch-rivals, the United States, and won the Olympic gold medal;

Therefore be it resolved that the House acknowledge the Canadian Women's Hockey Team as Olympic gold medal winners in the 2002 Winter Games and, as well, for their outstanding contribution to Canadian sport.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 2818

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

Whereas for the first time ever at a world-class computer science competition, three students from Saint Mary's University were granted honourable mention at a recent competition in Hawaii; and

Whereas students Chad West, Jonathan Sharkey and Steven Perron beat out students from Harvard, Princeton, Yale and Columbia just to qualify for the event in Honolulu; and

Whereas Computer Science Professor Porter Scobey said it was pure perseverance and dedication which resulted in the honour being bestowed upon them;

[Page 7654]

Therefore be it resolved that members of the Legislature commend the incredible work undertaken by these three students and the Saint Mary's Computer Science Program.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 2819

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

Whereas Nova Scotia's Colleen Jones is celebrating her team's win at the Scott Tournament of Hearts; and

Whereas the win was Colleen's fourth national women's championship as Skip, a first for curling in Canada; and

Whereas Colleen and the team will now go on to defend their title at the world championships in Bismarck, North Dakota;

Therefore be it resolved that the House acknowledge Colleen Jones and her Nova Scotia team: Third Kim Kelly, Second Mary-Anne Waye, Lead Nancy Delahunt, as well, Coach Ken Bagnell, and Fifth Laine Peters, as winners of the Scott Tournament of Hearts and for their contribution to Canadian curling.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 7655]

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 101 - Entitled an Act to Promote and Encourage Fire Safety. (Hon. David Morse)

Bill No. 102 - Entitled an Act to Require Unprocessed Natural Gas to be Processed Onshore in Nova Scotia. (Mr. Manning MacDonald)

Bill No. 103 - Entitled an Act to Impose a Prohibition on Health-care Premiums in Nova Scotia. (Dr. James Smith)

Bill No. 104 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission. (Hon. Jane Purves)

Bill No. 105 - Entitled an Act to Provide for the Licensing and Regulating of Elevators and Certain Other Types of Lifts. (Hon. David Morse)

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

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury on an introduction.

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure today to introduce to you in your gallery the Mayor of the Town of Canso, His Worship Frank Fraser, and also the Deputy Mayor of the Town of Canso, Fin Armsworthy, so if they would stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome the special guests to the gallery today.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, with the consent of the Opposition, I would ask that we move back to the order of business, Government Notices of Motion.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 7656]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 2820

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall:

(1) read and table the message from Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor transmitting the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the province for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2003;

(2) table the Estimate Books;

(3) table the Crown Corporation business plans;

(4) table the Estimate and Crown Corporation business plan resolutions;

(5) deliver my Budget Speech; and

(6) move that the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the Province, for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2003, being Supply to be granted to Her Majesty, and the Crown Corporation business plans be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

Mr. Speaker, for the information of the House the budget will be brought forth on April 4th, Thursday of this week.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2821

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

Whereas we join our Commonwealth partners in mourning the loss of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother; and

[Page 7657]

Whereas my caucus would like to add our voices to express condolences to The Queen and the Royal Family; and

Whereas the Queen Mother has always had a special place in the hearts and minds of all Canadians;

Therefore be it resolved that all members express their sympathies and prayers for 101 years of great life and wish the Royal Family all the best in this difficult time.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2822

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

Whereas Rory Gillis, Jonathan Yazer and Mark Brister successfully defended Sydney Academy's title by winning the provincial high school debating championship, beating out 30 teams from 17 schools; and

Whereas after going undefeated in round robin competition, they then defeated Halifax West in the semi-finals and the Halifax Grammar School in the final round of debate; and

Whereas Rory Gillis was the top Grade 12 debater, Jonathan Yazer was the top Grade 11 debater and Mark Brister was the top Grade 10 debater, making for a Sydney Academy sweep;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Rory Gillis, Jonathan Yazer and Mark Brister on winning the provincial high school debating championship.

[Page 7658]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 2823

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

Whereas 700-plus students, faculty and administrators from Mount Saint Vincent University have signed a petition calling on this government to alleviate the debt burden of post-secondary students; and

Whereas Nova Scotia continues to have the highest tuitions in the country; and

Whereas it is time this government listened to these students and take decisive action on student debt load in the upcoming budget;

Therefore be it resolved that this House instruct the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Education to take the concerns of post-secondary students seriously and reduce their debt load.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

[Page 7659]

RESOLUTION NO. 2824

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

Whereas people on fixed incomes will soon be forced to pay for blood collection services and fees for emergency room supplies before being able to access health services in the South West Nova District Health Authority; and

Whereas on his election campaign Web site, the MLA for Yarmouth promised to fight for "greater access" to health care; and

Whereas this move to block access to health services may result in seniors and others becoming more acutely ill, as they will no longer be able to afford to attend regular clinics;

Therefore be it resolved that the MLA for Yarmouth fulfill his promise to fight for access for health care and speak out against this government's move to gouge seniors and others on fixed income.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2825

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

Whereas the 2002 Cheerios Canadian Age Class Short Track Speed Skating Championships were held last weekend at the Dartmouth Sportsplex; and

Whereas during the successful three day championship, spectators were treated to exciting performances from speed skaters from across Canada; and

[Page 7660]

Whereas this national event was held for the first time in Nova Scotia thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Dartmouth Speed Skating Club and the generosity of several sponsors;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the athletes who performed so well at the 2002 Cheerios Canadian Age Short Track Speed Skating Championships and thank the Dartmouth Speed Skating Club for its part in bringing such a wonderful event to Dartmouth.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 2826

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

Whereas Noel Knockwood, this Legislature's Sergeant-at-Arms, was awarded a National Aboriginal Achievement Award; and

Whereas Mr. Knockwood received this award in recognition for his work "to restore and build aboriginal spirituality"; and

Whereas Mr. Knockwood is an inspiration to young aboriginal and non-aboriginal people;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Mr. Noel Knockwood on achieving a National Aboriginal Achievement Award and acknowledge his outstanding contributions to our society.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 7661]

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. (Standing ovation.)

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 2827

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

Whereas six year old Sam Robertson of Fall River has Canada's Most Valuable Hockey Mom; and

Whereas Sam Robertson and his mother, Jill Robertson, can be seen on the local frozen ponds or arena, driveway or garage, practising their shots and stickhandling; and

Whereas Jill Robertson was chosen as Canada's Most Valuable Hockey Mom because of a letter written by her son which was chosen by Mario Lemieux in the Campbell's Chunky Soup Most Valuable Hockey Mom contest;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their congratulations to Jill Robertson on being chosen Canada's Most Valuable Hockey Mom and a thank you to her son Sam for writing a letter and, of course, to all hockey moms in Nova Scotia for the great leadership they provide.

[2:30 p.m.]

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 7662]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2828

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

Whereas in July 1999 then Leader John Hamm and his Tory team campaigned on a promise that they have a plan to fix the health care system at an affordable cost; and

Whereas, to date, all Nova Scotians have seen from this fabled plan are increased wait times, cancelled surgeries, over-crowded emergency rooms, closed hospital beds and an increasing amount of costs being borne by the patient; and

Whereas today if you asked any Nova Scotian whether the health care system is better today than it was two and a half years ago, the response would be a resounding no;

Therefore be it resolved that Premier Hamm and his entire caucus review their priorities and deliver on the promise to deliver quality care at an affordable cost.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 2829

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

Whereas this Tory Government continues to spend taxpayers' dollars on politically motivated advertising, after promising in their blue book not to follow the Liberals down this well-worn path; and

[Page 7663]

Whereas in the 1999 election the Tories practically tarred and feathered Russell MacLellan for spending advertising money in such a blatantly political fashion; and

Whereas Tories have shelled out at least $200,000 of taxpayers' money to pitch their health care message, money that would be much better spent on delivering health care;

Therefore be it resolved that the House direct the Premier and his staff to stop wasting taxpayers' dollars on political advertising and start spending it on better health care services for Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 2830

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

Whereas it is down to D-Day for the Halifax Mooseheads as they go head to head with the Rimouski Oceanic in game seven of their quarter-final series tonight at the Halifax Metro Centre; and

Whereas a Mooseheads win this evening would set up a terrific best of seven showdown with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, who have already advanced to the second round of the Quebec Major Junior "A" hockey playoffs; and

Whereas a Mooseheads win tonight would also put them one step closer to a second appearance in the Memorial Cup tournament scheduled this year in Guelph, Ontario;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House wish Coach Shawn MacKenzie and the Halifax Mooseheads every success tonight in their game against Rimouski.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 7664]

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. 2831

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

Whereas when seeking NDP support to overthrow the Russell MacLellan Liberals, the Tories told their socialist friends that if elected government they would abolish seniors' health care premiums; and

Whereas having received the endorsement and blessing of the NDP, the Tories have increased seniors' health care premiums by 50 per cent, effective April 1st for 40,000 Nova Scotians; and

Whereas the repudiation of the Tories' solemn election commitment is almost on a par with the perfidy of the Russian administration of ;

Therefore be it resolved that although the Russian words just quoted actually mean the Emperor or Tsar Ivan or John the Awesome, they are most usually mis-translated into English as Ivan the Terrible, and those who emulate Ivan the Terrible are likely to end up with a terribly terrible ending come the upcoming provincial election.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 2832

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

[Page 7665]

Whereas the staff, students and community served by Sir John A. Macdonald High School have patiently waited for a full environmental assessment of this high school; and

Whereas students, teachers and the public have a right to work and study in an environmentally friendly building; and

Whereas it is only fair to this community to know the full and open truth about the health of Sir John A. Macdonald High School;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate and thank the students, staff and parents of Sir John A. Macdonald High School for their dedication and commitment.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

RESOLUTION NO. 2833

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

Whereas a permanent memorial to the 94,000 Air Force members who travelled through Pier 21 during the Second World War was unveiled at Pier 21 on Monday; and

Whereas the ceremonial opening of the display was also the 78th Anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force; and

Whereas one veteran of the RCAF noted solemnly yesterday that the plaque, to him, is not for the 94,000 who went but for the 18,000 who did not come back;

[Page 7666]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the contributions made by so many to commemorate through this permanent exhibition such an important component of our military - an exhibit which will ensure we will always remember our fallen heroes of the Royal Canadian Air Force and all those who willingly came forward to serve their country through the proud ranks of the RCAF.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2834

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

Whereas George Charles Lahey of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia received the Governor General's Medal for Bravery for saving the life of a co-worker; and

Whereas Mr. Lahey and four others were working on fishing nets about 16 kilometres off the coast of Louisbourg when a fellow fisherman got entangled in fishing gear and was pulled overboard; and

Whereas Mr. Lahey jumped into the frigid waters and managed to tie a rope around the fisherman as the crew was able to pull the man to safety, but Mr. Lahey, who remained in the water, was unable to hold on and was eventually forced to grab the rope with his teeth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate George Charles Lahey on receiving the Government General's Award for Bravery.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

[Page 7667]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 2835

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

Whereas Nova Scotia was the last province to get an arts council and the first to lose it; and

Whereas the Minister of Tourism and Culture claims his new council will result "in broad community input into investment decisions and administrative savings that will go directly to artists and cultural organizations"; and

Whereas any promised savings won't come close to replacing the substantial funding cuts made to the arts council and its constituent community over the last few years;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Tourism and Culture show real support for the Nova Scotia arts community by reinstating an independent Nova Scotia Arts Council and providing adequate funding for it to do its job.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

[Page 7668]

RESOLUTION NO. 2836

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

Whereas Lawrence Paul has been elected Chief of the Millbrook Band for the 10th time, beating his only rival by more than 250 votes; and

Whereas Chief Paul is the longest-serving chief in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas Chief Paul has earned a name for himself as a shrewd negotiator and has been named in Atlantic Progress as one of the "thinkers and doers for a new era";

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Lawrence Paul on his re-election to a 10th term as the Chief of Millbrook.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2837

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

Whereas on January 26, 2002, the Maritimes lost one of this country's greatest voices on behalf of the inshore fishers' rights, Michael Belliveau of the Maritime Fishermen's Union; and

Whereas Mike Belliveau fought long, hard and well for the survival of coastal communities that have suffered for years from fishing policies that have destroyed cod stocks and imperilled other fisheries; and

[Page 7669]

Whereas Mike Belliveau did his job with intelligence and passion and, as one friend said, he was the heart and soul of the Maritime Fishermen's Union;

Therefore be it resolved that this House express its profound regret and deepest sadness at the loss of Michael Belliveau, late of the Maritime Fishermen's Union - he truly made a difference.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 2838

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

Whereas Glace Bay singing sensation, 11 year old Aselin Debison has signed a five album deal with Sony Music Worldwide that is unprecedented for an artist in this part of the world; and

Whereas Miss Debison, at her young age, has performed for Prime Minister Jean Chretien on Parliament Hill, opened the East Coast Music Awards and performed with many other artists and appeared on national television; and

Whereas Miss Debison is the youngest ever East Coast Music Award nominee;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Aselin Debison on her unprecedented record contract with Sony Music Worldwide.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 7670]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 2839

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

Whereas members of this Legislature recently learned that the Premier will have to undergo surgery on April 8th; and

Whereas we want the Premier to know that we wish him well in his operation and his recovery; and

Whereas we want to assure the Premier that while he is absent from the House, we will continue our push to hold the government accountable in his absence;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House join us in wishing the Premier well and in wishing him a speedy recovery. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

[Page 7671]

RESOLUTION NO. 2840

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

Whereas it is nothing new for the Tory Party to be plotting the closure of the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital; and

Whereas when Donnie Cameron was Premier, the Tories were secretly planning to close the New Waterford Hospital, along with many other hospitals in this plan, and were prevented from so doing only by the election of a Liberal Government in 1993; and

Whereas after the Hammites ascended to power, thanks to the NDP in 1999, they got right back on their bad old habits immediately, hatching new plans to close down the New Waterford Hospital;

Therefore be it resolved that the behavior of the Tories on this issue, as with so many others, simply shows why Tory times are hard times and that the only cure for the Tory pestilence is to see them most soundly defeated at the polls.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 2841

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

Whereas the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate said today's ruling wasn't about winners or losers; and

Whereas in Nova Scotia's case, it is clearly about losing, as Newfoundland got 75 per cent of the sweet area of the Laurentian Sub-basin; and

Whereas the government justifies accepting the ruling on the basis that big oil will be happy with the ruling;

Therefore be it resolved that this House inform the minister that his primary responsibility is to get the best deal possible for Nova Scotians, not to make his friends in the boardrooms of big oil, happy.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 7672]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North on an introduction.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, in the west gallery today, visitors to Nova Scotia, particularly Dartmouth, from the south coastal town of La Herradura, Spain. They are Wendy, Brian and Katie Lees. Wendy is the twin sister of Mike Slayter and Mike Slayter has been known, obviously, for advocating child adoption legislation in the Province of Nova Scotia. They are here today to view the proceedings of the House and I do wish the House would give them a warm welcome. Would you please stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 2:45 p.m. and end at 3:45 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

PET. DIR. - LAURENTIAN SUB-BASIN:

BOUNDARY DISPUTE - APPEAL

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this morning they were celebrating in Newfoundland. At his press conference, Premier Roger Grimes couldn't wipe the smile off his face, and why should he? They just walked away with 70 per cent of the Laurentian Sub-basin. From day one the Premier said that he would aggressively pursue this matter to the end. He spent $3.5 million, he personally led our case. But today, at our press conference, the Premier couldn't be found. When the going gets tough, the tough-talking Premier takes a powder. My question to the Premier is, why did you commit to Premier Grimes that you would not appeal this devastating decision?

[2:45 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, first of all, the member opposite made reference to the aggressive team that we put together, because that group actually just provided a resolution talking about the best deal possible for Nova Scotians. It was important to Nova Scotia that

[Page 7673]

we get the best deal possible for Nova Scotia. We took it to court. The court decided that it would split the difference, and we are left where we are.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, on June 25, 1998, the then-Leader of the Third Party, the now Premier, John Hamm, said that the claim of Newfoundland to the Laurentian Sub-basin has no basis whatsoever. The Premier's election platform said he would aggressively pursue ownership of virtually the entire sub-basin. Mr. Speaker, today's decision is a major defeat for the Premier and for his Party. Will the Premier admit his long-standing policy on the Laurentian Sub-basin was badly flawed and has cost Nova Scotians hundreds of millions in offshore revenues?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite comes with a legal background and knows full well that in defending a case you don't go out and publicly undermine your own case. Clearly what we were saying is we felt that the political agreement that was reached in 1964 was in the best interests of Nova Scotians and we would pursue it, and pursue it we did. In terms of what we had to achieve, we had to protect - and I will table this map, Mr. Speaker, because it shows that because of aggressively pursuing the interests of Nova Scotians we protected over 99 per cent of the leases that Nova Scotia has signed.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, now we have a pitiful Liberal royalty scheme; we have a shrinking number of Nova Scotia benefits and jobs; we have no gas distribution; and now Newfoundland takes the bulk of the Laurentian Sub-basin. My question for the Premier is simply this, how did you let the greatest opportunity of our lifetime slip through your fingers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government will continue to pursue that greatest opportunity in a lifetime that Nova Scotians do have, and the best advice that we will take is not to take the advice of the members opposite.

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

NAT. RES.: LAURENTIAN SUB-BASIN - BOUNDARY DISPUTE

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Today Nova Scotians received word that we have lost the Laurentian boundary dispute. Nova Scotia will receive 16 per cent of the basin, while Newfoundland gets 75 per cent. The Premier took a leading role in the tribunal and politicized the process. Instead of telling Nova Scotians directly that he had failed, he sent his Petroleum Minister to give the bad news. Will the Premier be appealing this decision to the federal minister so that Nova Scotians can be assured that their Premier is looking out for their interests?

[Page 7674]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it's in the best interests of Nova Scotians to go forward and develop the resources between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. We will allow that process to go forward.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the Premier can't hide behind this one. He took personal responsibility for this decision when he himself addressed the tribunal. The Premier has an obligation to serve the interests of our province. The Premier has yet to appoint a full-time energy minister. Why won't the Premier demonstrate leadership and instruct his minister to immediately appeal this decision?

THE PREMIER: The interests of Nova Scotians will be best served by going forward and developing the resource that is on our side of the line. The industry is anxious to do it now, the money is available now and I believe that we were successful to the point in that we did defend very successfully the leases that are already in place. Clearly put, to prolong this any longer would not serve in the best interest of any Canadian.

MR. GAUDET: The Premier talks about being very successful. Well, 16 per cent is what the Premier believes is successful. Maybe the Premier here again has a moral obligation to answer to this decision. If the current minister won't appeal the decision, why won't the Premier appoint a full-time minister who will appeal the decision and stand up for the rights of Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: The government is committed to, as has been pointed out and recommended in the energy strategy, appoint a full-time minister of energy. First we have to have a budget, and I'm sure that perhaps if the member opposite is truly interested in having that happen quickly, he will help the government move the budget debate along quite quickly.

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

PET. DIR. - LAURENTIAN SUB-BASIN:

BOUNDARY DISPUTE - PREMIER'S STANCE

MR. JOHN HOLM: The Premier, of course, was conspicuously absent this morning when his Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate announced that he wasn't there to talk about winners and losers. It's little wonder that he didn't want to talk about winners and losers because, quite clearly, Nova Scotia came out on the short end of the stick. We just got a little bit more than France - 75 per cent of the sweet area went to Newfoundland. We get a paltry 16 per cent. Big oil is happy. They're not concerned about whose side of the line they're exploring on. Their primary interest is profit. The minister seems to believe, if big oil is happy, the government is happy. My question to the minister is, whose side are you on? Are you on the side of Nova Scotia, fighting for our best interests, or simply trying to make your friends in big oil happy?

[Page 7675]

HON. GORDON BALSER: I assure the member opposite I am on the side of Nova Scotians. In terms of the sweet area, in order to determine it is in fact sweet, you have to have discoveries. I remind the member opposite there is no seismic occurring, there is no exploration. Until that happens, we don't know what is there.

MR. HOLM: Of course, this morning, the minister tried to confuse numbers. He talked about the total amount of money that has been committed in work commitments. He was using the total offshore, he purposely ignored mentioning the fact that the actual amount in the Laurentian Sub-basin is only $90 million in terms of committment. The minister also knows, based on past experience, that the majority of that will not be spent in Nova Scotia, hiring Nova Scotians or purchasing goods and services here. My question to the minister is, why is your government caving in and sacrificing the potential revenues, the jobs and the benefits for Nova Scotia for such a small return?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I remind the member opposite that the only block that's been impacted is the Kerr-McGee Block that has a $13 million work committment, all of which stays in Nova Scotia. In terms of how we move forward, it seems to me a discussion about what benefits will occur is a direct result of the business case and, first of all, you have to have activity before you have employment opportunities.

MR. HOLM: I would remind the minister that we will never have Nova Scotia activity on that section of land that has been now given away to Newfoundland. The Liberals bungled the first round of negotiations because when Newfoundland was ready to deal, they weren't ready to negotiate. Now, this government is carrying on that tradition and it is a loser, big time.

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask, through you to the Premier this time, will the Premier apologize to the people of Nova Scotia for its current lack of intestinal fortitude in terms of standing up and fighting for the best interests of Nova Scotia by appealing that decision? Will you do that, at least that?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, all reasonable people, I think, have come to the conclusion, including the Mayor of CBRM who wants exploration to go forward, I think that is what would benefit the people of Nova Scotia at this particular time. A further delay - which would not be successful - would not work in anybody's interest but it certainly makes interesting conversation with the NDP.

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

[Page 7676]

PET. DIR. - LAURENTIAN SUB-BASIN:

BOUNDARY DISPUTE - C.B. EFFECTS

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is again to the Premier. The problem with this Premier is that he has yet to live up to a number of significant promises over the past few months, including the 15 per cent tax cut, the full-time Petroleum Minister . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: The 10 per cent tax cut.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: The 10 per cent tax cut, fine. Well, he's not giving anything now so what's the difference, 15 per cent or 10 per cent? (Interruptions) And no Laurentian Sub-basin victory. The latest unfulfilled promise means that Nova Scotians and Cape Bretoners in particular, will be denied their lawful right to share in the riches of offshore Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, instead of allowing a professional team to make Nova Scotia's case in the Laurentian boundary dispute, the Premier decided to inject himself personally. Now that the Premier's intervention has failed and has resulted in the failure we witness today, what will the Premier do to ensure that Cape Breton shares in offshore prosperity, particularly how it will affect the efforts of the private sector such as the Laurentian group in Sydney?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings a good question to Question Period. Obviously, this is of great importance to the people of Cape Breton and I was pleased to see that the mayor came to the conclusion, as government has as well, that it is time to go forward and he is recommending that we go on with exploration of the area that is on our side of the line and we will do that and we will do it in concert with those in Cape Breton who are looking for this to be a solution for some of the economic woes of that part of the province and we will work with them to have that happen.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the problem in Cape Breton is that nothing is happening and the problem is that there is no plan of action by this government to do anything about the future development of the Laurentian Sub-basin as it affects Cape Breton business and labour, absolutely no policy from this government.

Mr. Speaker, my first supplementary to the Premier, in the local newspaper this morning, the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate said we will live with the consequences. For that statement alone, that part-time minister should be replaced. (Interruption) The minister doesn't have to live with the consequences but Cape Bretoners do have to live with the consequences of these decisions. That is par for the course for a minister who has done absolutely nothing to help grow the offshore industry in Nova Scotia. I want to ask the Premier again, what is this government's specific policy as it affects the labour and business content for industrial Cape Breton, particularly with the private entrepreneurs who are trying to grow this industry in that part of Nova Scotia?

[Page 7677]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this government, in partnership with the municipal government in industrial Cape Breton, in partnership with the federal government, has done more to create employment activity in the two and a half years of its mandate than the previous government did in its six. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please! The honourable member for Cape Breton South on your final supplementary.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, what that Premier just said was absolutely false! They have done nothing to create any jobs in Cape Breton. All they have done is piggyback on the initiatives of the federal government and the Cape Breton Growth Fund. They have a measly $2 million a year as the total extent of their involvement in Cape Breton Island. For the Premier to stand up there and make a statement like that is a sham to this House.

[3:00 p.m.]

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Shame! Shame!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: He should know better unless somebody is telling him some more lies over there.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton South on the question, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it states in the Tory blue book that the Tories will ensure that any future development of the Laurentian Sub-basin benefits the Cape Breton economy by supporting offshore infrastructure for development on Cape Breton.

Now, I want to ask the Premier, again - I will give him another chance to tell me - what is he doing to develop the infrastructure in Cape Breton? The only thing he has done so far, through his minister, was reject the establishment of a Petroleum Directorate office in Sydney.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this government takes economic development in industrial Cape Breton very seriously. The success we have had was articulated well by the federal government in its report last fall when it indicated the employment numbers in Cape Breton and the unemployment rate is better than at any time in the mid-1980's. This government has had more success in two and a half years than the previous government had in six. (Applause)

[Page 7678]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

PET. DIR. - LAURENTIAN SUB-BASIN:

BOUNDARY DISPUTE - APPEAL URGE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, this morning the troubled Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate said Nova Scotia will likely throw in the towel on the Laurentian dispute. He said his government is willing to walk away with a measly 16 per cent of the resource-rich area.

I know this government is embarassed by the defeat and they should be, that's understandable. But the people of Cape Breton, the people who stood the most to gain from the Laurentian, cannot afford to allow this government to give up, Mr. Speaker. They need a government that will fight for them.

My question to that minister is, why won't you do the right thing by the Cape Breton workers, the men, women and children who live there, and immediately appeal this decision?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, until exploration occurs, until seismic occurs, there will be no economic opportunities for Cape Bretoners or anyone else in Nova Scotia. We have a block that is already committed to be moved forward, by Kerr-McGee. The sooner we can do that, the sooner these opportunities will occur. If we were to continue down a road that saw delay upon delay, no one would benefit. (Applause)

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I want to read some quotes into the record. Dr. John Hamm said, "I think the tremendous advantage that the Laurentian Sub-Basin is going to be is for the people of Cape Breton." He went on to say, "We hope that the gas and oil from the tremendous reserves out there will flow to that part of Nova Scotia and provide them with prosperity."

He used that promise up to the Laurentian to shut down the steel and coal industry, Mr. Speaker. You said the Laurentian was coming and it would make up for jobs in the steel, coal and construction industry, but it didn't happen.

My question to the Premier, what now? What is your plan for Cape Breton, now that you have lost almost the entire Laurentian Sub-basin?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite was present when I articulated our support for economic development in Cape Breton. I would remind the member opposite that a delay of the decision, an appeal of the decision would mean that the six blocks that are closest to Cape Breton which are inside what Newfoundland originally claimed belonged to it, would not go forward and further delay any economic activity from the offshore in industrial Cape Breton.

[Page 7679]

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear! Hear! ( Applause)

MR. CORBETT: I hope they don't use the same math when they are putting the budget forward on Thursday, that 16 per cent is greater than 70 per cent. Mr. Speaker, $3.5 million, that is what this government has spent on the Laurentian boundary dispute. That is more than this government has spent in economic development in Cape Breton.We had no plan for the economic development except for the Laurentian and now that is gone.

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the minister, will you admit that you have failed Cape Breton? Will you admit that after three years you have no plan for the economic development of Cape Breton Island?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the member opposite that this government has put more jobs into industrial Cape Breton, into all of Cape Breton, than the previous government did in its entire mandate.

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

HEALTH - NEW WATERFORD HOSP.:

EMERGENCY SERVICES - REDUCTION

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health. I would like to ask the Minister of Health with reference to the Cape Breton District Health Authority, which released a report on emergency care services about a couple of weeks ago, 59 pages in length. It's hard to sum up 59 pages into one sentence, but in the New Waterford area, the proposal seems to be to change the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital to an urgent care centre, whatever that is. I would like to ask the minister if he could explain to the House to what extent he is prepared to allow reduced emergency services for the residents of the New Waterford area who depend on that hospital for emergency service?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is correct; the Cape Breton District Health Authority did commission a study looking at its emergency health services, in particular the emergency departments across the district health authority. The group has presented its report. The strategy that was adopted by the district health authority was to go out into the communities and discuss the report. There have been no decisions taken as of this point about a different delivery system for the emergency health system in the Cape Breton District Health Authority.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, that may be their line of explanation at the moment, but we have the 59-page report. I have here in my hand a 22-page report from 1992. I'm not going to quote from it, so I don't want to table it today, but I have it here. We can get into that in the future. They have their plans worked out; they just don't explain them to the public in a straightforward way. I would like to ask the minister, through you, if he could

[Page 7680]

explain to the House what an urgent care centre is as compared to a hospital? And could the minister explain to all the people who are involved, what plans he really does have in mind for that particular hospital, the one in New Waterford?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in reference to the distinction between an emergent and an urgent care centre, I can give a layman's interpretation of that, but the honourable member may wish to consult with an expert in emergency medical care to get a more precise definition. Emergency, and I will give you the layman's definition, is something that has to be done immediately. Urgent means it's a high priority; there is a need to do it but you can take a little bit of time in doing it. Unfortunately, one of the sad facts we have in Nova Scotia and other Canadian jurisdictions is that although we do have emergency departments in a good many communities, to be quite frank, the number of emergency cases they would actually see is a very weak minority of the cases that are presented to those departments.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, we're going to have to explore this matter, and I know it will take more than one more question to do. But I wanted to ask the minister, as a final parting shot for today, he has just defined a new definition for urgency. I am reliably advised that Tim Hortons is open 24 hours a day. Could the minister explain why an urgent care centre would then only be open 16 hours a day? Is that urgency?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the fact is I determined emergent means that the care has to occur right away; urgent is a service that's delivered. It's conceivable that the urgent services could be delivered in a 16-hour period or a 12-hour period or an 8-hour period, or perhaps could be delivered at another site if they are not time-sensitive.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

ECON. DEV. - CANSO: ASSISTANCE - MIN. ADVISE

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Economic Development. The minister is very well aware of the plight of the Town of Canso. It's largest employer, the fish plant, is closed. The town and the fishers have struggled valiantly to access more quota to keep the plant open. They didn't get it. The federal Liberal Minister of Fisheries has apparently abandoned the people of Canso. The situation is desperate. Without help of some form, they will have to pack up and leave. Can the minister advise what this government is going to do, right now, for the Town of Canso?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I assure the member opposite that we are all very concerned about the plight of the Town of Canso, but it's necessary to have a solution that works that involves all partners. As the member opposite indicated, much of the issue resides with the federal government in terms of allocation of the quota. There is a committee within this government that is working very aggressively at finding solutions for that community.

[Page 7681]

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, blaming everyone else doesn't work. This minister is the Minister of Economic Development for Nova Scotia. We have all seen the recent census figures from Statistics Canada that show that our rural populations are shrinking, our fishing communities are starting to go the way of the cod. Can the minister explain why his government has adopted a deliberate policy of depopulating small rural coastal towns?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, we do have an economic development strategy. I remind the member opposite the most recent announcement by NSBI, in concert with this government, was to locate a number of jobs in rural Nova Scotia, some in Queens County and some in Digby-Annapolis.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the truth is that this government has no economic development policy for towns like Canso. It has thrown its hands up into the air as if to say, let's leave it to the federal Minister of Fisheries to save the day. This minister has not said diddly-squat of any consequence to help the people of Canso. He tried to leave it to the feds. Will the Minister of Economic Development state for the residents of Canso what concrete measures he has taken to save their town, or will he simply admit today that his government has an unwritten but very effective policy to say sink or swim for small rural Nova Scotia communities?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, much of this government is represented by people who live in rural Nova Scotia, as I do myself. So, certainly, we are focused on that. In terms of trying to solve the puzzle with regard to Canso, we have a committee. We are working towards solutions, but certainly it takes time. They have to work and be sustainable.

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

FIN.: BUDGET - BALANCE

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The Premier has made no secret that his government intends to table a balanced budget this session. A budget, however, is only an indication of what you intend to spend. For example, in 2000, this government missed its health spending target by $224 million. My question to the Premier is, will the Premier personally guarantee that if the budget tabled this week is balanced it will remain balanced at the end of the year?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this government has, in consultation with Nova Scotians, identified four priorities: one, a balanced budget; two, health care; three, education; and four, roads. All of these will be effectively addressed in the upcoming budget.

[Page 7682]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, in number four, the Premier forgot to say no guarantee. According to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce pre-budget submission, which I will table here, health spending exceeded budget by 13 per cent; education spending by 28 per cent over budget in the fiscal year 2000-01.

[3:15 p.m.]

So, Mr. Speaker, given that this government has yet to meet its budget targets since coming to office, my question to the Premier is, how can we now be assured that the budget tabled this spring will remain balanced at the end of the year?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this government indicated to the people of Nova Scotia in 1999 the objectives that it would undertake if, in fact, it became government. It became government. We are undertaking those objectives and we will deliver those objectives.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, speaking of those promises made in 1999, I will table an article dated July 25, 1999. (Interruptions) I eventually will table that. During the last election the Premier said he would begin to uninvolve himself in public life if he could not live up to his commitment to balance the budget. The article that I tabled just now will remind the Premier of those commitments. My final question to the Premier is, will the Premier begin to uninvolve himself in public life if the budget is not balanced at the end of 2002-03?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, after two and one-half years in government, it is obvious that we've been a success because we're not being criticized by what we've done, but the Opposition is now criticizing something we might fail to do in the future. We haven't failed in the past. We will not fail in the future.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH: USER FEES IMPOSITION - MIN. REASONS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, now a little criticism for what the government is doing right now. My question is for the Minister of Health. In its 1999 campaign this government said in its blue book, that it would reduce the excessive tax burden on Nova Scotians. How far we have come since then. This government has introduced $143 million in hidden taxes in the form of user fees since it came to power, higher costs to operate a vehicle, fees in some health districts, higher Pharmacare premiums. So I would like to ask the Minister of Health if his idea of reducing the excessive tax burden on Nova Scotia is by heaping more and more health care related and other user fees on Nova Scotians?

[Page 7683]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the honourable member back to the Canada Health Act and the five principles that it has. The fact is that there are a number of health services in Nova Scotia, and indeed there are in other jurisdictions in Canada, that are not insured services under the Canada Health Act. Our government has contributed handsomely to the delivery of these services. The costs of these services keep going up and the people I speak to would sooner be asked to contribute a little bit to a non-insured service than not to have it at all.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the only thing this government had contributed handsomely to is the misery and the hardship facing many Nova Scotians in the health care system. In that very same campaign document the Tories promised to again, "make sure that Nova Scotia has the nurses it needs by committing additional funds for full-time positions." Recently the district health authority on the South Shore has announced that it may have to cut 25 nursing positions due to budget cuts. I want to ask the Minister of Health, how does laying off nurses ensure that this province has the nurses it needs?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, just as I begin to answer that question, I am pleased to table a document entitled Nova Scotia's Nursing Strategy Update, putting what we said we were going to do into practice and, indeed, we have. The number of nurses who are available to meet the needs of Nova Scotians has increased since January. It has increased since the January before that and it's increased since the January before that, because of the steps that this government has taken in conjunction with the providers and the other interest groups who are interested in delivering care in Nova Scotia. We don't have as many as we would like, but we have made marked progress since this government came to power.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the last thing we can afford to do in this province is to lose one nurse. That minister has a lot to account for in terms of the South Shore District Health Authority. We see two of the major promises that the Tory election campaign has made broken by this government and it's obvious - the blue book was entitled "Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course" - because what we're seeing is anything but sensible. I would like to ask the Minister of Health, how did your government get so far off course in just three short years?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, our government remains on course and will continue on course during the mandate; indeed, we will stay on course for another mandate as well. (Interruptions) Our nursing strategy has been very effective. Indeed, I will say we certainly have a way to go, but the nursing strategy has made a real difference. In reference to the South Shore District Health Authority, and I don't know what's going to finally come down from their business-planning process, the implementation of the business plan, but I do know that there is ample room in the system for nurses who wish to go to work.

[Page 7684]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

FIN. - DEBT (N.S.): INCREASE HALT - TIMEFRAME

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question today is to the Minister of Finance. Last year the department's deputy minister said the debt of the province will continue to grow way beyond the year 2005, possibly past 2007; even the Premier admitted that capital spending means that the government will still have to borrow new money in order to meet its commitments. My question to the Minister of Finance: Can the minister assure this House that the debt of the province will stop growing this fiscal year?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member opposite knows, because it was included in our estimates last year, that in this budget we are forecasting for an increase in debt but that we would meet our current expenditures by the current revenues. That is a major accomplishment, so there is nothing surprising about what I have said here.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, in his speech to the Construction Management Bureau on April 28, 2000, the Premier said that any increase in capital spending means that the budget has not been in balance and will not be in balance. Can the Minister of Finance assure the people of Nova Scotia that the province will no longer have to borrow new money to meet its capital commitments?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the people of Nova Scotia that they won't have to borrow to pay for the groceries. That is an accomplishment; something that hasn't happened in this province in 40 years.

MR. DOWNE: My final supplementary to the minister is, he clearly admits to the issue that he's borrowing money. The average Nova Scotian knows they are in trouble if they have to borrow money to pay their bills. Even though the minister seems to be bragging about a possible balanced budget, how are you able to - Mr. Minister, listen to this question, I want an answer - explain to average Nova Scotians that your budget is in balance, yet you still have to borrow new money to pay the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia? How can you do that, Mr. Minister?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I will say one thing to Nova Scotians, there won't be any debts hidden in the hospital boards like that bunch did there. There won't be any Syscos held off the balance sheet. There won't be any NSRLs off the budget. It will be an all-in budget, something that member opposite doesn't know anything about. I will stand by my record any place, any time.

[Page 7685]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

TOURISM & CULTURE - ARTS COUNCIL:

ELIMINATION - EXPLAIN

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Minister of Tourism and Culture. It is with respect to the Nova Scotia Arts Council, an organization that had been established after 20 years of struggle by the arts community. We were the last province in this country to finally establish an arm's-length body from government with artist-run peer assessment committees to determine funding. Now after three years of successive funding cuts to this committee, making it difficult for them to function properly, the minister came up behind them and completely took the rug out from underneath them by eliminating that body. I want to ask the minister if he would explain why, after there has been so much work by the community to establish this arm's-length body, artist-run peer assessment committee for funding, he has decided to eliminate the existence of this important council?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, thank you to the member for the question. The very principles that the Nova Scotia Arts Council was founded upon, the principles of peer assessment, of jury duty, are being carried forward with respect to the new Arts and Culture Council. In addition to that, we are broadening the input from stakeholders across the province in cultural activities and also in the art bank program. It makes sense from a financial point of view as well. There will be additional dollars going back into the cultural sector in this province.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the minister forgets or conveniently decides to forget that one of the important aspects of this committee, this council, was the fact that it was arm's length. Now what the minister is talking about is having backbenchers and other members of the front bench travel the province and feed into this new body, whatever it is, where they want to see the funding go. That is the way it was always done in this province and that is what this minister has provided for with the elimination of this council. I want to ask the minister to explain to members of this House and the arts and culture community in the Province of Nova Scotia why it is that he has decided to take funding of the arts back 20 years in this province?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, from the member's comments, he obviously hasn't looked at what we have put forward. The very principles of the former arts council are going forward in the new model in the Arts and Cultural Council. As well, as I mentioned, the administrative savings will move forward and be reinvested back in the cultural and the arts communities across this province. In fact, we have broadened the input. We haven't gone back 20 years; we have gone ahead 20 years.

[Page 7686]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, over the winter, this minister had a committee of his department travel the province and talk and consult with the arts and cultural community about his plans. Never once was it said that he was going to kill the Nova Scotia Arts Council, never once. Is that the kind of consultation, the kind of transparency, that we can expect from this new council that the minister is going to set up? I want to ask the minister that question and to explain to us today exactly how this new body is going to operate and when it is going to be established?

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the new council will be set up as soon as possible. The member brings up a good point and that is about accountability. We have accountability with respect to taxpayers' dollars and we will make the best and most effective use of those dollars. With regard to the consultations, we are not only committed to go out this year, we will make a commitment to go out next year and every year thereafter as long as we are in government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

TOURISM & CULTURE:

ARTS COUNCIL - REPLACEMENT EXPLAIN

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of Tourism and Culture. Last week the minister announced that his department is scrapping the Nova Scotia Arts Council. In effect the minister has hatched a coup on the arts community in Nova Scotia. The department went so far as to bring in lawyers and security guards and locked the doors of the Arts Council's office and forwarded all the telephone calls directly to the department at hand. This shouldn't surprise Nova Scotians. This government has truly demonstrated to the province's arts community and to all Nova Scotians that he simply doesn't care about the rich history or the culture of the Province of Nova Scotia and what these artists contribute to the well-being of this province. After all, this is the same government that failed to appoint members to vacant seats on the council's board despite the council's pleading for this government to do it. The Nova Scotia Arts Council was designed to be an arm's-length body to the government and yet he is going to change it.

My question to the minister is, why did the Department of Tourism and Culture replace the well-respected Nova Scotia Arts Council, which had the support of the arts community across the province, with a new council controlled and manipulated by this government, that minister and that Premier?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of questions in there, I think, but I will get to the gist of it. The fact is we're setting up a new council that I have mentioned already. It is a broadened council. We're actually getting more input from

[Page 7687]

the arts and cultural community with respect to the new council, the very principles of peer assessment, of jury, are being brought forward with regard to the new council. There is a transition process in place and we will do our best to ensure that that is carried over smoothly for the clients who are involved with respect to the funding.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this minister and this government have lost the respect of the arts community in the Province of Nova Scotia and that's the accountability that he will have to respond to. In the March 20th edition of the Oran, and I want to table it, the minister stated that politics is getting involved in the decision-making process of the Nova Scotia Arts Council. It seems to me that if politics is getting in the way of decision making at the council, the last thing this minister should do is administer the council under the realm of politics in his own government.

My question to the minister is, how does taking control of the Nova Scotia Arts Council take out the politics involved in the decision-making process or is it the case that this minister simply wants to silence the critics within the arts community towards his ability to administer?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the member wasn't listening before when I indicated that the very principles of jury and peer assessment will be carried over. So as an example, a creation grant for an individual will be done through peer assessment as it was done before.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this minister seems to be confident about the future, but the arts community and the population of Nova Scotia are not as confident as that minister. The Department of Tourism and Culture recently toured the province to meet with various artists to discuss the changes to the Nova Scotia Arts Council. My question to the minister is, during that tour did anyone attending these meetings support the scrapping of the Nova Scotia Arts Council in favour of the government's approach of turning off the lights and locking the doors at the council's office?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, what people around this province said, what they want is that the principles of peer assessment and jury duty continue. What they want to ensure is that there's an investment in the cultural community and we will ensure that. What they asked for is that dollars not be spent on administration as was done with the previous government, but that those dollars go into programs where they belong.

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

[Page 7688]

HEALTH - NEW WATERFORD HOSP.:

EMERGENCY DEPT. - RETAIN

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, on March 19th a report was released recommending the reduction of emergency room hours at the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital. In spite of having the lowest hourly rate in industrial Cape Breton for doctors working in the emergency department, these dedicated physicians have maintained service for that community. In fact, the support for the hospital's emergency department by local doctors is higher than any other community hospital under the Cape Breton Health Care Complex. I would like to ask the Minister of Health why is he not prepared to do the right thing and help this community to keep its emergency department open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I thank the honourable member for his question. As the honourable member well knows, the Cape Breton District Health Authority engaged a consultant to take a look at the emergency room services in the district health authority. They've received that report. They are taking that report out to the various communities for discussion and that's what is occurring right now.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, last week I attended one of those such meetings and certainly that whole idea was soundly refuted in New Waterford. As I mentioned, the doctors in New Waterford get paid less than their counterparts in other emergency rooms. The DHA and Medical Society have secretly agreed to a fee-for-service formula. In 1985, a report on regionalization clearly indicates fee-for-service funding hurts small emergency rooms in community hospitals. You know that very well. It will also hurt in the retention and recruitment of physicians for that area. A deal, I must say, that they have failed to do; as it starts now it will only get worse. It's a slap in the face for those hard-working physicians up in the New Waterford area. I would like to ask the Minister of Health what is his hidden agenda around the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this minister has no hidden agenda. What I can tell the honourable member is that the Cape Breton District Health Authority is managing the acute care affairs up there. They have also just recently, as of yesterday, picked up the responsibility for home care and long-term care and they're managing it very effectively. Unfortunately, things sometime have to change, and what they did because of the emergency rooms, they invited outside advice. They're considering that advice right now in consultation with those communities that have facilities that deliver emergency services.

MR. CORBETT: I don't think he gets the point here. It's the only hospital whose emergency has not been shut down, it's the only one where the doctors have said they will work for less, but they have also gone around back of them and tried to do a fee-for-service, which you know, as I said, Mr. Minister, doesn't work in small community-based hospitals. In 1999, in the Tories election campaign, they were told that there would be guaranteed

[Page 7689]

access to quality health care services to all Nova Scotians regardless of where they lived. Since no district health authority plan is enacted without approval by your department, I ask you, why are you prepared to allow this discrimination to go forward against the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital and the people served by that very good facility?

MR. MUIR: The district health authority engaged an outside expert in emergency health services to make recommendations about the delivery of emergency health services in the Cape Breton District Health Authority. They've received the report, they are now considering it and discussing it with members of the local community.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - SPRINGHILL: BOIL ORDER - STATUS

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: My question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. The people of Springhill have been under a boil order for the past eight months. Would the Minister of Environment and Labour please apprise members of this House why this boil order persists?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Thank you for the question. I would like to double check on my system and confirm whether that order still is in place, you would probably know that as well, Mr. Speaker, because it is your constituency, but I would like to double check that and I would be happy to get back to the member.

MR. SPEAKER: Unfortunately, the Speaker can't answer for you other than there will be a new water system there soon. The honourable member for Cape Breton West. (Laughter)

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, that's a lot more than the Minister of Environment and Labour knows about what's going on with the water in the Province of Nova Scotia. Over a year ago this government took credit for spending over $850,000 on a strategy for safe drinking water in the province, and to date I believe only the Cabinet has had an opportunity to review that strategy. My question to the minister is, can the minister, who is now the fifth minister in the last year, apprise members of this House as to what advice in the water strategy there might be for a town with Springhill's water problems, or towns like Springhill?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his interest in water, something that I also share with him. He's right, the water strategy is under consideration. Some steps have already been taken and, as a result of this, it's anticipated that there will be more departmental backup available for all municipalities that have their own water utilities. Some of those steps have already been taken in anticipation of the final passage of the water strategy.

[Page 7690]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, that's such gobbledegook I don't know what to think of what the minister is saying. The fact of the matter is the boil situation in Springhill has gotten to the point where the town is now considering entering into an agreement to purchase its water from Amherst, an adjoining municipality. So my question to the minister is would he please enlighten all members of the House as to what consideration of support he is giving to the Town of Springhill or other officials regarding provincial support for cash-for-water exchange among municipalities?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to clarify the role of the Department of Environment and Labour as opposed to that of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. Questions as to funding would be best directed to that minister, and I think that as you have alluded to in response to the first question, those questions have been addressed by the minister.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to confirm, sir, what you have already alluded to in the House, that through the Canada-Nova Scotia Infrastructure Program the Town of Springhill, this spring, will start to receive, and a new water system will be built and brought on stream in that community, so that the problem of the past 50 years will be corrected, and there will not be a water boil in Springhill for the foreseeable future in the lifetime of any of us here.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR.: MINIMUM WAGE - RAISE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, it is time for the Conservative Government to start respecting Nova Scotians and raise the minimum wage. Nova Scotia is the only province in the country that is not making minimum wage a priority. Even in Newfoundland minimum wage will reach $6.00 by November. Within the year, Nova Scotia will have the lowest minimum wage in the country, yet we have some of the hardest workers in this whole country. My question is to the Minister of Environment and Labour. Why don't you value hard-working Nova Scotians and raise the minimum wage to a living wage?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the question from the honourable member; a very important question indeed. As the honourable member would be aware, we have gone through a process, we have asked Nova Scotians for their thoughts on minimum wage, and we are in the process of bringing forward a recommendation.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, that's a deplorable answer to a very, very honest, hard-working question.

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

[Page 7691]

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 98.

Bill No. 98 - Volunteer Protection Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise with respect to second reading of the Volunteer Protection Act. When we introduced this bill during the last session, we indicated we would seek public input. We have done just that. I am pleased at the very helpful and informative responses we received from Nova Scotians.

[3:45 p.m.]

Let me give you some examples, Mr. Speaker, with respect to those responses. From Scouts Canada: The Act, in its entirety, is extremely well thought out and very helpful. It will not cure all the problems that our organization is facing, but it is an excellent start. Once again, we commend the government for its initiative and efforts in this regard. From volunteers serving the community of Middle Musquodoboit: We believe the proposed Act is surely a step in the right direction and we congratulate you for bringing it to the Legislature. From the Girl Guides of Canada: We commend you and your department for taking the initiative to introduce the Volunteer Protection Act as a means of protecting the interests of volunteers from litigation.

There were more submissions, Mr. Speaker, lots more, and I wish to acknowledge and thank all of those who took the time to share their views with the Government of Nova Scotia. Our goal in bringing forward this legislation was to assist those who freely give of their time to assist our communities. I particularly wish to acknowledge the volunteers who first met and encouraged the government to examine the ways to enhance volunteerism in Nova Scotia by protecting volunteers from legal liability for their foresight. It is only one of the many ways in which our volunteers have shown their value to our people.

[Page 7692]

I want to make it clear, Mr. Speaker, that the bill does not replace or eliminate the need for liability insurance for charitable organizations. With this bill, we are able to reduce the risk to charitable organizations. Each year, about 285,000 Nova Scotians volunteer. On average, they provide 173 hours of their own time helping others, making our province a better place to live. Their efforts contribute about $2 billion in unpaid services to our province. We owe them a great deal of gratitude and in my view, a degree of comfort, as well. This bill is designed to provide some protection to volunteers who work with non-profit organizations in our province. This legislation protects individuals from being personally sued when acting within the scope of their lawful duties as a volunteer.

Mr. Speaker, I must stress the word lawful here. We are not protecting people who prey on children - far from it. This bill does not apply to any misconduct which constitutes a criminal offence. It does not apply if the volunteer was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the misconduct. We are recognizing that individuals who freely give of their time and their talent deserve some protection. They should be able to volunteer knowing that they will be protected from any civil action which may be launched against them personally. Under this bill, the volunteer cannot be held personally liable, as long as the harm was not caused by wilful or criminal misconduct or when the volunteer was operating a vehicle for which a license is required.

It is important to note, Mr. Speaker, the volunteers must be acting within the scope of his or her responsibilities and must be properly licensed, certified or authorized. The bill does not affect the liability of the organization itself. In other words, an individual still may launch a suit against the organization, but under the circumstances, the volunteer will not be held personally responsible for the loss.

Mr. Speaker, we realize that it is very difficult to recruit volunteers. We don't want any fear of legal action to stand in the way of those who wish to give of their time. It is in the best interest of Nova Scotians that we do all we can to encourage our citizens to volunteer. In this way, we will do the best for our province and for our country. The majority of volunteers in this province do so because they want to make an individual difference, a positive difference, in the lives of their fellow citizens.

Mr. Speaker, we want to send them a message - we value their work; we value their effort; we value what they do for Nova Scotia. I would ask for the support of the honourable members opposite in moving the bill forward for second reading and to the Law Amendments Committee. With that, I would move second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, might I say it is nice to see you are recovered and in the Chair as the House opens for the spring session. (Applause) I'm sure I speak on behalf of all the members of the House that our thoughts were with you through

[Page 7693]

the winter months. Hopefully you found someone to do your snow shovelling through all the snow that you had.

Our caucus obviously supports Bill No. 98. This is a good piece of legislation; it's a piece of legislation that reflects the fact that volunteers in our society have an ever-increasing role to play. Sometimes that's good; sometimes that means that as we see now more people are retiring earlier and are leading a fuller life for 10, 15, 20 or 30 years after retirement, there are golden opportunities for them to become active in the community as a retiree. We see volunteer work increasing amongst the young in our society as an opportunity for them to gain the experience necessary for them to be able to go out and do the work that later on they hope to build a career upon. Overall, we see volunteers as an increasing resource in our society, particularly for our non-profit organizations as a means of ensuring they can get the job done. That's the positive side of it.

I will just say for the record that any time we can do anything to ensure that these volunteers' liability will be limited for things that are - well, I guess basic negligence, gross negligence, willful misconduct, criminal negligence or things that aren't covered by this legislation - if we can do anything to ensure that these volunteers are given a greater opportunity to participate, are given a greater opportunity to be involved in a non-profit or a non-government organization, I say that's good. It's good for the organization, it will reduce their insurance costs; it's good for the individuals, they won't feel the threat of possible lawsuits unless they do something that's obviously of a gross or criminal negligence level. So again, this legislation on that level is good.

I want to thank my colleague, the member for Halifax Needham, for pointing this out to me - maybe she'll speak on this bill later, maybe she won't - but I think it's important. I thought back to my own volunteer experiences as a board member on the Cole Harbour Boys and Girls Club, a good organization, an organization that when I was involved from 1993 to 1998, I was quite active in the community providing after-school programs, services for the Cole Harbour community. But the one thing I recall was how the funding was constantly being reduced, both by Community Services - the provincial department - and other funding sources.

What resulted - and I don't think it's unusual, I think it's quite common amongst volunteer, non- profit organizations - was they became more reliant on the volunteers. Those volunteers are then driving the buses as they pick the children up, for example, with the Cole Harbour Boys and Girls Club. Those volunteers are obviously the treasurers, the members of the board of directors, they're working with the children in the actual club ensuring that those programs are being provided. Those used to be things done by paid staff on a regular basis, whether it's driving the bus or other circumstances. Now we see more and more of those things being done by volunteers; the hands-on work, the hands-on effort. Is that a good thing? It can be. If we can find volunteers who are willing to do it, yes, that is good.

[Page 7694]

On the other hand, the flip side, the negative side is that we begin to see that society is more reliant on these volunteers. We've had a tendency in our society to be very diligent when we hire staff, very diligent when we ensure that paid staff are going to do their job; maybe we've been less diligent in ensuring volunteers are meeting that same level. They're basically doing the job of paid staff, but not getting paid to do it. Maybe when someone comes through the door and they say they're interested in volunteering, we're so happy to hear that someone is willing to do the work without pay that we're not necessarily willing to make all the necessary efforts to ensure that they can do the job as well as someone who would be paid.

That being the case, this legislation does address an issue that will ensure more volunteers will be more willing to come forward and help our non-profit or non-governmental organizations. On the other hand, it doesn't address the human resource issue that is affecting these organizations: that volunteers cannot carry all the burden in our society; that volunteers cannot ensure the services that we have to provide as a society. You know, it makes me think about, in the United States we hear President Bush talking about wanting to divest state and government services to volunteer organizations to run them. There is a role, there is a purpose for non-profit organizations, grassroots organizations, but they cannot do it alone, and with the lack of funding over the last 10 to 15 years that has constantly been cut from these organizations, they cannot do it alone, only with volunteers.

That is what our society has become: a society of volunteers and non-profit organizations that are more and more taking the burden of what was something done by the state, something done by the government that the people reflected upon and said that is an important service, whether that is the provision, for example, food banks or furniture banks or community services of various kinds, or social services. Things that for a long time we believed was the state's role to play in ensuring that we could provide these services for all Nova Scotians are now things that are being done by volunteer-driven organizations.

Mr. Speaker, it is good to have legislation that addresses the issue of liability or removing liability for these volunteers. On the other hand, we must ensure that these organizations are properly funded and that we are being diligent in selecting volunteers to ensure they can do the job and that they are part of a broader component in our non-profit organizations that include well-funded paid staff so that they are able to provide the services that are necessary. That is what's needed.

This legislation is, as I said before on other legislation in this House, Mr. Speaker, a good start but it is a drop in the bucket if we are going to deal with the problem. If we are to move to a society that is dominated by volunteer-driven social service organizations, then let's have a debate about how we ensure that those organizations and individuals are provided with the supports they need to do their job. If we are to be a society based on state welfare and state community services, then let's talk about how we are going to properly fund grassroots organizations to have the paid staff. But to talk about reducing volunteer

[Page 7695]

liability only and not talk about the bigger issue is to miss the point of where our society is going and the role volunteers have to play.

Yes, our caucus supports this legislation as it is but, Mr. Speaker, there may be some amendments as we go through - and I will note one in a minute - but I think it is also important to reflect that this legislation in itself is not a panacea for our volunteer-driven organizations, will not ensure that our volunteer organizations are better able to cope with the problems that our society, and particularly our government, is asking them to take on and confront. Either we provide them with the necessary support to do the job properly or we, as a state and as government, must do it ourselves, but this legislation is only, in some ways, a half -hearted effort at trying to address one problem, a symptom of a much bigger problem that this government is unwilling to address.

I will finish by addressing - and I know I'm not supposed to get into the details of the legislation but on the principle - and the minister raises the issue of those who commit criminal offences will not be able to use the cover of this legislation to prevent a lawsuit. I think it is interesting because if you actually read the legislation, Mr. Speaker, it says where an individual is convicted of a Criminal Code offence the legislation does not protect that person from a lawsuit. I think it is important to reflect on the difference, because I can recall back to my days in prosecution that particularly for things like sexual assault and child abuse, the rate of successful prosecution is much lower than it is for theft or drunk driving.

We have many circumstances where people - let's be quite candid - could very well be guilty but the court system and our justice system is not efficient at ensuring that they are convicted. How we address this problem I don't know. If there is staff in the gallery listening, I would ask them to look at this, but it is important that we not just say that when someone is convicted of a criminal offence they will not have the protection of this legislation.

I guess the classic example to put into terms is something like O.J. Simpson. You couldn't convict him under reasonable benefit of doubt, if there was a reasonable doubt, while at the same time in the civil court he was convicted, because it was a balance of probabilities. I would suggest to you that there may be many circumstances where individuals will slip through the cracks, maybe it's a sexual assault, maybe it's child molestation, Mr. Speaker, and those people may not ever be criminally convicted for various reasons, yet there could be a civil suit against them. I ask this minister and I ask this government to review that particular clause in the legislation to see whether that's something that can be addressed at the Law Amendments Committee. It is something that our caucus will be considering as we discuss it and consult with various stakeholders before it does go to the Law Amendments Committee.

[Page 7696]

[4:00 p.m.]

Having said that, in principle, we support the legislation. We hope there might be some amendments to make it better, but we would encourage this government to continue to address the issue of volunteerism in our society and how we as a Legislature and they as a government can ensure that we are building a foundation that will ensure volunteers and organizations have the support they need to do the job right. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

M. MICHEL SAMSON: Merci, M. le Président. Ça me fait plaisir, comme critique de justice de notre caucus, de dire quelques mots sur le projet de loi 98. C'est sans question que notre caucus Libéral est en support de ce projet de loi, spécialement dans son but de vouloir présenter un niveau de protection pour nos bénévoles à travers de cette province sous la question de la possibilité des actions légales contre eux.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place to speak to Bill No. 98, an Act to Limit the Liability of Volunteers Serving Non-profit Organizations. From the outset, the intent of this bill is very honourable - a bill that will protect volunteers from being personally sued when acting within the scope of their lawful duties. While the minister saw fit to introduce the bill during the International Year of Volunteers, it was not called for debate during that year, which was last year.

Mr. Speaker, I understand the reason for this was that the minister wanted to consult with outside organizations that may be affected by this piece of legislation. I do know that the minister had a mechanism set up on his Web site to seek input on the bill. However, I do not recall the minister announcing that he was seeking such input. How did the minister expect to receive input on this bill if he didn't actively indicate that he was seeking comments from those affected? I further understand, from a conversation with the executive director of a non-profit organization just today, that the timeline they had to provide input was very short. The actual organization, one that relies very heavily on the use of volunteers to accomplish its goals, felt that it was not given enough time to adequately respond to Bill No. 98.

Mr. Speaker, an organization which has limited staff needs a bit more time to adequately respond to such bills. Therefore, the question that our caucus has is, what has the minister been doing for the last four months in regard to public consultation? How many responses did the minister receive on his Web site in response to his solicitation of input? To many organizations did he send a copy of this bill, and when did they receive word that he was soliciting their opinions?

[Page 7697]

Mr. Speaker, the intent of this bill is good. The process the minister used, though, I would suggest has been unfair to non-profit organizations. I am aware of a number of organizations in my own riding which have asked me what was this they had heard about a possible bill protecting volunteers from liability? It was clear that they did not understand what the bill's goal was or when it had been tabled here in the House, or even that there was a mechanism to provide input. I note, on the flip side, that when one looks at the Minister of Education, with whom we have had our disagreements in the past, the strong advertising campaign being carried out by her department seeking changes to one of the bills - I believe it is the apprenticeship training, if I'm not mistaken - I have seen that ad in our local paper on at least three or four different occasions. So clearly, I think the minister is sincere when she is actually saying she wants input. One has to question why the Minister of Justice didn't do the same thing with Bill No. 98 in regard to volunteers.

Mr. Speaker, this shouldn't come as any great surprise to the people of Nova Scotia. After all, one has to remember that this is the Tory Government that took away profits from the Sydney Casino and put them back into general revenues, profits that were clearly earmarked to assist non-profit organizations in this province. This is the same Tory Government that felt it necessary to charge non-profit organizations a fee for searches on the child abuse registry. This is the Tory Government that feels that by passing this bill, all will be well with volunteers and non-profit organizations throughout this province.

Mr. Speaker, while this bill is positive, a lot more will have to be done by this government for volunteers and non-profit organizations to forgive the Tory Government for their actions over the last two and a half years.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, the intent of this bill is a good one. Volunteers who commit criminal offences cannot be protected by this Act, and individuals may still launch a suit against an organization. But, according to this Act, the volunteer cannot be personally liable. I can tell you, and I'm sure other members will have similar stories, that there is almost a reluctance which was starting to develop throughout this province by different volunteers who actually feared becoming members of certain organizations and being on boards of different groups for fear that they were exposing not only themselves but exposing their family to possible lawsuits and possible liability.

At the end of the day, we cannot have a system in this province where volunteers are discouraged from being willing to participate in these different groups and willing to contribute to their community. Clearly, this is an important step in providing a safeguard for them, that they will know they are not exposing themselves or their families to legal liability by simply being members of boards or being volunteers in different organizations. I do repeat however, that this bill, Bill No. 98, will not erase the sins of the past with respect to relationships between this Tory Government and the non-profit organizations throughout Nova Scotia.

[Page 7698]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in my place and take a few minutes to speak to Bill No. 98 here in second reading. My colleague, the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, has already indicated that the NDP caucus will be supporting this bill, but he also raised some concerns that we have about the context in which voluntary organizations are struggling, I would say, to fulfill their mandate, a very important mandate in our communities. I wanted to say a few words about that so that it's clear that there's a lot more work that needs to be done in terms of enhancing the framework that's required to ensure that volunteers are prepared to come forward and serve in the voluntary sector.

Mr. Speaker, I've worked in this sector, as many other members of this House have, and we all know people who have certainly said that they would be prepared to serve in the volunteer sector except that they were concerned about the liability, the individual and personal liability, but that's certainly not the only reason people are not prepared to come forward to do the work that needs to be done in many of these organizations. The level of burnout can be very high in these organizations, the demand that is placed on people, and especially cuts made by both the federal government and provincial governments in the past 10 years have certainly taken a profound toll on people in the volunteer sector.

You can talk to people from one end of this province to the other and they will tell you about the incredible stress and the demand on them to provide more and more service as government withdraws the provision of service in the public sector, putting more and more responsibility on the voluntary sector to provide services. At the same time, government withdraws the financial resources that they have provided in the past to these organizations to meet need in the community and provide services. Quite often people in these organizations are torn between providing services and raising money. Every day I think people in the non-profit organizations in this province are confronted with that dilemma, should they spend their time planning fundraisers, the bake sales, the wraffle tickets, the dinners, the fundraising dinners, the special events, or should they be on the phones organizing the group events and talking to people one-on-one in providing the support, the programs that they're involved in. So I think that the government really needs to take some time to reflect on whether or not it isn't time to have a serious round table initiated by government on the future of the voluntary sector in Nova Scotia.

Not so long ago Ron Coleman with GPI Atlantic prepared a very excellent report on the state of volunteerism in Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, that particular report is in our library here in the Legislature and it lays out the picture for volunteer organizations in the province right now, the incredible financial contribution and other contributions that they make in our regional economy, but it also flags, I think, the concern that volunteers aren't going to be able to continue to provide the high level of support that they do in our communities without

[Page 7699]

government providing a better framework for the work in which voluntary organizations perform the great public service that they do perform.

I think it is a report that perhaps the Ministers of Health and Community Services, in particular, should spend some time reviewing and give serious consideration to initiating a round table on the future of volunteerism in Nova Scotia. I think if you engaged people who know a fair amount about the volunteer sector, they would be the first people to tell you that while this piece of legislation protects individuals, the sector itself requires enhancement, support and protection by some forward-thinking legislative change.

I note that in the papers in the last few weeks there are a number of reports about the federal government now reviewing federal legislation with respect to charities and non-profit organizations. The debate is whether or not non-profit organizations and charities shouldn't be afforded an opportunity to be advocates and to take up in a much more political way perhaps the constituents they work with and they represent. They, under legislation that is many, many decades old, are prohibited from being active participants in promoting public policy change that's in the interests of the constituencies they serve and many see the ideas that are entrenched in federal legislation around the role of charities as being passive and not engaging in the political process are certainly out of date and inappropriate at this period of time when what you really require is a very actively engaged sector.

The third sector, as it's often called, Mr. Speaker, has much to contribute to the debate on the future of our community given that these organizations deal with very large numbers of people in our community - seniors, children, families, people who are disadvantaged, people who are often innovators, the environmental movements, for example, who come out of the voluntary sector. I think that it is time for a broader look at how to protect volunteers, perhaps looking at tax credits that would encourage people to take a bit of their time to do volunteer work is something that's worth exploring. It's in place in other places.

[4:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I just want to end by saying that there's a voluntary organization in my constituency, the Ward 5 Community Centre, which is a community centre that's affiliated with St. Marks Anglican Church in the North End of Halifax. It's a wonderful community centre, it provides a hot lunch program for children and seniors. It also provides a breakfast program for children. It provides a lot of recreation and after-school programs for young people in the part of Halifax that I represent. Every holiday they do a dinner, they always do a Christmas dinner, an Easter dinner, and they invite members of the community, and it's very well attended.

On Thursday I was able to attend the dinner at Ward 5, and there was a woman I knew working there that day. She told me she was a member of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, and in their collective agreement, they have a provision now that will allow

[Page 7700]

members of the public sector to take two days a year off with pay to do volunteer work. She had taken one of her two days to come to Ward 5 that day to work in the preparation, the serving and the cleaning up of the hot lunch program. She was very proud of having this opportunity, that her union has taken a leadership role in adopting this provision and negotiating this provision.

Mr. Speaker, if you think about it, this is probably a very good way to recognize the importance of volunteer work, recognize the fact that many men and women who are working full time in the labour force want to make a contribution in the voluntary sector, and it's something that I would suggest that this government consider exploring.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on Bill No. 98 and express my disappointment with many aspects of the bill. There are a couple of points I would like to make on the bill. I don't want to sound too negative, because the intent of the actual bill in regard to liability, we believe that it's very important and I personally believe that it's important to protect the volunteers from being liable when acting within the scope of their lawful duties, particularly when they are being handled in a responsible manner.

But, Mr. Speaker, as my colleague, the honourable member for Richmond, indicated, there are many difficulties that I have with the bill, particularly the consulting process that was put in place. With the non-profit organizations, of course, there is a data bank that is available to the government. There could have been letters, expressions of interest sent out to the non-profit organizations and a request for comment on this particular bill. But that didn't occur. The government apparently just took this bill and put it on a Web site and left it there. Unless you are really searching the Web or you have the time to sit down - and many of the volunteers don't - many of the volunteers that I'm aware of have jobs where they work eight to 10 hours a day and recognizing the effort that they put into their volunteerism and the amount of time that it takes, then they certainly would not have the opportunity to sit and browse in front of the Internet all evening, searching out the information that the minister should have provided to these organizations.

In fact, I believe (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am having problems hearing the member.

The member for Cape Breton The Lakes has the floor.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I think it is also important to note that this bill was introduced last year, the International Year of the Volunteer, and it could have been called here last fall. This Web site and this consulting opportunity that the minister indicated, this is just false excuses why the bill wasn't put forward when the government rushed out of this

[Page 7701]

House last fall after only 21 days inside the House. They had lots of opportunity to call this bill if they were serious that they wanted to provide protection to the volunteers in this province.

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague, the honourable member for Richmond indicated, the government thinks that they are going to pass this bill and they are going to put a press release out and say, hey, everything is great with volunteers. Well that simply is not true. The difficulty I have is the inaction that the minister doesn't take in dealing with this bill. For instance, the inadequate support to municipal units for certain municipal units to tax non-profit organizations through the property tax structure, which I would suggest is wrong. Given the financial stability that this government provided to the municipal units, then the municipal units have no other alternative but to turn around and pass on the assessments and tax non-profit organizations. In fact, what they are really doing is taxing volunteerism, and that is wrong. I feel that the government, particularly this minister, should deal with this issue in regard to this bill.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, as I indicated I am not going to repeat myself, particularly when comments were made on behalf of our caucus by my colleague the honourable member for Richmond. However, I will be supporting this bill in its present form. I am looking forward to the minister's comments in regard to the tax I just indicated in regard to property taxes that are charged to non-profit organizations and many of the municipal units across the province which they feel and I feel and I agree that it is a tax on volunteerism in the Province of Nova Scotia, and I am hoping that the minister will recognize this and come up with some kind of mechanism to eliminate taxation of volunteerism in this province. Thank you.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, it is with a great deal of relief, I suppose, that I begin a few comments on Bill No. 98 because I know that I have been contacted, as other members have brought forward, by volunteer organizations in the community that I am fortunate enough to represent concerning the fate of Bill No. 98 and when it was going to be called and when the opportunity will be for some of these volunteers in the community that I represent to appear in front of the Law Amendments Committee and have their say in what they see is a piece of legislation which, in all good intention, should encourage volunteerism in this province. Let's be clear on that, that the next process and the next step is one that the members of this caucus look forward to supporting because it will be a good opportunity for volunteers to make sure that they can come and have their say and affect legislation as we go through the Law Amendments process in this province.

It is a very important segment of our population that we can no longer take for granted, Mr. Speaker, volunteerism. I want to, if I may, just for a few moments, share with you some of the frustrations of a couple of volunteer organizations which I am fortunate enough to be a member of, and I would like to begin with the Lions Club in the community that I serve.

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The members of my Lions Club and the members of the Timberlea Lions Club and the Prospect Road club and the Hubbards club on occasion ask themselves at meetings, just why do we continually raise this money? Why do we go out and sell the chocolate Easter bunnies? Why do we go out and have the road tolls? Why do we go out and sell Christmas trees when we are approached by community organizations such as schools, in particular, but other groups, social services, people who are needy and are not receiving help. That is a concern that is expressed by volunteers who are in deceasing numbers in this province, unfortunately. Younger people are not stepping up to become involved in volunteering. That's a problem we have to face, and we have to continue to encourage volunteers to make sure that they feel comfortable coming forward and getting involved in one section or another of the communities that we represent.

How does a Lions Club answer a question from a school principal? We need more textbooks; can you help us out? We need help with busing. In fact, there was one course which was offered at Sir John A. Macdonald High School, a school you'll hear a lot about in this particular session of the Legislature, that was actually financed by the Lions Club. That included the travel, the materials, the books - all of that because a volunteer organization stepped in because there wasn't appropriate or enough funding coming forward from the government,whether it's provincial, municipal, or school board. Is that the role of volunteers in our community?

That is a concern I feel obliged to bring to the minister and to the members opposite. Volunteers are getting burnt out. The number of demands that are being placed on them at times when government steps back and says, we're not involved in that anymore - Mr. Speaker, that is a concern.

As you probably are aware, in an earlier life - when it might be said I had a life - I was involved as a community volunteer, as an athletic coach. It's of real significance that this particular bill is going to deal with a number of the issues of liability when you're a member of a non-profit organization as a volunteer coach. Volunteer coaches, on many occasions, are put in situations where they have to make on-the-spot decisions. Those on-the-spot decisions at times put them in a position of liability where they could be held responsible. It's of real importance that you note that in this bill, this issue is going to be supported.

I want the members opposite to know this is a piece of legislation that we've been waiting for for awhile. It's a piece of legislation, as we bring it forward to the Law Amendments Committee that is going to be closely looked at, particularly from the viewpoint of volunteers involved in athletic organizations because the terms, when it comes to liability and attracting people to a sport such as hockey - with hockey in particular, as you know, on occasion you're involved as a coach, you're dealing with young people in a stressful situation - game seven and they want to win it - you have to be the one, as the adult, who is responsible. Those sorts of liabilities are questions that are going to be brought forward at

[Page 7703]

the Law Amendments Committee from people in the organization, who that I am fortunate enough to represent.

I would like to draw the House's attention to the Computer Access Program in the community of Terence Bay. There's an active volunteer in that community named Barb Allen, and Miss Allen made a point of asking me for a copy of Bill No. 98. A bill that's brought forward at this stage attracts attention for various reasons. Here is a volunteer in the community that I represent who wants to go through and understand how she can use this piece of legislation to attract further volunteers to be involved in her non-profit organization. Incidentally, Barb Allen is involved in many non-profit organizations in the community that I represent. It takes volunteers like Barb Allen to be able to go out and encourage other young people in the community and say, we want you involved in the CAP site; we want you involved in coaching soccer; we want you involved with the recreation association because you're not going to be liable if there is a particular incident that takes place.

The minister should know that this is a piece of legislation at this stage which I am looking forward to hearing further at the Law Amendments Committee. I am fortunate enough to be a member of the Law Amendments Committee. It will be an opportunity for people in this community that we can't just take for granted any more. We have to make sure that the people who step forward have the opportunity to be protected under the law, and this is a piece of legislation that I look forward to supporting at this stage in our debate.

[4:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I rise to take a moment to speak on this bill as well, Bill No. 98. As my colleagues have stated on this side of the House, that in fact this is good legislation. I want to temper my comments in saying that this is good legislation because often we speak about legislation only to have the legislation cross this floor and go into the Law Amendments Committee and hear some concerns by the presenters or the witnesses before the Law Amendments Committee on what parts of the legislation may or may not be good.

So I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, it is important to remember that that is a part of the process that we have to be very careful of, but I will tell that when in fact you reduce the onus of liability onto individuals, then individuals actively and more so partake in the voluntary position or role that they wish to be a part of the community. Every single one of us fully understands the importance of volunteerism in our community and every single one of us at one time or another has actually volunteered, Mr. Speaker, yourself, myself and everyone who has sat in this Legislative Assembly from time to time has actually participated in volunteerism. Some of us more so than others, but at least we recognize the importance of why we do that volunteering. Volunteering, however, has become a very loosely termed

[Page 7704]

use in order to encourage governments at all levels to reduce their deficits and to reduce their onus of responsibility on society.

Often governments off-load because of not being able to deliver programs, off-load that onto volunteer agencies and organizations. Those agencies and organizations today normally would have been able to do the fundraising and meet the commitments that government has left them with. However, we have a major and a significant component that reduces the opportunity for volunteers to become more actively involved, particularly in those parts of the community whereby they may be providing a bone densitometer to a community, maybe providing special needs to a person on social assistance. They may be providing essential services to a community that government can no longer provide or that governments do no longer provide. It may need volunteerism for modes of transportation.

What they're faced with now is another factor here. They no longer can participate in order to do those fundraising ventures because the government has entertained and engaged in itself within the fundraising ventures called gaming and in the lottery business. Today we witness and we recognize a number of volunteer agencies and organizations that can no longer run and operate a bingo simply because the bingo is competing with the casino operations and the VLTs that are established within their communities. They can no longer fundraise those dollars. Last year over $0.5 billion in net revenue came to the provincial government and put in its purse. That $0.5 billion used to be raised in the community for things like wheelchairs, for things like special needs, for families who have been burnt out, and that's only in the bingo operation.

Another thing that you will recognize in the report as well is that there has been a significant decline in revenues with respect to tickets and those were tickets that, you know, organizations do lottery tickets themselves and they go out there and they try to compete with the lottery market in trying to generate money on 50/50 tickets or on prize tickets, or on merchandise tickets. A number of those areas have just simply been cut off to the volunteer organizations. So there are a lot of people out there in the volunteer community who are at their wit's end. They want to be able to participate and deliver the things that government has cut off to individuals in the community, but are unable to deliver simply because they do not, and they cannot, compete with the Gaming Corporation that is now within our province.

Any member of this Legislative Assembly who chooses to look at the quarterly report from the Gaming Corporation will recognize how significantly down the bingo benefits are and every community and every organization, the Lions Club, the Kinsmen, and a number of organizations in small-town Nova Scotia, in small communities in Nova Scotia used to generate the revenue to be able to participate in the community through this voluntary process. That's how they not only volunteered their services to raise funds, but also were able to administer those funds so that those funds got channelled into the appropriate places in the community.

[Page 7705]

We stand here and we applaud volunteers. I know the provincial government recognizes Volunteer Day and in fact recognizes that by volunteer awards for those people within our province who have contributed tirelessly of their time. I also know that municipalities do, and I believe that on this Saturday coming the municipalities will be recognizing volunteers for their volunteer contributions in the communities. Municipal governments are no escape for this at all as well. I understand my colleague,with respect to my colleague, the member for Halifax Needham, who in fact recognized the very point that people do volunteer their services and they are truly committed to volunteering their services and they do this in a selfless way, and that government has continued to demand more of the volunteers to carry on the role of government. That I do recognize and I think we in the Legislature recognize that as well.

But what I'm saying to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the members of this Legislative Assembly is there comes a time when government should have a responsibility, and that responsibility should be to make sure that it is not going to burn out the volunteer community by simply continuing to offload to the volunteer community those services which they can no longer provide. There needs to be a role of responsibility here that is very clear, where government will partake in providing citizens with their needs and where the volunteer community will step in and provide citizens with their needs as well.

It has always been striking to me to attend a volunteer award function and watch the individuals who actually commit to volunteerism. People who you would least expect to contribute or put their contribution toward volunteering in their community are the people who are there front and centre. Many of the individuals ask for nothing in return, and they provide the kind of service that we hope our community receives.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that for all the years that I have been involved in the community and the community organizations - and I don't want to name particular individuals nor do I want to name community organizations - for the years that I have been involved in Dartmouth North and in the community of Dartmouth North, I have seen the number of volunteer agencies and organizations come to the rescue of citizens in that community time and time again. They have given tirelessly of their time and some of them will be recognized by HRM at their Volunteer Appreciation Day on Saturday.

Mr. Speaker, we cannot operate a community without volunteers. Volunteers are significantly important. The problem that I have with the bill - and maybe there will be clarity on this issue - we talk about not-for-profit organizations or non-profit organizations and charitable organizations we don't talk very clearly about. Are volunteers who volunteer for charitable organizations protected by this piece of legislation, as well Bill No. 98, now mind you, many of those people who are involved in a voluntary way receive no remuneration whatsoever, and yet the board may very well be a paid board. I guess that's the question then, where does the onus of responsibility and liability lie?

[Page 7706]

I guess those are the kinds of concerns that I have and when I said earlier that I want to temper my comments with respect to this piece of legislation, those are the kinds of issues that might very well come up when this bill moves forward to the Law Amendments Committee. When it moves to the Law Amendments Committee, we will certainly hear the comments if there are any concerns with respect to this piece of legislation.

However, having said that, I want to say as I stand here today, that we are often criticized for not applauding government when government does a good thing. I think that government tends to forget that as well. We here, in this particular Party, have consistently supported government when government has introduced good legislation. Not only have we consistently supported government when it introduced good legislation, we have also made recommendations to government which government has adopted in legislation. I think that is what this whole legislative process is about. It is about the commonality of sharing of good ideas and good legislation that will stand the test of time. That is what it is about and that is what this piece of legislation is about, as well. Mr. Speaker, I will take my seat in support of this legislation for the short term.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in favour of this particular piece of legislation and just to make a number of observations in general about Bill No. 98, An Act to Limit the Liability of Volunteers Serving Non-profit Organizations. Point specific, is this particular piece of legislation is more or less a sequel to a piece of legislation that is already approved in law on the issue of volunteers and protecting volunteers against liability; that being Bill No. 206, which was approved in the General Assembly of 1992 and it is Entitled An Act to Amend Chapter 497 of the Revised Statutes of 1998, the Volunteer Services Act.

Mr. Speaker, essentially that piece of legislation, although it could be argued, is not perhaps as wide in the scope of its intent as Bill No. 98, but for all intents and purposes does protect volunteers from liability. I was a little disappointed that the minister didn't make reference to that or, in fact, didn't even make reference to the Good Samaritan Act that had been introduced by a colleague back in 1992, as well. (Interruption) Actually, no, the other one was 1989, and that was put in by the honourable member who was the Attorney General at the time and that being the honourable Joel R. Matheson, Q.C., who was the Attorney General. That was in 1989 and, again, the one after that was the one in 1992. So, essentially, this is just an extension of pieces of legislation that are already on the books. Although I applaud the government for any effort to protect volunteers, particularly those who are innocent of any act or omission in any action taken, essentially one can't help but wonder if it's nothing more than a public relations exercise by the Minister of Justice to bring to the House what would generally be considered to be goodwill legislation.

[Page 7707]

Mr. Speaker, we had extensive debate at that particular point in time in two previous periods dealing with this very issue. I was a little disappointed again to see that the minister didn't do some cross-referencing to find out if in fact we are now duplicating pieces of legislation here on the books, only making things a little more confusing for the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I have served on numerous volunteer organizations over the years, and one of the things I find when you are dealing with volunteer organizations is sometimes you will get some people who will do a lot of work and sometimes you will get people who do very little work but they like to have the titles. They like to be the president or the vice-president or the treasurer or the recording secretary, anything that would, perhaps, make them feel like they're doing great, but in reality, they're not doing a lot.

Those individuals who do a lot of work sometimes find themselves caught in the rather unique position of accepting responsibility for those who are not responsible. I saw that happen, Mr. Speaker, with the Louisbourg Merchants Association several years ago when Revenue Canada came along and indicated to this non-profit organization in the town that because of a failure to pay the required taxing fees for payroll deductions and other forms of income tax - whether it be HST or at that time I believe it was GST - and we were talking in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. One individual who did an extensive amount of volunteer work was a local merchant in the town, and I believe he did more than his fair share of due diligence. He left that organization, I believe, a year before the proverbial orange hit the wall, so to speak. Lo and behold, because he was one of the executive members or the stakeholders associated with that organization at the time, even though he was no longer associated at the time the action was taken, he was held accountable to the tune of almost $60,000.

Mr. Speaker, I think that's rather unfair. It was unfair because he had no idea that some of his fellow citizens involved in that organization were not doing their due diligence. As a government agency, we also have an obligation to explain to these individuals who become involved in various organizations that there is a legal responsibility. Sometimes we have a tendency to put these laws on the books because we get some feedback from certain individuals or certain organizations, but that's not necessarily representative of the entire province. It may be in the general intent of what we're trying to achieve in the legislation, but in terms of education, to allow these people to think quite seriously as to whether they want to accept that responsibility or not, I believe there is a responsibility for government and perhaps, through this legislation, an opportunity to provide that educational awareness to these individuals. I don't see that component in the legislation.

Mr. Speaker, it's much the same for all of our different political organizations, although that's not what we classified as non-profit. Every member in this House is associated with a political organization. Each political organization has, under the Elections Act and the Members and Public Employees Disclosure Act, obligations to file required

[Page 7708]

forms and financial statements and so on to ensure that we're doing due diligence and making sure that all the activities, particularly financial activities, are reported in a timely and accurate fashion.

Mr. Speaker, I would venture to say that perhaps not more than 15 or 20 per cent of all these political associations across the province are even fully aware of all the different forms and legal requirements to make sure that public disclosure takes place, particularly those organizations that don't have, for example, sitting members. For example, if you go out to Halifax Bedford Basin, you may find, okay, that's fine. The Minister of Community Services has his organization in top-notch shape, filing all the required forms and so on, but you may find that the two Opposition Parties, because they don't have sitting members, aren't quite as in tune with all the legal requirements. If that Form 4 is not filed by April 1st in a proper manner and so on, and attested to by the respective officials, every member of that executive and every member of that association becomes responsible for the actions of perhaps one or two individuals should they fail to live up to their legal obligation.

That's the same I am sure, Mr. Speaker, with any volunteer organization that people find themselves attached to whether it be the 4-H, whether it be a ladies auxiliary, a fire department, or what have you. I think we as a government agency, as a political organization, the government with the two Opposition Parties have an obligation to inform, to educate people who become involved in these organizations before things happen, not after the fact. It is easy to come out and say aha you didn't do things right, or you are now responsible because Joe Citizen who worked with you and just didn't really behave in an honest and forthright manner and things go askew, you are now responsible for his or her actions.

Mr. Speaker, I believe there should be an educational component added into this piece of legislation only if it is for the purposes of making sure all those existing organizations are doing everything that they honestly believe to be to the best of their ability or for those individuals who are now contemplating getting involved in different organizations. I have seen different organizations, not just the case that I gave with the Merchants Association in Louisbourg, there was a lot of public acclaim to it. There was a lot of notice in the various local newspapers, both the weekly and the daily newspapers, and in the local citizenry report that usually came out of the Town of Louisbourg which spoke to that particular issue.

So, Mr. Speaker, that is a very well-intended volunteer organization that over a period of about four or five years went askew and innocent people were held financially responsible. That's how quick things can happen. I have no instances to speak to - some of the points that were raised by the Minister of Justice on the issue of alcoholism or drugs, or abuse, personal abuse, that sort of thing - but I am sure we should at least provide, I would think, some type of a pamphlet or a document or something educating people as to what this really means, not just put it on the books and say, well, it has been approved, it is a one-day wonder in the local paper, whether it be The Chronicle-Herald or The Daily News, but something a little more substantive at the community level. I fear that in this day and age of volunteerism that

[Page 7709]

is called into question on the issue of liability, Mr. Speaker, I would conjecture that we're going to see more and more lawsuits attached to the issue of due diligence or lack of due diligence with various organizations, particularly volunteer organizations.

Although the intent is good, and I do support it, I believe that the minister could have better synchronized the previous two pieces of legislation that are on the books with this particular piece of legislation instead of going in a hodgepodge format. I do believe that the government has a responsibility to ensure that the people of Nova Scotia are very well informed and very well educated on the issues surrounding volunteerism and the responsibility and the liability that's attached because I am not so sure that many are really fully attuned. I found some cases where people, particularly people who were very busy with their businesses or working in one professional lifestyle or the other, say, I don't want to bother because it is not worth the hassle because I am going to become involved with individuals who just don't give a darn or they're there just for the glory but they're not going to do the work and I am going to be doing all the work and I am going to have to accept the responsibility.

They don't have any assets so if something goes awry, then that's okay for them to walk away because generally when these types of lawsuits arise, the proponent of the lawsuit will usually go wherever the money is; that is, if you have assets, that's who they'll go after. So they may cover everybody on a blanket lawsuit, but in reality they're only going to take from those who have the ability to pay. You can't take blood from a stone and so I applaud the intent, but I think there has to be a more coordinated effort with the other two pieces of legislation and I believe the educational factor must be put forth. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: It is my pleasure to rise and close second reading on this bill. I appreciate the comments made by honourable members and I think we can all look forward to the bill coming forward to the Law Amendments Committee so that we have a further opportunity to hear from Nova Scotians. I think it's the purpose of all members of the House to foster volunteers. With that, I move second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 98. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 7710]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is my intention that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Bills. Prior to doing that, I ask for unanimous consent of the House to move Bill No. 72, which returned from Law Amendments today, onto the order paper so it can be dealt with if we have sufficient time later on in Committee of the Whole House.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

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

The motion is carried.

[4:57 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mr. Brooke Taylor in the Chair.]

[5:23 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

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

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

Bill No. 87 - Cosmetology Act.

Bill No. 72 - Electronic Evidence Act.

and the chairman has been instructed to recommend these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each with certain amendments.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 7711]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, this concludes the government business for today. Tomorrow being Opposition Day, the honourable House Leader for the Liberal Party would perhaps advise the House of the hours for tomorrow, as well as the business for the day.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the hours will be from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Following the daily routine and Question Period, we will be calling the following bills: Bill No. 102 - Onshore Gas Processing, and Bill No. 103 - Prohibition on Health Care Premiums. I move that we do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for the adjournment of the House until tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[The motion is carried.]

We have now reached the moment of interruption.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

PET. DIR. - LAURENTIAN SUB-BASIN:

BOUNDARY DISPUTE - COSTS EXPLAIN

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I guess it's only appropriate that as we begin the late debate that I read a copy of the resolution that we'll be debating here this evening. The operative clause reads:

"Therefore be it resolved that the government should explain why it spent $3.5 million to aggressively pursue its claim to the Laurentian Sub-basin only to claim today, after losing the case, that the new line only affects a small portion of our offshore exploration."

Mr. Speaker, as I reflect back over quite a few years, and I am sure that many Nova Scotians can do likewise, I remember that back in the 1970s a Premier of the day held up a vial of oil and talked about how Nova Scotia's future was here and how we were going to

[Page 7712]

be rich as a result of our resources in the offshore, how Nova Scotia's young people would be able to remain here and how Nova Scotia businesses would prosper because of the tremendous wealth that we have in the offshore.

Mr. Speaker, over the last almost 30 years we have had promises made and we have had hopes dashed, and today's announcement is the latest in the long list of tremendous disappointments, promises that have been broken.

Mr. Speaker, I was at the press conference today where the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate - abandoned, I might add, by his other Cabinet colleagues - was alone at the head table. There were a couple of backbenchers sprinkled around the audience in the back trying to listen to find out what had happened. But unlike in Newfoundland where the Premier was holding a victory party, we had our Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate abandoned by the Premier. Now, of course, had Nova Scotia had a more favourable outcome, then we know the Premier would have been front and centre at that press conference this morning. He was absent because the Premier didn't want this bad news sticking to him. It doesn't look good. My condolences to the minister. He was the one who had to go out and try to put a happy face on this devastating news for Nova Scotia.

The minister talked about how he didn't want to talk about winners and losers. When members of the media and members of the press asked him, how would you describe this, pointing out how not very many months ago it was said that if we lose so much as an inch that it would be a tremendous loss. Instead, the minister is there spinning his crafted line saying, well, it's not about winners and losers, it's not about looking back, it's about going forward. The minister said that we have achieved, basically, our three objectives. He said that we now have certainty. We certainly do have certainty, Mr. Speaker, if this government isn't prepared to stand up and fight and to appeal that decision. One of the major certainties that we have got is that Nova Scotia lost big time. The government will turn around and say, oh, we really didn't lose because of the four parcels of land that are under commitments out there, under licences, three of them are intact and one of them we only lost 40 per cent of.

Mr. Speaker, there is all kinds of land. There are thousands of acres of land offshore that hold potential. Thousands of acres have now shifted to the Newfoundland side of the border and therein is the reason for Premier Grimes celebration. Those parcels of land hold tremendous potential and it's not just the royalties. We know, on the basis of what we are getting from the Sable project and what we will be getting from PanCanadian, the royalties are relatively small. In fact, we have spent more money on the legal fees fighting this Laurentian Sub-basin than we got in the first year, probably double what we received in royalties the first year from Sable on those.

[Page 7713]

[5:30 p.m.]

The minister puts on this brave face. He's happy that we are going to move forward. His third objective they achieved and that was, Mr. Speaker, to maintain friendly, good relations with Newfoundland. You stack that up against the lost job potential, lost business opportunities for Nova Scotians and the lost revenue that we would eventually make from the royalties that would be coming from the discoveries off there.

You know, Newfoundland takes a little bit harder line than Nova Scotia does when it comes to benefits. I certainly agree with this minister and the Premier when they say that it was hard to get changes to the Sable project because the development agreement signed by the former government was a bad agreement. I will agree with them on that. It didn't ensure that Nova Scotians got what should have been our fair share of benefits.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I haven't heard yet what they are going to do on PanCanadian. That decision is yet to be awaited because that's not a very good deal for Nova Scotia either. You can be darn sure that in those areas that are going to be under Newfoundland's control, they are going to be driving, as they do in other cases, a harder bargain to ensure that more of the benefits accrue to the people of that province and to the industries and the businesses in that province.

Mr. Speaker, the minister talks about how we want to have certainty. The industry needs to have certainty. Certainty is something Nova Scotians would like to have too. One of the principal certainties that they would like to have is that they would like to know that the government they elected, a Premier who said, as the Leader of the NDP Party said during Question Period - he quoted some of the things from Premier Hamm's statements in the past - Premier Hamm said the claim of Newfoundland to the Laurentian Sub-basin has no basis whatsoever; he said that in June 1998.

The election platform said that he would aggressively pursue ownership of virtually the entire sub-basin and today, we see Newfoundland gaining about 70 per cent of the whole sub-basin, we see our share, Nova Scotia's share of the sweet area, the area which has the greatest amount of sediments, which is the most promising area for discoveries, we in Nova Scotia are going to hold on to a little bit more than France. We get 16 per cent; France, 9 per cent; and Newfoundland, 75 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, it has been talked about many times, about how the offshore was going to be a great boon for Cape Breton. This government shut down Sysco. This government did nothing to fight to protect the jobs of the miners in industrial Cape Breton. There are supposedly going to be huge economic benefits for Cape Breton. If this government continues to roll over the way that it has, this government should be looking at every way possible, looking at all the legal avenues to appeal and that will strengthen your negotiating positions with Newfoundland. If the two governments want those parcels that are under

[Page 7714]

licence to still be developed while those negotiations and the dispute goes to the next stage, there is no reason why they shouldn't be able to work that out. The government has to show some kind of a real commitment to the people of this province, not just rhetoric as the elections roll around.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I guess, like everything else around here, we're departing from tradition again, but that's okay, I have always been an advocate of change. I get the opportuntiy to follow my learned colleague to my right here, who is only to my right in seating, but he did make a couple of statements that I would like to follow up on in a few moments.

First of all, I want to say that the one thing that was said here today by the NDP member, the House Leader, was that we established certainty today and what we also established was a certain loss for Nova Scotia. That was certain; I believe it's a black day for Nova Scotia and it's a black day particularly for Cape Breton. But I also want to congratulate the minister on having the intestinal fortitude to sit there and try to put a positive spin today on that announcement. He could have ducked it and sent out an e-mail to everybody who was interested in it and ran and hid for a few hours. But he didn't, he sat there.

But who was missing at the table to answer the questions were some of the so-called experts that he has around him, and also the fact that the Premier who injected himself into the process early on in phase one decided to be absent today to answer questions directly. While I don't agree with what the minister said today, I certainly give him credit for sitting there and trying to put the best face on what must have been a very difficult role for him to play today and a very difficult decision to hold that press conference.

There are a couple of issues that I think affect us particularly in Cape Breton. I go back to the aspirations of people in my area who were very interested in getting involved with the offshore project and were hoping that all of these issues would have been resolved long before now. Not only did it take a long time to resolve the issues, but in fact there's very much uncertainty now as to how much interest there's going to be in developing the Nova Scotian side of this debacle that was announced today.

There's a group in Sydney called the Laurentian Group, some of them very close friends of the government, have invested money and have been very patient in waiting for some opportunities that might come along with the offshore. I have consistently called for more presence of the Petroleum Directorate in the Sydney area to give these entrepreneurs some assistance in developing their plans so that they could take advantage of any future development that might happen with the Laurentian Sub-basin, and also with Corridor Resources and Hunt Oil - all of which are touching in various parts of Cape Breton Island eventually, we hope.

[Page 7715]

The government thought, in their wisdom, there was no need of setting up an office in Cape Breton - I think they must have known something then. What they've done in Cape Breton is not only did they not set up an office of the Petroleum Directorate in Cape Breton, but they've taken the Economic Development office and watered it down to a pale comparison to what it once was - no clout, no money, no advice to give to anybody, except call the minister's office or there's a new bunch in town who are running things, and that bunch is a hand-picked group from the government to dole out economic development largesse in the future in this province, responsible, yes, to the minister; no, to the Legislature. And with only one Cape Breton member on it so, when it comes to offshore activity, what chance do the people of the Laurentian Group in Sydney have in accessing any government assistance to try to get them started in this very important venture?

As a matter of fact, the minister is well-known in Cape Breton for a number of reasons, none of them positively right now but hopefully, maybe, he'll do something down there in the future that will change that attitude, but he's going to have to do an awful lot. The steelworkers aren't exactly his best friends; the economic development people in the area aren't exactly his best friends now; and I would suspect that some of the people connected with the Laurentian Group at Point Edward aren't necessarily in his camp right now.

I am glad that the minister can live with the decision that was made today, as he so eloquently stated, but the people of Cape Breton can't live with it. The people of Cape Breton were expecting something big to happen, that the government was going to announce today that there was going to be a concerted attempt to set up some infrastructure in Cape Breton to deal with any future activity in the offshore, and we're going to have something more to say about that in the coming days and weeks as it respects the other development issues off Cape Breton Island. For example, the government has said nothing about any initiatives to meet and demand of the oil companies that any future exploration off Cape Breton means that the raw gas would come ashore in Cape Breton and be developed and separated there for export, not mainlining to the United States and bypassing the value-added parts that once again would see Cape Breton left out.

What has the minister or the government done on that? Nothing. The Premier was asked today what's he going to do about a full-time minister. He now says wait for the budget. Well, you know, the government didn't wait for the budget on a number of other fronts. They've been making appointments and giving raises and doing this and doing that for the past two or three months whenever it suited them. They still don't get it when it comes to the Petroleum Directorate that if you're going to deal with the large multi-national oil companies in this province, you've got to be dealing at the table with substantial resources. You can't part-time this issue forever. The Premier still didn't give us a satisfactory answer to that today.

[Page 7716]

Mr. Speaker, we were faced with a spectacle here today. There was nothing more than a spectacle. I have never been to a press conference in my life where the press were laughing. The press were actually laughing at the press conference today. They couldn't believe that the minister would sit there and announce and say what he said today, that we have to go forward, we can't dwell on the past. We looked for 50 per cent and we got 16 per cent, but that's okay. He didn't consider that a loss. It was a win-win. (Interruption) Yes, they've got 75 per cent and we got 16 per cent, nothing wrong with that. No wonder Roger Grimes is holding a party over in Newfoundland today. I would be holding one too if I was the Premier of Newfoundland.

Do you know what, also the Premier, today, had the gall in this House to get up and state that he did more for Cape Breton in the last two years than has ever been done by any previous government. This government has a total commitment in Cape Breton Island of $2 million a year for the next five years and they're saying that's it, put to rest, that's all we're going to do down there. I can't even find the $2 million in the budget that they say they had. It's probably not even there, but to have the gall, Mr. Speaker, to say they're doing all the economic development when all they're doing is piggybacking on federal government initiatives through the growth fund. It's the federal government that has the lion's share of the money in the development of Cape Breton.

The only thing that this government did regarding - they even changed the rules on stream, Mr. Speaker, and I'm sure they would make two sets of rules in the offshore as well. They made a rule on Stream that they were going to give the money to the developer of the building down there, not to the Stream employees on a payroll rebate. Who is the developer of the building? Marty Chernin. Who is Marty Chernin? The chief political Tory bagman in Nova Scotia. So instead of giving the money on a payroll rebate, they gave a $1 million loan guarantee to that gentleman when he already has a 10 year contract from Stream guaranteed rent for the building, but they didn't do that in New Glasgow. They gave Convergys a payroll rebate in New Glasgow.

Two sets of rules and I'm telling you that there are two sets of rules here when it comes to delivering the goods for Cape Breton and one of them is that they couldn't care less about developing the petrochemical industry or the oil and gas offshore industry in Cape Breton Island. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this evening and talk to this particular resolution that was introduced by the Official Opposition. Once again, we see a clear indication that the Opposition, in particular the NDP Opposition, has the ability to come squarely down on all sides of any particular issue, and usually it takes them a day or so to change their mind. In this particular instance they didn't even allow one day to transpire. They spoke first of all saying that this amount of money was not enough to deal

[Page 7717]

effectively with the problem, that we should have mounted a much more strenuous argument. Then in this resolution they say, why spend the money because we didn't successfully conclude the argument. So, you can't have it both ways.

[5:45 p.m.]

The interesting thing is that that particular Party has never had the luxury of actually having to make a decision. They can always second-guess and catcall and call into question decisions made by the government of the day, but they never have the luxury of being held accountable. That is a tremendously important piece of this puzzle, that because of the position they have occupied and will continue to occupy, they will never be called to task. I question what might have happened if we had failed to mount any argument at all. Certainly had Newfoundland been the only proponents around a given line, we may very well have found a very different outcome.

Mr. Speaker, we undertook to defend the position of Nova Scotia. At the end of the day, the line that was demanded by Newfoundland was far greater than the one that at the end of the day the tribunal awarded. What we have here, if you extend the line out 200 miles, is approximately a 50/50 split on the area in question. In fact, in the area immediately adjacent to Cape Breton and Newfoundland, the line actually moved in favour of Nova Scotia. As you move further offshore, the line deviated and at the end of the day the line is closer to that which was asked by Newfoundland.

For me, the issue is moving on. We can always second-guess and look back, but obviously there was no seismic, there was no exploration, there was no commitment in the area in question. Mr. Speaker, what the industry was saying, what Newfoundland was saying, what Nova Scotia was saying was we need to move on. We can speculate about what might be and what if and what could be, but until companies have acquired leases, until they shoot seismic, until they do exploratory drilling, it's all about what if and maybe.

I have heard the term sweet spot used repeatedly today. The only area in the offshore that's referred to as a sweet spot, a known sweet spot in fact, is the area around Sable Island. The reason it's referred to as a sweet spot is because there has been exploration and discovery. At this point, the geology in the Laurentian Sub-basin is attractive, but it's unknown how much actually exists there. In terms of what it means to Cape Breton, I believe that today's decision will allow companies to put forward proposals to acquire leases. With leases comes the opportunity to provide supply bases, to provide support to the offshore as they move forward. That's what the industries in Cape Breton have been talking about, and that's what this accomplishes.

What we now have is the opportunity for Kerr-McGee to move forward with the block they've acquired. They have $13 million in work commitments already allocated. That money remains on the Nova Scotia side of the line. They can, in fact, move forward and

[Page 7718]

appear to be willing to move forward as quickly as possible to shoot seismic. They want to be here as an exploration company, moving forward. Seven blocks would have been impacted had the line moved as far as Newfoundland was proposing. That would have impacted on the work commitments of PanCanadian. What happened today was that we remain in control of the PanCanadian block. They can move forward.

At this point in time, there are no commitments on the Newfoundland side of the boundary. It will take some time for them to move forward, to have those leases brought into play. At this point, I think companies in Cape Breton should look to opportunities. As far as the infrastructure investment, should some day there be gas or oil exploration discoveries, it makes certain economic sense that Nova Scotia and Cape Breton in particular could put forward an argument that a landfall in Cape Breton using existing infrastructure with the Maritimes & Northeast pipeline makes economic sense. But at this point, it's only speculation.

Mr. Speaker, we put $3.4 million into this fight over where the line should be. That represents a three year commitment of $1 million a year. I think that's money that's reasonably well spent in an argument of this magnitude. Nova Scotians expected us to prosecute our arguments vigorously. We had among the world's best in terms of international law. We had the best of Nova Scotia in terms of legal counsel. They worked with the various parties to ensure that our arguments were put forward in as good a manner, as well as we could possibly do that. At the end of the day the tribunal made a ruling.

There have been arguments about appeal. Mr. Speaker, in order to launch appeals, you have to have some level of confidence that the tribunal has erred significantly in law or in judgment. That is not the case. Our legal counsel looked at it very carefully. In fact, we looked as a province at potential scenarios that would play out. The worst-case scenario being that the tribunal or the award was the line that Newfoundland was proposing. The best- case scenario, of course, would have been to have the line as the line was predicted in 1964. That didn't happen, but, at the end of the day what we need to do is move on.

We have talked about the impact and benefit of the oil and gas industry in Nova Scotia. If you look at the gross domestic product in the last decade, the only three years of significant growth in Nova Scotia were the years that paralleled the Sable project. We now have Sable tier 2 coming onstream. We have the opportunity related to PanCanadian. We have a number of exploration wells being drilled as we speak. Shell is working on a well that was discovered some years ago to prove out that reserve. We have Marathon doing the first deep water well in Nova Scotia history. So we have tremendous opportunity. It is very easy for the NDP to say do this, do that and change any given day, depending on the circumstances, or perhaps what will give them the media sound bite they are looking for. But the reality is that we have to create an environment that moves forward into the future.

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I also noticed, with some interest, the comments of the member from Cape Breton who talked about the failure of the province to participate in the economic growth in Cape Breton. I think it is indeed ironic that one of the leaders for that Party has, on repeated numbers of occasions, spoke to his involvement in economic growth. In fact, that gentleman talks about his time as an employee of the province saying he was instrumental in bringing economic opportunity to Cape Breton. So I find it very difficult to have it both ways once again. If he was an employee of the province working on behalf of the province during this government's tenure and bragging about the number of employment opportunities that were created, you can't turn around and say, oh, well, it had nothing to do with the province.

So the leader that is attempting to become the Leader of that Party is saying that this province has done good work. So I support him in that and commend him for recognizing the kinds of things that this province has done to bring economic opportunity to Cape Breton. We will continue to do that, Mr. Speaker, because unlike the former minister who talks about deals that have been made, certainly many of the issues that we face in the department are residual from the time when that department was under that gentleman's tenure. So there are problems there, as well.

Mr. Speaker, there has been a comment about we possibly could have worked to negotiate a settlement. The course that we undertook was laid out for us by the previous government. I am not advocating that. We would have gone down this road because it is highly unlikely that Newfoundland would have been interested. In fact, they indicated they were not interested in trying to negotiate some kind of a settlement. They had embarked upon a tribunal process. It is the process that is laid out clearly in the Accord Act. We did what we had to do as a province and, as happens every single day all around this world, there are adjudications that are carried out by courts of law, by lawyers and sometimes the result is acceptable, sometimes it is not acceptable, sometimes you have to deal with the issues and move on and that's what we are prepared to do. We cannot afford to delay and postpone. We have to move forward and that's what we have done with the agreement today. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: I thank the honourable members for taking part in this debate today. The House is adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 5:55 p.m.]

[Page 7720]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

[Tabled November 20, 2001]

RESOLUTION NO. 2810

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas the Collingwood and District Fire Department will hold their annual meeting and awards banquet on Saturday, December 8, 2001; and

Whereas the Collingwood and District Volunteer Fire Department under the very capable leadership of Chief Bruce Rushton provides an immeasurable service that is available around the clock, 365 days a year, which is a very professional and dedicated service; and

Whereas the Collingwood and District Volunteer Fire Department also has a dedicated and hard-working ladies' auxiliary which works diligently year-round, amongst other things, raising funds for the department;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs acknowledge the terrific work of Collingwood and District firefighters in conjunction with their ladies' auxiliary and wish them continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 2811

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas a large contingent of Canadians is serving overseas as they assist other countries and more specifically the United States in the war on terrorism; and

Whereas four warships, including three which departed from Halifax October 17th along with a supply ship are now stationed somewhere in the Arabian Sea; and

Whereas in a message that spells out the phrase "Safe Return", Nova Scotia's Maritime Museum of the Atlantic has put up signal flags with codes dating back to the 19th Century when ships actually used them for communication while at sea;

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Therefore be it resolved that MLAs applaud the ingenuity shown by museum curator Gerry Lunn and his staff and thank them for this display, while wishing our military contingent overseas an incident free mission and hope they will be back with their families as soon as possible.

RESOLUTION NO. 2812

By: Mr. Ronald Chisholm (Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury)

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

Whereas Foggy Farms of Whitehead, Guysborough County, has now doubled their aquaculture operation; and

Whereas the increase in the size of their operation came about with two new mussel leases covering 51 hectares; and

Whereas Foggy Farms, a subsidiary of Atlantic Aqua Farms from Prince Edward Island, has been operating in Guysborough for almost five years and employs 12 people;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly congratulate Foggy Farms for their added investment into the local economy of Guysborough County and wish them every success with the increased size of their aquaculture operation.

RESOLUTION NO. 2813

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas we can never underestimate the importance of ensuring that our youth 'Never Forget' the sacrifices of our veterans; and

Whereas our Legions work hard to remind our young people of the importance of the sacrifice so many years ago of our Canadian heroes and encourage them with their efforts around Remembrance Day; and

Whereas Branch 161 Eastern Marine and Branch 120 Four Harbours of the Royal Canadian Legion awarded Julia Goldsworthy, Porters Lake, with the public speaking trophy for her thoughtful speech, "Poppies", presented at this year's Remembrance Day Banquet, Eastern Marine Branch;

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Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly commend Julia Goldsworthy for her literary efforts which honour the memories of those who have fallen and praise the work of these Legions for once again finding ways to encourage young Canadians to study the issue so that they 'Never Forget'.