The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

HANSARD 01/02-97

















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



THURSDAY, MAY 2, 2002





TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel.: Property Assessments - Fair, Mr. B. Boudreau 9350
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3621, Art Against Youth Violence Contest: Organizers - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Purves 9350
Vote - Affirmative 9351
Res. 3622, Nat. Res.: Nat. Forest Wk. (04/05-11/02) - Recognize,
Hon. E. Fage 9351
Vote - Affirmative 9352
Res. 3623, Educ. - Touched by the Titanic: Students (Local) -
Efforts Congrats., Hon. J. Purves 9352
Vote - Affirmative 9352
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 128, Municipal Government Act, Hon. A. MacIsaac 9352
No. 129, Assessment Act/Municipal Grants Act, Hon. A. MacIsaac 9353
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3624, Sackville Rivers Assoc./Regan, Walter:
Dechman Mem. Award - Congrats., Mr. J. Holm 9353
Vote - Affirmative 9353
Res. 3625, PC Backbench: Time - Utilization, Mr. Manning MacDonald 9354
Res. 3626, Acadia Univ.: IT Research Grants - Congrats., Hon. D. Morse 9354
Vote - Affirmative 9355
Res. 3627, Rural Water Quality Proj.: Women's Institutes (N.S.) -
Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 9355
Vote - Affirmative 9356
Res. 3628, Roy, Sara - Int'l. Fund for Animal Welfare: Award -
Congrats., Mr. D. Downe 9356
Vote - Affirmative 9357
Res. 3629, N.S. Heritage, Hist./Cultural - Contributions: C.B. - Congrats.,
Mr. C. Clarke 9357
Vote - Affirmative 9357
Res. 3630, Torree, Michael - Fundraising Auction: Organizers -
Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 9358
Vote - Affirmative 9358
Res. 3631, Chretien, Rt. Hon. Jean - Univ. Sainte-Anne: Hon. Degree -
Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 9358
Vote - Affirmative 9359
Res. 3632, Grant, George/Campbell, Laurie: Team Diabetes -
Applaud, Mr. B. Barnet 9359
Vote - Affirmative 9360
Res. 3633, Rogers, Grayce - Macdonald, Sir John A., HS: Dedication -
Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 9360
Vote - Affirmative 9360
Res. 3634, Casey, Drs. Tom & Margaret: Seton Award - Congrats.,
Dr. J. Smith 9361
Vote - Affirmative 9361
Res. 3635, Hattie, Archie - Links at Montague: Opening - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Hendsbee 9361
Vote - Affirmative 9362
Res. 3636, Mi'kmaq College Instit. - UCCB/Instit. Dir.: Opening -
Congrats., Mr. Robert Chisholm 9362
Vote - Affirmative 9363
Res. 3637, St. F.X. - Honorary Degrees: Recipients - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Samson 9363
Vote - Affirmative 9364
Res. 3638, MLAs: Partners/Families - Recognize/Thank,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 9364
Vote - Affirmative 9364
Res. 3639, Power, Joseph: Rural Heritage Fair - Congrats.,
Mr. J. MacDonell 9365
Vote - Affirmative 9365
Res. 3640, Sports - Hockey Day in Can. (Windsor): Marathon Game -
Organizers Congrats., Mr. B. Boudreau 9366
Vote - Affirmative 9366
Res. 3641, Lobbyists' Reg. Act.: Gov't. (N.S.) - Proclaim,
Mr. K. Deveaux 9366
Res. 3642, CAF - Arabian Sea: Service - Recognize,
(by Mr. M. Samson), Mr. D. Wilson 9367
Vote - Affirmative 9368
Res. 3643, Horner, Reg - Commun. Newspapers: Publication - Congrats.,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 9368
Vote - Affirmative 9369
Res. 3644, Gov't. (N.S.): Tragedy/Comedy - Exemplification,
(by Mr. M. Samson), Mr. D. Wilson 9369
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 985, Premier - Communications N.S.: Staff - Number Explain,
Mr. D. Dexter 9370
No. 986, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Hfx. Harbour Cleanup:
Involvement - Lack Explain, Mr. R. MacKinnon 9371
No. 987, Premier - Tobacco Ind.: Lobbyists - Influence Control,
Mr. K. Deveaux 9372
No. 988, Educ. - Post-Secondary De-Designation: Public Interest -
Degree, Mr. M. Samson 9373
No. 989, Lobbyists' Reg. Act: Proclamation - Time Frame, Mr. J. Pye 9375
No. 990, Health - Smoking Cessation: Plan - Details, Dr. J. Smith 9376
No. 991, Lbr.: Consumers' Advocate - Appt., Mr. F. Corbett 9377
No. 992, Health - C.B. DHA Meeting: Min. - Attendance Confirm,
Mr. P. MacEwan 9379
No. 993, Premier - Martin, Roland, Appt.: Procurement Policy -
Circumvention, Mr. D. Dexter 9380
No. 994, Tourism & Culture - Arts Council: Dismantling - Accuracy,
Mr. D. Downe 9382
No. 995, Agric. & Fish. - NSAC: Tuition Increases - Effects,
Mr. J. MacDonell 9383
No. 996, Educ. - Rankin Mem. Sch.: Const. Review Explain,
Mr. K. MacAskill 9384
No. 997, Educ. - St. Pat's HS Daycare: Funding Cuts - Explain,
Mr. H. Epstein 9385
No. 998, Commun. Serv. - Cent. Nova Women's Res. Ctr.: Closure -
Confirm, Mr. D. Wilson 9387
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 109, Financial Measures (2002) Act 9388
Amendment [debate resumed] 9388
Mr. J. Pye 9388
Vote - Negative 9405
Mr. D. Downe 9405
Hon. R. Russell 9413
Previous Question Put 9413
Mr. H. Epstein 9414
Mr. R. MacKinnon 9422
Mr. G. Steele 9436
Debate adjourned 9440
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Educ. - Macdonald, Sir John A., HS: Funding - Ensure:
Mr. W. Estabrooks 9440
Mr. J. Chataway 9443
Mr. M. Samson 9445
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 109, Financial Measures (2002) Act 9448
Mr. G. Steele [debate resumed] 9448
Mr. B. Boudreau 9457
Adjourned debate 9467
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., May 3rd at 9:00 a.m. 9468
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 3645, Shelburne Reg. HS Rebels - Jr. Achievement Bus. Games:
Efforts - Applaud, Mr. C. O'Donnell 9469
Res. 3646, M/S Scotia Prince: Contributions - Recognize, Mr. R. Hurlburt 9469
Res. 3647, Preferred Environment - Recycling: Initiative - Commend,
The Speaker 9470
Res. 3648, Reid, John/Joggins FD: Support - Recognize, The Speaker 9470
Res. 3649, Meals on Wheels (Lunenburg): Volunteers - Recognize,
Mr. D. Downe 9471
Res. 3650, Noblet, Chris: Vol. Service - Congrats., Mr. D. Downe 9471

[Page 9349]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, MAY 2, 2002

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

12:00 NOON

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 Needham:

Therefore be it resolved that the government provide sufficient funds to ensure that Sir John A. Macdonald High School can adequately meet the needs of students and families in the Timberlea-Prospect area.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

9349

[Page 9350]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, could we revert to the order of business, Presenting and Reading Petitions?

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition with 207 names from the constituency of Lunenburg. The operative phrase is, "NOVA SCOTIANS FOR A FAIR PROPERTY ASSESSMENT We ask that the Nova Scotia government tie land assessment increases to the consumer price index and major renovations. We ask that Market Value Assessments only be established when property is sold. We ask that provisions be made for the transfer of lands and property between generations." I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 3621

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

Whereas the Halifax Regional Police and the Halifax Shopping Centre Teen Advisory Board have launched the Art Against Youth Violence contest; and

Whereas Emmet Fralick, who's untimely death inspired the contest, was a regular at the youth drop-in centre at the shopping mall; and

Whereas Emmet's mother helped launch the project in an effort to bring awareness to youth violence;

[Page 9351]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Halifax Regional Police and the Halifax Shopping Centre Teen Advisory Board for encouraging junior and senior high school students to share their feelings and ideas about youth violence through art.

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 Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 3622

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

Whereas May 5th to May 11th is National Forest Week, a week when all Nova Scotians and Canadians are asked to celebrate our rich forest heritage and to consider the true value of our forests; and

Whereas our forests play a vital role in providing a healthy environment, economy and lifestyle for Nova Scotians and they help support more than 250 wildlife species; and

Whereas staff of the Department of Natural Resources will be visiting Grade 6 classes throughout the week to talk about the importance of our forests and what we can do to ensure their future;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize that our forests are a rich and diverse natural resource and take the time during National Forest Week to think about what this resource means to each and every one of us.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 9352]

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. 3623

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

Whereas a new book entitled, Touched by the Titanic features the writing, poetry and drawings of students from eight Halifax schools; and

Whereas the book was a co-operative effort involving about 1,000 children from Belfast, Cobh and Halifax; and

Whereas a collage created by 30 Grade 5 students at Park West School was selected for the book's cover;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate our local students who took part in this special effort to commemorate Halifax's connection to the doomed ocean liner.

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.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 128 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 18 of the Acts of 1998. The Municipal Government Act. (Hon. Angus MacIsaac)

[Page 9353]

Bill No. 129 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 23 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Assessment Act, and Chapter 302 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Municipal Grants Act. (Hon. Angus MacIsaac)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3624

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 Sackville Rivers Association's efforts to clean up the Sackville River system has merited many accolades over the years; and

Whereas thanks to SRA Chairman Walter Regan and its many volunteers, Sackville has reaped the rewards of their stellar conservation efforts for salmon, smallmouth bass and other species; and

Whereas on April 7th, the Sackville Rivers Association received the much-prized Bob Dechman Memorial Conservation Award from the Canadian Association of Smallmouth Anglers for their work in preserving smallmouth bass stock;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates the Sackville Rivers Association and its Chairman, Walter Regan, on receiving the Bob Dechman Memorial Conservation Award from the Canadian Association of Smallmouth Anglers.

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.

[Page 9354]

RESOLUTION NO. 3625

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

Whereas the member for Kings North provides wonderful insights into the backrooms of the Tory caucus; and

Whereas just today the member's column recounted how the member for Annapolis likes to disguise his voice and play pranks on his fellow MLAs; and

Whereas the member may be so good at disguising his voice that perhaps he does an impression of the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley trying to disguise his voice;

Therefore be it resolved, simply, that perhaps the Tory backbench has a little bit too much time on their hands.

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 Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 3626

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

Whereas Acadia University and its Acadia Advantage Program have attracted the attention and support of private organizations; and

Whereas recently, four organizations have announced a total of $3 million in funding and equipment for Acadia to be used for research and teaching; and

[Page 9355]

Whereas the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Libra Foundation of Portland, Maine, and J.D.S. Uniphase have each made donations which will significantly impact Acadia's IT infrastructure, its information technology training and fund research in fibre optics communications systems;

[12:15 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Acadia University on receiving these grants, which will enhance the university's innovative curriculum.

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 Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 3627

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

Whereas the Women's Institute of Nova Scotia provides opportunities to enhance our quality of life through education and personal development; and

Whereas water quality problems are growing in Canada and communities throughout this province need to be aware of the quality of their drinking water and what needs to be done to ensure proper testing and analysis of our water; and

Whereas the Women's Institute has undertaken the Rural Water Quality Project to empower communities, through a series of workshops, with much-needed information on safety of drinking water, sources of contaminated water, boil orders and other water quality control measures;

[Page 9356]

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend our best wishes and appreciation to the Women's Institute of Nova Scotia and its members for undertaking the Rural Water Quality Project in communities across Nova Scotia.

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 Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3628

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

Whereas Grade 12 Park View Education Centre student Sara Roy has been recognized with an award from the International Fund for Animal Welfare in the endangered species artwork competition; and

Whereas the International Fund for Animal Welfare is publishing her award-winning work in postcard format to be distributed with information packages as part of a larger campaign; and

Whereas Miss Roy has been involved in art for most of her life and excelled in the craft from a young age;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Sara Roy on receipt of the International Fund for Animal Welfare for her work on endangered species and wish her well in all her future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 9357]

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 North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3629

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

Whereas it was on this date 218 years ago, in 1784, when the Colony of Cape Breton was officially established through an Order in Council of the then Executive Council in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Sydney was then founded by the United Empire Loyalists in 1785 and remained the capital of the Colony of Cape Breton until the colony was annexed to mainland Nova Scotia in 1820, with Sydney becoming a city in 1904; and

Whereas today, there are exceptionally few cities in North America that can actually boast eight buildings erected between 1785 and 1802 within a two-block radius;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislative Assembly recognize today's important date in Nova Scotia's history and appreciate the many significant contributions brought forward by Cape Breton and its citizens, which have so enriched Nova Scotia's historical and cultural heritage.

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

[Page 9358]

RESOLUTION NO. 3630

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

Whereas the test of a community's true spirit is how it rallies to help those in need; and

Whereas Michael Torree is a four-year-old boy in Eastern Passage who is courageously fighting cancer; and

Whereas workers at Northwood Manor, where Michael's mother is employed, and friends and neighbours gathered for an auction on April 27th and raised $8,078 to help the Torree family in this difficult time;

Therefore be it resolved that the House congratulate Peter Bentley, Robin Feeney, Diane MacBride and Tommy Asprey for organizing the very successful fundraising auction on behalf of Michael Torree and his family of Eastern Passage.

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 Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 3631

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

Whereas on Saturday, May 6, 2002, l'Université Sainte-Anne, located in Pointe de l'Eglise, will hold its Spring Convocation Ceremonies; and

Whereas l'Université Saint-Anne will confer an honorary doctorate on Prime Minister Jean Chretien; and

[Page 9359]

Whereas 49 students will receive degrees from l'Université Sainte-Anne, the only francophone university in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly extend its congratulations to l'Université Sainte-Anne, its honorary degree recipient, the Right Honourable Jean Chretien, and all graduates for their many accomplishments.

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-Beaver Bank

RESOLUTION NO. 3632

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

Whereas a marathon is more than a test of physical endurance, it is also a milestone of personal achievement; and

Whereas Team Diabetes, a fundraising program that provides funding and training for individuals to run an international marathon, and at the same time raise money for diabetes research; and

Whereas Sackville Lion George Grant joined Team Diabetes with high hopes, but health problems have dashed his dreams and fellow Lion Laurie Campbell has taken up the challenge in his stead;

Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud George Grant for taking up such a challenge and for inspiring Lion Laurie Campbell, whom we will all cheer on as he runs the Dublin Marathon this autumn.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 9360]

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 3633

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

Whereas a school librarian is a vitally important position in a high school; and

Whereas providing library services to over 1,000 students when the school population is moved to another facility during the school year is a challenging task; and

Whereas Sir John A. Macdonald High School librarian Grayce Rogers has successfully faced that challenge at Sir John A. Macdonald as the students of Sir John A. share a split-shift arrangement at C.P. Allen High in Bedford;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate school librarian, Grayce Rogers on her professional approach and dedication to the students of Sir John A. Macdonald High School.

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 Dartmouth East.

[Page 9361]

RESOLUTION NO. 3634

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

Whereas the Sisters of Charity will award the 2002 Elizabeth Seton Award to medical doctors Thomas and Margaret Casey of Halifax, Nova Scotia, on May 15th; and

Whereas Dr. Tom Casey, surgeon, served as a volunteer for the sick and disadvantaged in developing countries, and Dr. Margaret Casey, family physician, is known for her service at the North End Community Health Centre; and

Whereas the awards are presented annually to an individual, couple, or organization, as well as to a Sister in Nova Scotia who best exemplifies Saint Elizabeth Seton's pioneering spirit, dedication and commitment to the poor;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Drs. Tom and Margaret Casey on receiving the 2002 Elizabeth Seton Award for their dedication and commitment together in serving our local and international communities.

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 Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 3635

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

Whereas this June, Dartmouth businessman Archie Hattie will open the Links at Montague, a nine-hole executive golf course on Montague Road in Westphal; and

[Page 9362]

Whereas the 1,880-yard course boasts a high quality design and many shot values, as well as proximity to downtown metropolitan Halifax, and will employ about 20 people in peak season; and

Whereas the Links at Montague have already been selected by the Royal Canadian Golf Association as one of the five national training centres for some of the region's best amateur golfers;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House wish Archie Hattie well as he prepares to open the Links at Montague, and welcome another quality golf course to the list of notable, quality golf courses in our province.

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 Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 3636

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

Whereas the First Nations community in Nova Scotia has a clear commitment to putting learners and communities first on their agenda; and

Whereas UCCB has the largest Mi'kmaq student population in Eastern Canada and the highest number of Mi'kmaq graduates each year; and

Whereas on April 5th UCCB officially opened the Mi'kmaq College Institute, making it possible for Mi'kmaq students, educators, scholars, and researchers in Mi'kmaq history and culture to establish a curriculum and research agenda;

[Page 9363]

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend our congratulations to University College of Cape Breton and to the Institute Director, Eleanor Bernard, on the proud and historic opening of the Mi'kmaq College Institute.

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 Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 3637

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

Whereas this Sunday May 5, 2002, St. Francis Xavier University will hold its Spring Convocation Ceremonies at the Charles V. Keating Millennium Centre; and

Whereas St. F.X. will confer honorary degrees to Canadian hockey legend, Senator Frank Mahovlich, former Academic Vice-President Dr. John Sears, and international business leaders and philanthropists Thomas Bata, Sonja Bata and Sir Anthony O'Reilly; and

Whereas more than 900 graduates will become members of the well-known Xavierian family;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate St. Francis Xavier University, its honorary degree recipients and all graduates as they become members of the Xavierian family.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 9364]

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. 3638

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 members of this House spend a great deal of time away from their respective families and partners in order to serve our province; and

Whereas our families are not often recognized for the vital role they play in making this province an even greater one in which to live and work; and

Whereas it is important that we always keep in mind the importance of our families as we do our work in this Legislature;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize and give thanks to our families and partners for their continued support.

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 on an introduction.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we have some visitors here today in the west gallery. They're from the Alexander Keith's Nova Scotia Brewery Experience. They're doing an historical tour to familiarize themselves with old Halifax in order to relate historical events to tourists. I was just hoping that perhaps we could do some very good acting to show

[Page 9365]

them how good we are today. Their director is Jennette White, she's from Neptune Theatre. I wonder if the group could please stand to receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I certainly welcome our guests to the gallery today and I hope they enjoy their stay with us here in the Legislature.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3639

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

Whereas rural physicians played such an important role in pre-Medicare years that they are almost a part of Nova Scotia folklore; and

Whereas the Provincial Heritage Fair encourages students to bring to the fore places, industries and people who made an impact in shaping our province; and

Whereas Joseph Power of Rawdon Gold Mines won the Provincial Heritage Fair competition with his large-as-life depiction of rural doctor, Dr. R.A. MacLellan;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Joseph Power of Rawdon Gold Mines on winning the Provincial Heritage Fair competition with his depiction of rural physician Dr. R.A. MacLellan and how medical care used to be delivered.

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 The Lakes.

[Page 9366]

RESOLUTION NO. 3640

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

Whereas underprivileged kids in Nova Scotia will have greater access to sports thanks to the efforts of 36 hockey players who staged the longest game ever; and

Whereas the marathon game, played January 4th and 5th during Hockey Day in Canada events in Windsor, raised more than $30,000; and

Whereas the players, 18 on each side, completed 60 periods of hockey - the equivalent of 20 full games;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate the organizers, Ken McCormick, Jay Allison and Peter Bezanson on a job well done, and the players who have already given so freely of their time to help underprivileged kids across this province.

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 3641

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

Whereas today the Annual Statement of Political Contributions for 2001 was released by the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer; and

[Page 9367]

Whereas the records indicate that the Tories were the beneficiaries of substantial contributions from companies and individuals who stand to gain from watered-down controls on cell phone use and anti-smoking legislation; and

Whereas a very useful supplement to this information would be lobbyist registration legislation which, coincidentally, this House passed but refuses to proclaim;

Therefore be it resolved that in light of the source of some of the Tory Party's contributions, this House demands that the government proclaim immediately the Lobbyist Registration Act so Nova Scotians can know who's lobbying whom in government.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[12:30 p.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 3642

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my colleague, the honourable member for Glace Bay, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas yesterday HMCS St. John's set sail for a six month mission in the Middle East as part of Canada's contribution to the war on terrorism; and

Whereas HMCS St. John's is the ninth Canadian ship deployed on Operation Apollo; and

Whereas HMCS St. John's will join HMCS Ottawa, Algonquin and Toronto and will be deployed for six months;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly recognize the invaluable role played by our Canadian Armed Forces in the Arabian Sea and wish all men and women aboard the St. John's and all other Canadian ships a safe mission.

[Page 9368]

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 Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 3643

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

Whereas the Chebucto News, which has provided a free community newspaper to the public in the Halifax Atlantic constituency on a monthly basis for the past four years, is being expanded to the Fairmount and Armdale area; and

Whereas the publisher has announced the creation of a new newspaper, the Parkview News, to serve the Fairview and Clayton Park area; and

Whereas these newspapers contribute in many ways to information sharing and community pride;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the publisher of the Chebucto News and the new Parkview News, Mr. Reg Horner, on his success and plans for expansion and thank him for his continuing interest in providing residents with news of their community.

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.

[Page 9369]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 3644

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, again on behalf of my colleague, the honourable member for Glace Bay- who I'm sure would do a much better job than I would on this - I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the member for Kings North has recognized that politics can sometimes be humorous; and

Whereas this Tory Government has provided a laugh a minute with such works of comedic genius like the recent budget, a Cabinet Minister claiming victory in the Laurentian dispute while wearing a Three Stooges tie, and more recently the banning of smoking on outdoor patios but not indoors in bars; and

Whereas the non-stop laughs continue now with the Finance Minister trying to convince Nova Scotians that his budget is balanced while on his way to the bank to borrow more money;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize that the current government exemplifies tragedy rather than comedy while reminding them that the last laugh will be on them after the next election.

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.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Oral Question Period will begin at 12:33 p.m. and end at 1:33 p.m.

[Page 9370]

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

PREMIER - COMMUNICATIONS N.S.: STAFF - NUMBER EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Seven years ago, in 1995, the Government of Nova Scotia had a grand total of 36 Communications staff. By October 1998, there were 45 Communications staff. Today, after the Premier promised to eliminate all non-essential spending, after he began closing hospital beds, after he shut down the Family Violence Prevention Initiative, the government lists 70 Communications staff. They have just about doubled the numbers. So my question to the Premier is, when government is shrinking, why have you doubled the number of Communications staff?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister responsible for Communications Nova Scotia.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in response to the question. In fact, there hasn't been a doubling, what's happening is that many of the Communications people were in departments before, now they're all grouped under Communications Nova Scotia. So the honourable member, unfortunately, has it wrong.

MR. DEXTER: No, I believe it is the minister who has it wrong. All those who were pulled out, and in fact, they have doubled. Mr. Speaker, this government has made a choice, they are underfunding hospitals, schools and child protection. The Conservatives have put that money into a politically-driven Communications team. The results? Well, according to the government's latest focus group report, when people are asked to say something positive about the government "all found this exercise more difficult". People know the Conservatives promised one thing and delivered another. So my question for the Premier is, why has the Premier broken faith with Nova Scotians by choosing to make political spin doctors a higher priority than front-line health, education and child services?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, certainly contrary to what the member opposite is indicating - this government made 243 commitments to the people of Nova Scotia - we reported last August that, in fact, 200 had either been delivered or were well on the way to being delivered. We will report again this August to the people of Nova Scotia, an even better reporting of the accomplishments of this government. This government will deliver those things that it told Nova Scotians it would deliver.

MR. DEXTER: That must have been a spin doctor's line, Mr. Speaker. This government has doubled the number of Communications staff and yet they can't sell chowder in Lunenburg. The focus group report says that Nova Scotians don't even raise the issues of debt or deficit, the report says people never even think about it. Why won't the Premier admit that his empire of spin doctors has been a waste of money because no one can perform the miracle of making this government's priorities the priorities of the people?

[Page 9371]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, lest the member opposite continue to be confused as to what's happening in Communications Nova Scotia, I will ask the minister responsible to again indicate to the member opposite what's happening with Communications Nova Scotia.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, again, it's my pleasure to rise in response to the honourable member's question. In fact, the honourable member will be very pleased to know that the total number of Communications officers, advisors and directors for this administration is indeed smaller than the previous Liberal Administration in this province. He will be glad to know that, in fact, we are putting our priorities in the right place.

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

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - HFX. HARBOUR CLEANUP:

INVOLVEMENT - LACK EXPLAIN

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. First of all, I would like to congratulate Mayor Kelly and the Halifax Regional Municipality on their efforts regarding the Halifax Harbour cleanup. The issue of cleaning up Halifax Harbour dates back to the Buchanan era, and certainly this has been an ongoing issue for over two decades, under various governments. Back then the province was interested when the federal government wasn't, and now that the talks are proceeding very well with the federal government, all indications are that things are on-stream both federally and municipally, the provincial government is not interested. My question to the Premier is, would the Premier explain why his government has not become involved with the Halifax Harbour cleanup?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the minister responsible.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we have been working with HRM. We have made it possible for them to consider alternate ways of financing the project. We continue to work with them, and will monitor the developments very closely.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the frustration of Mayor Kelly was quite obvious on a CBC news report this morning. Mayor Kelly and the Council of the Halifax Regional Municipality have suggested a number of cost-sharing options with the provincial government. One was to consider rebating the provincial income tax and sales tax that the project will generate over a five-year construction period, ergo giving the province's contribution; or, another was to provide $1 million to the project over a 30-year period, $1 million a year for 30 years. My question to the Premier or to the minister, whoever so chooses to answer, is, what problems does your government have with these options that are presented?

[Page 9372]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the financing of any project in this province is one that should be determined on the basis of the project itself. If we were to get into the business of re-spending money that's collected in particular areas then, for instance, something like the StoraEnso expansion would mean that all of the taxes collected there and the income tax collected there would have to be spent in Richmond County, if that logic were applied. We are evaluating and working very closely with the municipality and we will continue to do so.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, obviously, the minister is saying that he's going to do nothing. That is, in essence, what he has just said. In fact, the Minister of Finance acknowledged a $1 million error in his budget. It's his second budget out of three budgets where he found miscalculations in his own figures. Why doesn't this government sit down with the Halifax Regional Municipality and come up with a solution? I'm not sure. My question to the Premier is, would the Premier tell this House what it would take for his government to become involved in the Halifax Harbour cleanup?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the minister responsible.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated previously, we are considering very carefully all of the proposals that have been brought forward and I can say to you that the honourable member opposite put one on the table that I have not, to this point, been aware of before and that is $1 million a year over a period of 30 years. We will consider all of these options and consider them very carefully.

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

PREMIER - TOBACCO IND.: LOBBYISTS - INFLUENCE CONTROL

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Last week, the Premier's government unveiled anti-smoking legislation. However, restaurants, bars and lounges are at least partially excluded from the ban on smoking in public places and this will put workers at risk. Also, Purdy Crawford, Chairman of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies and the former CEO of Imasco, a tobacco company, donated $7,000 to the Progressive Conservative Party last year. My question to the Premier is, since we have no lobbyist registration legislation in Nova Scotia, how can we be assured that Mr. Crawford or anyone else connected with the tobacco industry has not been lobbying to affect the smoking legislation?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, no representative or agent has approached me on the basis of supporting the interests of the tobacco industry relative to this legislation. No one has approached me.

[Page 9373]

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, that's the point of the Lobbyists' Registration Act, so that we have it all out on the table. Another big contributor to the Tories last year was Cara Operations Limited, that owns several coffee shops and restaurants throughout Nova Scotia. They gave $5,000 last year, in a non-election year, to the Progressive Conservative Party. So my question to the Premier is, without the Lobbyists' Registration Act, how can Nova Scotians be assured that Cara did not try to influence the anti-smoking legislation?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, a couple of issues that I would like to clear up for the benefit of the member opposite is, first of all, I make it a habit not to look at the donation list to the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia. I'm not aware, unless you bring up a certain name, that a contribution has been made. What I can say is this government, by introducing smoking in public places legislation, joins only two other provinces in this country that have legislation and our legislation among those three is the best.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I would think the Premier would want to proclaim the Lobbyists' Registration Act so all Nova Scotians would be absolutely clear that that is the case. One more example, Imperial Tobacco donated $2,000 to the Progressive Conservative Party in 2001. So my final question to the Premier is, when is his government going to clear up any confusion and finally put the lobbyist registration legislation in place so Nova Scotians don't have to sit and wonder who's lobbying the government with regard to the anti-smoking legislation?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to remind the member opposite that this government again is at the forefront because there are only two other governments, in fact, that have lobbyist registration in Canada, one being the Government of Ontario and the other being the federal government. We, again, are leading the nation in what I think is progressive legislation, and that legislation will be implemented this year. (Applause)

[12:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

EDUC. - POST-SECONDARY DE-DESIGNATION:

PUBLIC INTEREST - DEGREE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I wish to table a story from a media Web site from March 25, 2002, regarding the designation - or rather the de-designation - of Nova Scotia post-secondary institutions based on student loan default rates. The concern here is that the Department of Education may determine that certain institutions will no longer be eligible for student loan assistance; therefore, students applying there won't qualify for provincial student loans. In the story, students express concerns about the possibility that some post-secondary programs may not be student loan eligible in the future. My question

[Page 9374]

to the Minister of Education, and I'm asking for a specific answer, will the minister tell this House whether she believes that the post-secondary de-designation or de-designation issue is a matter of public interest?

HON. JANE PURVES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption) Yes, I'm sure it is a set-up, but the answer is yes nonetheless.

MR. SAMSON: Well, the minister gets cleverer and cleverer all the time. Unfortunately, it would appear that her skills aren't shared with the rest of her own department. Mr. Speaker, I have a reply to a freedom of information request denying a fee waiver based on the fact that her department determined that the issue of de-designation is not an issue of public interest, that it was not the subject of public debate recently, and that it's not an issue dealing with how your department allocates resources. Incredibly, one of the excuses is that the release of this information would not help the public understand the issue any better. To add insult to injury, the estimated fee was only released after a 30-day stalling tactic by her department.

I know the minister is going to say she doesn't know anything about freedom of information requests, so my question, specifically, can the minister defend her department's belief that the de-designation of post-secondary programs based on student loan default rates is not in the public interest?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, since I was not privy to the original request, I can't really answer that directly, but I will say that once we have a designation policy - or rather we have a new designation policy, since we already have one - that it certainly will be made public. It is in the public interest.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, again, it's in the public interest to know what is going to go into that policy, how it is going to be formed and who is providing input into that, which is why this information should be made public immediately. Once again the minister's deputy is treating the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act as his own personal firewall. De-designation of post-secondary programs is an exceptionally important issue for students and their parents. It's an issue which goes to the heart of what her department feels is important when it comes to post-secondary education.

My final supplementary, will the minister, today, immediately release the information we requested, instead of the incessant delaying tactics and trumped-up excuses based on political expediency rather than sound public policy?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as I have said, when the policy is developed and approved, it will be released to the public. That is the point of having a policy. The members opposite may want every draft piece of policy development made available to them so they

[Page 9375]

can turn around and say, oh, minister caves on this. When the policy is final, it will be released and made public.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

LOBBYISTS' REG. ACT: PROCLAMATION - TIME FRAME

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, in spite of evidence that cell phones contribute to accidents, this government has refused to act and ban the use of them while driving. It didn't make sense, but we think we may have found the answer. In 2001, Aliant donated over $9,000 to the Progressive Conservative Party - one of their divisions is a cellular phone company.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There's too much noise in the Chamber and I can't hear the speaker.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, can I repeat the question?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes.

MR. PYE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In spite of evidence that cell phones contribute to accidents, this government has refused to act and ban the use of them while driving. It didn't make sense but we think we may have found the answer. In 2001, Aliant donated over $9,000 to the Progressive Conservative Party - one of their divisions is a cellular phone company. I ask the Premier, when will his government proclaim the Lobbyists' Registration Act so Nova Scotians can judge for themselves who is influencing the lack of cell phone legislation?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, again I take the opportunity to indicate to the House the fact that this will only be the third time in Canada that a lobbyist registration has come forward from a government, the other two being Ontario and the federal government. That piece of legislation will be implemented this year.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, again, Purdy Crawford of Atlantic Institute for Market Studies and the Chairman of ATT, another communications company, donated $7,100 to the Tories in 2001. GE Canada, which manufactures the components of communications equipment, also contributed $2,500. My question to the Premier is, how can we know, without the lobbyist registration Act, whether these contributions are influencing your government's reluctance to pass cell phone legislation?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that this particular member of the House has had no lobby from anyone relative to this issue. We have a number of public policy issues that we're putting forward, and I believe that we have, by the very

[Page 9376]

nature of the things that we are addressing in this province, indicated that this is a progressive government and it is a government that is, in fact, quite prepared to address any issue of public importance that will benefit the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the Premier that the lobbyist registration legislation applies to all the political Parties in this Legislature. So, let's move on. The members of the Tory Party assure us the political contributions and policies of this government are not linked, but we have no way of knowing without putting the lobbyist legislation in place. I ask the Premier, will he commit here and now to put this legislation into practice and restore Nova Scotia's faith in government immediately, and that it be immediately? (Interruptions)

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

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I believe the member opposite has asked if the government, right now, would implement the legislation. What I am committing to the members of the House and the people of Nova Scotia, is that this year that legislation will be implemented.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - SMOKING CESSATION: PLAN - DETAILS

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Yesterday the Minister of Health stated that his government is investing $1.5 million this year towards smoking cessation programs. He didn't fully explain what his department was planning to do. I don't think the minister would disagree that properly-funded smoking cessation programs are necessary to the government's comprehensive smoking strategy, in addition to what it is now. My question, again, to the minister is - because the minister, yesterday, and we've reviewed Hansard, didn't fully explain it - could the minister briefly outline what plans his department and this government have to reduce smoking with the monies that they've set aside this year?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there is a seven-part tobacco strategy, and it involves, obviously, one of the things that the honourable member mentioned yesterday, the updating of the public school program, called Smoke-Free for Life and that is being updated in conjunction with the Department of Education. We have also a series of public service advertisements; we have increased taxes; obviously another part of it was the introduction of the legislation which is among the very strongest in Canada if not the strongest.

DR. SMITH: He got part of that right anyway, he got the taxes right. The government will collect over $138 million from tobacco taxes this year and yet we see $1.5 million put back in for prevention. As you're aware, the amount is up over $32 million this year and yet

[Page 9377]

they did indicate it was a small amount of that $138 million - $1.8 million - against programs. Again, can the minister explain why this government is failing to redirect more financial resources into the government's anti-smoking programs in light of the government's huge tax grab from the taxpayers of Nova Scotia?

MR. MUIR: We believe that the comprehensive tobacco control strategy, which was put together as a result of consultation among 22 stakeholder groups, is very, very effective. The amount of money that we are dedicating as a province per capita to tobacco control, I believe, is the second greatest number in the country.

DR. SMITH: If I could, Mr. Speaker, to the Premier, because the Premier was present at an announcement with some of those stakeholders that the minister mentions. Last year at the Nova Scotia group, Communities Taking Action on Smoking, the Premier stated - this was at Clementsport - "We agreed as a government to dig even deeper in order that we could provide the resources needed to achieve a healthier . . . smoke-free Nova Scotia." So, my question to the Premier today, now with all that additional - and I will underline additional - tax revenue this government is receiving, can the Premier explain how he will guarantee more stable, long-term resources to achieve a healthier smoke-free Nova Scotia, more than what this minister has indicated here today?

THE PREMIER: I share the concern of the member for Dartmouth East relative to the ravages of tobacco smoke on the people of Nova Scotia. For the first time in the history of the province, you have a government that, within the budget of the Department of Health, is starting to assign significant amounts of money to one of the most difficult public health issues in this province and that is the use of tobacco products. As long as this government is in power, the amount that we dedicate annually to tobacco smoking cessation will increase on an annual basis.

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

LBR.: CONSUMERS' ADVOCATE - APPT.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: The Minister of Labour deserves some credit for listening to our Party about suggestions to send the matter of sky-rocketing insurance premiums to the Utility and Review Board. I also want to give him credit for resisting the insurance industry and the Liberal Party of this province in their attempts to seek a review by a toothless committee. The insurance industry is lobbying heavily (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. CORBETT: One need look no further than the Liberal benches to see how pervasive this lobby can be from the insurance company. The industry is also sure to present a one-sided, high-powered presentation to the Utility and Review Board. I want to ask this

[Page 9378]

Minister of Labour if his government will give Nova Scotians the assistance they need in fighting at the URB by appointing a consumer's advocate on auto insurance to act on their behalf?

HON. DAVID MORSE: I want to say at the outset that I appreciate the comments from the member opposite and I'm wondering if he could perhaps laminate the preamble and send it over - I would like to put it up in my office. With regard to the hearing at the URB, this is something that we have been discussing in the department as to what things we want to make sure are brought under consideration. We've not come to a determination, but I would tell the member opposite that it is something that's under consideration.

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, this minister has followed our good advice on this issue so far and a consumer's advocate would be another piece of good advice that this government should listen to. The consumer's advocate would be independent, at arm's length of government that will ensure Nova Scotians have a fighting chance at these hearings. The Liberal Party of Nova Scotia would want to check first with Don Forgeron to see if this would be okay. (Interruption) I will give them time to consult. I want to ask the minister again, why won't he commit right now to hiring a consumer's advocate for the course of these hearings to represent ordinary Nova Scotians?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, again, I am a little bit apprehensive because once again the member opposite and I do agree that the Liberal Party is out of step on this whole process. Having said that though, I refer back to my previous answer. There are certain things that we do want to see taken under consideration at the URB, but we've not made a decision as we proceed with this.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, by the headiness of his answer, I think he's still all aglow and doesn't understand the question. While we know the Liberals and insurance companies keep saying that the URB process is too expensive and they don't want to go forward that way, the URB would also explore having the costs of those hearings and the cost of an advocate be borne by the industry. They can clearly do that. So my question to the minister is, if he's not too lightheaded about the preamble, will the Minister of Environment and Labour pursue having the insurance industry cover the cost of an advocate and the intervention costs of Nova Scotians paid for by the industry, not by Nova Scotians?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, it gives me a chance to point out that indeed the insurance industry is going to cover the full cost of the URB hearing.

[Page 9379]

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

HEALTH - C.B. DHA MEETING: MIN. - ATTENDANCE CONFIRM

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova has the floor.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health, and later to the Premier. In yesterday's issue of the Cape Breton Post, there appeared an article on the Glace Bay-New Waterford page entitled: Health authority sets date for special meeting on hospital emergency rooms, and that presentations can be made May 15th. I sent a copy of that over to the Minister of Health and here's another one I would like to send over to the Premier for his reading during the next couple of minutes.

This story came from the Cape Breton Post. The announcement from the Cape Breton District Health Authority is that they will hold a meeting on May 15th to discuss emergency room services in the Cape Breton District Health Authority, with particular reference to the hospital at New Waterford - the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital. Now while this is being called a special meeting, it appears from reading the newspaper article that what it is, in fact, is a final chance for the public to voice their concerns and present their issues before a decision is made on the future of the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital. My question to the Minister of Health is, will the minister be in attendance at that meeting and listen to what the health care providers and residents are saying about emergency room services at the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital?

HON. JAMES MUIR: This meeting is a follow-up to the public meeting in New Waterford about the Murray report, which is dealing with emergency services throughout the Cape Breton District Health Authority. That meeting is giving the citizens an opportunity to present their concerns in detail; it's a formal meeting set for that. The honourable member asked me if I intended to be present. Mr. Speaker, what we have done with the district health authority is allow decisions to be made by communities for communities.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, that is the minister's decision, but I want to say this, that the newspaper article I've sent him outlines the procedure for the holding of this meeting by which those who want to be heard at the meeting have to make their intentions known by May 8th, and they have to attach a copy of their presentation to their application to be heard. Then the district health authority has the decision-making power to grant this request, but not that one, to allow this one to be heard, but not that one. That is in the newspaper article.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

[Page 9380]

MR. MACEWAN: My question, Mr. Speaker, to the minister is, will the minister contact the Cape Breton District Health Authority and ask that everyone who requests to make a presentation will be heard?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the format for the presentations was determined by the Cape Breton District Health Authority. It's the belief of the authority that people have had ample opportunity to declare their intentions to make presentations, and the authority that is holding the meeting will make the determination of how the meeting will be conducted.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I consider this an important matter. I want to direct my final supplementary question to the Premier, because in the fabled blue book of promises the Premier promised to build up a responsive health care system by including health caregivers, volunteers, and communities, every step of the way in the process. Now, we have clear indication here that the Cape Breton District Health Authority does not intend to do that. They intend to pick and choose - this one, but not that one, and the minister appears to support that process.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACEWAN: My question to the Premier is, why is the Premier not insisting that this final meeting be a public meeting, so that everyone in the community who wishes to speak on this issue will be given the opportunity to do so?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have been impressed from day one with the ability of the Cape Breton District Health Authority to manage health matters in that particular part of our province. They have been as successful as any district health authority in Nova Scotia in the pursuit of their responsibilities. Armed with that confidence, I believe that in this case too they will ultimately do what is best for the concern of the community.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

PREMIER - MARTIN, ROLAND, APPT.:

PROCUREMENT POLICY - CIRCUMVENTION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House would like to continue our discussion with the Premier around the retention of super-consultant Roland Martin. Yesterday the Premier provided our House Leader with a copy of the Alternative Procurement Practices report authorizing the awarding of a contract to Mr. Martin's company, for advisory services related to the Premier's Campaign for Fairness, and signed by the Premier's deputy minister. It states the reason for using the alternative procurement practices was "an unforeseeable situation of urgency".

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It certainly has a ring to it, doesn't it, Mr. Speaker? Could the Premier tell this House what was the unforeseeable situation of urgency last September that warranted the circumvention of the procurement policy?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the minister responsible. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Economic Development has the floor.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, certainly in terms of the way in which the Petroleum Directorate dealt with Mr. Martin in terms of an extension to his contract fell well within the guidelines of the procurement practice procedures.

MR. DEXTER: Well, Mr. Speaker, this was about the Campaign for Fairness and that's why he was retained - perhaps the Premier doesn't remember. The procurement policy makes provision for untendered work in certain circumstances where the service cannot be obtained by the open procurement process. The supporting reasons, however, given in this instance is designed to justify the hiring of a particular person already working for the Premier on another untendered contract. Mr. Premier, do you really expect Nova Scotians to accept that there was only one person capable and interested in this $1000-a-day contract?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, subsequent events, I believe, have justified the decision of government to retain that particular consultant.

MR. DEXTER: How do subsequent events justify an unforeseeable situation of urgency, Mr. Speaker, is inexplicable. Deputy Minister Gillis makes it clear under whose direction he was operating. He states, "Advisory services related to Stage II of the Campaign for fairness is desired by the Premier of Nova Scotia." An interesting choice of words. Perhaps Mr. Gillis doesn't agree with what he's writing here. There's absolutely no need for the province's most senior public servant and veteran legal advisor to government to mention the Premier, it was code for: I was told to do this. My question, Mr. Premier, why did you order your deputy minister to justify a $1000-a-day untendered contract, an after-the-fact contract, since Mr. Martin was already working on the file that you had taken away from the Intergovernmental Affairs Department?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the actions of the government have resulted in a research being done on behalf of the initiative called the Campaign for Fairness in uncovering an exhaustive amount of information that strengthens the claim of Nova Scotians to a better deal in the offshore. The energy policy that resulted from the engagement of that particular individual has resulted in an energy strategy that is the envy of other provinces. The results speak for themselves.

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MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

TOURISM & CULTURE - ARTS COUNCIL:

DISMANTLING - ACCURACY

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Tourism and Culture. The minister continues his attempt to convince Nova Scotians who he knows what's best for the arts community. Recently a letter he wrote to the editor of a local newspaper tells Nova Scotians that the last published report of the former Nova Scotia Arts Council showed the administrative cost to be over $429,000. I would like to inform the House and this minister that that simply is not true. The council's last published audited statement shows the cost was $237,000. I would like to table that document. The minister also included program delivery in administration under the heading of Administration, when his own department doesn't consider staff as administrative expense. My question to the minister is, why is the minister continuing to manipulate and mislead the people of Nova Scotia by distorting the facts surrounding the dismantling of the Nova Scotia Arts Council?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the only person who is distorting the facts is the member across the floor.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, arrogance might be good in the Tory caucus but arrogance to Nova Scotians is not acceptable and it's not acceptable to the arts community of Nova Scotia. The minister's letter states that the role of the new Arts Council and cultural council will increase and include providing input into program delivery by the department's Cultural Division and overseeing investment in the cultural activity programs and the Nova Scotia Art Bank Program that are delivered through the department. My question to the minister, can the minister explain how the new council will do more with less, when the department doesn't run as efficiently as the former Nova Scotia Arts Council did?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, if the member had continued to read through my letter to the editor he would have noticed that the new council will be not only involved in the programs previously delivered by the Arts Council, they are also going to be involved with respect to the cultural activities program and the art bank program, making them more inclusive with respect to the programming offered through our department.

MR. DOWNE: My final question to the Minister of Tourism and Culture, it is obvious that the minister cannot back up what he is promising Nova Scotians and the art community in Nova Scotia without twisting the facts. My final question to the minister is, why did the minister support the creation of a government-manipulated and -controlled Arts Council when he would have been forced to manipulate and mislead Nova Scotians into believing that the new council would save money? Why would he mislead Nova Scotians about saving money when the truth is that he's going to cost them more?

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[1:15 p.m.]

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, there certainly is a difference in the belief of this minister and, perhaps, this government and that member. That member, from what I'm hearing, agrees with the fact that $400-some-odd thousand should not get into the hands of people across this province. I differ in that. I believe those dollars should be getting into the hands of the people on the front lines. That is what people have been asking; that is what this government is going to do.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

AGRIC. & FISH. - NSAC: TUITION INCREASES - EFFECTS

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, this government has MLAs who represent most of rural Nova Scotia, and rural Nova Scotians expect that this government will look out for them. My question is going to be for the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries because today we learned that tuition at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College is going to rise by 7.4 per cent. Since the diversity of our agricultural sector is related to the high proportion of NSAC graduates who are farmers in this province, I want to ask the minister, what message does this rise in tuition fees at the NSAC send to potential young farmers and to the farm community?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, yes, the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, like all post-secondary institutions, has costs to meet and its own challenges. They have chosen to raise tuition, which is still among the lowest in Nova Scotia and still a great opportunity for young people in the field of agriculture.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, it's amazing how increasing costs to Nova Scotia students is a great opportunity for them. The effects of rural decline and neglect are obvious. In Pictou and Cumberland Counties, we recently learned that the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board will be cutting 33 teaching positions because of declining enrolment of students. Why, three years after those counties went Tory blue, are people facing this kind of decline in their schools?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Who is the question for? (Interruptions) The question was (Interruptions) Order, please. The question, as I understand it, from the honourable member for Hants East was in regard to declining enrolment in schools in the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board. That would be a question for the honourable Minister of Education, then.

Order, please.

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MR. MACDONELL: I would like the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries to answer about the decline in schools in rural Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: Obviously, that's not a responsibility of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries; it would be the Minister of Education who would be responsible for that. (Interruptions)

MR. MACDONELL: . . . if that's too difficult, I will go to the Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes, there has been a decline in enrolment in that school board, and they will be cutting some positions. Those are not people; these are positions that will not be filled. The decline in enrolment in that school board is higher than normal for that board, but it's in line with declines all across this province.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, one way to sustain rural communities is to keep young families there by investing in those communities. It would seem that the resource sectors of agriculture, forestry and fishery would be areas that this government would want to invest in to keep young families there so they could maintain the enrolment in those schools, keep those schools open and keep teachers employed. There's a connection here. I want to ask the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, why won't the minister admit that the agricultural policy - or lack of policy - of neglect that he has ensured in rural Nova Scotia has given rise not only to the tuition fee increase at the NSAC, but also to the decline in student population in rural Nova Scotia.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, obviously, the member opposite has some complex issues that he's trying to resolve in his own mind, but I think the facts speak for themselves. The fishing industry had a record year this year. The agricultural industry had a record year this year. The resource sectors - this government supports them strongly. We've doubled the money in programs going to farmers. This individual member doesn't even realize what's happening in rural Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

EDUC. - RANKIN MEM. SCH.: CONST. - REVIEW EXPLAIN

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. On February 14, 2000, during a meeting with members of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, the Minister of Education promised the construction of Rankin Memorial School in Iona. Last week the board received a letter from the minister indicating that the construction of the school was under review, without giving any explanation. My question to the minister is, will the Minister of Education explain to the members of the House, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board and the community of Iona why the construction of Rankin Memorial School is currently under review?

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HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the construction of that school is proceeding as I committed then and as we committed previously. The only things I can think of that are under review are the exact size of the school and the exact program needs, depending on the number of students and what they need. That is standard procedure with every school construction.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Education, in February the Department of Education suggested some minor changes to the proposed Rankin Memorial School, including a smaller science lab and a junior high gymnasium, which had both been approved by the board at that time. The construction of Rankin Memorial School was to begin in 2003 and be completed by September 2004. Now, my question to the minister again is, will the minister commit today in this House that the Rankin Memorial School will be completed by 2004 and that no additional changes will be made to the school's design?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I can certainly say that the construction will proceed, as I said in my previous answer, but there may indeed be other alterations and changes to the school. These happen up to the last minute in any school construction as the community and the school board ask for changes.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, again to the minister, Rankin Memorial School is to be for Primary to Grade 12. With declining enrolments, it has been suggested that the Department of Education personnel may design Rankin Memorial School as a Primary to Grade 9 school. My question to the minister is, will the Minister of Education assure the parents, students and the entire community of Iona that Rankin Memorial School will remain a Primary to Grade 12 school as she promised on February 14th?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes, unless the school board requests changes, it will remain a Primary to Grade 12 school. That's the most effective grade level for the people living in that area. They're quite far to be bused anywhere else.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

EDUC. - ST. PAT'S HS DAYCARE: FUNDING CUTS - EXPLAIN

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, also to the Minister of Education, I would like to explain a few of the basic facts of life to the minister. Human beings reproduce through sexual activity, minister. You don't need a licence to do it. Teenagers frequently do it. Teenagers often get pregnant, and I would like to ask the minister about the daycare facility at St. Patrick's High School. It was the first school east of Montreal to have a daycare. It has been there since 1985. This facility has been awarded nothing but praise since it opened. The centre will, unfortunately, be closing at the end of June due to lack of funding from the school board. This leaves students and those parents with no on-site services to turn to for the well-being of their children. I'd like the minister to explain to the House why her

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government is cutting dollars to a facility that helps to ensure that those young people can stay in school and graduate?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, indeed, between the Department of Community Services and the Halifax Regional School Board, there are going to be some changes to that centre. But some of the facts of life the member opposite should know is that the Department of Education does not make every decision for every school board, unlike what the member opposite, of course, would like us to be doing.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the minister is again washing her hands of a school board issue. It's her department that gives the school boards the money to run their programs, therefore, it is her department that is ultimately responsible for those very programs. She knows that school boards have no ability to raise revenues on their own. This daycare centre currently has 20 children enrolled in it. That means there are at least 20 parents who will have to find alternative spaces and who may have to sabotage their education, due to childcare costs. I want to know if the minister has a plan for those students who will be so seriously inconvenienced and whose futures will be put at risk with the loss of a daycare facility that helps them finish their education?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, it's unfortunate that the researcher for that Party is now sitting in the Chamber because the member opposite should know that although this is an issue for several parents, at the present time, of the 17 or so children in that daycare, only three are those of students. As I say, Community Services and the board are working to solve the problem with that particular daycare centre.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, if it's three or if it's 17 or if it's 20, you know what? It doesn't matter because each and every one of those individuals requires the opportunity to finish their education and the lack of planning is symptomatic of this government. All decisions they're making are done without a vision. The closing of the daycare at St. Pat's is going to have a domino effect in society. Without an education, the only likely future for any of those students who have their own children is going to be no work or work at minimum wage, which doesn't produce a living wage in Nova Scotia. That is going to produce long-term dependence on social assistance. I want to know when the minister is going to realize the disastrous fallout of her decision to underfund school boards and is she going to reverse that decision to close the daycare at St. Pat's? What's she going to do?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, again, the decision about that daycare is going to be worked out between Community Services and the school board. I suggest the member opposite can perhaps chat with his friend, the chairman of the Halifax Regional School Board, about what they are going to do together when they are running the school board.

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MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

COMMUN. SERV. - CENT. NOVA WOMEN'S RES. CTR.:

CLOSURE - CONFIRM

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians are still wondering what exactly the Minister of Community Services actually committed to when he claimed he would delay the funding cuts to transition houses and women's centres. Repeatedly, I've asked the minister to commit to this House that the same number of women's centres that exist now will exist this time next year. He has yet to make that commitment. So today, I will make it simpler for the Minister of Community Services. Will the minister confirm if the Central Nova Women's Resource Centre is planning to shut its doors at the end of this month, May 31, 2002?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, that particular centre is funded by the federal government. I suggest that you ask them if they're planning to cut funding there because as far this department is concerned, that particular agency was set up by the federal government through HRDC and whether they're planning to carry on with the funding, you will have to ask them.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the Central Nova Women's Resource Centre does some great work, as I'm sure the minister is aware. It has initiated some very creative partnerships with, among others, the Truro Boys and Girls Club. The centre has applied to become part of the provincial network of women's centres and that looked promising - that was until the Minister of Community Services announced that he was cutting some funding. The Central Nova Women's Resource Centre does not yet know if they're going to be part of the minister's much-touted redesign process - my guess is that the minister probably doesn't know either. If the redesign process takes many months but ends up saying there is a role for the Central Nova Women's Resource Centre, it won't do much good if they're actually closed. My question for the minister is, will the minister commit to providing operating funds for the Central Nova Women's Resource Centre to at least see them through the redesign process?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, there were two questions there. One was are they going to be involved in the redesign and, yes, they have been invited to come to those meetings. The second one, in terms of their funding, I have no indications that their funding is going to change from the HRDC and so consequently, we've had no request from them to go for funding. We would have to direct those questions to HRDC for that answer.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the minister should check with the Minister of Health who is the MLA for the area because he has correspondence with that centre and did everything but guarantee them that they would be getting the funding necessary to keep that centre open. Perhaps he wants to check with that minister. My final supplementary is for the

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minister responsible for the Status of Women. A month ago I asked her about the cuts she was making in the field officer position in Truro. She assured the House that cutting the position didn't amount to much as the services could be replaced on the Internet. I wish that she would tell the people served by the Central Nova Women's Resource Centre that, but my question to the minister is, in light of the elimination of the Status of Women field office in Truro, will the minister at least commit to ensuring that the Central Nova Women's Resource Centre will have a place at the table during her government's redesign discussions?

HON. JANE PURVES: I refer that question to the Minister of Community Services, Mr. Speaker.

MR. CHRISTIE: The Status of Women were at the first meeting we had. They were there to talk about the redesign that we were having. We're going to continue to talk to all of those people. The Status of Women have some products, some things to give us.

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

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. 109, the Financial Measures (2002) Act.

Bill No. 109 - Financial Measures (2002) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on Bill No. 109, Financial Measures (2002) Act. I'm speaking on the hoist amendment that accompanies that bill and the hoist amendment says that we will call this bill back again six months hence. What that will do is it will allow Nova Scotians across this province to be able to consult with their government on the direction in which they're going with respect to the financial matters of this province.

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I want to take some time to speak about the budgetary process and how it impacts and affects the lives of many Nova Scotians. I also want to speak about how imperfect a financial budget can be crafted so that it has the detrimental effect on those citizens who are most vulnerable and those citizens who can least afford to pay. We talk about financial measures every day in this House and much of the financial measures are simply not able to be comprehended by many of Nova Scotians simply because the financial measures are really not talked about in great detail.

What happens here is that we know and we recognize that it would be a wonderful, wonderful world in Nova Scotia if we had not only a balanced budget but that we did not have any debt either. We know that each and every Nova Scotian in this province is or can be tapped to $12,000 of that particular debt, because that's how much this debt reflects. We have an $11 billion debt in this province, and we as a political Party and I, certainly recognize that that needs to be addressed. There is absolutely no question that the $900 million a year that's paid annually could certainly go into programs to help and better Nova Scotians throughout this province.

What I'm saying is that many Nova Scotians are not responsible for the debt that we now have. I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, in 1978, I do believe, the Tory Government came to power in the Province of Nova Scotia. In the Province of Nova Scotia there was less than $1 billion debt, I believe, at that particular time - somewhere probably around $680 million. The Conservative Government under John Buchanan reigned for 15 years, and during that 15-year period the debt of this province mushroomed to about a $7 billion debt, which in fact that Premier of the day was not held responsible for. That Premier of the day was actually in a sense rewarded, because that Premier ended up being appointed to the Senate.

Mr. Speaker, I ask you, how does that individual bear the consequences of the debt that we inherited in this province today? That individual, who is particularly responsible for the debt and who allowed the spend-free movement of the Tory Government during that 15-year period, now enjoys a $75,000-a-year salary as a member of the Senate. Not only does he receive - and it went up, it went up a few dollars - approximately . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth North knows that we're under a hoist amendment for Bill No. 109. I would ask him to bring his comments back as to why he feels this bill should be hoisted for six months, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth North has the floor.

MR. PYE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The reason why I'm talking about financial matters, the importance of financial matters and who they impact and six months from now we will know who, in fact, has paid the penalty with respect to this government's austerity program when it comes to delivering a financial budget. The financial budget right now is on the backs of those who are most vulnerable, those people who can least afford to pay and those people who have not been responsible for this debt, in my opinion.

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The people in this province who have been responsible for the debt will never see the penalty in the light of day because they're particularly - and as I was relating this to the former Premier of this province between 1978 and 1992, the reason I bring this forward is so that the people of Nova Scotia and this government can go out and tell the people of Nova Scotia how individuals such as these are not prepared to pay the penalty that most other Nova Scotians are.

In six months from now we can see that, Mr. Speaker. Six months from now we will know if, in fact, those individuals suffer the same consequences as other individuals in this province with respect to bringing our debt under control. Now, I know it's very important to bring our debt under control and I also know it's important that each and every one of us shares responsibility to bring that debt under control. I also know that it's important that the equality, the sharing of debt control be covered by all Nova Scotians, and it be done in a way in which all Nova Scotians should benefit.

Mr. Speaker, when I look and I see from the 1998 Voluntary Planning report that has indicated that over 50 per cent of Nova Scotians earn less than $20,000 a year, I say, who's going to reap the benefits. Who is going to reap the benefits of this government's measure with respect to its intent to give a 10 per cent tax cut in the next year of its four-year mandate? Also, when I know that 38 per cent of the people who filed their income tax returns for the year 2002, of those individuals who filed their income tax, 38 per cent of them paid no income tax at all.

Mr. Speaker, I also know that another 29.4 per cent of those paid income tax of less than $1,000 a year. Now, are those individuals going to benefit from the 10 per cent personal income tax cut that this government is endorsing and mandating in year four of its mandate? I say to you that not one of them will receive that benefit. But if this government goes out to Nova Scotians or even delays the Financial Measures (2002) Act for approximately six months, then Nova Scotians will have an understanding and know if, in fact, they are going to be the recipients of this 10 per cent personal income tax cut that this government is bringing about in four years.

There is no question, Mr. Speaker; we know there is the need to balance the budget. We know there's a need not to carry a deficit, but we also know there's a need to be a socially responsible government. We also know that to be socially responsible, you do this over a period of time. Remember that the Minister of Finance indicated that this deficit we now have, an $11 billion debt, was not accumulated over 40 or 50 years, as we tend to think, It was accumulated over a shorter period of time, 25 years. I believe that it is not possible to eliminate or erase that debt over a period of five or six years, or even 10 years. We know that that is not going to happen. We know that it's going to take a longer time to reduce that debt.

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We also know that the $900 million a year that's being paid for that debt could be money better spent in the programs and services of Nova Scotians if we did not have a debt. But we're living in a real world, and we're living in a world where, in fact, Mr Speaker, we need to make sure that the decisions we make affect all those across the spectrum on an equal basis. Six months from now, we would know that because the Minister of Finance and the ministers of each and every one of their departments that are affected by this Financial Measures (2002) Act, Bill No. 109, would be able to go across the province. They would be able to hear from Nova Scotians, each and every one of the constituents they represent and each and every one of the constituencies the Opposition represents. They could go across this province and they could tell Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, what happened here is that many of the Nova Scotians who could least afford it, or the individuals who came under attack by the Conservative Government - seniors, disabled persons, persons on social assistance, low income earners - every one of those citizens are individuals who in fact have been directly, and I say directly, affected by this government's agenda. The agenda is an agenda that simply does not provide a balance in the delivery and the level of service. Whether you consider that an ideology or not is beside the point. The point is that we are a government that must be responsive to the needs of all Nova Scotians to meet the needs all across the province.

Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of Finance stood in the room when he was announcing his budget, many of the people in the room said, well, Mr. Minister, you did no cutting. What you did is you continued to raise fees. The minister said, oh, no, we did cut. We cut $890,000 to women's centres. Now that indicated the direction in which this government was going. It was going to hit seniors, people on social assistance, women's centres and most of those people who are most vulnerable.

[1:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, when I look at that $890,000 to women's centres, and we've all talked about it, those women's centres deal with people in abusive relationships. They deal with women and children with emergency needs. You, Mr. Speaker, as a former policeman, and some individuals who are in your caucus, who are former RCM Police members, and other individuals fully understand the importance of having these centres available to individuals in the event of crisis. We don't need to talk about bed vacancies. There will be times when, in fact, there will be bed vacancies and that's as a result maybe of population decline but, nonetheless, it doesn't diminish the responsibility and the need to have those facilities there because when there is decline, or erosions within communities, there is more likely to be a chance of abuse because of the downturn in the economy of those particular communities.

So, Mr. Speaker, what I'm saying here is that we need to address and we need to look at those very important directions in which government is going. We talk about not only transition homes, but there are women's centres and there are men's abusive programs as

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well, programs for men who become abusive. All these hinge upon the kind of structure and society that we're going to want to live in. When we provide those programs and services, we know there's a cost. We know there's a cost in which we cannot just simply pull up stakes and move like some business or some corporation. It's a cost of government doing business to make sure our society is well protected and those citizens in our society are protected in ways in which we would like to see them protected.

That can come by way of legislation. It can come by way of programs and services and it can come by way of cooperation with communities, with organizations in communities, with people who have expertise in those fields, and often we could do that. If we went across this province, or even if we hoisted this bill for approximately six months, we would know what direction the Minister of Community Services was going. The Minister of Community Services, Mr. Speaker, said that there would be an extension and there would be an opportunity now because we're going to extend this money so that we can have communications, we can have the consultation which the Tory blue book so readily talked about - "Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course" - and almost every single page talks about consultation. We could have that consultation with people in the transition homes. We could have that conversation with the women in women's centres. We could have that conversation with those individuals who carry on men's programs to diminish abusive relationships.

All that, Mr. Speaker, can be done during that six month period of time and I can tell you that this government knows every time they have opened the door to consultation, in fact, they have been much more successful than when they automatically just decided that what they would do was throw it out there and then get the wind and the feedback and then decide they ought to take a knee-jerk reaction and pull back their horns. It gives me the impression that this government, during the three years since the government has come to power, it just simply doesn't have any sense of direction on where it's going. What it will do is it will decide to put up the flag to see which way the wind is blowing, they will throw it out there, their particular agenda, their particular service, whatever they chose to put out there as a test to see what's going to happen, and then if it means pulling back, they just simply say, well, we've listened to people. We've listened. We've heard what they have to say.

Mr. Speaker, that is not the case. The consultation that this government promised would be upfront consultation. That's what this "Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course" was all about. Many Nova Scotians still want that strong leadership, a clear course, and they want to know where this government is going. Six months from now we can see if, in fact, Nova Scotians are in sync with this government. We would know if - in fact, we know but the government doesn't want to admit - Nova Scotians do not rank a 10 per cent personal income tax cut as high on their priorities. Nova Scotians have said that in the March 2001 Corporate Research polling; Nova Scotians have said most recently in the most Corporate Research polling as well that, in fact, a 10 per cent personal income tax cut is not high on their agenda. What they want on the agenda is a government delivery of health care and education and social programs.

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When I cross this province, Mr. Speaker, and I see many individuals, interfaith organizations, Face Against Poverty, Feed My Lambs in the Annapolis Valley area, and every one of those individuals knowing how government's financial policies have, in fact, inflicted the pain upon those Nova Scotians most vulnerable then I know that that's why I'm here. I also know that's why I must stand here and challenge this Financial Measures (2002) Act by allowing it to be here and allowing it to be addressed six months from now.

Mr. Speaker, I stood since 1998, and I think as part of a process that I've stood on the hoist bill on every single financial measure that has come forward. That's not just simply a matter of protesting against something that may or may not be right, what it is is saying that look, we recognize there is a need to have a balanced budget. We also recognize there is a need to reduce the debt of this province. But we are saying we recognize that there needs to be some semblance of reality and how it reflects to all Nova Scotians and all Nova Scotians contribute their fair share to the debt.

I've never, Mr. Speaker, I guess as many times as I've stood here and I've tried to contemplate and I've to rationalize and I've tried to think of just exactly how poor individuals, people on fixed income, the working poor, have ever contributed to the debt of this province. I can't understand. I do not understand how they have been a contributor to the debt of this province. Yet when we look at the budgets, we know and we see that, in fact, that they are held more responsible for paying down this debt than any other members of our society.

What I am saying to you, Mr. Speaker, is six months from now, we can go there and we can talk to Nova Scotians and say, do you believe that you're paying your fair share to bringing down the debt of this province? We can have individuals who are out there, the boards of trade, the chambers of commerce, individuals who may be earning $180,000 a year who can put their money into RIF plans, who can put them into retirement savings plans, who can contribute to dental plans, who can contribute to health care plans and so on, we can understand that those individuals will never pay the consequences of someone who earns $20,000 a year or less - those individuals will pay more of the consequences of our $11 billion debt than most other individuals.

Mr. Speaker, six months from now, we can have the government go out across this province and draft a chart showing how everyone equally contributes to the debt management of this province. I can tell you the Minister of Finance or no other member of this Legislature can actually draft a chart that will show that, because most often the people who are on the lower end of the scale end up paying for the consequences of those who mismanged our province. When you get rewarded for mismanagement then there is something wrong. That's why I say, six months from now we can have Nova Scotians, after the Tory Government that was ruled under John Buchanan, from 1978 to 1992, who now sits in the comfort of the Senate how he is contributing to paying down the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia? Those are the kind of things that we need to know.

[Page 9394]

Those are the kinds of things that we need to know, how someone with $180,000 a year salary, who has an expense account of $45,000 a year, how that individual contributes to paying down the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia? When we go out, we can tell Nova Scotians the 10 per cent tax cut on $180,000, I can tell you would be significantly more than a 10 per cent personal income tax on $20,000. I mean, do the math. The math is there, the numbers are there. Let's face it, there is not an equal balance here when it comes to debt retirement. When we talk about the Financial Measures (2002) Act and we talk about implementing legislation and we talk about addressing the financial issues of this province, there needs to be some thought of how we do that, some innovative thinking, some way of turning over the paradigm - of shifting the paradigm I should say, not turning it over - shifting the paradigm so we can see innovative ways of how we can address the debt of this province in such a way that the contributions are equal across the spectrum of our society. If we do that, Mr. Speaker, I can assure the government that the transition to reducing the debt may be a bit longer, but it will be a wiser move.

The fact is that we have to think about investments. We have to think about the investments in families and children. We don't need to think about reducing the investment in families and children and that's what is happening in the Department of Community Services consistently. I want you to know - I don't have the page here, but I will tell you - the total budget for the Department of Community Services is some $628 million. Out of that $628 million, $227 million, only one-third of it, is paid out in income assistance support. Yet, we are led to believe, and political leaders lead people to believe that it's those people on social assistance who are responsible for the debt of this province.

This is the kind of message, and if we're going to gut and we're going to cut, we're going to cut into the Department of Community Services. Well, just think about it, Mr. Speaker, six months from now we could go out there and we could tell Nova Scotians exactly, every one of those policies within that department and the programs offered in that department and those individuals who actually receive the benefits of that $227 million, then Nova Scotians would see the truth for themselves. They would see the truth that the Department of Community Services, which has been continuously reducing its budget, is now also responsible for the delivery of housing. So the budget, in comparison, this budget now reflects the former Department of Housing and the Department of Community Services as well.

When we look at the way this budget is devised, particularly in the Department of Community Services, we need to let Nova Scotians know that this government is going to invest in families and children. We are going to invest because investment in families and children saves us tremendous dollars, Mr. Speaker. We are saved tremendous dollars by making sure that investment is at the beginning and at the front end, rather than at the end where individuals may end up in hospital because of malnutrition, because of particular ailments because they are not getting the kind of nutrition they need and the kind of food

[Page 9395]

allotments that are necessary so they end up costing us $1,000 a day in the hospital; or, better still, those individuals lacking to continue on to their education . . .

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, just for clarification. The honourable member says that the NDP are concerned about the debt. If they're concerned so much about the debt, they have just taken on a hoist of Bill No. 109, costing the taxpayers of Nova Scotia $63,000 extra by hoisting this bill. That is how much they're concerned about the taxpayers of Nova Scotia and the debt. That's seven extra days at $9,000 a day, $63,000. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: That's not a point of order. The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. PYE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would say that it's good that we have an honourable member of the political Party who's doing the calculation. You know, that $63,000 is exactly why we're here. We know we can save Nova Scotians hundreds of millions of dollars by readjusting this budget in a particular way that puts investments into Nova Scotia's families and children. We also know that the Finance Minister and that particular Party can't even calculate their budget, let alone determine how many thousands of dollars a day we spend up here by talking on the hoist.

[2:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, as a matter of fact - and I just want to remind the honourable member that it was a colleague in the New Democratic Party who found an additional $1 million. Now the minister can go around boasting and saying that we do not only have a $1.3 million surplus in this province; but we have a $2.3 million surplus.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. For the member opposite, does he somehow believe that because things have been noted in the estimates that it's higher, that will change the final outcome? The estimates are the estimates. They are not the final numbers. They move throughout the year, and we, as a government, have to move them. This is not new money that has been found; it is money that would be accounted for at the end of the year. I just want to clarify that for the member. This is not a windfall; basically, it's the people's money. To say that it's somehow new money, it's not.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order; it's a point of clarification of the facts. The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable minister is absolutely right. It's not new money, but it's money that had not been recorded and shown to Nova Scotian taxpayers. One does not have to have a degree, a Masters of Business Administration, or study Economics 101 to understand that. It's a matter of knowing exactly what you're doing when you're here,

[Page 9396]

and it's a matter of making sure that you send the correct message out to Nova Scotians. That's the important point here.

Mr. Speaker, what I wanted to say with respect to this particular issue is the meanness of this particular government when it comes to dealing with the most vulnerable of Nova Scotians. I want to say to you and to Nova Scotians out there who may be watching and who may, in fact, get the opportunity to read this transcript from Hansard on a future day, that on a future day they will know that we, as a political Party, stood up for those individuals who are most vulnerable and have had attacks placed upon them because of this Financial Measures (2002) Act and the budget that was set by this province.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about the seniors and the Seniors' Pharmacare Program. The Seniors' Pharmacare Program moved from $215 to $336, an increase of $121 and 50 per cent. That was for people who are single and making $24,000 a year, and couples making $28,000 a year. What this minister and this government can do is go out there and talk to the seniors about how this government has affected seniors during its three-year term in office and going on to its fourth-year term.

I know the member for Dartmouth South, who has five seniors' centres in his constituency, has definitely heard from seniors and knows full well that there are some 5,000 seniors across this province who are not represented by the advocacy group that is before the Senior Citizens' Secretariat, the Group of Nine, that is called. At least one or two representatives of those individuals would like to have a seat at that Group of Nine, maybe to increase it to a group of eleven. I know that member for Dartmouth South has listened to some of the very same concerns because he's attended the same meetings as I have with respect to seniors' issues in Dartmouth South.

That happened, again, because of the large number of seniors' centres in Dartmouth South. It happened under Rollie Thornhill when he was the minister, at that particular time. He decided that in order to revitalize downtown Dartmouth, a large seniors' population could do that. Many of the seniors' homes are built in that area.

Home care service. The Minister of Health knows that during these budget deliberations, I've talked about the kind of delivery in home care services. I have talked to this minister and I have spoken to the minister with respect to a very serious and real issue. People come out of the hospital and they may not even have home care service for two weeks. They may have to wait 15 days to get someone to come and attend to their particular needs at home.

I heard the member for Halifax Needham speak yesterday about an individual who, in fact, had more than 30 people, over a period of time, home care workers, who came in to see that one individual. I know of individuals in the Truro area who have had several different home care workers come in. This individual is a male who's totally embarrassed, because

[Page 9397]

every time there is a particular need to provide some services to that individual he is faced with a different home care worker. There's no consistency, no consistency whatsoever.

This is something that we could talk about. We could talk about the delivery of health care services if this government would allow the six months' hoist. Mr. Speaker, if this government allowed the six months' hoist we would certainly have the opportunity to go out there and to speak to seniors about how disenchanted they are with the government's direction towards seniors. I don't care if you're from whatever part of the province you tend to represent. I don't care if it's Guysborough, if it's Shelburne or wherever it might be, the important thing is that each and every one of the members knows that they're hearing the same story. They also know that this government is going too fast, too quickly to address this particular issue for the good of most citizens out there in this province. They have heard the complaints. They have heard the concerns. They have heard them about education. They have heard them about health care. They have heard them about the delivery of social services. They have heard them about the delivery of child care services, child protection services, right across this province.

That has continued and this is the reason why, Mr. Speaker, I don't believe that this government has ever had the honeymoon because it came in under a guise that it would be an open, consultative government, but instead decided not to move in that direction. I believe that it was Bill No. 90, the restructuring of government. I think we debated Bill No. 90, the restructuring of government that would allow decisions to be made by a handful of a chosen few.

AN HON. MEMBER: It's Bill No. 20.

MR. PYE: Bill No. 20, the Government Restructuring (2001) Act. Thank you. It was the bill of restructuring government, Bill No. 20. It would allow particular issues of policy, of planning, of restructuring of governmental developments to go beyond the scope of the Cabinet and to be done by those individuals in bunkers and office facilities in downtown Halifax that would affect the lives of many Nova Scotians. I knew that when Bill No. 20 came in, and we had a tremendous debate around Bill No. 20, the Government Restructuring (2001) Act, we knew that the direction in which this government was going to go was one that in fact would inflict the kind of pain upon Nova Scotians who rightfully didn't deserve or could afford to have that pain driven upon them.

Mr. Speaker, if in fact we allow this budget to go six months from now, we could talk about a very important issue with respect to housing. I know that the minister is very much aware that we've talked about housing. We also know that there is a national framework initiative by the federal government, which in fact the minister responsible for housing is now in the process of negotiating. Six months from now when we went out there we could ask Nova Scotians if in fact the minister responsible for housing is going in the right direction. He has said to this House that he is negotiating with the federal government on a

[Page 9398]

plan whereby and how they will spend the monies that come down from the federal government. The minister responsible for housing has said that the federal government's recommendation or policy on this is that the provinces will spend 25 per cent on the existing housing stock and the remaining 75 per cent will go into new housing stock to make it become available.

We also know, Mr. Speaker, that the minister responsible for housing has said before this House that, well, we're negotiating a scheme whereby we want 50/50, 50 per cent going into the existing housing stock and another 50 per cent going into new housing stock. The minister knows full well that this is not in keeping with the spirit of housing in Nova Scotia. The minister knows full well that he is already receiving bags of money that were a result of the 1993 Liberal election and then moving out of the housing policy and putting those bags of money into, particularly, co-op housing and passing it on to the government to maintain the existing housing stock. The government hasn't moved since that period of time.

Mr. Speaker, it has been a long time since this government has looked at an initiative towards housing. Now, I know that there's a policy paper out there and that the policy paper was devised in 1998, a housing direction towards the future. I know that the minister has spoken with housing advocacy groups, particularly around homelessness, on this particular issue. Six months from now we will know if, in fact, this is what Nova Scotians believe when they get a chance to review this budget, this is the right direction.

Mr. Speaker, I will tell you a little story. There are so many people who are affected by housing and the way the housing stock exists in Nova Scotia and the lack of a housing initiative in this Province of Nova Scotia. Seniors' housing was specifically developed for seniors, it was not developed or designed for anyone else except for seniors to be located there. It was specifically designed for seniors because seniors had an interrelationship with each other. They were of the same age and they understood and knew the particular issues and concerns around them and they wanted the safety and protection.

Now the government is deciding that it will use seniors' housing for other than seniors. In Amherst, Nova Scotia, there is a disabled person, Mr. Speaker, who's living in a seniors' housing complex, not because that individual wants to live there, that individual has consistently said that I want housing and not housing that's available for seniors. Six months from now we can know if, in fact, this Financial Measures (2002) Act, you know, Bill No. 109, has in effect been able to address that issue. We know that moving individuals with mental disabilities into seniors' housing complexes is not the right move. We know that the Kendrick report has said that it is not the right move. We know that the minister responsible for housing has chosen not to speak to any of those individuals. He can take his budget on the road through this six months' hoist and he can take that budget on the road and he can talk to those individuals with respect to a development proposal on housing for the future of Nova Scotia.

[Page 9399]

Mr. Speaker, we know that Community Living had a pilot project with respect to allowing disabled persons to live independently and we do know that that has reached some success. There's also the opportunity for the government to turn around and develop housing stock for that disabled population of Nova Scotia so that they can feel part of their community and they can live in housing developments that are conducive to their particular needs. I know that this government, if we have a six months' hoist, when it takes its Financial Measures (2002) Act out on the road, in fact, many Nova Scotians, and I particularly know that the disabled community of Nova Scotia, which represents some 25 per cent of our population, now there are varying degrees of disability within the disabled community, but for the most part Nova Scotians have a high degree of disabled persons - some 25 per cent.

We can address that community and we could ask that community about its particular issues of concern and its particular needs. I know that the disabled community, Mr. Speaker, has talked to the Minister of Community Services with respect to technical aids. Now, technical aids, a pilot project on technical aids, believe it or not, there are individuals who are in hospital beds, who are occupying hospital spaces, simply because they do not have the technical aids available to them and if, in fact, the technical aids pilot project and program were available to them and there were these technical aids, individuals could be able to leave that political hospitalized environment and be back into their communities at a much faster rate.

[2:15 p.m.]

Now I know the minister knows that in Manitoba there is such a program. The minister knows it is the Sail program, assistance of disabled individuals and so on within that community and that it works quite well; the government is quite pleased. I know that the minister would be open and receptive to something like that if it came to this province. I should say the minister should be open and receptive to something of that nature with respect to the issue around technical aids that would see people have access.

Six months from now, Mr. Speaker, we could go out and we could talk to the Minister of Community Services and the Minister of Health and so on because there's another very important issue that I think needs to be addressed. There are individuals who are disabled and their disability is so severe and prolonged that they receive Canada Pension. Those individuals receive Canada Pension payments and often they need to be income supplemented by the Department of Community Services and they have no access to some of these technical aids, particularly around wheelchairs and technical aids.

Mr. Speaker, six months from now we could have Nova Scotians presenting to these ministers the potential of communicating with the Canada Pension Plan and those people who review the Canada Pension Plan on how they can possibly introduce a pension plan whereby it provides the technical aids that are needed, such as prostheses, such as

[Page 9400]

wheelchairs, such as orthotics, those apparatuses that are needed for individuals to communicate. Rather than come out of the provincial purse, it would then follow the track of those individuals who are disabled under the Canada Pension disability section, Section 42, which states a disability must be severe and prolonged. If they are a successful applicant of that disability benefit, then if the provinces got together and encouraged the federal government to make sure that these programs and services were provided, as well as the pension to these individuals, then we could see more money from those departments being channelled out into other services and programs throughout this province.

Now, Mr. Speaker, that is a good direction. That is a very smart direction. It's up to the ministers responsible to make sure that message gets through, but here is an avenue whereby we are recommending that you look at that. Six months from now, I would say that the ministers could certainly have some talk around this particular issue. The money that it would save the province, the embarrassments that it would save those individuals who need to be income supplemented because of these particular issues are very real and they're out there. Six months from now, we can go through this province and we can certainly ask Nova Scotians what they think.

I just want to take another small step back with respect to the national housing framework initiative. We know that we have a long way to go. Mr. Speaker, I just want to bring up an issue with respect to this and this is to just shine light on some ways in which government responds by which we all have to pay for. That is during the 1999 election campaign, in the constituency of Bedford there was a parcel of land that was $1 million, the site for the jail and forensic hospital.

Mr. Speaker, the cost overruns of that - and the Auditor General will tell you - were some $22 million, not counting the land. The province chose not to keep the land, the province made a land swap with the Halifax Regional Municipality on that piece of land. Rather than keep the land for housing and development, it put the land swap over to the Province of Nova Scotia. We had a person elected who cost the Nova Scotian taxpayers $1 million. That property is not going to go into housing development under any initiative or any framework that this minister deals with. Six months from now we can ask Nova Scotians whether they believed that was the right action, because what I hear now is the Halifax Regional Municipality will develop that into a golf course or they will continue to leave it in it's natural wilderness state.

Mr. Speaker, that had significant consequences on the constituency that I represent because we were faced with the responsibility, and no decision of ours had ever been reflected across the floor of this Legislature, despite the thousands of petitions that we brought across this floor of the Legislature, we and our voices were not heard according to the open and consultative nature of this government in its platform that it carried through in the 1999 election campaign. We had it thrust upon us, that the jail and forensic hospital would come there, despite the cost overruns of some $22 million.

[Page 9401]

Those cost overruns are going to be borne by every single Nova Scotian, and that cost overrun is going to be built into this financial budget. When we look at what kind of development that land may have done for a reasonably good housing development and we know that in the last, at least, five years - and for three of those five years this government has been in power - not one single land development, in those last five years, have been developments that have decided that they would be housing developments.

Mr. Speaker, all those lands that were in the possession of the provincial government were in fact sold out to private developers to build homes that many Nova Scotians cannot afford. We also watched this minister responsible for housing sell two of the homes that were designed for modest housing programs. Six months from now we could go out and ask Nova Scotians if that was the right direction. There are Nova Scotians who know nothing about the modest housing program, how it applies to them, how they can access it, and most often there is never enough money because the money runs out. The government has a long way to go with respect to housing initiatives in this province. I would suspect and I would hope that this government will spend some time talking to Nova Scotians about that very issue.

Mr. Speaker, the other issue I want to talk about is the privatization of Community Services. It's called the CSDI, the Community Service Delivery Initiative. Yesterday, the applications closed. I do know that the Department of Community Services probably has two companies or two firms that have put proposals into the Department of Community Services. One is IBM, the other is Andersen Consultants. One, for sure, we know a great deal about. What happens is this occurred without the consultation of staff. A recommendation which the Premier endorsed was a five-point plan which he was on the campaign trail with. A five-point plan saying that the employees of this government would be informed on government restructuring, that it would be informed on initiatives taken within the department that may have an effect on their employment, that there would be open and upfront consultation, and they would be able to play a role by bringing their voices to that forum and having their voices heard. And there was no privatization - there was never any talk about privatization of services within the Tory blue book. I wanted to tell you, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of people who are concerned, and I don't only stand here for the employees who are in fact going to be affected by that particular change, but for those individuals who are recipients of the services and programs that are delivered by government and the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. Andersen has an extremely bad history in both the Province of Ontario and in the State of Nebraska.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to, if I can, find some particular quotes with respect to the reality. I just want to say that one of the firms, which is Andersen Consulting, in the Province of Ontario, Andersen Consulting was paid $15.5 million for costs in 1998. What the department realized was only a $2.4 million saving. I want to tell you that everywhere these particular private consulting initiatives have been set up, particularly in the Department of Community Services and most of these jurisdictions, what has happened is that they have been extremely wasteful. Andersen was paid approximately $1.4 million - $26,000 for a full-

[Page 9402]

time equivalent position, in and out pocket expenses without requiring receipts - these are just some of the things.

In Nebraska, and I want to talk to you about it because I think it's very important. Six months from now, if we were to hoist this bill, we could go out to Nova Scotians and ask Nova Scotians what they think about the privatization of Community Services. The minister doesn't want to use those terms; he uses nice, clean, descriptive words like restructuring, being an initiative, and aligning the department so it's in the best interests of delivery of services and programs.

In reference to the Andersen project in Nebraska, the state auditor called the project "the most wasteful I have ever heard of. It's like pouring money down a deep, dark hole," and that's exactly what will happen. Everywhere that these consulting firms have actually been involved in restructuring community services, everywhere they have been costing the taxpayers tremendous dollars. For example, the Minister of Community Services says, we're not going along with this program unless we can be assured that we're going to reap savings. The Department of Community Services isn't in the business of making money. It's in the business of delivering programs and services. So if he's going to guarantee a consulting firm that if they put $25 million to $35 million of their money up front, they will get $20 million a year for approximately four years, that's $82 million for a $35 million up-front cost over a four-year period. I guess it's a good deal; it's an excellent deal.

How do you propose that's going to happen? There are only two ways that it can happen, well, actually, three. One is a reduction of staff - guaranteed, a reduction of staff. The other one is with respect to the implementation of programs, the other, with respect to restricting the number of people who can make application for social assistance by devising and designing an application form whereby they don't qualify. This is what happened in the State of Nebraska. In the State of Nebraska, there were people on social assistance who couldn't get their food stamps or their monthly allotment for shelter for over a year. It was one year later before they decided that they would address this very important issue and get rid of them. What we need to do is, if we go six months down the road, this government can certainly listen to those advocacy groups out there who are sending the message.

[2:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, there was a press conference here the other day in which seven different members of advocacy groups across this province spoke about the consequences of this direction in which government is going. They were very concerned. They were not only concerned about - and most importantly many of them did not talk about staff, and staff is significant because we need staff to deliver those programs and services, but they talked about the implication and the consequences that it would have to citizens of Nova Scotia who are most vulnerable and who need social assistance.

[Page 9403]

Mr. Speaker, six months from now we will know if, in fact, Nova Scotians would endorse that and the Nova Scotians that I know are compassionate, caring individuals; Nova Scotians that I know care for the most vulnerable. We grew up in Nova Scotia. We grew up in small communities across this province and we knew and we helped each other through a process. We helped each other through their times of difficulty. We also went out there to make sure that, as small communities, we were going to be responsible for the most vulnerable people in our community and that grew to where government ought to be the most responsible for the most vulnerable individuals in this province.

Mr. Speaker, what I'm saying to you is that there are many people who are concerned that they won't even have access and, not only that, you've got to remember that this is a private consulting firm and one thing that stands out quite clearly is that we know that if it goes to call centres for example, we know that the government already has access to the federal government's computer system, they also have access to all the jurisdictions across this province. They're already linked up to jurisdictions within the province itself to know if, in fact, people are cheating Community Services and where they're getting their benefits so that can't possibly be, but now what we're going to do, because if this goes through people will have to put their social insurance number in a call centre, and call centres go through employees, some of them are between 30 to 50 a month, and those employees can't be held to confidentiality. So they get the records of each and every one of those individuals and the records of each and every one of those individuals then become public knowledge.

I don't know how, Mr. Speaker, you're going to be able to control that - or I shouldn't say you, but the government is going to be able to control that. There is absolutely no possible way and there you go, that's a very serious problem that exists here. I want to tell you there are collection agencies that will have access, that will tap into this particular field.

In closing, and I wish I had another hour because I could spend another hour on this topic alone but I want to tell you that I enjoyed having the opportunity to speak to this Financial Measures (2002) Act and I will come back another day.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The motion presently before the House - if there are no other speakers - at this time is "That the motion be amended by removing all the words following 'that' and inserting therefor the words: Bill No. 109, the Financial Measures (2002) Act, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence."

A recorded vote is being called for.

Ring the bells to the satisfaction of the Whips.

[Page 9404]

[2:33 p.m]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. A recorded vote has been called on the amendment. The Clerk will call the roll.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[3:33 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Corbett Mr. Rodney MacDonald

Mr. Deveaux Mr. Christie

Mr. Dexter Mr. Baker

Mr. Holm Mr. Russell

Mr. Downe Dr. Hamm

Mr. Gaudet Mr. LeBlanc

Dr. Smith Mr. Muir

Mr. MacAskill Miss Purves

Mr. Wilson Mr. Fage

Mr. Boudreau Mr. Balser

Mr. Samson Mr. Parent

Mr. MacKinnon Ms. McGrath

Mr. MacEwan Mr. Ronald Chisholm

Mr. Steele Mr. Olive

Mr. Robert Chisholm Mr. Morse

Mr. Estabrooks Mr. MacIsaac

Mr. Epstein Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. Pye Mr. Taylor

Mr. Dooks

Mr. Langille

Mr. Chataway

Mr. Clarke

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

[Page 9405]

THE CLERK: For, 18. Against, 30.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is defeated.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West on the main motion.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise in my place today to deal with Bill No. 109, Financial Measures (2002) Act. I want to say, as we've said before, it's a bit of a déjà vu, to some degree. A year ago, we were saying the minister could have balanced and didn't and now we're saying that he probably could have done the same thing. But, instead of that, he's gone ahead and overspent and turned around and said his resolve to that is to go after the taxpayers of Nova Scotia with vengeance. There's only one person who says vengeance is mine, and it is certainly not the Minister of Finance, although he is taking that position and trying to take and charge Nova Scotians to the brink of financial frustration and, to some degree . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There's too much noise in the Chamber. If the members want to talk, I would ask them to go outside, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

MR. DOWNE: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I do appreciate the fact that you're able to control this House and I do appreciate that. I know the members opposite are over there talking because they, themselves, are worried and concerned about the fact that they are taxing and charging user fees and fee-for-service and fee-for-recovery and whatever else you want to call it, but the bottom line is, taking dollars out of the pockets of Nova Scotians at a time when we should be talking about how we can put money back into the pockets so Nova Scotians in turn can go out and invest to create more economic opportunity and grow the economy.

Growing the economy is important because the Minister of Finance knows the way he deals with long-term debt is to have the expenditure based on a percentage of GDP. So if he can raise the GDP side, then he can spend more money. That's the thrust in dealing with long-term debt. Although it doesn't make a lot of sense to me, that's how they decided to go at the issue.

Let's take a look at what exactly they've tried to do in this particular bill, Bill No. 109, a financial measures bill, and who this is going to affect and what does it do and why is it important? Well, let's see, who does it affect? One of the first things he does is the registration of motor vehicles; $5.3 million of additional revenue. Who does that affect? Well, primarily it affects every family that owns a vehicle, every family who now are paying higher insurance costs, higher operating costs, there is also going to be a higher registration cost. Mr. Speaker, one of the individuals that I'm sure must have been so frustrated about this are the truckers of this province. (Interruptions) I'm hearing babies and everything else in

[Page 9406]

here, Mr. Speaker. I don't know. They're all crying on that side of the House. I don't know what's going on.

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

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the fact that $5.3 million in new vehicle registration is going to affect family members, single parents, everybody is going to be paying more to register their vehicle. So I wonder now every time a person registers their vehicle what they are going to think about when they go to register. They're going to think about that Conservative Government that said no new taxes for Nova Scotians, something like that. You know what? They're going to say, oh my gosh, this is a tax. I'm paying more money. It's money coming out of my pocket.

Then we go on to commercial vehicle registration. Mr. Speaker, I know that you're in deep conversation with an individual there who I think should be standing in his place in this Chamber and crying out to the front benches of that Progressive Conservative Party. Shame on them for increasing the rate for commercial trucks by 40 per cent. I can't imagine that the member who is now the Chairman of this session, at this particular point, is not standing in his place and asking for time to stand up and cry out and stand up and fight for the truckers of the Province of Nova Scotia. Shame on that member, who stood in this House so many times criticizing, complaining and going on about how he would represent the truckers of the Province of Nova Scotia. When they are down and out, when they need a helping hand and a cry from the wilderness to stand up and fight for their rights, what do you hear? You hear absolutely nothing. (Interruptions) Oh, and now the Minister of Justice is agreeing that's what he's doing, absolutely nothing.

The same with the Minister of Justice, I can't imagine him saying that. I don't know; maybe the member who fought so hard and was not afraid to stand up and cry out for the truckers of the Province of Nova Scotia. I remember when I was Minister of Transportation and Public Works, how he went on day after day for the rights of the truckers and the need for government to be supportive of rural truckers in this province. I fail to have heard him speak once in this House on that issue. I think now is the time. You know, when they say there's a time to fish or cut bait; I think it's time for the member to stand up and show his true colours when the industry is reaching out to him and saying, wait, now. You stood up for us when you were on this side of the House. Why can't you do the same thing for us when you're on the government benches?

I don't know. The member must have forgotten what he was saying before, but that commercial vehicle registration is going to cost $6.6 million out of the pockets of the truckers of the Province of Nova Scotia. I happen to think that the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, the beautiful Musquodoboit Valley, is probably so frustrated. He's probably just as frustrated as every trucker in the Province of Nova Scotia, and in caucus he's probably said a whole pile of things in frustration. I don't doubt that he probably would.

[Page 9407]

Caucus discussions are confidential and I respect that, but I can't imagine him not saying something about this issue of a 40 per cent increase. I think it would be great, and we would encourage the member to take his place at some point during this debate and stand up and specifically talk about the issue of the registration fee for truckers. I think if he was able to and allowed to do that, he would probably say that is too much. A 40 per cent increase in one year is too much. It's too high. If he were allowed to do that without being under penalty from the front bench, then he probably would, but he's probably afraid for his chances of getting into Cabinet, that if he did say anything he would never be allowed to get into Cabinet. Come to think of it, I can't imagine why he was never given that opportunity. He's one of the longest-standing members in the House for the Progressive Conservative Party and a very popular one, I might add, across the province.

Anyway, you know, he had a chance, and he still has a chance, and we would encourage him to think about it over the next few days while we debate this bill, to seriously think about taking his place in this Chamber and asking permission from the front bench to be able to speak what is true and real in his heart about what he feels about the 40 per cent increase that this government has just laid on the truckers in the Province of Nova Scotia. We would support him to do that and we would encourage him to do that. (Interruption) Here we go again. We've got the real thing here so we're not going to say a word.

[3:45 p.m.]

We've got a driver's license increase - $1.3 million. Every time you go to get your driver's license, your rate is going to go up $11. Now, I don't know if it costs $11 more to take a picture, if it's $11 more worth of plastic, or if it's $11 more worth of administration, but I can assure you that I can't justify that as being anything more than a pure tax, a pure tax on anybody who drives and has a driver's license and that's young people and seniors right across the board being hammered by this particular legislation.

A discount fee for restricted licences. So what they're doing here, this applies to the municipalities, the Department of Transportation, I believe volunteer fire departments are exempt, I could be clarified, but I think they are exempt unless that has changed, I think they are exempt, but I don't know if it applies to organizations such as ground search and rescue. It does apply to them? Then that's good. I knew the volunteer fire department, but you know we're going now to the municipality and saying anybody with a restricted licence is going to pay.

If I understand correctly, and I look to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, well, you know, the other minister is busy there, if it applies to provincial government registered licence plates as well, or restricted licence plates as well, and if it does, if he could nod his head. I think it does and I can't understand why we would be charging ourselves, you know, we're just playing around here. We're just creating more red tape and, by the way, isn't that another one of those promises that this government made - no more new red tape. In fact, the [Deputy] Speaker used to sit on that committee, the Red

[Page 9408]

Tape Reduction Task Force. Well, I think they're caught up in red tape. In fact, they've created more red tape I think since they've been in power than probably anybody we've seen in recent days. So they've done nothing to help on that.

Off- highway vehicle registration fee - $0.5 million, so you know they want to go after all the ATV operators in the province and say we're going to go after you and we're going to take $0.5 million out of your pocket because you're not allowed to have fun and drive those vehicles without being registered. So they're going to do that. I hope they take that $0.5 million and turn it into a safety program for ATV operators, an educational program on how to be safe while you drive those four-wheeled ATVs, because you hear of accidents and it's sad to hear that. Maybe they could use that money for that, but we don't hear that. It's just going into the black hole of the Minister of Finance's war chest.

Motor vehicle inspection, the stations, actually they're increases for people who own gas stations who do the inspection. They're going to be paying more - $100,000 more. Small business, the backbone of the economy, it seems to me the Progressive Conservative Government of the Province of Nova Scotia stated very clearly in 1999 before they became the government, when they were third place, they said, you know, small business is the backbone of the economy and we should be doing everything we can to help them. So what do they do - another taxation burden on them. We're increasing ferry fees, and I can tell you there are some people who are up in Victoria County who are very upset about the ferry fee increases and I might say that down in my community, in LaHave, some people were very concerned about the fact that those fees were increased, but another form of taxation.

Commercial carrier registration, there's another, that must be another trucking expense, $300,000 is what it is, again on the truckers. Now, I look at the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, he has got a lot of truckers down his way. He doesn't want to look at me now. He's winking at you, Mr. Speaker. I don't know what's going on here, but he's winking at you. Now he's looking at me. I want him to know that the truckers in Guysborough County are getting hit again. He's not winking at me, he's winking at the Chair.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you winking at him?

MR. DOWNE: They're winking at each other. I don't know what it is. (Interruptions)

Then there's going to be a commercial carrier audit fee, another form of red tape. Anyway, we're going to do another audit fee, another increase. For who? The commercial truckers of the Province of Nova Scotia. Well, this all adds up, if you own a motor vehicle, a truck or a car, or if you have a driver's license, a total of almost $16 million. If you drive a vehicle, if you own a vehicle, if you operate a vehicle, there's $16 million - $15.9 million, to be exact - that are going to be coming out of the pockets of Nova Scotians.

[Page 9409]

It's $15.9 million, whether you're in Queens County and drive trucks all the time, in Annapolis County, in the Annapolis Valley, over in Shelburne, in any one of those areas, those individual truckers, they're small business, they're small family-run operations, and what did we just do - what did this government just do, pardon me, we aren't necessarily agreeing with this - what this government is doing, what this Minister of Finance is doing, and what all the backbenchers are supporting, is a $15.9 million tax on individuals driving in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Then, that's not bad enough, along comes the gas tax. The gas tax, 2 cents a litre on gas plus the HST. It runs us another what? It's $24-plus million. We have a new Premier over there now, I see. We have $24 million on top of the $15.9 million. The Minister of Finance is starting to get kind of perspiry-looking over there, wondering what's going on. The bottom line - if you drive a vehicle, if you operate a vehicle, whatever age group you're in, you're now going to be paying, because of this government's so-called Conservative Government approach of economic renewal and self-reliance and fiscal management, somewhere close to, over $43 million, $44 million, $45 million, out of the taxpayers' pockets, if you operate a vehicle.

My gosh, the only thing they didn't do is go after the diesel fuel for the truckers. It's the only other area they could have gone after. They didn't do that, so somebody must have been working hard on that issue. Maybe the good truck driver himself fought that battle inside. But whoever did, if he stands on his feet and speaks about that, maybe he can explain that to this House, how he might have wrestled the Minister of Finance to the ground on that issue. He couldn't wrestle him to the ground on the issue of a 40 per cent raise in cost to the truckers for registration.

I understand they had a meeting just recently. They probably felt that they walked right square into a brick wall. I note the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury is probably shaking his head over there, he probably knows what that brick wall feels like, sometimes, and maybe that's what happened.

Anyway, that's the first thing you see about this bill that one has to get a little concerned about. The revenues have never been as good for the Province of Nova Scotia. This government seems not to be able to control spending, although they said that they would fiscally be able to control the spending of the Province of Nova Scotia, and they were going to wrestle down the escalating costs of departments. Well, they haven't done that. In fact, they continue to spend more and more and more every year. Do you know how they're really dealing with this whole issue of budgets? They're saying, as they can't control spending, and are in fact encouraging more spending, they are turning around and saying, well, we will just tax people more. We are going to claw the money out of the pockets of Nova Scotians at a time when we should be trying to grow the economy and keep the money in the pockets.

[Page 9410]

It seems to me that in their book it said something along the lines of, by having more money in the pockets of Nova Scotians, in turn those dollars will be spent on goods and services that drive the economy. I wonder what's it like down in Guysborough County, if they've got so much money in their pocket that they want to give almost $45 million more to this Progressive Conservative Government. I wonder if the good people down in Guysborough County feel, oh yeah, we've got so much money in our pockets now we will give them another $45 million just to be able to drive a vehicle in Nova Scotia. I wonder if the good people of Shelburne just say, yes we have so much money we want to give it all back to the government. I haven't heard one person tell me that they want to pay more in taxes in Nova Scotia; I never heard one person tell me that they want to pay more for user fees. Maybe they're doing some private polling to give them the information that people want to do that. But I don't know, I don't know if in Colchester County they want to pay more, if they say, yes we want to pay more for driving trucks.

Anyway, more about fees. The province is expecting an increase of $159 million in revenue in the fiscal year 2002-03, compared to the current forecast from 2001-02. The total revenue then will be $5.31 billion in the Province of Nova Scotia; that's an increase from $5.15 billion. This government has asked Nova Scotians to belly up and put their wallet on the table and say take it away, because that's how that number has gone up. In fact, there is in excess of $100 million of new fees and new taxes in this province since this government has taken over. In excess of $100 million - and that's coming in every year. It's easy to deal with numbers if you keep wanting to say well the simple way, if I can't manage it I will just go to the well and get more, and the well happens to be the 1 million Nova Scotians who are out there but maybe sometime when that minister is leaning over the well to reach down to pick up another bucket of money, somebody might pull him back down and say, no, enough is enough, we are not going to allow you to take more money out of the pockets of Nova Scotians.

It's bizarre. It almost reminds me of a socialist type of government, to tax people further. We've tried to stay in the middle of the road, as Liberals, to realize a certain amount of balance between the two. But now we've got the Progressive Conservatives acting more like socialists than they are Conservatives because they are taxing people to death. They are taking the money out of the pockets of the people that need it the most.

I don't know how many truckers, for example, Mr. Speaker, are really well-to-do. A lot of the ones in my riding are having a hard time. They're saying, my gosh, of all the people to try to take money out of us, why would the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley ever allow that to happen? He must have been able to educate the front benches on the importance of truckers in the Province of Nova Scotia. He certainly did it in this House many times. I don't know if my colleagues to the right would agree or not, but it seems to me that I've heard him talk about it quite a bit.

[Page 9411]

Well, let's see what else they've done. They've gone after the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission to increase its profits. They said we want you to increase profits by $15 million. That will make it $160 million of new revenue. So instead of saying we want you to come out and promote more or whatever they want to do, they just across the board increased the fee they charge for administering the Liquor Commission and added to the bottom line or increased the price of alcohol across the board. It was somewhere around $12 million, $14 million, $15 million, and that's not counting the HST that will be added on top of that. So it's $15 million plus the HST.

From a business-case scenario - and they always talk about business-case scenarios - the Liquor Commission is selling more liquor now than they ever did. So if you're selling more and you've got more volume going through, then if you've got more volume going through and you control your costs, you don't need to increase your margin. You should be decreasing your marginal take because the volume put through would mean that your costs have gone down. So, if it was really on a business-case scenario, they should have lowered the cost of alcohol in the Province of Nova Scotia instead of increasing its take. That, to me, is another tax that this government has put on Nova Scotians.

[4:00 p.m.]

The Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation - this is another one. What they've done is increased the overall profits by $13 million. The Gaming Corporation anticipates a net revenue of $170 million. Now, the $13 million increase on that is going to the bottom line again. I don't know if it's just that they've gone and increased the relative take of VLTs. Did they take a percentage of the VLT take or whatever it is that they're doing? These two areas (Interruption) Excuse me, excuse me, would you mind taking the conversation outside? I'm having a good one in here by myself. Mr. Speaker, I'm just trying to help you out over here. (Interruption) Pardon me? (Interruption) Yes, but he was making sense.

Anyway, they've gone after the Gaming Corporation, $13 million; the Liquor Commission by $15 million and then they've gone after the tobacco. We've all agreed in this House that the tax on tobacco if it is a deterrent to stop people from smoking is good. These three areas of taxation measures that they've basically increased, the question is, what have they done with that money? Have they put it into trying to create a healthier community? Have they put extra money into areas of addiction? Have they dealt with the issues of cessation and trying to put programs in place to help people stop smoking? Have they done things to help those who are addicted to gambling to come into programs to increase that money that they've taken to spend on those programs? Have they done anything for those who are addicted to alcohol? The answer is no. Shame on this government. They take the money out of the pockets of those who are vulnerable or those who have problems and they are doing virtually nothing to try to help those people with those addictions, except charging them more.

[Page 9412]

I say to myself, that sounds like a government that doesn't care about people and the most vulnerable in society. There's nothing worse than addiction and, I know, as a former cigarette smoker, the hardest thing I've ever done is give up smoking. It's the smartest thing I've ever done and I've known that for years, but it's the hardest thing I've ever done. It's difficult and people out there can't afford to buy the patch or Zyban or whatever else they need or to help them get over that hurdle. That's a hard thing to do. So this government just took another $30-some million on tobacco tax and done nothing to deal with the people who are addicted. They want everybody to go cold turkey. (Interruption)Well, there's a few turkeys around and they're not all cold. They're all breathing over there. But, Mr. Speaker, there's a problem.

AN HON. MEMBER: You're an expert on those cold turkeys, are you?

MR. DOWNE: I've met a couple in my lifetime. (Interruption) Plucked and not plucked, but I've met them all. Anyway, overall, I say that what we're seeing here today is that this bill is nothing more than a tax grab and putting nothing really back to benefit and help society, the ones who really need help. When you take a look at the tobacco issue, it's adding $23.2 million to the revenue of the province this year alone. But overall - oh, pardon me, that was the gas tax, the tobacco tax is even higher than that - the bottom line is that it's all about taxing Nova Scotians.

So, I would say, as I prepare to take my seat and allow the next member to get up and speak, is that this bill is no more than a bill of taxation on Nova Scotians. Oh, before I do, I should really get into just a couple of other issues.

One is the issue of adoption and foreign adoption, what they're doing - I've got everybody back in the room here, I can see that, foreign adoption - they've increased that. Now I don't know why they went after that segment of society. Those are the people who are reaching out for children who have no opportunity, to bring them to this beautiful Country of Canada, this beautiful Province of Nova Scotia, and give them the environment and love and nourishment and the nurturing to be able to grow up to be a proud Canadian.

What does this minister and government want to do with this bill? They want to tax them. They want to hit them and tax them again. Do you know how expensive it is to deal with foreign adoption? Well, it just became a lot more expensive.

Ambulance fees are going up. Pharmacare has increased for seniors by 46 per cent. This government has done nothing for seniors except charge them more every day they turn around, yet they say that they care about seniors. Well, maybe they do but they certainly don't show it in this bill.

Then, of course, we have the Nova Scotia Arts Council. The bottom line is that what this bill does is allow the Minister of Tourism and Culture to talk about evisceration - we talked about evisceration a minute ago - he eviscerated the Nova Scotia Arts Council, he left

[Page 9413]

them high and dry, he came out with articles that were misleading. He is trying to twist the way this thing is all handled, all to find out that now we are going to have a Nova Scotia Arts Council that is going to be politically driven by his own government, in his time and in his way. I say shame on that minister.

There is a chance for this minister to stand up today, and I asked the minister to stand in his place today and say to Nova Scotians, what I have decided to do in the past was wrong and I am going to correct a wrong. I would stand here and give him a standing ovation for being man enough to realize the mistake he has made, notwithstanding the political capital that he has taken, every one of you guys have lost in regard to this decision he has made - unbelievable political capital for a decision that was politically-driven. I don't know where he got the advice or who gave him the advice or why he accepted that advice but he, above all, should know that the decision he has made was the goofiest decision we have ever seen.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is that unparliamentary, Mr. Speaker?

MR. DOWNE: Goofy is all right. Then we have a very serious concern on top of that with regard to women's centres. There is another issue that was handled very poorly and now we have a band-aid on it. Quite frankly, when I talked to the women's organizations in this province, in my riding, whether it is the Alternative Centre or Harbour House people or Second Story, or Family Resource, any of those areas, those women are scared and they do not have confidence that particular issue is resolved. They are saying, how can we trust them? They honestly have that fear and I think the minister knows that. They are asking us not to support this because they are worried where that is going to go.

So, last but not least, this bill does nothing, in my view, to lay out plans such as a plan that will sustain health care. There is nothing in here that deals with the issue of trying to show how we are going to deal with the long-term debt of the province. There is nothing in here except new taxation, burdens on people, taking away the rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals, the Arts Council or whatever, or issues of women that are the most vulnerable in society when they are being abused and we haven't resolved those problems. That is why I will be voting against this particular bill. Thank you for the opportunity to say those few words.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the previous question be now put.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is now that the previous question now be put.

[Page 9414]

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. A little earlier this afternoon, while the bells were ringing for the vote on the hoist motion, I had occasion to go quickly back to the office building down the street where our caucus is located, the same building where the government's caucus is located and where the Third Party's caucus offices are located. I am afraid I had not noticed before but, in fact, there was a blood donor clinic that was previously advertised and it was in full swing as I was passing though the lobby. Knowing that I had a little bit of time before the vote on the hoist motion, I went in and, as I frequently do, I donated blood. I am sure a lot of members here are also blood donors. I hope many of the people at home who are watching and paying attention, if they're not already blood donors, are encouraged to think about doing this. But you know, Mr. Speaker, in the 20 minutes it took for me or the other Nova Scotians who were there donating blood, I think we made a much greater contribution to the public welfare and good of this province than this government is making with this bill or virtually any other bill that it has brought forward.

In other words, it's a missed opportunity. They could have come forward with an entirely different piece of legislation, an entirely different economic agenda, or an entirely different tax agenda, but we didn't see that. That isn't what this government seems to think it's all about. Now, it's not that they haven't been told. It's not that better alternatives have not been put in front of them, and I'm sorry to say that, yet again, we're going to have to go through the exercise of pointing out to the government what it ought to be doing, what would be a better approach, what are the failings of the kind of approach it has taken to the finances of this province.

Now, interestingly, Mr. Speaker, we heard what I thought was an amusing piece of commentary from the previous speaker, the member for Lunenburg West. He was commenting, you will recall, about the taxation agenda of this government. When it comes to the facts, he had it right. When it comes to the detailing of every one of the user fees that this government has imposed, I think he got it right. There was a huge number of new user fees imposed through this bill that's in front of us now. This is consistent with the approach that the government has taken over the last three years. Its approach has been to increase taxation, but crucially, the question is how has it chosen to tax? The amusing part about the remarks of the member for Lunenburg West was that he was suggesting that the approach of that government is a socialist approach. He was saying that's the approach you would expect the NDP to take. Do you know what? It isn't. It absolutely is not, because at heart the crucial question about taxation is how you tax. The crucial question is who you tax. The crucial question is, look at the details; who is impacted negatively by the tax? Is it a fair tax?

That's the kind of question that you have to ask, and what is outstanding about the government's taxation agenda over the last three years has been that, on every occasion, it has sought to minimize the extent to which it relies on progressive taxation - income tax and corporate tax - and maximize the amount to which it relies on regressive taxation. Regressive

[Page 9415]

taxes are user fees, for example. They're sales tax, for example, when it's not graduated. It's relying on gambling revenues. It's relying on taxation on alcohol and tobacco. Those are the kinds of taxes that this government has been putting in place year in and year out. Those are the kinds of taxes that it has increased year in and year out. Those are the kinds of taxes that Nova Scotians, at every turn of their normal, day-to-day existence, are encountering and those user fees, those taxes, are things that Nova Scotians bitterly and deeply resent.

You have to ask yourself, why is it that the government is proceeding along those lines? And I will repeat that this would not be the taxation agenda of my Party. The taxation agenda of my Party is to look at the whole of the taxation system with a view to making it much more equitable. You can't tinker, as I've said on a couple other occasions, with one part of the taxation system without looking at the overall effects throughout the system. We speak in favour of a comprehensive analysis.

[4:15 p.m.]

The question is, why is the government pursuing that agenda? I have to tell you that inappropriate taxation agenda goes hand in hand with another part of the agenda. The other part of the agenda is either to erode or to fail to keep up with necessary changes in all areas of day-to-day service delivery that people look to the government for. I'm talking about Health; I'm talking about Education; I'm talking about Community Services; I'm talking about watchdog agencies that are crucial to our day-to-day existence, like the Department of Environment and Labour.

Those two departments, having been put together, are a crucial entity. It's the department that is responsible for inspections of workplaces, to promote occupational health and safety, and workplace safety. We've just passed the annual observance of a day in commemoration of workers who are killed or injured on the job. It happens every year in our province, there are one to two dozen people killed on the job. Many more are injured, and many more, we know from the statistics we've seen from the Workers' Compensation Board, are injured temporarily, sometimes, though, for long period of time, and sometimes in serious fashions.

It's crucial that be a strong department in terms of its Labour branch. In terms of its Environment branch, it's crucial that there be qualified teams of inspectors who are prepared to go out and do the work in a proactive way, in a professional way to deliver environmental protections to the citizens of Nova Scotia. It's Health; it's Education; it's Community Services; it's Labour and Environment. Those are the services that people look to the government to provide. They need those services, they're important.

There are very real consequences of eroding those services, and there are very real consequences of failing to diversity those services in ways that meet the real needs of society. There are very real consequences that are measurable, not just in terms of the dollars that seem to be the immediate and overwhelming, overriding concern of this government. There

[Page 9416]

are consequences that are measurable in the short term and in the long term on the impact of men, women and children in every part of this province.

The fact that the overwhelming agenda is to try to save money, combined with a core belief that the government ought to be a minimal government, is just wrong. The difference between the government that's been elected and those of us in the Opposition is that we believe government can have a useful role and ought to have a useful role in people's day-to-day lives, that we can, as a community, rely upon each other through the instrument of government in order to promote each other's welfare. That's our core belief; that is not the core belief of the government opposite.

Those two parts of their agenda come together. On the one hand, they're raising taxes through user fees in an unfair fashion; and on the other hand, they're either eroding public services or failing to deliver them in an appropriate way. Here's how those two things go together. If people see their taxes going up but at the same time their services are being eroded, ultimately, their confidence in what it is that we can do together as a community is eroded, and that is the deliberate message, that is the deliberate policy that this government has been trying to pursue over the last three years.

I reject it. It's the wrong way to go about doing government. Unfortunately, Bill No. 109 is one more step in this government's attempt to advance that agenda, and I don't believe that Nova Scotians are going to continue to put up with this for very much longer. We already see, at every turn, Nova Scotians standing up when they're faced with one small piece of the erosion of public services or the cutting back of public services that directly affects them, and they yell about it.

Whether it's a demonstration in Middleton with respect to health care or it's a demonstration outside this House with respect to the Arts Council or, if you look back a year or so, with respect to funding for schools. We saw demonstrations about tuition from students just recently. There have been any number of occasions on which people have come to tell directly to this government their objections, their fears, and the consequences of what will occur. Parents from École Beaufort were just here; we've seen paramedics here; we've seen nurses and other health care workers here. They've come en masse. We have seen the workers and the volunteers who are involved in women's shelters come to try to speak to the Minister of Community Services and the list will go on and on.

The list has been long and the list will be even longer because people see the loss of services in their community that they value. They want those services and you know what? They're prepared to pay taxes. People are prepared to pay taxes subject to two very important things. The first thing is they want the services they are paying for - if they are paying taxes, they want to get the services; and the second thing is, they want that tax system to be a fair tax system. They want the case to be that appropriate taxation is the hallmark of how government is carried on. They don't want what Bill No. 109 delivers to them. They don't want what previous Financial Measures Acts have delivered to them. When people come to

[Page 9417]

understand that these things do not happen in isolation, it won't take them long to figure out what they have to do, and their opportunity to act will be at the ballot box if they don't find opportunities before that.

So I supported the hoist and I'm sorry it failed because the hoist would have given the opportunity for people to go out and reflect. When we now have to deal with second reading, I'm not going to be in support of Bill No. 109. Unfortunately, it just doesn't move in the right direction. I say unfortunately because that's a polite term, it gives the government something of the benefit of the doubt. I think that the policy that's being pursued is a deliberate policy and I will say it again because this point has to be crystal clear for people. This bill, as so many other bills and so many other policies put in place by this government, is designed to do two things in tandem: it's designed to increase taxes, and remove services. You put those two things together and why you ask yourself why, and it's because they want people to get the message that government is not worth paying for.

They want people to take the view that government ought to be minimal; they want people to take the view that government should get out of their lives; they want people to take the view that a tax cut might be worthwhile. Now a tax cut, if it comes from this government, is apparently going to be across the board. It's not going to benefit a lot of people. It's going to benefit those who pay the most. A 10 per cent cut in taxes for someone who pays a large amount is going to be of significance; 10 per cent for the average family in Nova Scotia is going to be very little. But what they will notice is the erosion of the services that they would rather have. So I reject that agenda, I reject it because it's the wrong agenda to pursue.

When I look at Bill No. 109 that we have, it's a very peculiar Statute. I know we're talking in a general way here at second reading about what the principles of the bill are. It's worth remembering, of course, that it's an omnibus bill and it puts together quite a number of different provisions. It's hard, therefore, to pull out what one might articulate as being the key, general principle of the bill, and I'm certainly not going to talk in a huge amount of detail, clause by clause. We get that opportunity on another occasion in this process, but if we're forced to think about the principles that do emerge in this bill, I have to say there are a couple that strike me and are worth identifying.

One, of course, that I've been speaking about so far is the revenue-generating device. No doubt about it, that's what the bill is largely about, but you know, there's another part of this bill that's worth exploring. That part of the bill is the whole question of the interaction between the provincial government and other agencies of provincial jurisdiction. I should immediately say that the two main ones that are affected in some way by this bill are municipalities and school boards. Now, they do this because there are amendments to the Education Act and those, of course, affect school boards. There are amendments to the Municipal Government Act and, of course, those affect municipalities. There are amendments to the legislation that governs Nova Scotia Power with respect to the municipal taxation or equivalent that it pays. There are amendments to Statutes that govern the

[Page 9418]

equalization system that's in place with respect to the financing of municipalities. There's even a little bit about the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission, which is another agency of the government that has a life of its own.

Let's talk about what it is that the legislation does with respect to municipalities, school boards and other allied agencies. It's important to ask yourself what approach should the government have and what approach does the government have with respect to municipalities and school boards? Well, what do we know about municipalities and school boards? They have no constitutional status. We know this. Under the constitution there's a federal government and there's a provincial government, and however frequently municipalities have argued and litigated the issue about their right to some kind of independent constitutional status, they've failed.

This kind of litigation comes up quite frequently, with respect to amalgamations, so we've seen litigation over the proposed amalgamation in the City of Montreal. Previously we've seen litigation about the amalgamation that took place in the City of Toronto, but the courts have unanimously said that although municipalities are mentioned in the constitution, they are mentioned as creatures of the province. They have no independent constitutional status of their own. There is not even, the courts have said, a constitutional convention that they are entitled to some kind of continuing existence.

So those kinds of arguments have been rejected. We know that they have no constitutional status. We know that municipalities only exercise powers they're given by the provincial government and the same is true for school boards. School boards, although there are particular sections of the constitution that protect certain kind of educational rights, and although there are certain kinds of school boards in certain places that have some protection, in general, they don't. The most recent litigation went to the Supreme Court of Canada last year and had to do with school boards in Alberta and Ontario. So the bottom line here is that, again, they have very little independent constitutional existence. They are creatures of the province and the province can do with them as it will.

Well, that's just background. Let's turn to the question of how they actually function, because I hope that no one is thinking of making a policy choice that would roll up municipal local government or school boards. I say or school boards because there has been precedent for rolling up school boards in other provinces. New Brunswick is a perfectly good example. That isn't the case here. School boards here perform a very useful function. Despite some of the debate that we've had in this Chamber about the behaviour of some of the school boards, I want to be clear - on the record, right now - that it is not the view of our Party that school boards should cease to exist. What we do believe is that the minister has a responsibility of oversight for school boards, which is why you find in Bill No. 109 certain amendments to the Education Act. Those amendments are designed to increase the powers of the Minister of Education with respect to financial scrutiny over school boards. That's fine. The difference between school boards and municipalities, when it comes to the powers of the provincial government and to their own powers, is that municipalities have been given

[Page 9419]

taxation powers and school boards have not. This is a fundamental distinction that has to be made when we think about those two entities.

[4:30 p.m.]

Municipalities have been given jurisdiction over the property tax. Now there are lots of problems with property taxes, everyone knows; property taxes are regressive, everyone knows that, they don't depend on your ability to pay. If you're living in the family home for years and your income goes down when you retire, you still have to pay the same amount of property taxes because they're according to the assessed value of the property. The point is, municipalities have taxation powers and, unless the province chooses to change those powers, municipalities can exercise them. In fact, of course, there's a very good argument for changing the nature of those powers and maybe I will get to that in just a moment.

In the meantime, school boards which are meant to look like an independent layer of elected decision makers lack the power to impose any taxation. School boards, although they perform such a fundamentally important function in our society that we've chosen to make them an elected and, therefore, responsible level of decision making, have no power over money. They can spend it, but they can't raise it. Can a school board impose a tax? Mr. Speaker, it cannot. They get their money exclusively from grants from the provincial government and from a surtax that is required from each municipality. In some parts of the province, HRM or in some parts of HRM, there's supplementary education funding, a special vote that is imposed but none of that is within the power of the school boards. There is no school board in our province that has a taxation power. So, that's an important limitation on what they do and it's precisely for that reason that we look so much to the Minister of Education to hold her responsible for the decisions that are made by school boards if they're underfunded. That's her responsibility. So we can say to the minister, as we do when school boards are forced by reason of lack of funds to make hard and, we think, often inappropriate decisions, it's the minister's responsibility. It is; and it's the government's responsibility. They're the ones who are ultimately responsible for the funding of the school boards.

But what do we see in the budgets this year and in Bill No. 109 with respect to school boards and education? All we see is an attempt by the minister - an appropriate attempt, I should say - to continue to exercise some financial control, some financial oversight I should say, with respect to the school boards. It's a question of looking, in her view, at the irregularities. That's fine. If there are irregularities, let the minister scrutinize them, let the minister step in where appropriate. That's correct, but the minister can't suggest that she doesn't have responsibility overall for controlling the school boards in many other respects and, most crucially, in terms of deciding the level of funding that they get. That's crucial.

So, it's within that context that we have to understand the difficult decisions that many school boards around the province, including right here in HRM, have been forced to make this year. I'm not saying that their decisions have always been the right ones. Indeed, there

[Page 9420]

are several that have been very difficult and I would say, maybe, probably, the wrong ones, but that's no reason that the minister can suggest that she has no responsibility.

It's important to understand that finally those local government entities, like school boards, like municipalities, derive their authority, including their taxation powers, from the provincial government. We have to understand that. Where we find them making inappropriate decisions, there is ultimately a general power of oversight on the part of the provincial government. It varies a lot and certainly with respect to municipalities it's circumscribed, but it's there. They're ultimately responsible to us.

Now, I mention this in such detail because I was struck by a very detailed study that came out of the TD Bank about a week or two ago. Their economic section, that is their research section, published a long paper about municipalities and their place in the economic growth of provinces. It's interesting that this piece of analysis came out of the research section of a major bank. They identified the following problem, they said if a province, if our nation is thinking about economic development and economic growth, they should concentrate on the cities. They should look at where most people live. They should look at the cities and recognize that they are the economic engines. I don't think they meant to imply, and I certainly don't mean to imply that there's nothing going on in the rural areas. That's far from the truth.

We know, particularly in provinces like ours, that still-significant numbers of our population live in rural areas. That's not the pattern in Ontario, it's not the pattern in B.C., but still, it is the pattern here. Nonetheless, cities are the economic drivers. What they said was, you have to pay attention to what goes on in the cities. This is the research department of the TD Bank. They said that the real problem for municipalities is that there's a mismatch between their spending responsibilities and their ability to raise revenues. They said that municipalities have to be able to raise and spend more money, and they have to have the power to be able to do that.

Do we see anything in Bill No. 109 that really helps municipalities in this respect? We see two provisions that address municipalities and their funding position. We see some change in the municipal equalization system, and this is in PART XIV of Bill No. 109. We see some change with respect to the grants in lieu of municipal taxation that Nova Scotia Power has to pay in PART XVI of Bill No. 109. Are these adequate? We have to ask ourselves whether these small changes to the system of municipal finance are adequate to deal with the problem that the research section of the T D Bank identified. If you go and look at what they say in their research paper, it's clear that it's not. These kinds of small amounts of money don't do the trick. They just don't address the problem of thinking in terms of what it is that the province can do to help entities like our major municipalities to become even more of the drivers of economic growth.

[Page 9421]

We hear from that government all the time that they believe in economic growth, they point to changes in the Gross Domestic Product, they are saying that the way forward is for our GDP to grow, and they claim they have an economic plan. But do you know what's missing from that economic plan, and it's missing from Bill No. 109, it's something to really help our cities. The major economic driver in this province is still HRM. We know from the Statistics Canada data, that's where people have been moving. We know that lots of rural areas have become depopulated. But do we see anything here that really helps HRM or the other larger municipalities around the province? We don't. It's just not there.

I would have hoped that it would be there. I would have hoped that if they were going to make decisions about municipal revenues, they would have done something useful. But if you look at PART XIV, if you look at PART XVI of this Bill No. 109, it just doesn't manage to move in the right direction. This is entirely unfortunate. This is a missed opportunity, as I pointed out at the beginning. A missed opportunity, year in, year out. This has been the third year in which we've had budgets and Financial Measures Acts from this government, and each time they've nudged the economic agenda and the finances of this province in the wrong direction.

This excessive reliance on taxes that are regressive, this failure to come to grips with the needs of entities like municipalities, this continued erosion of services that people want and need is entirely the wrong agenda.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know if I can put it any more plainly what it is that I think is missing from this bill. It's just stunningly apparent to anyone who reads this bill, along with the predecessor legislation earlier this session and in previous years, that the wrong agenda is being pursued. We're always engaged in a self-education process. I learn from what I hear from other members in this House. I would hope that, on occasion, they might learn from me. I have faith that people will learn. I have faith, as in grade school, where repetition is the basic tool, that even if we here are forced to repeat time and again the basic lessons that ought to be learned about tax and economics, they may be heard. I'm sure you can recall sitting in rows in grade school repeating the three times table and four times table and the fives time table until we all got it in our heads. That's what I meant about repetition being the basic teaching tool. If it can work for us when we're in Grade 2, 3, or 4, it can work for us here in this House.

I have said today what I have been forced to say on other occasions, because I believe that repetition is a useful teaching tool. But you know what? I would prefer not to have to repeat myself year in, and year out. I'm waiting for the time when the Minister of Finance and his colleagues come forward with a different economic agenda and a differently structured Bill No. 109 or its equivalent. I live in hopes that before they're defeated in the next election, they will actually come forward with a better economic agenda, a better Bill No. 109, or its equivalent. I know that some members of my caucus think that this just won't happen. Perhaps it won't. I don't believe it is impossible, even for those members, to learn. I don't believe it's impossible.

[Page 9422]

What I do believe and what I know is that the folks at home who are watching and listening, they know. They have learned. They have come to understand because the points are very simple. The agenda is wrong. The undercutting of government services is wrong. The putting up of taxation through user fees is wrong. This is a deliberate agenda. It's designed to undercut faith in the public sector. It's designed to say to people, you're paying more taxes and getting less, why do you want to pay your taxes. Why do you even want us to bother with government. That's the message. That's the wrong message. It's not what Nova Scotians believe. The government got it wrong. It's not too late for them to reform and change, but regardless of whether they do, the folks at home have gotten the message - the penny, as it were, has certainly dropped at home.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity for making those few comments about Bill No. 109 at the second reading stage. It's been a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak to layout these few thoughts. You will note that I didn't go over all of the detail of each and every one of the increased fees. Several other speakers have given the details of this and I will remind you that the honourable member for Lunenburg, although he got everything else wrong in terms of his context, in terms of his analysis, in terms of his commentary, he nonetheless got it right when it came to detailing all of the user fees that ordinary Nova Scotians are going to encounter. He was right about ordinary Nova Scotians who drive trucks. Their fees are going up. He was right about ordinary Nova Scotians who are using an ambulance. If it unfortunately comes to that, their fees are going up.

He was right about Nova Scotians who might be involved in international adoptions who are already spending a lot of money. Their fees are going up. He was right about the extent to which, at every turn, Nova Scotians who try to use government services are being forced to realize that the taxes that they just figured out the other day when they filed their income tax return is only the tip of the iceberg. On top of that they are hit coming and going. That lesson undoubtedly is clear to every Nova Scotian.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I thank you again for the opportunity to make these few remarks about Bill No. 109. When the times comes, I don't think you, or your colleagues, can be in doubt of where I, and my colleagues, will be voting. Thank you very much.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in opposition to Bill No. 109 on second reading because I believe this omnibus bill is a bit too harsh for the people of Nova Scotia in its principle and in its application.

[Page 9423]

I was watching with interest over the last number of weeks, in particular watching on the Tory benches, the government benches, that effectively there wasn't one member from the government benches who stood up to defend Bill No. 109, with the exception of the Minister of Finance with his introductory remarks. Of course, if you have a Houdini and he is full of surprises, you would expect him to at least show up on the stage to perform a few acts, and I guess that is what the duty of the Minister of Finance was in defending his bill. So I guess I was a little disappointed that not even other members of the Executive Council stood up to defend Bill No. 109 in its application, or its principle, Mr. Speaker, despite the fact that during the estimates, several of those ministers seemed to lack a complete understanding of some of the details in their various departmental budgets.

I know there was one minister, when he showed up I am sure half the department was in attendance. It is unprecedented to see during estimates as many as eight senior staff show up to accompany the minster during his estimates. Generally you would have the deputy minister and the senior director of finance and perhaps someone from central services who would be able to deal with a lot of the factual detail on finance. In one particular case, the minister had eight senior staff, two whom I believe were communications persons.

Now I know my colleague from the NDP caucus raised the concern today about the government increasing the size of its communications staff and the government seemed to kind of push that off and say that simply was not the case. Well, Mr. Speaker, I know in the Department of Environment and Labour we now have the equivalent of two and a half full-time staff there, whereas when I was minister of that particular department we had only one. So we were able to achieve a considerable amount of good work in that department with only half the amount of communication. Now they have more than doubled the amount of communication, but now the work output is only half as much, so it is inversely proportional. The success of your department is inversely proportional to the amount of communications personnel you have on staff. That seems to be the equation that's being applied by this government.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that was covered in the estimates, obviously, was the cost of this provincial water strategy that the government has spent over $800,000 on to date. I mean, that's the estimate. All estimates are that, at the rate they're going, with an additional three-month delay on top of the six-month delay we've already had, that figure could be well over $1 million. Earlier this week in Oral Question Period, the Minister of Environment and Labour took great delight in chastising the previous government for doing absolutely nothing on the water strategy for Nova Scotia, and I said to myself, well, that doesn't seem to make any sense. I mean, how could a government be in power for six years and do absolutely nothing to address the issue with regard to water and water quality - water supply, pollution, and all the other factors?

So I took the liberty of going into the Legislative Library, which is always a very good resource, Mr. Speaker, and I would suggest that with the amount of information I was able to ascertain, perhaps this is what this minister should do. That's why it's very difficult to

[Page 9424]

support Bill No. 109, when you have ministers of a department who don't even know what has been achieved in years past. I will just quote a few of the issues, some of the good news items that were achieved under the previous administration, and seem to be somewhat vacuous in that department, and that will become quite evident once I read some of the material. But it will also support what the Auditor General was saying, that this is perhaps the worst-performing department of any government department in the Province of Nova Scotia. That's why I have some difficulty supporting Bill No. 109.

We could go back and relay to the good news announcement that was made by the Honourable Wayne Adams back in 1996 for a water treatment facility in Stewiacke. Now, Mr. Speaker, you know where Stewiacke is, that water treatment facility. That was a good news announcement for your riding. I don't think you were a member of the Liberal caucus, good things were coming to your community. Why? Because we had a government with a vision to protect water and water quality in your community because there was a need. (Interruptions)

Well, I wasn't sure because there was such a rumble in the background there. I wasn't sure if everybody was conversing to consult as to how factual this was or if they're engaged in another dialogue altogether; however, Mr. Speaker, that having been said, if you think that's good news, in November 1998 the Minister of Environment and Labour of the day announced an advanced alarm technology system for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality's water facility. Yes, Mr. Speaker, and that was supported by all members in the House.

Well, Mr. Speaker, we can go on and on. What about the water treatment facility project for Orangedale, another success story, that was announced back in November 1998? That was announced by my colleague, the former Minister of Environment and Labour, the Honourable Don Downe, when he was minister. He saw the need and the issue was dealt with. Again, it flies in the face of what the Minister of Environment and Labour says.

Mr. Speaker, I will go right into details of a report that was prepared by the Department of Environment and released July 29, 1998. This one I think the Minister of Environment and Labour would want to listen to because it deals pointedly with the issue of a provincial water strategy. Now if we're releasing a report that takes stock of where Nova Scotia is with respect to air and water quality and waste resource management, surely to heavens we must be dealing, in essence, on the issue of a water strategy. Again, more misinformation by the Minister of Environment and Labour.

Mr. Speaker, as well, the province in April 1998 hosted the National Groundwater Conference here in Nova Scotia, which was well received. You know, some good things came out of that and this is why we have such difficulty with Bill No. 109. There's a Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment who have prepared a report over an extended period of time. This deals with the issue of water quality. It deals with the issue of air quality, of pollutants in the air, with the ground and marshlands, the effects on the

[Page 9425]

environment and this latest update was in 1999 and it came in various reports. It dealt with the issue of water quality. So we have representatives from Nova Scotia on that committee, I believe, Mr. Dave Briggins from the Department of Environment and Labour. We have some of the best expertise anywhere in the country that have contributed to that.

So for the government, in particular the minister, to stand in his place and say that we did absolutely nothing for six years does not even come close to the facts, Mr. Speaker. That minister is in denial. He's in absolute denial of the realities of what's happening in Nova Scotia. The question we have is the Minister of Environment and Labour. The Minister of Finance, he's never in denial. He's stubborn and he can be wrong, but he's not in denial. But the Minister of Environment and Labour is in denial. As my colleague, the member for Cape Breton South indicated yesterday, he's blissfully unaware of what's happening in his department, perhaps blissfully unaware of a lot of things that are happening, not only in his department, but in some other issues.

Mr. Speaker, we have what we call the Environment Act of Nova Scotia. Well who implemented that Act? That Act was enacted as an Act of the Legislature for the Province of Nova Scotia in 1996. Well, by golly, the government then was the John Savage Government. (Interruption) I will be honest, in 1996, I can't say for sure who was the minister because I wasn't here. I believe it may have been the honourable Robbie Harrison. I was on a slight sabbatical of personal choosing. But the fact remains, the Act and the regulations were introduced and adopted in 1996 and there are various sections in here that speak to the issues that the minister says we did absolutely nothing about. Well, it's not us who are delaying the water strategy that he's bragging about. It's not the Liberal caucus that made a commitment before the UNSM last October that by the end of October, the water strategy would be tabled. It's not our caucus. It wasn't our Leader who was Premier last fall and said that the water strategy would be unveiled before the end of September last year. It wasn't ourselves as a caucus, there was no Minister of Environment and Labour in this caucus this spring that said we would be unveiling it very soon and then when we got into estimates, delayed it again for another three months. Talk is pretty cheap coming from that side when it comes to those issues.

[5:00 p.m.]

I wanted to point those out because it demonstrates quite clearly, there is one point I wanted to add, that, yes, under a previous administration, the member for Queens who was the Minister of Environment at the time, the honourable John Leefe, did do some good things to address the issues of air and water quality and a lot of environmental issues that were there and they were continued.

I will yield for an introduction, yes, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 9426]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North on an introduction.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for allowing me to make the introduction. In the gallery are two friends of mine and constituents from the riding of - well, one's actually Kings South, but Joe Ueffing and Ian Blenkhorn, fellow members of the Kentville Rotary Club and I would ask the members to give them a warm welcome and ask them to stand. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, indeed. Welcome to the Rotarians from Kentville and we welcome all our guests in the gallery this afternoon. The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. MACKINNON: I too would like to welcome some Rotarians because as a former Rotarian myself, I know all the good things that the Rotary Club have done over the years and it's a worldwide based organization and I can tell you that some of the efforts by Rotarians around the world would speak to the high calibre of the persons who are members of those organizations. (Interruption) Yes, that's why I was an honourable member.

That having been said, I'm going to digress a little because I do miss partaking in Rotary Club activities. It's an excellent organization. You can go if you're out of town in another province or another country, you can always attend a Rotary meeting. It's just absolutely fascinating to learn and to network and to help make the world a better place and help so many underprivileged people in the world.

Back on the budgetary measure, Bill No. 109, I would like to quote a comment from the Minister of Economic Development and his response to a question in Question Period yesterday. I will be brief, Mr. Speaker. In response to a question that the member for Cape Breton South asked him on terms of job creation and he indicated that despite the failures of ourselves, his government was able to create 5,900 jobs since becoming government. That's a fairly noble and significant figure. Now, let's put it in perspective. Let's look at the Nova Scotia Business Inc. KPMG report and their business plan. Their business plan indicates that they will create 18,000 jobs in five years. That breaks down to 3,600 jobs per year for five years. If you look at this, 5,900 jobs - let's round it off at 6,000 - that's 2,000 jobs per year. That's 1,600 jobs less than the government said it was going to create since coming to power.

Now, the government will argue, well, we just set up Nova Scotia Business Inc., so you wouldn't expect us to be in full flight right yet. Well, Mr. Speaker, I raised the issue with the representative from Nova Scotia Business Inc. yesterday morning when he came before the Public Accounts Committee on the record of our caucus, our government, when we were on that side of the House. The record showed that we had created, in Nova Scotia's economy, over 30,000 jobs in 6 years - well actually it was in 3 years.

AN HON. MEMBER: 15,000 . . .

[Page 9427]

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, I will get to that point. My colleague is saying 15,000 - it was 15,000 created by the Nova Scotia Department of Economic Development, which is half of the total number of jobs that were created. So even at that, Mr. Speaker, and those 15,000 jobs were created from 1996 to 1999. So that works out to 5,000 jobs a year. So, in effect, the government has created 2,000 per year, as opposed to the 5,000 jobs per year that we created with the Department of Economic Development.

Their business plan says they are going to create 3,600 per year, so they haven't even been able to meet their own targets, let alone meet our targets. There are 1,600 jobs per year less than their business plan, under their own terms of reference and they are 3,000 jobs a year less than we were able to create when we were managing the Department of Economic Development.

In essence, what has happened, Mr. Speaker, is the government is realizing that its job creation strategies were vacuous. So what did they do? They set up this private entity. They have cut and they have carved and they sliced away at the Department of Economic Development, as you know, Mr. Speaker. At one time there were 12 employees in the Sydney office and now my understanding is there is a manager or a caretaker there, one staff representative and one secretary; one to come in and turn on the lights and manage things, hoping the phone will ring because you know it may not ring because the minister has already put everything in the hands of this private entity, which is supposed to be at arm's length, and they are going to take over the job creation process within the Department of Economic Development. Even Mr. Morley, who attended Public Accounts Committee yesterday, conceded that there was a major gap, to use his words, in industrial Cape Breton when it comes to dealing with the issue of their representation with Nova Scotia Business Inc. in job creation.

So, Mr. Speaker, what is even more disturbing is we are asked to approved a budget, through Bill No. 109, this is the active wing of the budget, it is almost like a piece of legislation; you approve the Act and the regulations are the working component. Well, this is really what Bill 109 is.

Mr. Speaker, they haven't been able to tell us what the budget is for Nova Scotia Business Inc. Now how can you be expected to support a budgetary process when they refuse to tell you what the numbers are? What is the budget for Nova Scotia Business Inc.? How much money do they have in their budget for lending companies and helping companies establish for new job creation? Surely to heavens somebody over there must be able to tell us.

Mr. Speaker, what is even more concerning is the fact that the Department of Economic Development, through this agency, is very optimistic in its projections. They are going to say, or their projection is that they are going to exceed national expectations in terms of economic growth. They've pegged that at around 3 per cent. Well, pick up the news today and you will find that one of the economists from one of the large banks - I know it wasn't

[Page 9428]

the Royal Bank, it may have been the Bank of Commerce - they have these economists, I guess that's part of their job, doing market analysis; they feel that the economy is going to be running at around 6 per cent nationally. Whether that's true or not, this is a projection. (Interruption) Well, the Minister of Finance is saying, perhaps not. It's not for me to dispute, because I'm not an expert in that type of analysis. I can only go by the reports that are there. I'm sure somebody will come out tomorrow with another report.

The bottom line is the government is not even reaching it's own projections, it's own targets. Your own figures show that you've created about 6,000 jobs, and if you break that down that's 2,000 jobs a year for three years in power. Your own business plan said that you were going to create 3,600 jobs a year. So, you're short by 4,800 jobs which, again, is even further below the actual figures that were achieved by the previous Minister of Economic Development; 5,000 jobs a year, by the representative from Nova Scotia Business Inc., who appeared before the Public Accounts Committee yesterday.

The success rate in loans, my understanding, was somewhere in the vicinity of between 95 per cent and 98 per cent. I know it was in the high 90s. Why would the government want to carve up a success story. Part of the argument that was given was because now they're going to focus strictly on job creation and job development. Before, when it was all under the Department of Economic Development, in-house so to speak, they also dealt with policy. Obviously, having good policies was an additive. It's wasn't a negative. Why would they want to carve that up? Whose interests are being served?

How many times did Tory members stand in their place, particularly the member for Digby when he was on this side of the House - he's now Minister of Economic Development - and he just ranted and raved day in and day out about what a terrible job the member for Cape Breton South was doing when he was Minister of Economic Development. Well, by their own admission, he created two and a half times as many jobs, more jobs, than what that minister is creating today. Who was the success story?

Mr. Speaker, obviously, if you have the member for Cape Breton South, as a minister, creating 5,000 jobs, and you have the minister for Digby, who is now the Minister of Economic Development creating 2,000 jobs, who would you say has been the success story? I rest my case. This is not Russell MacKinnon saying this, this is not the member for Cape Breton South saying that, that is the Minister of Economic Development - the member for Digby - and his staff who are saying that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where's your ugly tie then?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm not wearing an ugly tie because I don't want to be ugly about this, this is a really serious issue. It speaks to what's going to happen over the next four years. Well, four and a half years, four years now, since this Nova Scotia Business Inc. has been set up. Okay, if it's been in operation for one year, why don't we have an annual report? Do you know what's even more concerning is that the representative from

[Page 9429]

Nova Scotia Business Inc. couldn't definitively state what the lines of authority were in approving loans. He said they're at various levels and so on, but he wasn't aware of that because that wasn't part of his job description.

Mr. Speaker, here we're asked to approve a rather significant budget through Bill No. 109, and all this information is missing. We're supposed to do it on hope, on good fortune, on trust? At the Public Accounts Committee what we do is value-for-dollar. We deal with facts. We don't deal with people who are going to promise they're going to do this or that; we deal with facts and figures, and that's what the people of Nova Scotia want. That's department number two that we have a problem with supporting in their budget.

[5:15 p.m.]

The point was raised a little earlier today about the Department of Transportation and Public Works. Let me tell you at the outset that, you know, I empathize with the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. He made some very valid points during estimates about the fact that the Department of Transportation and Public Works always had a considerably high percentage of the budget, relative to what it has now, and it's been just cut back and cut back - almost to the bone - for the sake of Education and Health. Of course we have to add the deficit in there, too.

I do support more dollars for Transportation and Public Works, and this issue on the 2 cents a litre - I mean, I know it's not all going there. We're short by $2 million of what he said was going to go 100 per cent into it. It's tough, I realize that if I were sitting in his position I would be leaning a little heavy on the federal government as well. But, Mr. Speaker, let's not be remiss; the minister, when he was on this side of the House, knew what all the goods were. He knew what the budgets were saying to the people of Nova Scotia - what we could afford and what we couldn't afford and so on.

It's a question of fairness. If there's a little bit of money to go around, all the Opposition would ask is spread it around so everybody shares a little of the gain and a little of the pain. I'm hopeful that the minister will live up to his word. I know it's not easy; he has a lot of competing forces within his caucus. I'm sure the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley will certainly be raising a lot of hackles with the minister. He certainly hasn't done it in defending the truckers. He hasn't said anything at all.

Mr. Speaker, I would hope the minister for that department would lay out in detail what he intends to do with this additional money, because the Minister of Finance waxed a lot of eloquence when he delivered his Budget Address. It was so obvious. If you listened to the Minister of Finance when he made his Budget Address, it was almost like we were getting $24 million of additional money into the Department of Transportation and Public Works, over and above what the department already had, but when you break it down, in the final analysis, when you look at the operating versus the capital, it only went up $7 million, the operating budget in the department. (Interruptions) Operating - no, the capital.

[Page 9430]

I don't want to digress too much, Mr. Speaker, but it's an opportunity for the minister to correct me if I'm wrong. I mean, I'm looking for guidance. Essentially, the optics were that they were putting $24 million more money in than ever before, and it was all going to go towards highway construction and maintenance. Well, it's not. The Minister of Transportation and Public Works said no during his estimates.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I don't want to detract from the member's comments. I do want to point out that I stated in my Budget Address that the 2 cents increase in gasoline tax created - I believe it was $24 million, plus another $10 million that we had committed beyond that, so the capital portion of it increased $34 million, or $32 million - I don't have the number in front of me, but it's a $32 million to $34 million increase. I did not make a reference to the operating side of it. I just want to clarify that and the member can please continue his comments.

MR. SPEAKER: It's not a point of order. It's a clarification, maybe. The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his intervention - the Minister of Transportation and Public Works wants to get trucking too, does he? - I'm looking at all the large fee increases on vehicle registration. I know a lot of my colleagues have addressed those points and I don't want to be too redundant here just for the sake of belabouring the point and consuming time unnecessarily. I think it's fair to say that a lot of these fee increases are excessive, the licensing fees for vehicle registration on commercial vehicles, the driver's licenses. I guess one has to stop and ask themselves: Who in government is going to give us a definition, a clearly worded, very succinct definition of a user fee?

Mr. Speaker, if you talk to a Tory backbencher, they will give you one definition; if you talk to senior officials in various departments, they will give you another definition; if you listen to the Minister of Justice, he gives you still another definition. Is there anyone in that entire government who can give us one clear definition of what a user fee is, so we are able to distinguish between a user fee and a tax? The government, in that sense, is suffering from denial. They say they have a balanced budget, but they had to borrow $100 million to pay on the debt. Well if you have to borrow money to balance your budget, then it can't be balanced because you're going further in the hole. I'm sure you could go to any grade school and they would be able to tell you the same thing. If you have to borrow money to say you have a balanced budget, then you don't have a balanced budget. You're spending more than you're taking in and that's essentially what's happening.

AN HON. MEMBER: It's just that simple.

MR. MACKINNON: It's just that simple. But if you listen to the Premier, this is the first time in 40 years that we've had a truly balanced budget. Well, what's the definition of "truly" - where you go and borrow that $100 million and don't talk about it?

[Page 9431]

AN HON. MEMBER: I think Peter Nicholson would be pretty shocked if he were told he didn't have a balanced budget . . .

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, I'm sure he would . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Or Bob Stanfield or Ike Smith. They'd be pretty shocked to be told their budgets weren't balanced.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm just at a loss as to how they can come up with this notion of a balanced budget. If they didn't have to borrow any more money for capital or to pay the interest payments on the debt, I can accept that, but in reality if they borrow $100 million and it's a true picture of the budget, then really what we have is an operating deficit of $100 million. That's true economics in its simplest form. They say there are no new taxes, but yet they're taking out of the pockets of Nova Scotians an additional $101 million more than they took last year, so I don't know where they get this idea that this is a truly balanced budget.

We saw today the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations stand in Question Period today and indicate that he knew nothing about this offer that was made by Halifax Regional Municipality on the $1 million a year for 30 years, Mr. Speaker, I want to read the article that was in the local news today, "Mayor Kelly said HRM has suggested a number of cost-sharing options to the Hamm Government, but the answer always comes back 'no'. The province was asked to consider rebating the estimated $28 million the harbour solutions project will generate in provincial income tax and sales tax during the five year construction period. Another option would be for the province to contribute $1 million a year to the project for a 30-year period." I'm sure Mayor Kelly wouldn't have said that unless that proposal was made to the minister and his department, unless the minister is saying to members of the House that these negotiations are going on with his staff and he doesn't know what's going on with his staff. He's not apprised of what the negotiations are.

Well, Mr. Speaker, let's be fair to the residents of HRM. I mean this is something that has been kicked around for the last 25 years, well, since 1984, 27 years under various governments, and now we see that a meeting of the minds, if we can word it that way, is developing. HRM is quite pleased with the negotiations that are going on with the federal government and they've said so today, but they are less than impressed with the fact that the province has had an unequivocal no. (Interruption)

Well, Mr. Speaker, that doesn't seem to be the case that's being put forth. The member for Preston is saying the feds got our money. That's not what they said when they got elected. That's not what they said at all. I mean I'm amazed that all the MLAs from HRM are not standing up in support of Peter Kelly and the Halifax Regional Municipality. Where is the member for Preston? Where is the member for the Eastern Shore? Where is the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley? Where is the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, and the

[Page 9432]

good member for the Bedford-Fall River area, the Minister of Community Services, why aren't they standing up for their residents?

It would be $1 million a year for 30 years and they say we haven't got it. Well, Mr. Speaker, we saw just in the last couple of days close to $1 million that was spent between polling and a highly paid consultant that nobody seemed to be able to justify. We saw the fact that with the figures that were analyzed by the member for Halifax Fairview showing an error in the budget for the Gaming Corporation - $1 million. So surely to heavens, to paraphrase what the Minister of Finance has said, $1 million is not a lot out of a $4.5 billion budget. So if it's not a lot, why is the government saying no and why are all the HRM MLAs sitting quietly doing nothing, saying nothing, to clean up this unmitigated mess that's out here?

Yes, Mr. Speaker, we have problems in other areas. We have them in my backyard as well, with the Sydney tar ponds and the action plan that's put there. Progress might be slow, but at least we're making some headway. You have to give credit where credit is due, you applaud the Minister of Transportation and Public Works for that, but I'm just amazed, they're sitting around, like they're walking zombies, not saying a thing. They're not saying a thing on behalf of the harbour solutions project. They're not saying anything about the way the truckers are being gouged. They're not saying anything about the high taxes on waterfront properties. They're not saying anything about all the cutbacks.

Well, Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 109 is on the books now. It is a financial measure and I would invite the rather enthusiastic member for Preston to come to his feet, to come to the charge and defend his constituents. Stand up and show that you are just like you were when you were on the Halifax Regional Municipality Council. You were not afraid to take on your colleagues; you were not afraid to stand alone when the call was there.

[5:30 p.m.]

What happened? Have you been reduced to the greeter from Wal-Mart? Come on, this is not good. (Interruptions) I know that member for Preston would really fight for his constituents, if he could get to his feet, get the urge. I know that deep down the fire is there; he wants to fight for his constituents. He wants to rise to the occasion and say, I stood up for you when you were being gouged by my government. Yes, I was there, I stood on the principle of responsible government, where you stand up for your constituents first and foremost, against any and all other interests. That is the basis of British parliamentary rule. I would applaud that honourable member, Mr. Speaker, because I would think that he had really not only risen to the occasion but fulfilled his duty.

What about the good member for Eastern Shore? Well, when that honourable member came to this Legislature it was like a hurricane; I thought he was going to come in and conquer the world, but we don't even get a whisper out of him. I am hoping for a resolution some day.

[Page 9433]

AN HON. MEMBER: Nothing but heckles.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, I would even be pleased with heckles, Mr. Speaker. At least we would know there would still be some vibrancy there, that their hearts are still ticking, that they are alive. We wouldn't have to send a paramedic over with a little glass mirror and put it underneath their breathing apparatus to see if they are still alive. That is what is missing.

The good member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, the truckers' hero. Well, I think they have these special gears in trucks for when you are going up hills and down hills, to prevent the trucks from getting - governors, I think they call them, to control the speed and the engines in the truck on the highway. I think his governor is stuck, Mr. Speaker. He is still in low gear, he can't get going. The truckers must be absolutely amazed that he is not standing up.

Think about when he was on this side of the House and the issue of fishing licences came up. Well, my gosh, Mr. Speaker, if that member had his way there would not be one fish safe in Nova Scotia because they would have been all fished out. He wanted everybody to go fishing, at no cost. Now he is over there and he is saying nothing about his colleagues in the trucking industry being gouged to the bone. Their profit margins are going down, their costs are going up. His colleague, the Minister of Environment and Labour, is doing nothing to protect them on insurance rates.

All is silent while Rome was burning; everything is falling down. What a lot of disappointment. Well, well, not a whisper. Even if they could just - a sign, a nod, just a gesture with the hand that yes, they are there, they are really behind their constituents. We would really be inspired by these members. At least the member for Cape Breton North, when he stands up, he is full of fire, there is lots of fire in his belly.

AN HON. MEMBER: That's why he won the last election down there.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, that's why he won the by-election, that's right, he had the fire in his belly.

Mr. Speaker, you know there was a previous member for Cape Breton North. He was a very popular Cabinet Minister. I don't think anyone in Nova Scotia ever expected him to be defeated, any more than too many people in Nova Scotia thought the honourable David Dingwall would be defeated. In this business, don't take anything for granted. What looks good today, doesn't look so good tomorrow. The day that you think you're invincible, you're gone. That seems to be the attitude that's becoming very pervasive on that side of the House. (Interruptions) We will get to him in a moment.

[Page 9434]

Let's look at the good member for Cape Breton North. He has somehow been able to come up with $2 million out of a $1.6 million budget for a sports arena in North Sydney. Well, what's he going to do in the other community of his constituency. See, that's in North Sydney, but his constituents in Sydney Mines don't want it. So, he's going to have to weigh that out, because where's the larger population? He knows where it is, it's in Sydney Mines. How is he going to wax eloquent with that? It's a promise that he knows, perhaps, he will never, ever have to live up to because CBRM doesn't have the dollars to put in.

Mr. Speaker, why wouldn't he take this invisible cheque that he believes is so real, and put it over to the Northside General Hospital, so we could have full service there that he promised that he would commit to. (Interruptions) We're working our way down to Inverness. We're not there yet. We're working our way down the Cabot Trail; we will get to you in a few moments. We want to finish up over in North Sydney first. You're just hoping I will get on the ferry and go to North Sydney and not come back. It's not going to work quite that way.

MR. SPEAKER: The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley on a point of order.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: No, Mr. Speaker. I was wondering if the honourable member for Cape Breton West would entertain a brief question. I'm wondering if the honourable member for Cape Breton West, after he concludes his dissertation here regarding the Financial Measures (2002) Act, would he agree to submit all correspondence and communication that he provided the former government with regarding his opposition relative to tolls on the Cobequid Pass, a $9 user fee per commercial truck tire and also the imposition that the federal government put on truckers regarding the 4-cent-per-litre federal excise tax?

I would be agreeable to providing him with the correspondence that I provided that government with and the federal government in Ottawa to those initiatives. So I would just ask, in the name of fairness, would he do likewise and provide this House with all the correspondence and communication that he provided his government with in opposition to those very costly measures that were imposed upon the trucking sector? I think it's a fair question, Mr. Speaker, don't you? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: I think it's a question. (Laughter)

The member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to answer that question. I know it's not Question Period, but at least we know there's life over there. Now, let's get right to the answer. Had I been here and not in private practice, I probably would have been performing my duty as an MLA on behalf of my constituents and raised those concerns. But

[Page 9435]

the member who was here for Cape Breton West at that time, I think you may want to check the records and see what he said or did not say on your behalf. I don't think he said anything,

because he was pushing for funding for another project in the same constituency of Cape Breton West.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think the honourable member for Cape Breton West has just said no to my request.

MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I would if could, because I wasn't a public servant at the time. I was running my business, a private business. I was in private practice. I wasn't a public official at the time, as the member tried to allude to. I can't do two things at once. He wants me to do his constituency work, as well as run my private practice in Cape Breton. I can understand that you're not standing up for your constituents now, so here I am. I will do it for you. What can I tell you. By golly, why didn't you call me? I would have come out of private practice for you. I mean, if you were that desperate that you couldn't stand up for yourself and your constituents, by golly, I would have been glad to come and give you a hand. Holy whistling! You didn't tell me things were that bad. (Laughter)

Mr. Speaker, are there any more questions? I will take all the questions you want. Oh, absolutely.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: On a question, Mr. Speaker. The honourable member indicated that he would take more questions and he did such a rousing and wonderful job that time around, possibly he could, while he's at it, digging out all that communication, include, just for the record, the correspondence and communication he provided his federal cousins with regarding his very strong opposition to the registration of long arms in rural Nova Scotia?

MR. MACKINNON: Another easy question, Mr. Speaker. I didn't oppose it. I was in favour of the firearms registration. I'm not going to apologize for it. If I'm wrong, well, my constituents will tell me at the polls in the next election. The same as I told them that when I canvassed the last election and the election before that and again back in 1993. So my position hasn't changed. Maybe he likes to carry guns in his truck. Maybe he likes going along unfettered with firearms. I don't know. I'm not going to pursue that. (Interruptions) I'm not going back out West, I will tell you that much. (Laughter) Even I know when to quit.

He is alive. The Minister of Environment and Labour is alive, Mr. Speaker. I was starting to worry about him. I thought he was a like a tadpole in the pond in the middle of winter. He was under siege. I do applaud the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley for at least showing some life form. That's important. That's the first step because when you go back to your constituents and tell them why you couldn't do this

[Page 9436]

and do that and all the other things, well then you can at least say that you stood up in the House of Assembly and asked for a private citizen to give you help. Really, you weren't able to get a hold of him. I will give you my number at home so you can call the next time an issue like this comes up. We have fax machines. We have cell phones and now we have the Internet. You would be surprised. I think that would be a wonderful way for all members, all Tory backbenchers.

HON. DAVID MORSE: On a question, Mr. Speaker. I wonder, since the honourable member for Cape Breton West is doing Question Period, whether he would take one more?

MR. MACKINNON: Yes.

MR. MORSE: I wonder if the member could advise the House how many telephone calls he got from the media in Alberta after he suggested that Albertans were a bunch of rednecks? Could he give us that answer here today? Thank you.

[5:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West. You have about 20 seconds.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I don't want to digress too much from Bill No. 109. (Laughter) But I will tell you, first of all, I didn't call Albertans rednecks.

AN HON. MEMBER: You did so.

MR. MACKINNON: Check the record. (Laughter) I accused certain political elements of being rednecks. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired, unfortunately.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I thought I heard the member for Cape Breton West rise on a point of order, but I think he has given it up.

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

MR. MACKINNON: Not at all Mr. Speaker. Actually the point made is that I received two calls, one from CBC Calgary and one from the Calgary Sun, and both issues were addressed to their complete satisfaction. Thank you.

[Page 9437]

MR. SPEAKER: It is not a point of order but, certainly, a clarification of facts for the House. The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. STEELE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am pleased to rise again to address the Financial Measures (2002) Act, which is the legislation that embodies the thrust the government has in the budget. It embodies all the legislative changes that are necessary. It's a very long list, 21 separate Statutes being amended in very different ways. When faced with such an omnibus bill that deals with so many things, it's worth going back to first principles, which is what the members of the Conservative Party said was going to be their first priority when they were in government.

Let's be very clear about what they said in the last election. They said their first priority - well, I won't even try to paraphrase. Let me quote directly from the person, then Leader of the Third Party, now the Premier. He says, very simply, in the infamous blue book, "As your Premier, my first priority will be to fix the health care system." That is what he said, and he said it over and over again on the campaign trail. He said it in radio ads. How can we forget those radio ads, the voice of the now Premier saying, more doctors, more nurses, more hospital beds in the community? That's what he said, and if anybody over on that side doesn't remember those ads, I have a copy that I would be pleased to play for them or e-mail to them because I have it in electronic format. More doctors, more nurses, more hospital beds in the community, that's what that crowd over there promised, and they said over and over again that our top priority in government will be to fix the health care system.

Mr. Speaker, I won't speak for other constituencies in the province. I will only speak for my own, and I keep in fairly close touch with my constituents. I do go out every weekend when the House is sitting, and more often when the House is not sitting, just to knock on doors. I just pick a street and I knock on every single door on that street to find out what people are thinking. By doing it that way I make sure that I get a broad cross section of opinion from my constituency. I talk to young people, to old people, people who are working and people who are not. I talk to people who are reasonably well-off and people who are unemployed, in some cases, unemployed for a long time. I talk to people who are sick and people who are well. I have yet to come across a single person - not even one, not one single, solitary person in my constituency - who believes that the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia has fixed the health care system. In fact, I haven't met anybody who believes that crowd over there has any idea even how to do it.

Mr. Speaker, if you want to fix your health care system, you should turn to the Party that invented it, and that's the NDP. It was the NDP that invented universal health care in this country. In the teeth of a doctor-led strike in Saskatchewan, which was fueled by the Liberal Opposition, the Tommy Douglas Government passed the Medicare legislation and became pioneers in Canada for universal, accessible health care. That was an NDP government that delivered that, so if you want to fix health care, you turn to the people who invented it. You don't turn to the Progressive Conservative Party, Mr. Speaker, because nobody thinks that they know how to fix health care. Nobody that I have met in all my travels

[Page 9438]

believes that the health care system is better than it was when this crowd took over - nobody, not one, single person.

What have we got instead of that? Now, let's remind ourselves that this was the Premier who said that he would fix the health care system with $46.5 million. He said he would cut out all the waste, and that added up to $46.5 million, which I guess he expected to find rolling around the floors and the corridors of hospitals in Nova Scotia. He would pick up that money and he would fix health care. This is the same Premier who said that there was no reason why you couldn't run a good health care system on $1.5 billion. That's what he said in the last election and, Mr. Speaker, there are two possibilities: either he knew that that was completely misleading and said it anyway; or he didn't know any better, didn't know what he was talking about.

Either of those possibilities is disturbing, but one of them is true. I'll leave it up to my constituents and other people of Nova Scotia to decide which one of those it is. Did he know that he was saying untrue things and he said them anyway, or did he just not know what he was talking about? We now have the government spending $2 billion on health care and still nobody thinks that the health care system is fixed. Nobody. Not one single person in my constituency thinks the health care system is better now they're spending $2 billion a year. Nobody believes them.

What they are seeing is longer waiting lists. You know it's really sad when you talk to people who are on those waiting lists, particularly the people who are on very long waiting lists like the ones for hip and knee replacements. Those people, they're in excruciating pain every day, all day long. Those waiting lists, depending on the severity of their condition, are anywhere from eight months to 16 months or even longer because the waiting list is controlled by the attending surgeon. There is no central waiting list so the doctors make the choices about who gets looked after first. So people can be on a waiting list, they can be in excruciating pain for months - up to 10 months the last fellow in my constituency I talked to was in this situation - and still have no date for surgery.

What is this government doing about that? Well, they're implementing a budget that has made waiting lists longer. Who is it who's saying that waiting lists are longer? The just-departed head of the Capital District Health Authority, a man who I would think we would all agree has some insight into what's really going on. He's a man who knows what he's talking about when he says that this budget will lengthen waiting lists in our hospitals. Those people who are in excruciating pain every single day are going to wait longer because of this budget.

It's just one example of the downloading that this budget and the Financial Measures (2002) Act is bringing to Nova Scotia because you don't have to show waiting lists on your balance sheet. That's all this government cares about, is what you have to show on the balance sheet and a waiting list doesn't count so it's not there. What they've done by squeezing the system for where the money's really needed, what they've done instead of

[Page 9439]

solving the real problem, is they've made waiting lists longer. That doesn't have to show up on the books. That's downloading - that's downloading right into the homes of Nova Scotians who are on waiting lists for medically necessary procedures. You don't see that on the plus column or the minus column, you don't see that in the assets or the liabilities, you don't see that in income or expense, but it's what I like to call a hidden deficit, a deficit that according to that crowd doesn't count, a deficit that they're willing to push off until after the next election; when all that we're saying on this side of the House, from the Party that invented universal accessible health care is, for heaven's sake, solve the problem first. Don't just hide the deficit in the homes of the people who are on medical waiting lists, show a sign that you have some idea how to solve the problem. Show us a sign. Show us a sign that you have some idea about what those people are supposed to do while they're waiting even longer than they were before. Show us a sign.

As I go around my constituency, the group that . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: The group that what?

MR. STEELE: Well, I'm searching for the right words. Well, it's the group that is the most defeated by this budget, the group that is the most sad, the group that is feeling ever more crushed by this budget even than they were before.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who were they?

MR. STEELE: That's the seniors in my constituency. During the bi-election in March last year they taught me a lesson as I went around and talked to all these seniors, they made me understand something that I'm not sure I understood before and that is they cannot stand these continued increases in costs that are being downloaded to them, because that's another download in this budget, it's another hidden deficit is Seniors' Pharmacare. That's what's on their mind. That's what's on the mind of every senior I've talked to. How are they going to afford this increase in costs? They couldn't afford it before and now it's just gone up again. I don't know if anybody on that side of the House knows what it's like to have a necessary cost go up by $10 a month and not have the money for it.

I know how much we're all paid in this House and I know that we can afford $10 a month, we can just reach a little deeper. I know that none of us are so stretched that we have trouble coming up with an extra $10 a month. I know that. What I don't know is if anybody on that side of the House knows or remembers a time in their life when $10 a month extra was an insurmountable mountain that was enough to make you despair for the future, but that's exactly what this crowd is doing to our seniors.

They're out there, Mr. Speaker. Every time I go out I find more seniors who say this to me. This from the government, this from the Party who said - let me read, just before the moment of adjournment, let me read what that crowd said they were going to do for seniors, just one sentence - "Our seniors are those members of our community who have contributed

[Page 9440]

to making our Nova Scotian society the wonderful place it is and who now have a right to live their remaining years in comfort, security and with the best possible health and quality of life." That's from the blue book with the Premier's smiling face on the inside cover. That's what he said he was going to do for seniors, and what is he doing to them? He is downloading more costs to them, hiding the deficit in their houses, in their apartments, in their families, and those people are in despair. If anybody on that side of the House doubts that for one moment then you come knocking on doors in my constituency and I will show you those people.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We've reached the moment of interruption. The subject this evening was submitted by the honourable member for Halifax Needham:

"Therefore be it resolved that the government provide sufficient funds to ensure that Sir John A. Macdonald High School can adequately meet the needs of students and families in the Timberlea-Prospect area."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

[6:00 p.m.]

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

EDUC. - MACDONALD, SIR JOHN A., HS: FUNDING - ENSURE

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I make no apologies for the fact that this is an emotional and personal issue for me as the MLA for Timberlea-Prospect, as a school teacher and a father of two proud graduates of Sir John A. Macdonald High School. It's emotional and it's personal because of the young people that I still am in touch with on a regular basis and not just my two outstanding daughters.

If I could for a moment, Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about these two young women. Tricia is a graduate of the class of 1995, Sir John A. Macdonald High School. Obviously, Mr. Speaker - I can read your mind - she has her mother's brains and looks. She was the class valedictorian, and she was the school president. In 1995 Tricia, upon her father's advice, wrote to the Minister of Education at that time, a member of the Third Party who was in government, and pointed out to the minister at the time there are problems at Sir John A. Macdonald High School. There are problems with the environment. There are problems with the fact that there seems to be an ongoing problem with air quality and concerns about environmental issues at this wonderful old high school with the same lockers and the same problems and the same desks that were there when I was a young rookie teacher many years before. Tricia's response that she received was unacceptable. It was, oh, we know all about it, but we can't do anything about it because we don't have the money in place.

[Page 9441]

Our second daughter graduated in the class of 1999, an outstanding graduate of the art program at that school, recognized on graduation night by Ila MacEachern, her art teacher. Jana, our younger daughter, an art college student today at NASCAD, is proud to say that she went to Sir John A. Macdonald. She graduated out of the same art program and the same art classrooms that are condemned today, Mr. Speaker. They are condemned. The very art classrooms that my younger daughter took art in for Grade 10, Grade 11 and Grade 12 had problems with flooding, had problems with fumes, had problems because it seemed to be so close to the parking lot, just in back of it, where many years before there was, of course, a school bus garage.

Now, Mr. Speaker, as you well know, I'm not Einstein. I have never professed to be one, but I can tell you, as a school teacher, as a school principal and as an MLA, I have said to respective governments, if you're going to look at the problems at Sir John A. Macdonald High School, you must look in the ground. You must look at the surrounding neighbourhood. You must remember that there was a school bus garage in back of that school and at times in the summertime, Mr. Speaker, you couldn't get into the parking lot at Sir John A. Macdonald High School because there would be over 100 school buses in back of that school. They were all brought to that school ground to have their batteries changed, to make sure that their fuel systems weren't leaking and, yes, there was a fuel tank in back of that school where diesel was pumped into those buses; that's where they gased up. Did they listen to both of my daughters? Have they listened to the community? The answer is no.

Respective county school boards, HRM school boards, respective provincial governments, have not listened to the people of Timberlea-Prospect. We know there's a problem at Sir John A. Macdonald High School, our kids come home and complain about it - but we don't have the money. So what we've been doing for the past 15 years, at the outside, Mr. Speaker, we have put a budgetary bottom line ahead of the health of kids in a growing community where now there are two portables in back of the school. A little planning could tell you, with communities like Hammonds Plains, Westgate and Brookside, this is a growing community, a growing community that needs a proper, healthy high school that is not overcrowded, that does not have notorious problems. The problem now, however, is the community is in the dark. I hear from members of that community a great deal and they call and say, what is going on now, Bill?

As you know, Mr. Speaker, the students of Sir John A. Macdonald High School are going on a split shift basis with the students at C.P. Allen High School and to the principal of C.P. Allen High School, whom I had the privilege of teaching with at one time, Ray Whitman, and to the community of Bedford, I say, on behalf of the communities served by Sir John A. Macdonald High School, we thank you for your co-operation.

That afternoon shift, when those early morning students from Bedford have to leave early, that's a tough way to take your Grade 12 high school graduation. It's a tough year in Grade 10 and Grade 11, but the graduates of Sir John A. Macdonald High School have kept the spirit alive. They've asked to meet with the Minister of Education. The chairman of the

[Page 9442]

school board has asked to have a meeting arranged with the student council co-presidents. Yet the community remains in the dark. There don't seem to be any answers forthcoming. We're told to wait, wait, the answer is coming, but unfortunately there doesn't seem to be an open line of communication between the community and the Minister of Education, between the community and the decision makers who are involved in this notorious problem.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you it's with a sense of sadness and anger and frustration that I stand in my place this evening. I will tell you that today I fully expect to have received 12 to 15 calls in my office on various matters. I have heard from my constituent assistant and today, again, we heard from Stu Gorley who's involved in the school advisory committee. Sara Nightingale, the chair of the school advisory council, is regularly in touch with me. We've had community meetings. We have tried to be ready for the decision that is going to be forthcoming.

This isn't rocket science, Mr. Speaker, this has been a longstanding problem. The problem revolves around the lack of planning and the neglect of a growing community, a growing community that deserves to have its high school students going to a safe high school that doesn't have to be dismissed day after day for one problem or another: furnace fumes, so we'll fix the furnace; flooding, so we'll try to fix the flooding; fumes in the school.

Mr. Speaker, I was there one of those days when the school was dismissed. I can tell you it smelled like sewage to me, that's my description, but in return the community is learning through the media what is going on with our high school. The community is frustrated. The community wants answers but, more importantly, the community wants planning. Now, if you travel out Highway No. 103, the recently twinned Highway No. 103, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works knows that publicly and privately I have thanked him for that very progressive move. If we have a twinned highway that's just been announced in the tough times when it comes to a Transportation budget, then surely it should follow that the Education budget shouldn't be far behind.

Now, I've heard of priority lists and I've heard of renovation lists and I'm going to become overtly political here, Mr. Speaker, because I know that there are people, none of them the students of Sir John A. Macdonald High School, who are watching at this moment. The students of Sir John A. Macdonald High School right now have just been dismissed from school and they're on their way home. They don't have a chance to hear their MLA speak on this issue, although I hope their parents will pass on their concern.

The concern comes down that no one is keeping us informed. We would like to know some of the plans. The community, the advisory council, would like to be reassured that in a growing community such as ours, answers will be forthcoming, answers that will show proof positive that there are plans for the best interests of the students of Timberlea-Prospect and that growing community, and I want those people to know that this teacher, this parent and this MLA is going to be with them every step of the way because if they can have a high

[Page 9443]

school in Windsor and they can have a high school in Truro, they sure as shootin' are gonna have a high school in Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Thank you, my friends, for having this opportunity in this late debate. Basically, I certainly would like to compliment the member for Timberlea-Prospect because he indeed was a teacher when Sir John A. Macdonald High School opened. (Interruption) Yes, indeed, and I also knew two teachers who didn't necessarily subscribe to his political Party, but taught with him at the very same time and it was a beautiful school, it really was.

It's very interesting because some people say in this House, well, we have how many lawyers, we have how many people who were business people and all that stuff as the analysis of all the 52 members. I think the analysis is that most of the people before becoming MLAs were teachers. The speaker who just spoke was a teacher, I was a teacher, I know in this Party we have five MLAs who started in the teaching profession. I am sure, 20 percent of us I guess are teachers.

To make a long story short, I think the reason we do this is because it is a very rewarding job, one of the most rewarding jobs you have, and the most wonderful part of teaching is with the students and seeing them develop and helping them develop and things like this, it is wonderful. One of the most frustrating jobs is teaching in a building that is not maintained adequately.

I have recently toured Sir John A. Macdonald High School. It amazed me because I have taught in other buildings; what amazed me is how overcrowded this building is. This building was built in 1967 or thereabouts, when they opened, for 850 students. For the last five years they have had student populations of about 1,150, which is 300 or 350 more, every year they have had to suffer with that.

When I got in the building I had a tour of some of the problem areas given to me by the present principal, who took some time to show me all the problems they have, and in the staff room I was quite aware that I have been in far-fancier-looking faculty facilities. I talked to various students. They certainly had been neglected in some respects. Also, I understand the environmental problems they are dealing with, and also just basic maintenance. If a person wanted to go out and tour that building, they could not only see the main building, go and see the annex; believe me, I think most people would be shocked by the outdoor condition. It isn't the people in the building, or the teachers in the building that has really given Sir John A. great strength over the years it is they have a good student population and they have many very good teachers who are saying this isn't the best, building-wise, but this is a very good place to continue.

[Page 9444]

From what I understand, the studies now done are certainly needed. Certainly the Department of Education's is, but also the Halifax Regional School Board's getting studies of the building, as well as occupational health and safety, as well as the school advisory committee. They are all working together and getting a good study because you can't get rid of buildings whimsically, because it wasn't my type of a building. You have to fix up schools because of scientific analysis, not because I would rather have it a different colour and things like that.

Certainly the challenges, especially for this government, have been to fix up all the buildings that for years were not properly maintained or not adequate for the number of people they had. Basically, in this year's budget, we have, I understand, $100 million for building maintenance and also some new schools. So we have to make sure that when we spend money on maintaining and improving buildings, we have many, many choices to spend it. Five schools come up with their hands out. We want millions of dollars for this, this and this. You can't do it adequately. You can't do it properly or not conservatively. You can't do it so it will last well if you just have every whim sought after. So we have to be very careful of that.

[6:15 p.m.]

Years before I got in this House - and it is certainly a great honour to be here - I went to an ox pull. A person who was there was very knowledgeable. He went on to explain that oxen are very strong animals. There's Lion and Bright and they do a great job; but he says that is when they pull together. He says if they don't pull together or one wants to go this way and one wants to go that way, guess what happens? Nothing happens. You would just like to say, oh, they should get out of here, we should just chop them up and eat them. No. If you have good oxen, you have to make them work together.

I certainly like to compliment anybody that is working together on this real problem in HRM because it is indeed a problem. Not everybody will agree with this one or that one, but basically they have to have the wherewithal to come up with a good sensible solution to that. I do realize that Sir John A. Macdonald High School is in the area represented by the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, Mr. Estabrooks. However, half the students in that building live in my riding. As I went and talked to various people, and certainly some have gotten in touch with me, you certainly can understand that it doesn't matter where the actual school is, just that the students there are very, very worried and we have to be all pulling together on this and make sure that we have to do as best we can. (Applause) Thank you.

I think everybody in this room feels that. Do you realize that - of course now these are old numbers, facts and figures, but - $900,000 has been spent on Sir John A. Macdonald High School in the last four years. Since August 1999, this government has spent $600,000 to fix some of the problems. That is not enough. It has to have more spent on it to make it a good school and it has to be done scientifically and wisely because it really is going to be

[Page 9445]

very important. I think the school board, as well as, of course, the provincial government, and as everybody, we have to have some things to build a very effective school and one is that we want to help children and we want to help them so that, sure, they can learn the facts and the figures and everything else like that, but also we realize that school is a very important part of learning to grow in society, so they have to have that.

I know my time is running out, one thing that is about to form is the Wilson L. Boutilier Bursary Award. It is to be made up. It is not quite formalized yet and it has not been quite released, I don't think, but, basically, it is an athletic award for all the students that qualify, et cetera, at Sir John A. Macdonald High School. It is a wonderful thing. The person behind this was a bus driver for that school for many, many years and he was always one of the best coaches of anything going. So they've named the award after him and he's done just a wonderful thing. That's how good those people are and they certainly deserve the best. I would love to speak more, but I think we have to make sure that . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise tonight and speak at late debate on this important topic. What we have heard tonight - and I know he's very passionate about Sir John A. Macdonald High School - from the member for Timberlea-Prospect is a very simple message: mea culpa, mea culpa is what we have heard from that member. Before I get to explaining that, first of all I certainly want to recognize the member for Chester-St. Margaret's. I know that as a backbencher it's rare that one gets an opportunity to speak, so it was certainly good to hear him speak tonight.

Now, back to the member for Timberlea-Prospect. We've heard the member talk a number of times about Sir John A. Macdonald High School. That high school, like so many throughout this province - not only high schools but all schools are in serious need of repair. When we were in government, I believe the total was 420 schools throughout this province, 420 in different communities - always own importance, always own significance, all important learning institutions.

When we were there and we saw the massive amount of repairs and of new schools that needed to be built, it was clear that the traditional methods of financing new school construction in this province were inadequate. The amount of new schools required to replace aging, out-of-date infrastructure was startling. Traditional methods of financing were such that we were seeing the construction of maybe seven or eight new schools per year. Now seven or eight schools, when you have 420 and a very high number that need to be replaced - it was clear that that was not going to work.

[Page 9446]

What did the government of the day say? We need to find a way to build new schools faster for these communities. We can't tell students, your school is environmentally unsafe; it's not a healthy learning environment, but because of the traditional funding, you're going to have to wait seven, 10 or 15 years before we get to you. The government of the day went outside of the box and said what can we possibly do? That's where we found P3.

Was P3 perfect? No. Is there any program that's perfect? No. We're seeing flaws in it. It was a new thing. But the P3 program - and the member for Timberlea-Prospect, who is always telling us how good he is in history, should recognize that the P3 project was the single largest school capital construction program this province has ever seen. It put new schools in communities that needed them, and it put them there in a fast, efficient manner. Again, was it perfect? No. But did it build new schools? It certainly did, and it built them quickly.

That member and his Party went and voted as much as they could against the government of the day. In fact, the member for Halifax Chebucto, even before my colleague, the member for Lunenburg West, had entered the House to deliver his budget, publicly stated they were voting against the budget, before he had even read the budget. He didn't only do it once; he did it twice.

The New Democratic Party needs to accept some form of responsibility, that they voted against a government of the day that had an ambitious school construction program and today we have a Conservative majority government in this province that was elected and to this day has absolutely no school construction program. That is the political reality. The Conservatives got elected without ever even mentioning what they were going to do for new schools or for Sir John A. Macdonald High School. It wasn't even discussed, and we can see that today because there is no plan.

Now the member for Timberlea-Prospect, in 1999, or 1998, had he asked, show me the school capital construction list, he would have gotten it because there was a list. It existed. There was such a thing. But if he asked for that today, he knows what he's going to get. He's not going to get anything. There is no list. What we saw in the budget this year that the minister trumpeted as a wonderful thing, money for new schools, is for schools already announced. There is no money to build a new Sir John A., there is no money to build a new elementary school in St. Peters in my riding. There is no money for schools like Shelburne, Barrington, today where the kids are getting rashes. There is no money in this budget to address a new school for that community. They are not even on the list, we don't even see a list.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's passion in fighting for this and I wish him well, as I wish everyone, and everyone could get the schools that they require. I know I certainly hope that the aging schools in my riding can be replaced or have the necessary repairs done to them, but you had a government in this province that was on an ambitious program to build new schools and they got it done. This government has come in and to date most of the

[Page 9447]

new schools that have been constructed under them are schools that were committed before we left office. They were approved and the financing was in place before we left office, that is the reality.

So, again, the New Democratic Party needs to accept some responsibility at the fact that this Conservative Government sits over there with no school construction plan, no priority list as to who's going to get new schools and clearly, as stated by the member himself, no vision or plan for Sir John A. Macdonald High School. They help create the situation that is there. I think that is important to point out because we've had to defend P3. I know the member accused us on numerous occasions about all the faults about P3, but what he can't deny is P3 built schools and they built them in communities and they built them in a quick, timely fashion. He knows that himself. He knows about communities in some of his own members' ridings where they were fighting for schools, where they were saying they needed new schools and they got those new school. We wish we could have built more. Everyone knows that, we wish we could have built more. The member for Inverness certainly knows well how beneficial the P3 program was. It built several new high schools and several new schools in his own riding also.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I can tell the member for Richmond, the member for Inverness also knows how the previous Liberal Government turned the education system in my riding upside down. I know the member for Clare certainly can attest to that. At the time you had to go in and we had a serious situation in Judique and that situation happened throughout Inverness County and I know that the member for Timberlea-Prospect probably remembers hearing about those stories in Inverness. We saw the same thing in Richmond and indeed they did turn the education system in my riding upside down.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is not a point of order. It's a clarification of the facts I guess or a disagreement between the two members. The honourable member for Richmond has the floor. You have about two minutes.

MR. SAMSON: That brings me to an interesting point. I thought I was being quite friendly to the government, but obviously the member for Inverness felt I wasn't paying enough attention to them. I can tell you that member played political advantage with the education system in his county. He used it to his advantage in the campaign. He knew there had to be a consolidation of schools in his riding. He had seven high schools in Inverness County, seven high schools.

Mr. Speaker, do you have seven high schools in the county you live in? Something clearly needed to be done. Ironically, that member uses a political tool, told the people of Judique that he would address their concerns, he would save their school. It would be great for him to stand now today and tell us where the school is in Judique, the school is closed.

[Page 9448]

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. What I told the people of Judique, and I said it during the election, and I stood by my word, is that I would represent the people of Judique and I have done so. Unlike the previous member who said he wouldn't, in fact he told the people of Judique that he wouldn't represent them. Shame on that former member.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It's not a point of order. Order, please. Everything was going so well too you know. (Laughter) The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. SAMSON: I even thought I was doing all right, I was calm and everything. Obviously the member for Inverness didn't like that. I am just going to finish by saying, it's all right to say things during your first campaign, to tell people in Judique you're going to save their school, to criticize and use the education system as a political tool, but to the member for Inverness and to all the government members who are the first-termers here, it's all fun your first campaign and it's all easy to say everything you will do, but the cruel reality is the second time around where you've to go back to Judique and you've got to face them and tell them that all you did was tell them what was politically expedient and weren't able to live up to what you told them. Then the ultimate price is paid. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: I thank the honourable members for their debate this evening.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

Bill No. 109 - Financial Measures (2002) Act. [Debate Resumed.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to resume my discussion of Bill No. 109, the Financial Measures (2002) Act, and this budget of which it is an integral part and what is wrong with it. What I was pointing out before the break, Mr. Speaker, is that the fundamental problem with this budget is it doesn't solve the underlying problems, it only pushes them off until after the next election.

[6:30 p.m.]

I gave a couple of examples of this, and these examples are very much in my mind because of the people I meet as I knock on doors in my constituency, the people who are on the waiting list with no set date for their surgery, or especially the seniors. This government said to them in the last election they deserve to live out their lives with assured health care and quality of life. You know what, Mr. Speaker? They are in despair, many of them. They are in despair because of the way that taxes are going up, user fees are going up and other hidden costs are being downloaded on them. Their incomes are not going up; most of them are on fixed incomes. Their incomes are not going up at all and yet this government continues to load taxes and fees of all kinds onto these people.

[Page 9449]

As I pointed out before, Mr. Speaker, and I won't go into it in detail again, but what this government has chosen to do is raise the worst kind of taxes and user-fees, the ones that are regressive, the ones that are the same, no matter how much money somebody has, because they think that is politically acceptable, although when that crowd talks about the tax cut that they are going to offer just before the next election, suddenly they flip over to the progressive side, so that the richer are going to get more money.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we have calculated that David Mann, the President and CEO of Nova Scotia Power, is going to get roughly $15,000 back from the Tory tax cut. That is more than somebody earns working full-time at minimum wage. That is what he is going to get back just from the Tory politically-motivated tax cut.

Isn't that unbelievable, because David Mann is going to pay the same $11 extra for his driver's license, as will the poorest of the poor. So $11 doesn't hurt David Mann very much because, together, he and his spouse make $1 million a year - $1 million a year in income. So he is going to get about $15,000 back - that is not what he pays in taxes, that is what he is going to get back in the tax cut of 10 per cent of Nova Scotia taxes - more than somebody earns in a full year, working full-time at minimum wage. I don't know if you realize, Mr. Speaker, how much that person is going to get back from the Tory 10 per cent tax cut. The answer is, nothing, because it is 10 per cent of Nova Scotia taxes and somebody earning minimum wage doesn't even earn enough to pay Nova Scotia income tax. So 10 per cent of nothing is nothing.

Now, let me give you more precise figures, Mr. Speaker, because I think this could be of interest to members on the other side because these are the people they are going to be meeting in the next election. There are 675,840 tax filers in Nova Scotia. Of that number, 232,542 pay no Nova Scotia tax. Is it because their money is in offshore tax shelters? No, it is not. It is because they are too poor, they don't earn enough money to even pay any Nova Scotia tax. Over one-third of all tax filers in Nova Scotia pay no Nova Scotia tax because they are too poor and they are going to get from the Tory tax cut, nothing.

In addition to that, the people who pay $1,000 or less in Nova Scotia tax, including the people who pay nothing - do you know how many that is, Mr. Speaker, it is 399,944. That means that another quarter of all Nova Scotia tax filers pay $1,000 or less of Nova Scotia tax. So, from the Tory tax cut, which is just Nova Scotia tax - let's not forget that - it's not overall tax, they're going to get $100 or less - 399,944 people in Nova Scotia are going to get $100 or less. Of that number 232,542 will get nothing. Those are figures from the Department of Finance, Mr. Speaker, those are not my own numbers, they're from the provincial Department of Finance.

What has the Tory response been in Bill No. 109, the Financial Measures (2002) Act and in the budget overall? This from the government that promised no new taxes except for tobacco taxes. Let me just list all the taxes that have gone up. First of all the tobacco tax, which has gone up again. That's fine, they said they were going to do that. It would be so

[Page 9450]

much more progressive if they actually took a substantial amount of that increase in tobacco tax and used it in their anti-smoking strategy, because the large majority of new revenue from tobacco tax is going into general revenue. A very small percentage is actually going to fund the anti-smoking strategy. It would be a little easier to buy the government's line on this if a lot more of the tobacco tax actually went to fighting the health ravages caused by smoking. That's not happening, no, it's all going into general revenue, almost all.

The liquor tax went up. Well, they didn't say they were going to raise that, but I have here a document from the Minister of Tourism and Culture, the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation, directing the Liquor Corporation to raise their revenues to a certain level. Of course, the Liquor Corporation, like any company, has only two options: you raise your prices or reduce your revenues. The minister directed the Liquor Corporation to raise their revenue - they got the Liquor Corporation's business plan and the government directed them to change their business plan to show $7 million more in net revenue.

The government, the people in downtown Halifax, the people in the downtown office towers around this Legislature sent a directive to the Liquor Corporation. Let's be clear about this, the Liquor Corporation did not decide to raise prices. That was not part of their business plan. This government directed them to generate $7 million more in revenue and so there was an across the board increase in liquor prices. Any way you cut it, Mr. Speaker, that's an increase in the liquor tax.

Of course we all know the gasoline tax went up again. It didn't go up by just 2 cents, no, because we actually pay HST on the tax - we pay tax on the tax. That's an extra windfall revenue to the government of $2.3 million, just from HST on the increase. Never mind the fact that the day it went up, retailers added a few more cents as a bonus so that prices on budget night went up - well, in my neighbourhood they went up 6 cents a litre - not just 2 cents, but 6 cents. People weren't too happy about that, but I don't remember them saying anywhere in the blue book that they were going to raise the gasoline tax. Is it in there? No. in fact they promised the opposite, Mr. Speaker, they promised no new taxes.

How about the increase in the probate fee? It's a tax on wills and estates that's gone up again. Hey, they said no new taxes, that fee's gone up. The new tax on unlimited liability companies is a tax because the government admits that it generates more revenue than is needed. You know what, Mr. Speaker? Good for them, fill their boots. That's a tax that benefits only Americans who are taking advantage of a loophole in American tax law, something that doesn't apply in Canada because our tax laws don't allow it. So there's a cottage industry down in the law firms on Lower Water Street, here in Halifax, creating these so-called unlimited liability companies, and this government has decided to tax them much more heavily - good for them. Good for them; maybe they didn't do it enough. That's the kind of creative thinking I like to see from that crowd over there. Something that doesn't affect Nova Scotians one bit. Not one bit, not one penny does it affect Nova Scotians, but it generates revenue for the province. Good for them. I wish they showed more creative thinking like that.

[Page 9451]

Unfortunately, in the total context of all the increases in taxes and user fees, it is a drop in the bucket, but nevertheless it's money for Nova Scotians. The gypsum tax, we've said that should go up, so I guess we agree with that. The extension of large corporation tax, they said they weren't going to do that, but they've done it for the second year in a row. They said no new taxes, but there it is - I guess they didn't really mean it. Then there's the user fees. The Seniors' Pharmacare - let's face it, that's a user fee. The increase, not just in the premium, which was the $10 a month I was talking about, but also the co-pay. For a senior who doesn't need drugs, this can be $20 or $25 more a month. Or what's really more insidious is the seniors who choose not to register in the program because they want to gamble that the number of drugs they will use this year will be less than the cost of the co-pay and premium.

That's happening out there, Mr. Speaker, I know it is. It's happening in my constituency; it's happening in their constituencies. It's a hidden deficit. They are hiding the deficit in the homes of seniors who need drugs. They haven't made the deficit go away, despite what they claim, they haven't made it disappear, they're hiding it. They're hiding it in the homes of Nova Scotians. That's one of the places they're hiding it, in the homes of our seniors.

There's all the district health authority fees that their constituents are now having to pay they never had to pay before, and it's not even included in the budget. In this government's accounting wizardry, DHA budgets aren't included in the estimates. They only get included 18 months from now when it all gets rolled up in the end. So the government doesn't even have to admit how many millions of dollars it's taking in new district health authority fees - they don't even have to admit it, but they're there. They're there. It's not in any of the government's budget documents, but it's things like parking in hospitals that people never had to pay before, it's new fees for tests, it's all manner of fees, anything the DHAs can come up with, and, again, it's these regressive fees where everybody pays the same, the poor senior, the poor single mother, paying the same fee as the richest friend of the Premier.

Then, of course, there's the freedom of information fees. In fact there's a long list of fees. Where did I put it? Oh yes, here we go. This is the government that promised not to raise taxes and fees, here it is - page, after page, after page of higher user fees. There's been an interesting debate in here about the difference between taxes and user fees, but let's be very clear about this, there is no difference. There is no difference. It's a sliding scale, but the taxes we pay are supposed to pay for government services, and if we need a police officer nobody expects us to pay a user fee. But we need the police officer, and when we really need them, my gosh, we need them, and the same with fire services. And nobody's going to say just because you called a fire truck that you've got to pay a fee, that you will get a bill to pay for the fire truck that came to your house because our taxes pay for that.

[Page 9452]

There is no fundamental difference between a tax and a user fee. There isn't; there just isn't. There just is no difference. Especially when you talk about something that is virtually mandatory, like a driver's license, where everybody who wants to drive they have to have one. They don't have a choice. They don't have a choice to drive without one, so if you want to drive you have to pay the fee. So the government raises the user fee on driving and there's really no difference if there were a tax on drivers' licenses, it is just the same thing. Any difference is just a semantic difference.

[6:45 p.m.]

This budget and this Financial Measures (2002) Act is even more insidious than that because there is not just that long list of new taxes that I read, there is not just the long, long list of new user fees that I talked about, there is all the downloading on Nova Scotia families that the government won't even admit to, but are real costs to our families. They don't even count this because they don't have to in the books of the province. They don't even have to talk about this, but my constituents are going to pay for this and so are theirs. People know, they realize.

Let's talk, for example, about post-secondary tuition. Tuition is a user fee; for people who use universities it is a user fee. The government doesn't have to charge tuition, but it does. There are some countries that don't charge tuition fees. There are some provinces, like Quebec, which heavily subsidize tuition. So there is no magic about the level of tuition fees we have, it is a choice. It is a choice made by universities, based on the level of funding they receive from the government. It doesn't matter how much the government tries to distance itself from that, if they cap university funding at the same level and the university still has to run with higher costs, there is only one place to go - well, there are two places, there is fundraising and there is tuition fees.

Let's make no mistake about it, the fact that the government froze funding for universities and other post-secondary institutions overall in this budget, means a downloading of costs to Nova Scotia students. It will cause people to drop out of university; it will cause people to drop out of community college, and this from the government that in a blaze of glory in their first few months, got the Voluntary Planning Board to say that the real difference in Nova Scotia's future is a commitment to life-long learning. Well, you don't do that by relentlessly raising tuition fees. That has been done by this government just as surely as if the Minister of Education had signed an Order in Council ordering that it be done. There is no difference; the mechanics are a little bit different but the end result is exactly the same - more downloading.

What about the Children's Dental Program? This is one that I don't think the Minister of Health has heard the last of, Mr. Speaker, from ordinary Nova Scotians because it is only just starting to hit Nova Scotians as they take their children to the dentist for the first time, after this budget. The fact that the government has downloaded how many millions of dollars onto Nova Scotia families - I am not even sure if they know but they have done it, I am just

[Page 9453]

not sure if they know the consequences. What they have said in this budget and in the Financial Measures (2002) Act that is an integral part of it, is that if somebody has private health insurance, then the private health insurance pays, and that family is no longer eligible for the Children's Dental Program.

What the government conveniently forgets to say in any of its budget documents is that private health plans don't pay 100 per cent of the cost of children's dental care, which the provincial plan did, and the government is not picking up the difference. There are premiums which will go up; there are co-pays and there are many procedures for which private insurers do not pay 100 per cent. So people are going to the dentist for the first time with their child, after this budget, and for the first time ever, they are getting a bill from their dentist that they never had to pay before. Is that anywhere in this government's budget documents? No, not a word, but it is a real download on Nova Scotians.

What about crumbling schools? The renovation budget has been cut. Now internal Department of Education documents show that the deferred maintenance problem, or the lack of upkeep problems, or the crumbling school problem in this province is $500 million. The minister knows that that's what they say.

Mr. Speaker, what does that mean? It means that if we spent $500 million today, it would only bring the schools up to scratch. It wouldn't create new palaces. It would just bring them up to where they would be if they had been properly maintained all along; $500 million. What is this government's response? They cut the renovation budget, they cut it. So our schools are actually going to get worse. We are going to see more sick schools. We are going to see more unexplained rashes, rashes that can't be explained by holes in the ozone layer or by telling the students it's all in their heads. We are going to see more schools close suddenly because of the illnesses of the people in them.

What about hospital capital spending? Hospital capital spending in the Capital District Health Authority is totally inadequate, and that's a quote. Is that a quote from me? No, that's a quote from Bob Smith, the just-departed head of the Capital District Health Authority. He says that the spending on capital in his district is "totally inadequate". Those are his words. It's in writing, it's in the Auditor General's Report for 2001. Totally inadequate, is what Bob Smith said.

Also in this Financial Measures (2002) Act, a little noticed provision - and I haven't heard anybody refer to it yet, so I will refer to it - the fact that the government is taking money from the workers' compensation fund, because there's a number of items of compensation that for many years, for decades, some of them have been paid out of the consolidated fund of the province, and the government has just downloaded that onto the workers' compensation fund and said, we're not going to pay those anymore, you're going to pay for them.

[Page 9454]

Mr. Speaker, the reality is some of the people on that side of the House know that the money in the workers' compensation fund doesn't just come out of thin air, it comes out of employers' pockets. That's who pays for it, it's the employers. Every penny in the workers' compensation fund comes out of employers' pockets. So if you're going to download money that used to come from the consolidated fund and switch it over to the workers' compensation fund, it's the employers of the province who are going to pay for it. That's just been downloaded onto the employers of the province. I haven't heard anybody talk about that.

Their assessments are going to have to go up. In the Workers' Compensation Board's annual report for the last year, there is a very clear warning in the CEO's message. He as good as says that employers' assessment rates are going to go up next year. He coaches it a little bit, but he as good as says that they're going to go up next year. This, in a province that very nearly has, already, the highest workers' compensation assessment rates in the country. Other provinces' assessment rates are going down, but partly because of this government's downloading, our assessment rates are going to go up making it even harder for Nova Scotia employers to compete. I didn't see that anywhere in the budget documents, but it's true. I didn't see that anywhere, but there's all that downloading.

Mr. Speaker, as I said when I started my remarks, if people want their health care system to be saved, they need to turn to the Party that invented it. We invented it, over here; not them, they fought it when it was being started. They fought it and they fought it. The Liberals fought it and the Conservatives fought it, and the NDP stood firm and said this is the right thing to do, and so we invented Medicare. If people want their health care fixed, this is where they should turn.

Mr. Speaker, another budget was passed yesterday, the budget of the Government of Manitoba. This is a province that for over 30 years now has had NDP Governments. I don't mind saying it - because I think everybody knows it - I grew up in Manitoba; I grew up under NDP Governments. I know that Manitoba doesn't slide off into Hudsons' Bay just because an NDP Government gets elected. In fact, when I was growing up, we had more NDP Governments than any other kind of government. So I know that they're good governments. They're fine governments. They're not perfect governments, by any stretch, because when NDP Governments get elected, they find real constraints, of course, just like other governments do. Their range of motion or their range of action is not quite as free as Opposition Parties like to think, Mr. Speaker. That doesn't take away one bit from the fact that there are real choices to be made.

In yesterday's Manitoba budget - I would like to indicate to the members on that side what an NDP Government can deliver. The budget in Manitoba is balanced, with a $10 million surplus. The overall budget spending increase is 2.5 per cent, the lowest budget-to-budget increase in five years. In Manitoba, there are new personal income tax reductions for the third year in a row. That would coincide with the term of this NDP Government in Manitoba. They're also phasing out an education tax, to the tune of $100 million. For the

[Page 9455]

third consecutive year, there's a debt retirement payment, totaling $96 million this year in Manitoba. They've also adopted a new and revised plan to pay their debt down sooner. No health care premiums and no user fees were introduced by the Manitoba NDP Government. University and college tuition were frozen at rates 10 per cent less than they were in 1999.

We can only dream, Mr. Speaker. We can only dream of that here because of the mess that the Buchanan Government left for all of us to pick up. The Buchanan Progressive Conservative Government has got a lot to answer for. The Manitoba NDP Government has a $600 million, five-year highway plan; increased support for workplace health and safety; and, how about this, a new dental health project for infants and children. So while Nova Scotia goes backwards on children's dental health, Manitoba, under its NDP Government, is moving forward, which just goes to show that if people want their health care system fixed, they turn to the Party that invented it and knows how valuable it is.

What are they doing about their schools - $45 million. Now, let's bear in mind that Manitoba is only slightly larger in population than Nova Scotia. We have 950,000 people; they have just under 1.1 million. So, you know, it's not a huge difference in size, and they are spending more than four times as much as we are on school renovations. An interesting one that came out yesterday, they're lifting the tax on feminine hygiene products because they made the decision that that unfairly disadvantaged the poor. So instead of adding new taxes, they're lifting taxes. Instead of adding to the debt, like this government is, they're reducing the debt. Instead of increasing the amount of money going to interest on the debt, like this government, they're reducing it. Instead of cutting the school renovation budget, they're increasing it, Mr. Speaker. Instead of raising post-secondary tuition, they're cutting it.

Mr. Speaker, that's what people get when they have an NDP Government. That's what they get. Here it is. That's what you get with an NDP Government, all these things that this government is incapable of delivering. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before I recognize the honourable member for Kings North, I would ask the honourable member for Halifax Fairview to table the document that he has been reading from.

The honourable member for Kings North on a point of order.

MR. MARK PARENT: No, just a question, if the member would entertain one.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the member for Halifax Fairview entertain a question?

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I have a feeling I know what it is, but of course I will entertain the question.

[Page 9456]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North on a question. We'll revert to Question Period, I guess.

AN HON. MEMBER: Give it to him, Mark. Give it to him.

MR. PARENT: Like a tiger I'm going to be, Manning. My question is, you've criticized the income tax deduction that's forecast for the future and yet you've just praised one. Can you explain the contradiction?

[7:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. STEELE: That's a very good question, Mr. Speaker, because it demonstrates very clearly that the member's not listening, so I will tell him again, I will tell him again, I will tell him again. The problem with the Tory income tax cut is that it is based on progressive taxation so that the vast majority of Nova Scotians will get nothing, while the David Manns, the million-dollar-a-year people, will get tens of thousands of dollars. The problem with the Tory approach is that all these user fees and taxes I've been talking about are piled on and piled on and piled on so they're the same no matter how much income people have.

If anybody thinks that's funny over there, which apparently they do, you come out to Halifax Fairview because there are a few people I think I want you to meet. In fact, there's a few people who want to meet a few of you because they have a few things they have on their minds, especially the seniors that they promised they were going to look after. Especially the seniors that they promised they were going to look after, are in despair because of the taxes and user fees that they are piling on, the seniors who are going to get nothing from their tax cut, Mr. Speaker, nothing, nothing because they don't earn enough money to pay any Nova Scotia tax. So that's the problem. It's very clear from the Tory tax cut proposal which side they're on. They are not on the side of the people who I represent. The people I represent tell me that, overwhelmingly, every time I knock on their door. If the members think that's funny, Mr. Speaker, which apparently some of them do, I think they need to get out a little more, knock on a few doors in their constituency and see if they're still laughing after they talk to some of the seniors in their constituencies.

So the fundamental problem with this Financial Measures Bill, the fundamental problem of principle is that it's not solving any of our problems. The debt is still going to go up this year and the year after and so on and so on for at least eight years. At a minimum, eight years the debt is going to continue to go up and interest payments on the debt, which is what we're really after, let's be clear about this - it's not a balanced budget we're after, that's a step on the road - what we're after is reducing the amount of interest that we ship outside the province to bankers and bond holders in London, New York and Tokyo. That's what we're really after. Let's all remember that. That's what we're trying to cut. Tommy

[Page 9457]

Douglas said it first and better than anybody over on that side, that you are not doing anybody any favours by shipping out of the province to bankers and bond holders.

Mr. Speaker, he understood that, I understand that, but what is this budget and these financial measures going to do about that? The answer is, nothing. What's going to happen to interest payments next year? Are they going to go down? According to the Minister of Finance's own figures, no. No, they're going to go up and they're going to go up and up because the debt is going up and because we've just reached a valley, a 40-year-low in interest rates, and they're going up too. The only reason our interest costs are where they are now, below $900 million, is because of these historically low interest rates. When those rates start climbing again, as they have, we come out of the other side of the valley and we're heading up the other side, the amount of money we're going to pay in interest is going to continue to go up. So this budget hasn't solved anything. It hasn't solved anything at all. Instead, what it has done is pushed off these really serious issues past the next election.

What are we doing about hospital waiting lists? They're going to get longer. What are we doing about crumbling schools? We cut the renovation budget. What are we doing about seniors and their medically necessary drugs? We're going to make sure that they get fewer of them and they pay more for them. Those are the kind of deficits that this government is hiding and that's why I can't, and I know the people in my constituency can't, support the Financial Measures Bill. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes. (Applause)

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: I didn't realize I was that popular over there. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, gentlemen, and ladies, of course. It is certainly an honour for me to rise tonight in my place to speak on second reading of Bill No. 109, the Financial Measures (2002) Act. Right up front I have to say that I'm here to discuss something that's very alarming to me and to many Nova Scotians. I'm sure many Nova Scotians are not aware of this issue yet, but they will be as soon as I sit down, that's for sure. The Financial Measures (2002) Bill, of course, has been introduced by the honourable Finance Minister, Neil LeBlanc.

I want to discuss, this evening, Clause 32 of this Act. Clause 32 clearly indicates, and I will read it for the record.

"Clause 32 enables the Utility and Review Board to recover from the automobile-insurance industry the costs incurred by the Board in conducting an examination of automobile-insurance rates under Section 157 of the Insurance Act."

Mr. Speaker, Section 157 of Chapter 231 is amended by this Act that we're here discussing tonight and debating in the bill that has been submitted by this Finance Minister. Section 32,

[Page 9458]

"Section 157 of Chapter 231 is amended by adding immediately after subsection (8) the following subsections:

(9) The Board may fix fees to recover the direct and indirect costs incurred by the Board in conducting an examination, including a hearing, pursuant to this Section.

(10) The fees referred to in subsection (9)

(a) shall be paid to the Board by the licensed automobile insurers whose rates are the subject of an examination, including a hearing, pursuant to this Section in such proportions as the Board determines; and

(b) may include the cost of retaining experts and legal counsel to provide the Board with advice, including testimony, on technical and legal matters."

Mr. Speaker, this is very alarming, because I know speaking to a few of the backbenchers on the other side, they thought this was a very clever manoeuvre by the Minister of Environment and Labour. Obviously, there are at least two ministers involved in this, at least the Minister of Environment and Labour, and the Finance Minister, because this is the Finance Minister's bill. I would suggest that this was a decision by the Executive Council.

Mr. Speaker, this is just an example of how out in left field this government really is, and that they really don't have the feel for the issues that affect Nova Scotians today. Discussing this with the backbenchers on that side of the government, they thought this was a very clever manoeuvre in which the government would get off scot-free, and it would cost nothing for the URB to have the hearings on insurance rates in this province.

Mr. Speaker, it is not as clever as they believed. Officials in the insurance world today confirmed what my fear was. These officials indicated very clearly to me that consumers in this province can expect to have every premium on car insurance, next year, increase in this province. Just imagine. This is the government that is supposed to be taking care of the concerns of Nova Scotians. The minister pretends to try to deal with the situation and he sends it to the URB at a cost of approximately $0.5 million. The minister and his deputy are on record as suggesting the estimated cost of the URB hearings to the insurance industry will be appropriately $0.5 million. Now this cost of course, will be reclaimed on the premiums in the province. In fact, with this manoeuver, people, seniors in particular, people with disabilities and people on fixed incomes, people who live in rural areas with no access to public transit are being directly impacted by this bill. Already the insurance rates in this province are crippling our consumers.

[Page 9459]

Mr. Speaker, I will quote a little later on down the road what the Premier said about this issue in February of this year, in which he clearly indicated that in February the Premier is obviously aware of the impact insurance rates have on many people throughout the Province of Nova Scotia, anyone in fact who drives or owns a vehicle has been impacted by this issue. I have dealt personally with seniors who have felt the impact of rising insurance rates of over 400 per cent on their premium. Now, I don't think they will be too happy to learn that this government just increased it again, guaranteed, for next year with this measure. This government cannot deny that they are aware of the difficulties that are being experienced by many of the seniors as they indicated, people with disabilities and people on fixed income and people who live in rural areas that do not have any access to public transportation. Those are the people it impacts directly.

Mr. Speaker, I've spoken to seniors in Bedford, in Dartmouth, in Lunenburg, in Bridgetown. I've spoken to them in Yarmouth. I've spoken to them in Antigonish. I've spoken to them in Cape Breton. I've spoken to them in each and every part of this province. Every owner of a vehicle, a motor vehicle is being impacted by this bill today. Mr. Speaker, the Premier in February of this year, these were his words. Clearly we will have to look at this issue carefully, but it is increasingly difficult for many Nova Scotians now to keep their cars on the road and we have to be concerned about that.

Mr. Speaker, as I said here yesterday in the House it makes me wonder that if the Premier was aware of that in February, why he permitted gas taxes to increase in this province just a short two weeks ago. If this government is aware of the many problems that the motoring public in Nova Scotia is incurring, then why these measures? Why? Why the Minister of Environment and Labour has followed the NDP on this - I mean he has enough experienced personnel particularly when I look and see the honourable House Leader over there with many, many years of experience in this House. I don't suppose that he's over there sitting there as the Deputy Premier, as the Government House Leader and the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, I don't believe that he obtained the success that he did in his career over the many years that he served in this House, by following, particularly the NDP.

[7:15 p.m.]

This government has to stand up and fight for the rural, ordinary Nova Scotians out there. You know, Mr. Speaker, that is one term that I never hear the government members use anymore. The first year I was inside the House, that is all I heard - we are the government that services ordinary Nova Scotians. Well, it is obvious that this government has abandoned consumers in this province.

Now, why the minister ever followed the NDP on this issue and allowed the insurance or ordered the insurance bureau before the Utility and Review Board, it is amazing. The minister, the Honourable David Morse, stated that the review will examine rates to

[Page 9460]

determine whether they are excessive, inadequate, unfairly discriminatory or otherwise unreasonable.

Now, Mr. Speaker, he has already caused enough problems with this problem that this government has, but even before he gets that report to find out that these are the rates, if they are excessive, in the view of the Utility and Review Board, he is increasing the rates through the Finance Minister with the tabling of Bill No. 109.

Mr. Speaker, for the URB, at a cost of $0.5 million, ordered the review of the rising rates of insurance in this province, it is wrong. I know that those Tory hardliners over there really don't want to take advice from this side of the House. They simply totally refuse to accept it, even when they know we are right. In fact, Mr. Speaker, I was just part and parcel and you know some of the Tory backbenchers were on the all-Party committee that reviewed the fire service in this province. We went from one end of this province to the other, in a very short time. I will go on record as saying that the chairman of that committee did an excellent job; he was really the force that ensured that that committee sped across the province and that the proper information was obtained and presented to the committee, so that that committee could report back to this House.

That was completed in very short order. Again, I would repeat that I believe a lot of the success of this particular committee did lie with the chairman, being as directive as he was and being responsible and very conscious that this was costing Nova Scotians money, and Mr. Speaker, the chairman was a Tory member. That entire process cost $70,000, the record will show that, Mr. Speaker. This minister, in a series of events, is attempting . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask whoever is whistling to please stop. It is very distracting and it is being recorded on the mike so I would ask the member, or whoever is doing it, to please stop.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes has the floor.

MR. BOUDREAU: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Now, this process is going to cost Nova Scotian consumers who purchase insurance premiums in this province, more money next year as a direct result of the direction that this minister in particular - the two of them, because it is obvious that they are collaborating here because there are more now, and it's clear that there is more than one minister involved. This obviously had to be discussed at least in the Executive Council.

Half a million dollars - do these people have no value for money? Do they have no value for the hard-working Nova Scotians who toil each and every day in this province, who make an honest living? Really, it's amazing that my fellow colleagues from the municipal world - I recognize that they're not getting up in the House and that they're not being very vocal here. I'm not standing here tonight to try to embarrass them on that point because perhaps - if that's what they've decided over there, then that's fine. I can accept that and I'm

[Page 9461]

sure Nova Scotians can accept it, but I have to remind my colleagues on that side of the House that if they're going to be quiet in the House and they don't really want to criticize their government in a public forum such as this, that's fine. I understand that. But I have to remind my honourable colleagues across the floor that they have a very serious obligation here to discuss these issues, behind closed doors, if need be. This is why their caucus meetings are so vitally important to Nova Scotians.

This type of activity cannot be allowed to carry on. Consider the damage that this will do to the seniors in this province. Already we've heard from many seniors across this province. I have cases where the insurance rates for seniors with good driving records - no accident involved, no driver infractions - the insurance companies put their insurance rates up by over 400 per cent. That is very serious and a major issue that is facing seniors, people on low and fixed incomes, and people with disabilities. Again, I have to voice my concern for the people in rural areas, where they don't have access to public transportation. In most cases, because they are outside the suburban or urban areas, a car is vital.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, for instance, is aware of that. The honourable member for Shelburne, he knows those issues. The honourable member for Yarmouth, he's aware of those issues. I could continue. I know that they care. I talked to these guys, and I'm not suggesting for one minute that they're bad people - they're not bad fellows at all. They really aren't. I served some time, I had the opportunity to serve with them in my prior municipal world, and these guys were very well-respected. They worked hard for the people they represented at that time, and I believe that they're not bad people. But they have to get the message. At their caucus meetings and when they're in their closed-door meetings with that Cabinet and that Premier, they must bring forward the concerns that are facing Nova Scotians today. This is a major issue from one end of this province to the other, and it requires immediate attention.

We've seen the neighbouring provinces' governments, which drag their feet, impact the consumers at an alarming rate, Mr. Speaker. This is the message that I hope the government members will hear this evening. Tomorrow at their caucus meeting they should demand guarantees from that Finance Minister and that Minister of Labour that insurance rates will not rise as a result of the bill that that minister is going to be supplying to the insurance companies for the mess that he created.

As of today, the URB hearings are not even scheduled. This phony, false process will take six months. Mr. Speaker, this government is going down its own path and it is creating its own set of problems. Unfortunately for Nova Scotians, they will be impacted by the problems that they are creating. That's why we need this government to stand up. These members, now again, I am not here to beat up on the government members, I happen to believe and I'm on record as saying they really are not bad people; they really aren't. You meet them, have a coffee with them, you talk to them on the street, they're not bad guys.

[Page 9462]

I have to question their ability to manage. They're obviously - particularly the gang in the front over there, they're very poor managers and they've proven it on many issues, Mr. Speaker - equalization is another one. They just simply cannot handle the heat in the kitchen. There's an old saying in the municipal world and my colleagues back there will be familiar with this saying: If you can't stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen. Get out of the kitchen.

It's not bad enough for this government to download on municipalities such as we've seen today again, but health care costs being downloaded. You know the burden that is being passed on to the municipal units in this province is unbelievable, it's at an alarming rate as well. This government really has no plan. It's out of control and they don't know what to do when a crisis arises. They seem to be content with ignoring the voice from this side of the House. They don't want to say we got the suggestion from that side of the House and we believe that it's a good suggestion and we will accept that suggestion and we will put it to work for the benefit of all Nova Scotians. Mr. Speaker, that's what a good government will and should do. We haven't seen that to date, particularly when we look at issues when a crisis arises.

For the minister to create a $500,000 system that is going to be passed on to Nova Scotians through insurance premiums is wrong; it's wrong. This government is going down its own path and it's creating its own problems on the way. That's what's so baffling when I see this government; that's why it's so alarming that these people are in control of the finances of the province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, the honourable minister was kind enough to provide a booklet this year and it's titled Fees and Recoveries - I know you will be familiar with that booklet - but the minister forgot to include this insurance fiasco. It's just one more example, one more fee that the government and this Minister of Finance did not - he must have forgotten to list it in his book of recoveries - because I can't find this increase anywhere in this booklet.

[7:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this government may just be content to lay the blame right in the lap of the insurance companies, but that doesn't fit. The Insurance Bureau of Canada is on record as supporting the recommendation from the Liberal caucus, which is very clear. An all-Party committee needs to be created with a mandate to make the proper changes so that the consumers in this province will benefit from the role that government is supposed to play in this province.

Mr. Speaker, the Utility and Review Board, and the minister knows this - as he knows that insurance premiums will now increase next year because of the direction that he took. He knows that. He will try to ignore it or avoid it or deny it, but the reality is that the truth always comes forward and it hurts. The truth is that minister is impacting insurance rates in this province with his own activity within his department. The Utility and Review Board

[Page 9463]

obviously, and every member of this House, knows that they lack the authority to effect change on insurance rates in this province. These hearings are a stall tactic by that minister.

Mr. Speaker, every time we ask him a question here in the House in regard to the insurance rates, he jumps to his feet and responds in some manner to the situation in Newfoundland. Well it's obvious that the minister likes to visit Newfoundland because, to my knowledge, he's been there at least twice, perhaps three times, on this issue. But he hasn't come back with any changes. He hasn't come back with any suggestions for change. He hasn't come back with anything, nothing. His pockets are empty. But it's obvious that he's obtaining some experience, at least, with dragging his feet. All along, the consumer is being impacted in this province. The minister and the deputy minister of his own department have confirmed publicly that they estimate that the cost of these hearings will be $500,000.

Mr. Speaker, what have other provinces done in regard to this? It is very clear. On January 11th of this year, the New Brunswick Government appointed a special legislative committee to find out what has gone wrong in the insurance industry in that province. But the special legislative committee also has a mandate, which is vital - and the minister can do this - to suggest ways to fix it. That's what we require in this province. We need to fix it because Nova Scotians require that it be fixed. It's necessary for all those seniors, people with disabilities and on fixed incomes, people who live in rural areas with no accessible public transportation are being impacted each and every day now because of the direct approach that that minister took to try to deal with the insurance rates in this province.

Indeed, this select committee in New Brunswick has a wide-ranging mandate to look at whether any improvements can be made from changing New Brunswick's current torts-based system to the current system for auto insurance regulation. That government, the Government of New Brunswick like this government, like this one here in Nova Scotia, know that there are sudden and sharp increases in car insurance rates in this province, but the government in New Brunswick, Mr. Speaker, has opted to explore the major problem with insurance rates by holding a meaningful public consultation process in which answers can be found and supplied.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the answers are right here in Nova Scotia, that Nova Scotians can provide the answers. They can provide the suggestions that are necessary to fix what's broken. A lot of people often say why fix something when it's not broken and I agree with that theory, but when it's broken and impacting the number of people that it obviously impacts in this province, then it needs to be fixed. It needs the attention to fix it now, not six months or a year from now.

In neighbouring provinces this ongoing debate is going on for six years, Mr. Speaker, study after study after study has been commissioned. The minister needs only look at those jurisdictions to see that that type of system does not work. That is why the Newfoundland Government, yesterday - and it was announced here in this House by my colleague, the member for Cape Breton West, when we spoke on the resolution here yesterday in regard to

[Page 9464]

the insurance rates. Mr. Speaker, after many years of debate in Newfoundland, they are now hiring an advocate to go out and investigate these rate increases in Nova Scotia, but here in Nova Scotia what do we do? The minister goes down to Newfoundland, he comes back and he drags his feet. Now, is that why he's going to Newfoundland? Is that why he's going down there to learn how this process can be tugged along, without him really finding solutions that are available to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest the minister doesn't even want to find the solutions and as I indicated yesterday in this House, there could be a perceived conflict of interest, in fact, with this particular minister with the file to begin with. This file belonged at Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations and it was in the Motor Vehicle Branch for I don't know how many years, but then when the insurance industry approached this government in 1999, one of the first things that this government did, secretly they transferred the file over to the Department of Environment and Labour. Now, the honourable minister who was getting kind of upset with me here yesterday in the House when I suggested that he has a background with the insurance companies and he does, he clearly does, he's a former or still an insurance broker.

So, Mr. Speaker, you know what smells? There seems to be a bad aroma coming from this whole deal and Nova Scotians are going to pay for it. That's the bottom line. The bottom line is that Nova Scotians with this bill, Bill No. 109, will pay more, not only in fees, but hidden costs such as insurance rates being increased, premiums being increased as a result of the insurance industry recovering their costs to go to have the minister summon them before the URB hearings.

Now, how do members over there think they're going to justify this type of activity next year when the premiums start increasing? It's not enough of a burden this year to those seniors and people on fixed incomes, people with no public transportation, people with disabilities. There's no solutions, the impact is getting greater for them. We need this minister to stand up and do the right thing. If he wants to pretend it's his own idea, or that somebody over there thought of it, that's fine with me, it's fine. If the minister doesn't want to recognize that he not only accepted and received good advice from this side of the House, that's fine. I will make the commitment to the minster, I won't open my mouth about it. All I want him to do is to put a system in place where we can go out and bring in the answers that Nova Scotians require. I don't think that's being unrealistic.

Mr. Speaker, public consultation so that people know the full range of options and why their insurance rates were out of control in this province, that's what is necessary, full consultation with the people that it affects. Why can't that minister and that government over there, they identify with this? It's amazing, really amazing. Someday over there someone is going to accidentally pinch one another or something and they'll wake up and smell the coffee. What amazes me is that - and I have a lot of respect for some of those former municipal colleagues of mine that are sitting back in the backbench down there, I'll say it in public, I don't have a problem saying it and I like many of them. They are proving to me

[Page 9465]

first-hand, I'm in this House, Nova Scotians are watching, it is very clear - that they cannot manage the affairs of this province. They can't manage health care, they can't manage equalization for municipalities, they can't manage income tax, they can't manage a crisis when it arises such as is in the insurance industry today.

I would remind the House that the last time that this industry was in a crisis in this province, thank heavens that there was a Liberal Government on that side of the House, because they went out and sought answers. They sought answers and they worked with the industry to come forth with solutions, solutions that worked. Of course we are all aware that that system put in place at that time was the graduated licensing system. I know that you're a former police officer and you're familiar with that system and so are many of the members over there. That system not only lowered accidents in this province, they lowered the number of deaths on highways in this province by 37 per cent over all. Not only that, Nova Scotia was the lead province in Canada, every province I understand, every province but one has now put forth graduated licensing systems. The impact is the same in those provinces as they were in Nova Scotia. That process resulted in lower rates for Nova Scotians and it lowered accident and death rates on highways in this province.

That is the kind of representation that a society expects from their government. Why these guys over there continually ignore these issues is beyond, it's totally amazing, I'm baffled to sit here in this House after seeing those former municipal colleagues of mine standing at the many conventions, those municipal conventions, standing up and fighting for the property taxpayer in this province and saying, no way will you, the big bully provincial government download on us anymore.

[7:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that many of the residents were pleased to see that they had their names on the ballots and perhaps voted for those honourable members over there because they thought they would come here and stick up for them. That is what they are here for, to stick up for the people in the Province of Nova Scotia, not to stick up for John Hamm or David Morse, the Honourable Minister of Environment and Labour, not to stick up for him. When he does something that is not acceptable, then those backbenchers over there - just like when they were on council, when the mayor messed up, they were there to tell that mayor and that administration. They were there to tell them and to point them in the right direction for the benefit of the taxpayer that they represented. Well, Mr. Speaker, it is the same system here in Halifax. They need to provide the same type of representation as they did throughout those municipal days, when they sat on those councils and made sure that the property taxpayer in this province got fair value for their dollar.

Mr. Speaker, they have to realize now that they represent the same taxpayer, because there really is only one in this province. There is one taxpayer and we must protect that one because they are really stretched beyond. In fact, I continue to obtain e-mails on a regular basis. For instance, I will just refer to one story that I received through an e-mail. There is

[Page 9466]

a young man in university who is going into his fourth year this fall. For three years this young man scraped, scrounged, worked part-time jobs, worked weekends and evenings, and he put a strong effort into working and gaining his education. After three long, hard years of toiling, through many different part-time jobs this young man, with the help of his parents, was able to save enough money to buy a car for travel back and forth to university during his fourth and last year.

Mr. Speaker, this young man, who is 20 years old and has no blemishes on his driving record - he doesn't have any accidents on his extract. He has a clean driving record. This young man, with the help of his parents, the ability to earn money through part-time jobs and through putting a strong effort into trying to move forward in this province and stay here - he wants to stay here. He scraped and scrounged up enough to buy a second-hand vehicle. He paid $1,500 for this vehicle. Perhaps he didn't realize the impact that that minister is having on the consumers in this province because if he was aware of the mess that that minister is creating through this spectacle, he would have checked with the insurance company first. But he didn't. He purchased the vehicle with the help of his parents and then approached the insurance company.

Now, Mr. Speaker, this vehicle costs - and it was a road-worthy vehicle that was inspected. I understand he found a friend who was selling the vehicle, and he got a deal on this vehicle - at least he thought he did. He paid $1,500 for the vehicle. When he went and approached the insurance industry to purchase car insurance, he learned that the insurance costs, the premium for driving that car, that vehicle in this province would be $3,500.

Mr. Speaker, many of us are aware of the very tough, difficult period of time, as students struggle to gain their education in this province. We don't have to look any further than this very room, here in this great House, when we look at the Pages, who are very professional and work very hard for the members in this House. I don't think there's a member in here who would disagree with that.

Mr. Speaker, these students are being gouged by that minister and that government. What this government must do is find solutions so that students can afford to buy vehicles, so they can have hope that they have a future in this province. Whether it be students, seniors, people on fixed incomes, people in rural areas who do not have access to public transportation, they are being gouged by the activities of this government. That backbench over there is why I'm baffled. They're allowing them to do this. They're allowing this government and this minister and the Finance Minister to pass on absurd insurance costs that will be paid for by the increased cost of premiums in the Province of Nova Scotia. When will these people ever get the message over there? When?

Mr. Speaker, it really is very disappointing. I ran into an individual from my riding over the weekend, and he admitted to me that he did vote Tory in the last election. He admitted that, and he admitted that he was a supporter of the Tory Party basically, because

[Page 9467]

of his parents before him. It was a tradition in his family and he felt an obligation toward the Progressive Conservative Party in this province. So he voted for them in the last election.

Mr. Speaker, let me tell you that this honourable gentleman indicated to me that he would never, ever, ever vote Tory again. I'm sure that the honourable member for Cape Breton North would recall a letter to the editor in the Cape Breton Post where he had Tory members for generations in Cape Breton North, who publicly stated that they would never associate themselves with the Tory Government again or the Tory Party.

Mr. Speaker, those individuals who were involved as organizers in the Tory Party for centuries now hold Liberal cards. They are now members of the Liberal Party, because they believe in the values and the morals that the Liberal Party puts forward. (Interruptions) The sad thing and the disappointing thing is that they're not done yet. They're not done yet. This government can change the direction that they're on, the course that they're on.

Remember, Mr. Speaker, this is the government that said it makes choices. Well I would suggest that this choice they're making, they had better review that choice because Nova Scotians will not accept higher insurance premiums until they know that those rates are justified. This government, this minister, those two ministers, originally I thought that they were going to try to hide things or shuffle things under the mat and that they were using this process to dump on top of that minister. I now realize that it's a collaborative attempt by more than just one minister. Nova Scotians will judge their record in the next election. They will have a record that will be discussed at length come election time.

AN HON. MEMBER: They're going to have to go and knock on those very same doors.

MR. BOUDREAU: They're going to be knocking on the same doors, Mr. Speaker. I do know that my time has almost run out for this evening.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member like to move adjournment of the debate please?

MR. BOUDREAU: I would move adjournment of debate, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate on Bill No. 109.

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 9468]

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 9:00 a.m. The House will sit until 3:00 p.m. or until the conclusion of business for the day. The business for tomorrow will be a continuation of Public Bills for Second Reading, the Financial Measures (2002) Act, and Private and Local Bills for Second Reading: Bill No. 118, the Municipality of Inverness Supplementary Pension Contribution Act; Bill No. 120, the Anglican Church Act; Bill No. 121, an Act to Incorporate The Mic-Mac Amateur Aquatic Club; and Bill No. 123, the Halifax Regional Municipality Harbour Solutions Financing Act. If the House should complete their business before 3:00 p.m., the House will, of course, adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn. The hours tomorrow are 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

We are adjourned until 9:00 a.m.

[The House rose at 7:58 p.m.]

[Page 9469]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 3645

By: Mr. Cecil O'Donnell (Shelburne)

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

Whereas the Shelburne Regional High School Rebels placed second last fall in a competition with 24 other schools from across Nova Scotia in the Junior Achievement Business Games; and

Whereas the team consisted of eight Grade 12 students: Chris Harris, Adam Keylor, Emily MacIsaac, Jonathan Monahan, Mark MacLachlan, Koren Nickerson, Rory O'Sullivan and Jeff Spencer; and

Whereas the eight team members worked tirelessly making decisions on everything from price to production to research and development in a simulated computer game;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this House of Assembly applaud the efforts of the Rebels eight team members and their coach, David Seegmiller, and wish them every success as they prepare for graduation activities in less than two months.

RESOLUTION NO. 3646

By: Mr. Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth)

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

Whereas the M/S Scotia Prince ferry started its daily run between Portland, Maine, and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, on April 29, 2002, a trip which saves over 450 kilometres of driving each way; and

Whereas the 143.20-metre-long ferry, in operation for over 30 years and refurbished in 1986, has a maximum passenger capacity of 1,200 and can carry up to 210 vehicles; and

Whereas Scotia Prince Cruises received a commendation from the United States Coast Guard for its excellent seaport security, marine environment protection and training programs, as well as its co-operation since September 11, 2001, in providing the Scotia Prince for training exercises;

[Page 9470]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the many contributions made by Scotia Prince Cruises as well as the value of the important transportation connection offered by the M/S Scotia Prince and offer best wishes to the operators of this service during its 2002 season.

RESOLUTION NO. 3647

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas 20 per cent of paint sold in Nova Scotia is considered to be wasted and either gets thrown away or sits idle in homes; and

Whereas Preferred Environment of Springhill is making use of this wasted paint by collecting and recycling it for resale under the Natural Colors product line; and

Whereas the company decided to locate its operation in Springhill because of available workforce and location, where it will employ approximately eight people initially and possibly up to 20 after its first year in operation;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend Preferred Environment on its initiative to recycle wasted paint and consequently help to make the Earth a greener place, and by its confidence in Springhill and the Province of Nova Scotia because of its recycling initiatives.

RESOLUTION NO. 3648

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 Joggins Fire Department will hold its annual banquet on Sunday, May 5, 2002; and

Whereas firefighters, like the true heroes they really are, play a significant role in fire safety and can be called upon at a moment's notice to assist with an emergency in the community and surrounding areas; and

Whereas the Joggins Fire Department is also an integral part of firefighting operations in Cumberland County as they supply assistance whenever it is required;

[Page 9471]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislative Assembly recognize the support offered by Chief John Reid and the Joggins Fire Department to their local community and wish them every success in this upcoming year.

RESOLUTION NO. 3649

By: Mr. Donald Downe (Lunenburg West)

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

Whereas this year marks 24 years of deliveries made by Meals on Wheels for Lunenburg and area; and

Whereas head coordinator Laura Spencer has organized the project for the past 10 years; and

Whereas with the help of volunteers, financial aid from churches, organizations and individuals, a total of 1,538 meals were delivered during the past year;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the Lunenburg Meals on Wheels and its many countless volunteers who give so freely of their time to help those in need.

RESOLUTION NO. 3650

By: Mr. Donald Downe (Lunenburg West)

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

Whereas Chris Noblet, age 94, of Mahone Bay was presented with the Outstanding Individual Philanthropist Award at the 2002 Atlantic Region Awards for Philanthropy held April 18th in Halifax; and

Whereas the Outstanding Individual Philanthropist Award is presented to the person who has demonstrated exceptional volunteer skills in coordinating and motivating others for fundraising projects and who is committed to the advancement of philanthropy; and

Whereas Mr. Noblet continues to volunteer with the Wooden Boat Festival in Mahone Bay, has been involved with Harbour House in Bridgewater and is a former board member of Fishermen's Memorial Hospital;

[Page 9472]

Therefore be it resolved that Mr. Chris Noblet be congratulated by the House for his outstanding leadership and volunteer service to many organizations in his hometown and Nova Scotia.