The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Fri., June 15, 2001

ORDERS OF THE DAY

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. 68.

[Page 4639]

Bill No. 68 - Healthcare Services Continuation (2001) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and move second reading of Bill No. 68.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to speak in response on Bill No. 68. I would have thought that the Minister of Health would have at least taken some opportunity at 17 minutes past 1:00 o'clock on this day to at least explain what it is that caused him to bring forward this legislation. I am disappointed that the Minister of Health did not take the opportunity under these circumstances to explain, not only to the members on this side of the House but to all the other people who are assembled here, the reason why this bill is before the Legislature. We are left only to make from it what we can.

What is clear is that the Legislature is gathered here tonight because a power-hungry government seems to think that they can make themselves look like heroes by taking a run at nurses and health care workers. We want to say unequivocally to the Premier that this is an unprecedented step, calling the House into emergency session to trample over collective bargaining, to take away the rights of health care workers all over this province because you see these workers as a threat to the health and to the safety of Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, the government says that they believe these people, who work every day to maintain the health of Nova Scotians, can't be trusted to live up to the agreements they have made to provide services during a strike. This government says that when the chips are down that these workers will not come to the aid of the sick and the dying. This government wants to tell us that these workers are a threat to the health and safety of Nova Scotians. Well, if you want to know who the threat to the health and safety of Nova Scotians is you don't have to look far.

These hard-working Nova Scotians aren't a threat. They didn't promise to increase the number of acute care beds in this province but closed beds all over the province instead; they didn't increase the waiting times for surgery, Mr. Speaker, this government did. They didn't promise more long-term care beds, but failed to deliver while charging seniors $50 a night to stay in those hospital beds. The government did. They didn't promise to create a positive work environment, but instead drove nurses away with draconian measures like we are seeing here tonight. If you want to see the real threat, if the government wants to see the real threat to the health and safety of Nova Scotians, what they have to do is look in the mirror because that is where they are going to find the real threat to the health and safety of Nova Scotians.

[Page 4640]

Mr. Speaker, the Premier and the Minister of Health are the threat to the health and safety of Nova Scotians, not the health care workers. They have exacerbated a situation that is driving health care workers out of this province. This unprecedented legislation shows that Premier Hamm is not willing to treat health care workers as equals. He is not willing to bargain freely with them. He is not willing to go to the bargaining table and to give them the respect they deserve.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, the Premier and the Minister of Health have shown disrespect and mistrust of nurses and health care workers by saying they don't think they will live up to their commitment to protect people's lives. These are people who protect the lives of Nova Scotians, who protect the families of everyone in this Chamber, who recognize their responsibilities to those people who run this province, who make the engine of the economy go. They are the ones who have taken care of the veterans who fought in the great conflicts of this century. It is these workers who, every day when they go to work, protect the health of Nova Scotians.

The Premier promised to create a positive work environment and now, instead, he is driving health care workers out of the province by legislating away their rights. Mr. Speaker, it is about respecting what health care workers do in Nova Scotia, day in and day out. That is what this debate is about. How will this legislation fix the crisis in nursing? Only a long-term strategy that creates a positive work environment will keep nurses here. Health care workers have been playing by the rules. The Premier and the Minister of Health are playing games, changing the rules when it suits them, changing the rules when they are not getting what they want.

I want, Mr. Speaker, for a second to look at the circumstances under which this bill was introduced. Conciliation is underway for both groups of nurses, a procedure in collective bargaining that strives to find a solution. It is at least three weeks until a legal strike by nurses is possible and then of course, only if there is no settlement. The Minister of Health and the Premier owe it to these workers and owe it to the principle of collective bargaining to allow that procedure to go forward.

Government mediation is working in the Capital Health District with health care workers. Mr. Speaker, free collective bargaining is working. But instead of showing the respect that they ought to show for the procedure of collective bargaining, not to mention the respect that is deserved by the health care workers and nurses who are the subject of this legislation, the Conservative Government has decided that they want to give health care just one more kick.

Mr. Speaker, this is done in the atmosphere of a feeble, Cabinet-driven campaign to try to create a sense of urgency. It is a campaign carried out by the Minister of Health and by the Premier that is designed to whip up panic among the general population, to scare Nova Scotians, specifically those who are seniors in this province and those who are on the waiting

[Page 4641]

lists for procedures in our hospitals. The Conservatives, instead of respecting collective bargaining, allowing the procedures to go on so that a reasonable settlement might be negotiated, are trying to snatch failure from the jaws of success.

Mr. Speaker, in this legislation there is much to be lamented, there is much, as we have said earlier, that is draconian, that smacks of dictatorial policies that are more in tune with countries in other parts of this world where democracy does not stand. In particular, I want to mention these. This legislation bans the right to strike until the year 2004. That would be the end of the government's five year mandate for virtually all hospital workers. Now what could be the possible reason for that, unless it was simply that this government wants to ensure that they get past the next election without hospital workers and without nurses having the right to express their dissatisfaction with their contract?

If they think nurses and health care workers are going to forget what they are doing here tonight, I want to tell you that I have heard from a lot of them and I don't believe for one second they are going to forget or their families are going to forget or their friends are going to forget or their colleagues are going to forget why it is that the Conservative members are sitting in those seats tonight. They are going to remember when the next election is called.

This is far beyond the bounds of the current situation, which is nurses in conciliation. It is not just continuing on with a conciliation process during which no strike takes place. This removes the right to strike. If you can believe this, this legislation compels unions to direct workers to return to work in the event of a labour dispute. It doesn't compel the union or the union leadership to provide their membership with their best advice; it doesn't compel the union leadership to carry out their function and duties as representatives of those workers; it doesn't compel union leadership to represent those workers. What it does is it compels them to act on behalf of the government to direct workers to return to work in the event of a labour dispute. In fact, it takes away the role, the proper, democratic role of union leadership.

Mr. Speaker, it interferes with the basic freedom of speech and freedom of assembly by making illegal any conduct that may encourage the employees not to immediately continue or resume the duties of their employment. Can you imagine? This legislation tramples on something as basic as the freedom of speech and the right to free assembly. That is what this legislation does. It gives the Cabinet the right to impose entire collective agreements or to impose anything it wants into a collective agreement at any hospital in the province.

Mr. Speaker, you must agree, I think, that the word, agreement, is ironic in these circumstances, it is certainly misplaced. There can be no agreement when one side is forced to do what it would rather not. That is not an agreement, that is not a collective agreement. Collective agreements are bargained freely, when both the employer and the employees treat each other with respect. I can tell you, from my knowledge of what has gone on so far, it has

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been the employees who have been more than willing to listen respectfully to the offers put forward to them by the government; it has been the government and the Department of Health and the employers who have been acting outside of the bounds of proper collective agreement.

[1:30 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, in essence, the government here sits on both sides of the table and they can make a deal with themselves at any point they choose. They don't have to listen; they don't have to consult; they don't have to talk to nurses; they don't have to listen to the union leadership; they don't have to so much as open the door to nurses' concerns. This is completely unprecedented in this country. It abolishes free collective bargaining for hospital workers, period. That is what it does.

When one party has absolute power and the other has no recourse, not even binding arbitration, collective bargaining has been ended; worse than the freeze on collective bargaining imposed by the Cameron Conservatives or extended by the Savage Liberals. It is not just a freeze of a deal freely arrived at. This is a deal dictated by Cabinet.

Mr. Speaker, misleading statements are contained in this bill, like under Clause 7(1), and I want to read it. "Nothing in this Act shall be construed so as to limit or restrict a union and an employer from attempting to resolve any issues or make any agreements before the Governor in Council makes an order pursuant to Section 6."

Mr. Speaker, nothing except, perhaps, Clause 7(2), which makes it explicit that the Cabinet can override any agreement or any provision under Clause 6. What penalties are imposed in a piece of legislation like this? How is it that the government expects to enforce its will? How is it that the government says, you will either do this or we will make you do it? In this legislation, unions who were found to contravene the Act are liable to a penalty of $50,000 and $10,000 a day thereafter. What about workers? What about nurses? What about health care workers who say, we've had enough? We've had enough of the disrespect; we've had enough of the mistrust, we refuse to live up to the terms of this legislation. What happens if one of them should take that position?

Mr. Speaker, I will tell you. Workers who contravene Clause 5; workers who decide to go on strike anyway are liable for an initial penalty of $2,000 and $500 a day thereafter. You have to ask yourself, is it fair? Does it resemble anything like fairness? Well, of course not. Of course it isn't. The beauty is no one can do anything about it because Clause 13 sets out that, "No order or regulation made by the Governor in Council pursuant to this Act shall be questioned or reviewed in any court and no proceeding shall be taken or order made in any court to question, review, prohibit or quash any order or regulation made by the Governor in Council pursuant to this Act."

[Page 4643]

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice knows; surely there has been some interaction between the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health before they introduced this. He knows full well there is a problem here, it is called Section 96, the constitutional provision that sets out the jurisdictions of the courts in this country. It can't be arbitrarily taken away by the government. It can't be done. In the effect that the legislation should stand, then what the courts will do is they will go through a process called reading down the legislation, because the courts will insist on ensuring that the rules of natural justice in this country are not trampled upon, not by this Legislature, not by this government, not by this Minister of Health and not by this Premier, under any circumstance. That's why there is a separation between the government and the court system in this country.

I think it is just a shame, it is absolutely scandalous that this government would attempt to make such a resolution, such a provision in this legislation. It is shameful, Mr. Speaker, absolutely shameful that they should take this kind of tactic to try to wipe out the recourse of the citizens of this province to the courts of the land. How could any reasonable government do that?

This is a government that is trying to set itself above the law, above the courts, above any individual or collective rights that Nova Scotians have or believe they enjoy. This government wants to be judge, jury and executioner, that is what this government is attempting in this legislation. The one clause this government has forgotten or overlooked is a notwithstanding clause to exempt these new dictatorial powers from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The concept of this government is clear, they intend to take whatever action they deem necessary to see to it that this legislation carried the full weight of the law, whether it is fair or not, whether it lives up to the principles of natural justice or not, whether or not it is what we would expect as reasonable in a free and democratic society.

I believe the government is just starting to learn how nurses and other health care workers feels; they feel betrayed. I am going to tale a letter, but I intend first to read it into the record because I think it would be useful for the government to understand how some health care workers feel about what is happening to them. I received this today by fax at my office, from an individual by the name of Brian Tapper, who is known to me, and should be listened to.

"I am writing to you as the count down for job action by the Health Care bargaining unit of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union is underway, as a vote by the NSNU draws closer and the NSGEU nurses continue in conciliation.

[Page 4644]

As a health care worker it seems that everyone was caught off guard by our decision to take a strike vote. One thing must be clear, the vote is the result of frustration and anger resulting form increased work loads, limited physical and human resources and a general feeling that our work is not valued by the hospital, the Capital District Health Authority or by government. Working conditions over the past decade have been seriously eroded. Our frustration is not with our patients. I believe during a strike members of our bargaining unit would jump to the assistance of a patient if safety was in question.

During the 1990's employees experienced wage cuts and roll backs as well as "Savage days". Our 1998 contract offered employees a 5.3 percent settlement over three years. This did not begin to replace our losses, nor did it come close to keeping up to the cost of living. The current contract offer which we turned down would have seen workers fall further behind in relationship to the cost of living. We are tired of seeing our resources and working conditions decline further. If our work is valued and seen to be important to producing excellence in health care and appropriate health outcomes it is time for our employer to provide an appropriate settlement. No more and no less!

I believe that it is fair to state that morale has never been at a lower point. There are few department in our health care facilities that are not experiencing staffing shortages. While nursing shortages are talked about daily, you must realize that other professions including diagnostic imaging, laboratory technology, orthotics, prothetics, and psychology to name but a few are experiencing shortages that impace on patient care and health outcomes. We see co-workers leaving for jobs in other parts of Canada which offer better pay, benefits and working conditions. You must find a way of making Nova Scotia competitive. The good living conditions we have in Nova Scotia do not pay our bills!

The Minister of Health has been quoted as saying that with the cost of the health budget exceeding one billion dollars annually that we must control our costs. No one seems to factor in the fact that Nova Scotian's experience heart attacks, strokes, cancer and respiratory illness at rates higher than the national average. No one seems to consider the fact that Nova Scotia has an aging population. No one seems to consider that we have sicker people surviving longer do [sic] to advances in care and technology. Would you dismantle our health care system in order to control budgets and continue to neglect and reduce staffing to the point where we have difficulty delivering care?

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Much discussion has occurred related to the creation of two layers in our health care system, the socialized system and the system for those that pay. The current negotiations have the potential to create two layers within the service providers - those who are valued and compensated and those who are under valued and offered compensation which makes them second class workers in the provision of health care.

I'm sure the possibility of a strike is of concern to all Nova Scotian's [sic]. I am hopeful that our mediator will make progress in reaching a fair offer. I am profoundly concerned that a move by government to legislate an end to the current labour strife through the removal of our right to strike will do little to address the issues that compelled health care workers to reject the tentative contract offer. Legislation will do nothing to address the dismal level of moral [sic]. Nothing short of a fair settlement will do anything to address the staff shortages our hospitals are experiencing.

I urge you to have open and frank discussions with health care workers and their representatives. Legislation may provide your government with a quick fix but will not provide a long-term solution to issues troubling health care workers. We are not the problem with this system. We are assets, valued resources that this system needs to retain in order to provide quality patient care.

Think carefully as you consider the proposed legislation, the issues that lead to a strike vote go well beyond inequity in wages. The need for satisfactory working conditions, adequate resources for patient care, recruitment of staff as well as a satisfactory wage settlement are issues which have brought us . . . today.

As a health care worker and taxpayer I ask that you work toward more than a stop-gap solution."

Mr. Speaker, it is signed by Brian Tapper and I would like to table this letter, having read it into the record.

I would say the government is just starting to learn how nurses feel and I said that they felt betrayed. I think that was well represented in Mr. Tapper's letter. They also feel mistreated and I want to read into the record a letter that I received from a nurse who lives in Bedford. It will tell you something about what a day in her life is like.

"I start my work day by getting up at 5:10 in the morning. I leave my home at 5:40 to make the 15 minute walk, usually in the dark, to get the bus at 5:55 a.m. The reason that I do this is there is not enough parking space at the QEII

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to accommodate the out-patients and the hospital staff. My shift starts at 6:45 a.m. My unit is Neurosurgery where the patients have very complex physical and mental Needs [sic]. Many of the patients weigh 200 plus pounds and I have to turn them every two hours. We also get all our patients out of bed 1 to 3 times a day. Believe me after 12 hours of this kind of heavy and demanding work every muscle in your body is aching. If I work in the intermediate care unit on my floor I have to work an extra unpaid 15 minutes to give a verbal report to the oncoming nurse. Then I take the bus back home and get to Bedford at 7:40 pm. After being away from my home for 14 hours I now have to walk uphill for 15 minutes to get home. When I arrive home I just have enough energy to have a bath and make my lunch for the next day. Bedtime is at 10:00 pm. Oh did I mention I have a husband and two children? Well for two to three days they don't get to see much of their wife or mother. Did I also mention that my husband was laid off from work for a year and I was the sole breadwinner for the family?

What do I do on my time off? Well, for the past eight years I have been studying to get my Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Why? Because I want to be the best possible nurse to my patients. I have also taken other courses and attended conferences to maintain my knowledge in my field.

Three years ago I was laid off from a nurse management position due to cutbacks. I had to work at casual shifts in several different units. I now have a permanent full-time position but I lost all my seniority of 18 years. So now I can't get a vacation in the summer but have to work all summer. But how much do I have to give? Because there is such a shortage of nurses I can't call in sick because I know I won't be replaced. I hate to leave my patients without care so I drag myself to work even when I am not well . . . I have been a nurse for 28 years. With all that experience and expertise and education I feel the government of Nova Scotia is getting an absolute bargain and I am sick of giving with nothing in return."

[1:45 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table, if I may, this letter which I think eloquently sets out how one nurse in this province believes she is being mistreated as a result of the legislation introduced here tonight. So the nurses feel betrayed and mistreated. They also feel they are being taken for granted. Again, I would like to read something I received just recently from a nurse to indicate how she feels.

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MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I allowed the honourable member quite a substantial amount of leeway, particularly in reading letters and that. I would remind him that second reading of the bill is to be to the principle of this bill and I would ask him to bring his comments back to the principle of the bill, please, and not be reading letters.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DEXTER: What better way to illustrate to the government the error in the principle of this bill than to clearly set out for the government how the people who are going to be most affected by the legislation they have brought in, how those people feel about the legislation that is going to affect their lives. What better illustration could there be to tell the government the need to respect the nurses; the people of this province who elected the government? What better way could there be to demonstrate the importance and the gravity of the decision they are here to make, than to listen to the voices of the very people who are being affected by the legislation?

Mr. Speaker, that is the reason why these letters are being introduced. I have tabled them so that all members of this House might have an opportunity to have a look at them, because this is the very principle on which this bill is founded. It is taking away the rights of these people to have a voice in the collective bargaining process. It is taking away their ability to have a voice in the agreements that are going to be made on their behalf with their employer. It is taking away their right to have a voice in this process. That is the reason why these letters are being read. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. While we welcome and respect the visitors to the gallery tonight, I would ask you to not respond either positively or negatively to what is happening on the floor of the House so as not to interrupt the proceedings. The honourable Leader of the Opposition, again, I would ask you bring your comments back to the principle of the bill at hand, please.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I am sure that direction was given on behalf of the House because if it was given on my behalf I would withdraw it. Those who are here this evening, the workers who are here, as I have said, feel they have been betrayed, mistreated,

taken for granted, the target of political games being played by the government; they feel like they are outcasts in their own province. Any relationship of trust with this government has been destroyed by this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask you, for a second, to have a look at this legislation and compare it, if you will, to the promises that were made by the government. Take an opportunity to cast your mind back in the review of the principles of this bill to what was said during the election of 1999. Just for example, perhaps you can recall what was said at the Aberdeen Hospital on June 28, 1999. The then-Leader of the Conservative Party on the campaign trail said about health administration and about the government, that, "It's not

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good enough that people who are far removed from the community, make decisions without the input of the community." He said, "In our platform, Strong Leadership . . . a Clear Course, released on Friday, I identified the kind of practical, concrete and innovative steps needed not only to secure the nurses we need today, but to keep them here for tomorrow." Those aren't my words, those are the words of the Premier.

He also said, in that same campaign stop, "Most importantly, nurses want a positive, rewarding environment where they know they can properly care for their patients, where they know they are valued and where they know they will have a meaningful voice in shaping change." They said that nurses, among others, among the general population of the province - they said this, and it is ironic - Premier Hamm said, "You have the right to know what you are voting for . . .". Can you imagine? I don't think anyone in this House thought they were voting for legislation that would trample on the basic rights of freedom of assembly, of freedom of speech, of the right to bargain collectively. I don't think anybody here thought that they were voting for that in July 1999.

The Premier said, "I am convinced that with care givers, communities and volunteers helping us and guiding us every step of the way, we can deliver a responsive . . . health care system that will be there for Nova Scotians when they need it." Mr. Speaker, I ask you, has the government indicated who they consulted with? Can they indicate, if they would, which volunteers, which caregivers, which communities they consulted with when they set out the principles of this bill? I haven't heard of any of them. The Minister of Health, in introducing the bill, wouldn't even address the House to answer those simple questions.

This is legislation that makes a bad situation worse. I want you to imagine, Mr. Speaker, one of the great issues besides retention of nurses, which we know under this kind of legislation is going to be even harder, one of the other principal reasons why this government was elected was because they said they would be able to go out and recruit more nurses. This legislation is going to make it harder to recruit nurses, and it means that there are going to be higher costs associated with the recruitment of nurses because more money is going to have to be spent in recruitment efforts in order to get people to come to a province where the nurses are among the lowest paid in North America.

What about the price paid by people who can't get care because of the shortages of nurses and health care workers? What about that price that is paid? It is an intangible. What is the cost associated with longer wait lines? What is the cost associated with having surgery cancelled? What is the cost associated with patients who are put under additional stress as a result of those shortages? What is the price that is to be paid by all Nova Scotians for more government-created chaos in the health care system? We have seen it time and time again. This is a province in which the auxiliary for the Colchester Hospital can go out and buy a bone densitometer only to have it rejected by the Minister of Health because the Minister of Health doesn't want to pay the salary of the technician to operate it, despite the fact that there is a shortage of that service in the province.

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There is no question that nurses are the first target of this bill and I want to have a look at that in some detail. There is a serious shortage of nurses in this province, that is no secret. Nurses continue to tell us about having to work long shifts, sometimes up to 24 hours straight. It is no question that they are exhausted by the tasks that they are asked to endure. There is no incentive, many of them report, for working overtime.

There has been a trend over the last five years or more to reduce the number of patients who are admitted to hospitals. As well, many beds and services in rural Nova Scotia have been closed. What is the result of this? The result is that this has led to added patients being admitted in metro facilities - patients with more serious conditions. Patients who would have traditionally been placed in an ICU are ending up on other units. This has resulted in an increased workload for nurses because the patients are sicker.

As well, there are more and more elderly patients who have multiple conditions which require increased attention. Nurses are working longer hours and they have an increased workload as well. Nurses have told me that they worry about the exhaustion and work stress and that it will lead to mistakes. I heard one nurse say just this afternoon that they are literally being asked to put their licences at risk. They worry about their patients and they worry about their careers.

Nurses are indirectly being forced to work overtime. For the most part they entered this career because they care about people and they have the desire to help people and, obviously, sick people. Nurses are well aware of the added workload that their colleagues are experiencing. When they get the call to go to work for overtime or on call, they do not feel that they can refuse because their refusal means that patients are not going to get the care they need and that their colleagues who are at work are going to be even more stressed.

I spoke with a nurse recently that told me that because of on-call and regularly scheduled shifts, she worked 10 days straight, with 20 hours just on the weekend, before she got a day off. She says it is getting to the point where she is afraid to answer the phone because all too often, it is the hospital asking her to come in and as I said before, she feels guilty if she says no.

Another thing about on-call is that they are supposed to get a six hour sleep break after 12 hours. The reality is that time includes travel to and from home and whatever must be done at home when you get there. So it would be rare for anyone actually to get 6 hours sleep. Understandably, nurses are concerned and worry about the mistakes that could happen as a result of sleep deprivation.

Regardless of the minister's nursing strategy, we are not gaining nurses as quickly as we are losing them. We have 450 fewer nurses in this province today than we had in 1994. The Minister of Heath says we are wrong - well, if we are wrong, then the Canadian Institute

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for Health Information is also wrong because those aren't my statistics - they are the statistics of the Canadian (interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Even though it is not on the record, I am not going to stand for members calling each other names across the floor - particularly ones that are derogatory so I would ask the honourable members to please keep those comments to themselves. Again, I would remind the members in the gallery not to be responding or commenting to what is happening on the floor of the House. The honourable Leader of the Opposition has the floor.

[2:00 a.m.]

MR. DEXTER: The Minister of Health says I am wrong. It is not my information, I didn't make up the number. Unlike the minister, I try to have some facts before I speak. This is information which I tabled in this House that was put forward by the Canadian Institute for Health Information. It is they who say there are 450 fewer nurses in this province today than in 1994, not me. So if the Minister of Health has some other information, then I challenge him to table it. He can't and he won't because he doesn't have it, because he is wrong and he knows he is wrong.

Mr. Speaker, he likes to use information when it is convenient and ignore it when it becomes a problem. Well, we are here to tell him that he is not going to get away with it. We are here to tell him that this kind of legislation is wrong and we are here to speak up on behalf of those people who are going to be affected by this legislation. That is why I and the other members of the New Democratic Party are here and we are going to do our job, whether he wants to hear us or not.

Mr. Speaker, money is only partly the reason why nurses leave this province. It is part of the reason why this legislation is so regrettable. Young nurses are graduating with large students loans, sometimes between $20,000 and $60,000, depending on the degree and/or the speciality. In some cases, nurses who leave this province will receive a salary in another jurisdiction which is three times higher than what is received in this province. What that will allow them to do is to pay off those huge debts associated with their education much quicker and allow them to get on with a quality of life which they believe, and I think rightfully so, that they deserve. It means that they will be debt free much sooner than if they were to stay here in their own province.

It is not the whole story, Mr. Speaker. The working conditions here make nursing a very stressful position. Nurses are lured away to the United States with contracts that allow them to choose their own shifts and their own hours. What makes this legislation and the principles engendered in it so profound is - and I would ask any member of the government caucus to attend the nursing fair. I had the opportunity to go on one just a short time ago and there in the booth representing a health care corporation in New Orleans was a nurse from

[Page 4651]

Cape Breton who was there for the purpose of enticing other Nova Scotian nurses to come to New Orleans to work because the quality of life and the benefits were so much better than what they could receive here in their own province. They take the very nurses who are lured away first and bring them back to entice other nurses to go there. It is truly regrettable that the minister would see to it that this legislation will contribute to this erosion of the number of nurses in this province.

Mr. Speaker, nurses have families and family responsibilities too. They work 12-hour plus shifts and then they must go home and care for their families. They, like all of us, do housework and they take care of their children. They are frequently absent from many of the important events that go on in their families whether they are school concerts, trips or baseball games, ballet or piano recitals. They are absent because they are at work. When they do get a little time with their families they are frequently worn out from the shifts they have had to endure and work and they are stressed and they are unable to give to their families the quality time they deserve.

It is always the nurses, Mr. Speaker, and the health care workers who are asked to pickup the slack. They have been asked now for 10 years to pickup the slack when others are not there because the cuts to the other areas of the health care institutions like orderlies and maintenance and housekeeping mean that there is more work for the nurses to do. Nobody does their job when they aren't there. Also, nurses are becoming more and more technical, yet they are not receiving any compensation for that.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that one of the big problems with this legislation and what it is going to do to the numbers of nurses who are going to need to be recruited in this province is that more and more new nurses, more and more graduating nurses are leaving, and this situation is only going to get worse. In about five years' time - and many of the nurses I have spoken to have said in the next 5 to 10 years - a large number of the nurses who are now working are going to be going into retirement. They tell us, and I think the statistics bear them out, that there is going to be a big gap when the bulk of nurses go into retirement within the next decade, and this government or whatever government is saddled with that problem in 10 years' time is going to be unable to recruit new nurses in the numbers that are going to be required in order to fill that gap.

There is nothing about Nova Scotia to draw nurses here from elsewhere. Virtually everywhere else can offer better remuneration, better benefits and a better lifestyle, in time off and shift selection, than we can. Though the number of nurses employed in this province - and the minister likes to point this out - there has been an increase in the number of nurses, well, what they have done is they have changed the designation from casual to full-time. That is a good thing, nurses wanted to have the benefits associated with full-time work, but not nearly enough have been recruited.

[Page 4652]

The problem is only going to be exacerbated over the years. I have pointed to the minister that there are 450 fewer nurses today than there were only a few years ago. Not only are nurses working longer shifts with larger workloads but it is not infrequent for them to have to work an entire shift without a break. Those are not working conditions that people find enticing.

Mr. Speaker, there are two key questions. The first one is, who is truly responsible for the delivery of health care in Nova Scotia, front-line health care workers or 12 people behind the closed doors of the Cabinet Room? Nova Scotians won't come to Province House in search of health care. They are going to go to their health care institutions. Yet, the people behind the Cabinet Room door have proven beyond a doubt that they could not and would not walk a mile in the shoes of a health care worker. Why should all the decisions, why should all the terms of employment be decided by those 12 people? This government needs to meet health care workers as equals at the bargaining table. They need to do the hard work to understand their concerns and achieve a meeting of the minds. The hands that heal are the hands of health care workers.

I want the Minister of Health to listen to another Health Minister, a former Health Minister who faced a much tougher challenge and who learned from her experience. She said, "The government that I am a part of must share a part of the blame. When we took office in 1991, we faced tremendous challenges . . . As a government, our attention was focussed on dealing with this crisis. However, while we were dealing with these vital issues, we made some mistakes. One mistake was being too busy to really listen, to really hear, all the legitimate concerns facing nurses and other health care workers. Some problems that should have been dealt with promptly were allowed to fester. I apologize." Too busy to listen; too busy to really hear.

Mr. Speaker, that statement was made in April 1999 by Pat Atkinson, the then-Minister of Health in Saskatchewan. She and her colleagues were eventually forced to listen and forced to address the concerns of health care workers. This government should heed that lesson and these false dramatics and pull back from the brink.

The second question, Mr. Speaker, is whether or not Nova Scotia will be governed as a democratic society. Over and over again the Minister of Health and the Premier say that their actions are justified because the offers they made were defeated in a democratic vote by nurses and health care workers. Wiser men would have gone back to improve their offer. Wiser people would have asked why workers were so angry and what they could do to fix health care. In fact, hospital management did listen, revised the offer and tried again with the health care workers, but this government was not so wise. They were insulted, offended and alarmed that anyone would dare to vote against an offer framed at the Cabinet Table. They thought they saw a political opportunity to look like heroes and they didn't think about the rights of citizens in a free and democratic country. They didn't think about the right to organize collectively. They didn't think about the right to seek justice in the courts. They

[Page 4653]

didn't think about the right to make their voice heard and to bargain for your wages and working conditions.

The only right left to health care workers of Nova Scotia by this legislation is the right to resign, Mr. Speaker. Think about that one. Think about that. Take my deal. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will again warn the people in the gallery, and if I have to warn you again, I will clear the gallery. The honourable Leader of the Opposition has the floor.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this is the message from this government, take my deal on my terms or quit. In the midst of a profound demoralization, a deteriorating working condition, a growing shortage of health care workers, this government says swallow the Tory package or resign. That shows no respect for the vote taken by those workers, but it is why we are here. We are here to be the voice of thousands of health care workers, patients and families who have been betrayed by this government. We are here to offer good ideas to try and improve this province and this legislation.

I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that the two completely offensive and unacceptable sections of this bill are the Cabinet's right to unilaterally impose an agreement and the attempt to deny access to the courts. Even if you take away the right to strike from hospital workers and even if you thought it was sound public policy, which it is not, even if it was a Tory campaign promise, which it wasn't, even if it was the result of careful public consultation, and it is not, those two sections would have to go. Act in haste and repent in leisure. Nova Scotians are still living with the costly consequences of the Cameron and Savage Governments' denial of collective bargaining.

Surely, Mr. Speaker, it is time to break the cycle of failure. The government can stand up right now, or later today, and say that they are willing to let collective bargaining proceed. They can say that they are willing to moderate this unacceptable, undemocratic, dictatorial aspects of the bill and they can try to make a bad bill better. Our caucus will give voice to people's fundamental concerns about this legislation to the fullest extent possible. We will work for any improvement we can obtain. We will do everything in our power to make Nova Scotia a place where people want to work in health care to heal the sick, to restore the spirit, and to promote good health.

In order to do that, Mr. Speaker, to give this legislation the time necessary for due consideration, I move "That the motion be amended by removing all the words following 'that' and inserting therefor the words, Bill No. 68, the Healthcare Services Continuation (2001) Act, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months' hence." I have copies of the motion. Rule whether or not the motion was in order, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions)

[Page 4654]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The motion by the honourable Leader of the Opposition that "Bill No. 68, the Healthcare Services Continuation (2001) Act, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence," is in order.

[2:15 a.m.]

The honourable member for Richmond on the amendment.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I would say it's a pleasure to rise or it's a privilege to rise and speak on the amendment to Bill No. 68, but it is absolutely disgraceful we are even here having to address this type of legislation here in the Province of Nova Scotia to start off with. What a day it must have been today for the nurses of this province to see where this government is going with our health care system.

Three bargaining units that were acting in good faith, following the process, doing what was set out in the normal collective bargaining process, to be told there is a contingency plan should there be a strike; to be working and negotiating with the government, saying how they will provide essential services should there be a strike, to make sure that the health and safety of Nova Scotians is protected, to be told that all of that is taking place, all of a sudden to hear a few days ago the Minister of Health say, I am not satisfied with the plan. Twenty-four hours before that he publicly admitted he had no idea what the plan was and hadn't looked at it.

Mr. Speaker, then they are told by the Minister of Health and by the Premier that there is legislation coming before this House to deal with the strike. What legislation is it? It wouldn't be this Tory Government if they came right out and told them what it is going to be. They say wait and you will see. Today, in Tory fashion, they forced them all to come down here to see exactly what the Tory Government is going to present to them. Is it going to take away their right to strike? Is it going to force binding arbitration? What is it going to do?

We had our own guesses as to what it probably would be. But I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, I don't think anyone expected what we would see from this government and what they brought in Bill No. 68. Not only was it offensive enough for them to arrive here and to see that this government is proposing to take away all of their rights to collective bargaining and giving this Cabinet, this Tory Cabinet, the ability to impose a contract on them, but they came down to the House of Assembly, they are all taxpayers, they are Nova Scotians. They figure, oh, we are coming to the Chamber of democracy, then they walk in, and what do they see? Well, I counted six Halifax Regional Policemen. We saw the gates on the sidewalks here; gates along the sidewalks, that is a first. The nurses can at least say, that with all the other protests we have had, they are the ones who scared this government the most . . .

[Page 4655]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. I would just remind the honourable member for Richmond that he is speaking to the hoist amendment on Bill No. 68, please. I would ask the honourable member to bring his comments back to the reasons for the hoist amendment.

The honourable member for Richmond has the floor.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the reason for the hoist amendment is to allow this government to reflect on what they have done today and what they are doing, not only to the nurses of this province but, as I have said, to all employees in this province. When they come to the House of Assembly they see armed police officers and they see gates, gates to herd them in to small areas and to keep them out of trouble. I liken the nurses to the paramedics. When the paramedics were here, I remember when they came into the gallery they were forced to take the scissors off of their uniforms because that was considered to be a weapon.

I can tell you I was really threatened, sitting on the floor of this House knowing paramedics were up in the gallery. I remember one of the NDP colleagues, I believe it was the member for Cape Breton Centre who said, maybe they can come down and check the Tories to see if they have a pulse. I remember at the time I told him you can't have a pulse if you don't have a heart, so we don't have to worry about the paramedics having to do that.

Mr. Speaker, today, I can tell you that having the nurses here, they can sit comfortably because I don't think they will have to be called to come and check for a pulse of this Tory Government either because they clearly have not changed. Where they have gone is even further to the right.

It was interesting, Mr. Speaker, before the gallery was open today - it is not bad enough that this is what we are doing to nurses but now we are telling them, if you want to hear the debates taking place in the province by the Opposition, by your elected officials, it is not as if you don't work long enough hours, we expect you to show up here at midnight and sit here throughout the night to be able to see democracy in action. That is democracy under the Tory Government, sitting at midnight. It is 2:20 a.m. and this is democracy in Nova Scotia? Police at the front gate greeting nurses as they come in, not knowing where their futures lie because the Tories won't even tell them what is in this legislation, so they come here honestly to find out how this is going to impact them, their employment, their families, their income and they are greeted by police; armed officers. They are greeted by barricades down here on Hollis Street, barricades along the sidewalks.

Six months might give this government the opportunity to look at where it is going. It was interesting when we started today - as if all of this wasn't offensive enough, as I am sure everyone here today, the nurses who have joined us can see, this is the oldest House of democracy in Canada and it is not very good at ventilation and it gets kind of warm in here, and sometimes there has been some additional hot air being produced within the Chamber

[Page 4656]

itself. You can see there are fans put up and before we started today I mentioned that while I was at a conference in Saskatchewan that members there had unanimously agreed to allow members to take their jackets off because of the long hours and hot days. It was interesting today to hear the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Minister of Economic Development saying no to that, that it would show disrespect to the House of Assembly.

There is nothing more disrespectful than what has been shown to the House of Assembly, since I was elected in 1998, than Bill No. 68 and what this government is doing to the nurses of this province. (Applause) If those members, two Ministers of the Crown - I would expect it from the member for Preston because he is pitiful and we would expect that from him but for two Ministers of the Crown - to say it would be disrespectful, but to support Bill No. 68.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Richmond is being disrespectful to another member of this House. I would ask him to retract that statement he just made about the member for Preston.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, if you find that disrespectful, certainly, I will show respect to you and retract that statement.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I hear some catcalls from the Minister of Agriculture and clearly the nurses in his riding will answer him for what he is doing on this bill. Six months would clearly give this government the chance to go back to their ridings and look their nurses in the eye and say, this is good legislation and to go back and tell them, we had to do this because you weren't trustworthy enough that if an emergency happened that you would rather sit on a picket line with a picket sign and let someone die in a hospital bed. That is what we think of the nurses of this province, can you imagine? People whose entire career is based on curing people, healing people, helping them in their time of need, helping them in their time of medical pain and what they are going through, to say, no, we don't trust you that if someone is dying or coming in from a car crash that you are going to sit there and say, no, no, we are on strike, let them stay there; how incredible.

If there is one thing even more offensive than that, as if it could get more offensive, our head of state for this Province, the Premier of this province, has yet to even speak on Bill No. 68 in this Chamber and that is the most shameful thing yet. The head of state, he is the one who said he did not feel comfortable with the contingency plan, that he did not trust nurses, who stood behind his Minister of Health when he said he did not trust nurses, has yet to even speak on Bill No. 68. What is more shameful than that?

[Page 4657]

Remember the blue book? What was it called, Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course, strong and effective leadership, vote John Hamm. Well, now we see our leadership there today.

Mr. Speaker, the idea that, as I speak here today, the Premier still has not taken his place to speak on Bill No. 68 is absolutely shameful and six months would hopefully give us a chance to hear the Premier and to hear him try to justify to the nurses and to Nova Scotians as to why he thinks Bill No. 68 is right. When it comes to Bill No. 68, the nurses have a better chance of seeing Snuffelupagus than they have of seeing the Premier himself addressing Bill No. 68. That is why, as I said, amendments such as these brought forward by the Opposition are opportunities. They are pleas on behalf of the nurses, in this case, asking the government to take its time and to try to look at what it is doing.

Mr. Speaker, today I attended the bill briefing. I don't know if any of the nurses were here today. There were seven bureaucrats sitting at a table trying to justify Bill No. 68. I don't blame those bureaucrats. It is not their fault. I think they mean well, but today that is what this Tory Government tried to do, have seven of them try to justify what was in Bill No. 68. Do you know what, I don't think I have ever seen seven more sheepish looking people in my life because they, themselves, could not justify this. They knew they couldn't justify this. They knew it was wrong and they couldn't even give justification. The highest paid deputy in the history of this province, the Deputy Minister of Health, who looked glum, head down, speaking low, because he could not answer the questions being asked. He knew this was not justifiable.

Mr. Speaker, I pity the legal counsel who were there because I know who that lawyer is. She worked for the government while I was a member of Cabinet and I know how dedicated she is and how well-intentioned she is and how she has given dedication to this province. When asked if this bill was even constitutional, her answer was, I choose not to comment on that. She knew, herself, and how much it must have sickened her to stand there as a lawyer and to try to say that Bill No. 68 was good legislation.

I know the Leader for the NDP has spoken about the constitutionality and I will certainly go through that, Mr. Speaker. As I have said, six months is an opportunity to give this government a chance to go back not only to review what they are doing, but within six months it would allow the collective bargaining process to work through the system and for it to go through and to see what can come out of it. The government appoints a mediator, within 24 hours or 48 hours the mediator comes out with a proposal that is suggested by the union to its membership. Yet while everyone is heralding that success and how great the system is working, this government turns around and says, well, we are going to introduce back-to-work legislation and anti-strike legislation because we are at an impasse. The process hasn't even finished yet, yet the Tories have decided we are at an impasse.

[Page 4658]

Absolutely incredible, Mr. Speaker, to see a government act this way. As our Leader has said before, don't feel you are the only ones because we were here before on this. Once again, it was with those very dangerous paramedics who they made them take their scissors off their uniform, those threatening paramedics who sat here with their uniforms, had their beepers on in case there was an emergency call while they were here. This is the same government that brought in back-to-work legislation for paramedics. Yet, as if it wasn't insulting enough what they did to the paramedics, what gall they didn't use against the paramedics they have saved for you and have decided we are just going to go full brunt on the nurses. We gave the paramedics a taste of Tory Government in this province and now the nurses are going to get the full BLT from John Hamm and the Tory Government. This is where labour is going in this province under this government?

Mr. Speaker, I don't think there are any nurses in this province, when they voted July 27, 1999, and heard what this Tory Government was proposing to them, who ever thought they would come to the day that they would see Bill No. 68 being proposed by that same Premier. They are unable to question the gentleman they saw on the front of that blue book, the smiling face, Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course, because as I said, he has yet to even speak on Bill No. 68. Six months would hopefully give him a chance to stand in front of the nurses and to be able to justify what they are doing.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 68 represents the demise of collective bargaining in Nova Scotia. This bill will allow the Tory Government to overrule any decision reached in labour

negotiations in this province. This government has turned back the clock on workers' rights in Nova Scotia by at least 100 years. This bill is nothing more than union-busting and shotgun bargaining. Not only does it disgust me, it disgusts the people I represent and it disgusts all members of the Liberal caucus.

[2:30 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, you have been around the process long enough. Normally when there is a legislated solution to a strike - which we are not even sure that we have here, we still don't have a strike for this to be taking place - there is usually a trade-off. That is what we are wondering here, as I said before, when the Tories said we will bring in legislation, well, what is the trade-off? They don't want them to strike, what is going to be the trade-off? Usually, if a group is deemed to be essential service, then they are usually offered binding arbitration as an alternative to striking. Bill No. 68 has no such trade-off; there is no such trying even this or anything. The effect is that the government, the employer is taking no risk in this process, but at the end is saying that they will have the final decision.

Mr. Speaker, how hypocritical it is to hear the Minister of Health say, this is a fair deal, highest paid in Atlantic Canada, that is what we are offering. What have the nurses been saying? You heard them on the radio, your heard them on television, in the newspapers, Nova Scotia nurses aren't going to New Brunswick; they are not going to P.E.I.; they are not

[Page 4659]

going to Newfoundland; they are going down to the U.S.; they are going out West to Canadian provinces, because they want to? No. I don't think any native Nova Scotian ever wants to leave our wonderful province, but sometimes it becomes a matter of choice.

The minister says, best, highest-paid in Atlantic Canada. My God, this is the greatest offer, the nurses are being unreasonable, and any reasonable-thinking Nova Scotian would feel this is the best offer, this is a reasonable offer and they shouldn't expect more. Well, when that is the case, if the minister is really convinced of that; if all of his government backbenchers believe him when he says that, there is an easy way here, go to binding arbitration. Let an arbitrator decide, Mr. Minister, if that is the best deal for nurses, and that is what your government should be paying nurses in this province.

Mr. Speaker, by not doing that, the veil is lifted and the truth comes out. This is a weak-kneed government which is saying, we know we are putting the screws to nurses, we are willing to put propaganda out there. I am sure the nurses saw the ads in The Chronicle-Herald, The Daily News and I am not sure how many more. My understanding is these ads cost $5,000 each, per paper. So that is $10,000 a day, in these propaganda ads. But there is no more money for nurses, that is what the Health Minister said, that is what the Minister of Finance said. That is who the real villain is here. It is not the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health says infuriating statements and we have gotten used to him saying that, but at the end of the day who holds the purse strings for this government? Who is denying you the ability to have a better pay and a better salary? Look no further than the Minister of Finance himself, the would-be Premier of this province.

Six months may give time for the Minister of Health to plead with him to finally give him money. How ironic for this government to tell the nurses, look, we have told you there is no more money, and when we say there is no more money we mean there is no more money. Remember last year with the Education budget. There is no more money, then when the protests came and the school boards hollered and the parents hollered and the teachers hollered, she found what, $20 million. Wow, $20 million.

Then we figure well, that is a flash in the pan. It happened once, what is the chance that is going to happen again? Education budget this year. She found for one board, first she found them $900,000 and that was it. We had just put that aside, we said there was no more money. Then, a few weeks later she finds them another $120,000, and yet, to the nurses, there is no more money. Trust us; believe the Minister of Finance when he says, I don't have any more money.

Mr. Speaker, six months would give this government a chance to realize that during the last sitting the Liberal caucus, my colleague, the member for Lunenburg West, was able to show Nova Scotians how this government - through the federal income tax bracket creep and through user fees - is sitting on a windfall of money and, do you know what, they tell the nurses there is no money for you right now, but in two years, as if the magic tricks haven't

[Page 4660]

ended, there is another one. There is one more trick coming. So you can get your tickets for the show. The next trick is going to be an income tax cut for you all. Because we are such wonderful money managers we have mysteriously found this money.

Well, do you know what? That money is the money they won't give you today. That is where that money is. That is the money they are taking out of your pockets today and denying you a fair salary that they will come in two years and say, oh, you see, because we put the screws to the nurses, we can give you an income tax cut now. That is what they will say and no one will be fooled, but six months would give this government a chance to realize that every Nova Scotian knows that their proposed tax cut is a farce because we have already paid for it. He has taken the money literally out of our pockets today, he is banking it, he is putting it in a little account there, a little fat-cat account, putting it aside, and in two years he will come and say, wow, look at this, an income tax cut just as I promised you.

Mr. Speaker, Education twice found more money. Now to the nurses they say there is no more money and this is the best deal possible, it is fair. Well, you see the ads, you know, highest paid in Atlantic Canada. You will see the little graph and everything, a fair offer for nurses. Well, Mr. Health Minister, Mr. Minister of Finance, if you have the personal integrity to stand behind those statements, speak to your House Leader right now, withdraw Bill No. 68 and go immediately to binding arbitration with the nurses and the health care professionals of this province and see if you can convince an arbitrator that this is a fair deal and that this is the best deal that nurses in this province and health care workers deserve.

The fact that they will not do that, Mr. Speaker, really shows to you how much sincerity goes in this type of ad; $5,000, a PR scam to convince Nova Scotians that nurses are greedy people. They are being offered, look, all this money we are offering them and they want more. They want more because we pay them too much as it is. They only work a few hours. They are greedy. They want more. That is the Tory way and the sad part is, politics aside, these people believe that.

The backbenchers, I sympathize with the backbenchers, I really do, because I don't think there is one backbencher in that caucus who actually supports Bill No. 68. In fact, I would say that the majority on the front bench and the Cabinet of that government do not support Bill No. 68, but Nova Scotians are quickly realizing that this government is being run by a very small little clique and we have said it before, this government is being run by the Minister of Finance, the Government House Leader and the Minister of Justice.

If you want to see the Cabinet and you want to see who is running this government, there are only three people to look at and if you ask, well, where is the Premier, well, we have the same question, where is the Premier? Obviously the strong leadership we were told that we would have in this province from that Premier, we just don't see it. As I said, he is yet to stand in this House and speak on Bill No. 68 and I await and I challenge him now to

[Page 4661]

a debate on this, to stand and to answer our questions on behalf of the nurses and to answer on behalf of Nova Scotians why he feels Bill No. 68 is justifiable legislation.

Mr. Speaker, how interesting it is, at the press conference and through all of this, in the bill itself, the government says, well, you have to negotiate with the employer and even in the bill itself it makes mention that if the employer locks people out, they are going to fine the employer $50,000 a day, get tough with the employer. Who is the employer? It is them. It is the Cabinet. It is the government. They are going to fine themselves but, do you know what, that is another example, and I have said it many times in this House, when I hear today how the Minister of Health, the Government House Leader, when they talk, this government

is convinced that Nova Scotians lack intelligence, that Nova Scotians do not have the intelligence to realize when the Tories are snookering them or trying to pull the wool over their eyes, as the saying would be.

How else can it be that the House Leader says, no, no, this doesn't affect collective bargaining, this clause says this won't affect collective bargaining. I don't see why the unions and the members wouldn't want to sit at the table and negotiate and negotiate, and at the end of the day if there are any problems, the Cabinet will decide what they are going to get. Why would anyone be opposed to that, he said. What is wrong with that? If that is not someone who thinks every Nova Scotian out there is stupid, I don't know what is. That is pretty sad. It is pretty sad when you have a House Leader who has been in this House for so many years and a government that would try to convince Nova Scotians of that.

Mr. Speaker, six months would give the Minister of Justice an opportunity to try to explain what they are doing - so, no binding arbitration, that is out, you can't strike, and Cabinet can decide your agreements. As if that wasn't offensive enough, they have gone one step further and said no court in this land will question, not only review, question the decision made by Cabinet on a collective agreement. If you are a nurse, the collective bargaining process is out the window. The government is going to come in and decide what your contract is going to be.

Then you say to yourself, well, I don't feel that is fair, I don't feel that justice has been done, or what they have done doesn't respect my individual rights, I am going to appeal this. This government has the audacity to try to put a clause in this bill saying that you can't appeal. You can't go to court because the Tory Cabinet has spoken, and how dare any court in this land even consider questioning our judgement? You have to ask yourself, who in the government would even suggest such a thing?

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, the nurses and Nova Scotians need to look no further than the Minister of Finance, the Government House Leader and the Minister of Justice. They are the ones who would have that type of clause put in this bill; a clause which is clearly unconstitutional; a clause that will clearly not survive any court challenge. Yet, it just

[Page 4662]

shows you the audacity and how they believe that, well, I don't think Nova Scotians are smart enough to even realize that and maybe we can slip it through.

Mr. Speaker, what a sad day. To show you the real face of this government, this government even today considered trying to ram this bill through without any public debate on this, and publicly admitted, well, we considered it, we could have done it, but we didn't do it. The fact they even considered putting this type of legislation and ramming it through the House without public debate shows you how dangerous this government is, it shows you how anti-democratic this government has become when they say they are even willing to have considered that.

Again, who is responsible? Who would have considered that on the government side? Again, look no further than the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Justice, who say to themselves, ram it through, we will get out of here, let it all blow over and we will all go hide at home or go on our vacations and hide away. Leave those nurses out to dry. Hang them out to dry again. That is the type of government we have in this province. That is a sad state we are in.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, the employer here is not the district health authorities, it is the government, it is this Cabinet. They are ones who fund the district health authorities; they are the ones who provide the funding; they are the ones who tell them how much money they can offer nurses. At the end of the day, they are the ones who are the employer. Let no one be fooled that anyone else is the employer. It shows you how they are willing to take responsibility for their actions, because rather than saying, we are doing this and we are going to stand behind it, they are saying, no, God no, it is not us, it is the employer you are going to have to deal with, not us, we are not the employer, no, no, it is the district health authorities, they are the employers. Imagine. Once again, the charade they play.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, this government, with Bill No. 68, is clearly turning back the clock on labour relations by at least 100 years. Six months is the least we should expect this government to accept as an amendment when you consider the impact that this legislation will have on the labour movement inside this province.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health when asked today, how can you justify bringing in such a bill, are there any other jurisdictions that would do such a thing? Well, surprise, surprise, surprise. Who else is doing this? Look no further than New Brunswick. How far did they have to look than New Brunswick, Bernard Lord, the Tory wonder boy over in New Brunswick, that the Hamm Government is so pleased to follow in his footsteps. The Premier has lost direction himself so he is more than happy to follow the lead of Bernard Lord, but it gets even better than that, Mr. Speaker, because if what they did in New Brunswick wasn't offensive enough, I just want to give you an example of how much more draconian and severe this government is.

[Page 4663]

[2:45 a.m.]

As we see in Bill No. 68, when it refers to the penalty provision, when it talks about if employees - that means nurses or health care workers - go out and not continue to work, it says $2,000 and a penalty of $500 a day. So, imagine, nurses, $2,000 a day, fining them, and $500 the day after. What did they do in New Brunswick? I think six months would give them a chance to see what they did in New Brunswick, but we now know that they know what they did in New Brunswick because they say this bill is based on New Brunswick. So what did Bernard Lord say? Bernard Lord said in Section 8(6), "Every employee who violates or fails to comply with subsection (6)(1) commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of $100 for each day during which the offence continues."

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am going to ask the honourable member to bring his comments back to the six months' hoist and, as well, relevance. What is happening outside of this province I would suggest has nothing to do with the bill before this House now and particularly the amendment that is being discussed at this time. So I would ask the honourable member for Richmond to bring his comments back to the hoist amendment, please.

The honourable member for Richmond has the floor.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, maybe I didn't make myself clear enough, I guess, today the Government House Leader clearly said that this legislation mirrored legislation in New Brunswick, that that is where the precedent was for this. What I am trying to point out is that by him saying that, I am saying that this six months amendment would give them a chance to go look back at this legislation because, obviously, they missed a few parts because in New Brunswick, $100 a day for nurses, as offensive as that is, what do the Tories say here, we are going to really stick it to them, $2,000 a day and $500 for each day after that.

So don't let them blame Bernard Lord or say he set a precedent, Mr. Speaker. This government uses that as an excuse. The Minister of Justice himself, you know, feels $2,000 a day, now that is more appropriate; $100, they are weak-kneed in New Brunswick. Our fellow Tories in New Brunswick are very weak-kneed. We are going to teach them a lesson here in Nova Scotia. You go against us and we are going to fine you $2,000 a day and $500 after. Remember home invasions, the johns bill, you know, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the same Minister of Justice, the same logic, the same success, the same respect for Nova Scotians.

It is all a pattern, Mr. Speaker, and I will go even further than that. We see in the bill, six months would give them a chance to look at a few other parts because in the bill it talks of a union or a person of the union who contravenes this, the fine there, I am trying to see here, it talks about $50,000 for the union, but in New Brunswick, what do they say? It says, "Every officer or representative of the bargaining agent who violates or fails to comply with

[Page 4664]

Section 4 commits an offense and is liable on conviction to a fine of $300 a day." So it is $300 in New Brunswick, $50,000 in Nova Scotia. Imagine.

Yet the Minister of Health says, oh, my God, I cherish our health care workers so much, I love our nurses here. Thank God we have got them. What a terrible thing it would be if we lost them. I love them so much. Yet when I get the chance to stick it to them, oh, boy, I am going to stick it to them good. How more hypocritical yet, when I get the chance to stick it to them, oh boy, I am going to stick it to them good. How much more hypocritical can you be?

Six months. How interesting that we use the number six months for an amendment. To hear the minister today in his comments, he said, at no time is it more justifiable for us to act than when the health and safety of Nova Scotians is put at risk. All the members of this House know that this government and this Minister of Health, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Justice and the House Leader are the ones responsible for putting the health and safety of the residents of the Strait area at risk by allowing the emergency room at the Strait-Richmond Hospital in my constituency to be closed for six months. In the end they say, well, if there is a nurses' strike there is going to be emergency room closures, early patient discharges, bed closures, increased waiting lists.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is already there.

MR. SAMSON: That is what is happening in the Strait since January of this year.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am going to remind the honourable member for the last time that, first of all, you are using unparliamentary language again by calling the members hypocritical. The second issue is relevancy in regard to the hoist amendment. I would ask the member for the last time to bring his comments back to the six months' hoist amendment that is before the House at this time.

The honourable member for Richmond has the floor.

MR. SAMSON: M. le président, ça me fait plaisir ce soir de présenter et de dire quelques mots sur la loi numéro 68 de pouvoir parler, parler, aux noms des infirmières et des travaillants de notre système de santé dans cette province, et d'avoir l'occasion de pouvoir me présenter et de dire au gouvernement ce que les infirmières et les travaillants de notre système de santé ont à dire sur la loi 68.

C'est incroyable, c'est incroyable, ce que ce gouvernement-ci et prêt à faire aux infirmières. Ils disent: On vous aime! Vous êtes intégrales au système, vous êtes intégrales au système, on vous aime si tant, mais on est prêt, on est prêt à passer une loi qui va vous ôter tous vos droits, tous vos droits, dans cette province. Une loi 68 qui dit que le ministre des finances lui-même, et le ministre de justice vont vous dire qu'est-ce qui doit être votre

[Page 4665]

contrat. Le ministre, le chef des conservateurs dans la maison, lui, il dit: Bien non, ça va pas changer le processus, bien non, faudra encore aller à la table, faudra encore avoir des négociations, faudra tout faire ça, et bien, si à la fin de la journée, s'il y a encore quelque chose qu'on ne peut avoir, qu'on ne peut pas être d'accord dessus, bien non, c'est le cabinet qui va le décider. Bien non, je ne peux pas voir pourquoi personne dirait que ça va finir le système!

M. le président, six mois donnerait l'occasion à ce gouvernement-ci de retourner chez eux, à chaque circonscription qu'ils ont, et d'aller parler à leurs infirmières, et leurs personnes qui travaillent le système de santé et dire, pourquoi qu'ils pensent que la loi 68 est acceptable. C'est le ministre des finances et le ministre de la justice qui vous a dit aux infirmières: On n'a pas de confiance dans vous! S'il y a une grève dans cette province, et puis quelque chose se passe, un accident, si quelqu'un tombe malade, que vous allez vous assoir là, que vous allez être là à l'hôpital, avec vos dépliants, et vous allez dire: En grève, on ne va pas assister aux personnes qui meurent, qui meurent devant nous. Quelle chose terrible, quelle chose terrible, qu'un gouvernement aurait même l'audacité, l'audacité de présenter dans cette chambre.

Si ce n'est pas un affront, grand assez, là ils disent que la décision du cabinet ne peut pas être questionné. Questionné est le mot qu'ils disent dedans, pas juste reviser, mais la court, la court à travers de cette province, à travers de ce pays n'a pas même le droit de questionner la décision finale du cabinet de cette province. Imagine, imagine. En même temps, le ministre de la santé et le ministre des finances, ils vous disent aux infirmières: Écoute, c'est la meilleure offre qu'on peut vous faire. Bien tient, vous voyez les dépliants qu'on a mis dans les papiers, cinq mille piastres par dépliant, et ça dit, vous le voyez vous-même, ça dit que c'est "A Fair Offer for Nurses." On le voit tous, c'est pas en français alors je le dis en anglais, mais ça dit "Fair offer for nurses" et puis ils sont en train de dire à la média, à tous les journaux de la Nouvelle-Écosse, c'est la meilleure offre, c'est la meilleure offre qu'on peut présenter aux infirmières et les infirmières doivent être contents avec ça.

Si c'est ça le cas, monsieur le président, c'est très simple, six mois, ils auraient six mois de pouvoir aller et décider si c'est vrai que It's a fair offer, c'est la meilleure offre qu'ils peuvent faire qu'ils ont pas plus d'argent, que les infirmières et les travaillants dans le système de la santé doivent être contents avec ça. C'est très simple, ils ont juste à suivre le processus et aller avec les infirmières s'assoir et puis aller à binding arbitration. Là, ça serait décidé si l'offre présenté par ce gouvernement est la meilleure offre possible. Si, si l'arbitrator lui-même décide que le gouvernement n'a plus d'autre argent à employer sur le système pour les infirmières, monsieur le président, comme j'ai dit, ils ont même été jusqu'à dire que si une infirmière, ou un travailleur du système de santé allait en grève, ou ne se présentait pas pour travailler, qu'ils allaient les charger deux milles dollars la première journée et cinq cents dollars pour chaque journée après ça.

[Page 4666]

Comme j'ai dit, le chef du parti conservateur, l'a dit lui-même aujourd'hui à la presse, que la loi 68 vient du Nouveau-Brunswick, que de là qu'ils l'ont prit. Comme je l'ai déjà présenté en anglais, la loi du Nouveau-Brunswick dit que eux, s'il y a un employé, une infirmière ou un employé du système de santé qui ne se présentent pas, ou s'ils se présentent en grève, là, ils vont les charger cent dollars par jour. Cent dollars au Nouveau-Brunswick, deux milles ici en Nouvelle-Écosse. Plus important que ça, monsieur le président, ce qui me trouble le plus aujourd'hui, comme on a dit, je ne pense pas qu'il y a quelqu'un dans la province qui voudrait dire que la loi 68 n'est pas une loi très importante. C'est pas une loi où il faut faire très attention avec comment on va traiter la loi-même et ce que les effets conséquents seront.

Mais de voir aujourd'hui, que notre chef d'état, le premier ministre de la Nouvelle-Écosse, le chef du parti conservateur ne s'est même pas présenté aujourd'hui pour parler à propos de la loi 68. Incroyable qu'on attend tout ce temps-ci . . .

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Just for your edification, the member opposite is again stating that a member was absent from the House today. He knows very well that is unparliamentary and that he should not be doing that. I would bring that to your attention. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond knows full well that he is not to bring note to the fact that a member is present or absent from the House. I would ask him to refrain from those comments.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Obviously (Interruptions) Order, please. The honourable member for Glace Bay will, please, bring himself to order. The honourable member for Richmond, obviously his comments were made in French which I don't understand. I would ask the honourable member if he would please not make reference to the fact of members' presence or absence.

The honourable member for Richmond has the floor.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I guess what my colleague, the member for Glace Bay, is raising is that clearly you did not understand what was being said but you did take the interpretation from your colleague and then issued a warning to me without knowing, yourself, what was said. I am not challenging the Speaker in any way, I think in all fairness it is important that we proceed with caution.

[Page 4667]

Mr. Speaker, what I said, in French, que le premier ministre ne s'est pas présenté sur la loi 68, is what I said in English, that the Premier of this province has yet to speak on Bill No. 68. I said he has yet to speak. If the Minister of Finance wants to go further and indicate that the Premier was not here today, he is free to do that. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I think we have spent enough time on that. I would ask the honourable member for Richmond to please bring his comments back to the hoist amendment that is before the House at this time. (Interruptions)

The honourable member for Richmond has the floor.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as I said, I would have known that what the Minister of Finance has declared unparliamentary I would never have done that, which is why I said the Premier has yet to speak on this bill, and we have yet to see him speak on this bill, when I referred to him as Snuffelupagus. If I were to say that in French, c'est que le premier ministre de cette province, ne s'est pas encore présenté sur la loi 68 et les gens de la province se demandent où est le premier ministre. Et pour les infirmières, ils ont meilleure chance de voir Snuffelupagus, que voir le premier ministre de cette province sur la loi 68.

[3:00 a.m.]

So I just wanted to provide the direct translation, Mr. Speaker, just for your own information.Comme j'ai dit, monsieur le président, comme j'ai dit, où le ministre des finances s'est choqué, il a voulu se mettre debout pour parler, et bien, il dit qu'il ne se choque jamais, bien c'est pas bien sur qu'il dit qu'il ne se choque jamais, mais j'esperait que lui peut se présenter dans cette maison, qu'il peut vous garder, vous, les infirmières dans cette province, et travaillants du système de santé, et vous dire lui-même qu'il n'y a plus d'argent, qu'il n'y a pas une cent de plus. J'aimerais qu'il pourrait se lever, et d'aller devant vous, les infirmières, et de vous dire qu'il n'y a plus d'argent. C'est lui-même qui le sait, il a les livres. C'est lui qui a le livre de chèques.

And in English, he is the one who controls the books, he has the chequebook for this province, he knows the state of our finances. Pour lui de se présenter dans cette maison et de dire à tous les infirmières qu'il n'y a plus d'argent et cette fois-ci je vais le dire, qu'il n'y a plus d'argent, parce que je vous ai dit qu'il n'y avait plus d'argent l'année passée, pour le budget d'éducation, mais là j'en ai trouvé. Je vous ai dit encore cette année qu'il n'y avait plus d'argent pour le budget d'éducation et j'en ai encore trouvé, mais cette fois-ci, la troisième fois, là c'est bien sérieux. Il n'y a plus d'argent, il n'y a plus d'argent, ne me demandez plus, il n'y en a plus!

Six mois lui donnera l'occasion de vérifier ses livres, et de vouloir présenter devant nous, dans cette chambre, aux gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse, et de nous dire si vraiment, c'est vrai qu'il n'y a plus d'argent.

[Page 4668]

To say in this province that he is prepared to risk nurses leaving this province because he doesn't have a cent left and that he is willing to stand behind, and if nurses leave in exodus, and still be able to say, I really didn't have any money, but we know in two years he is going to give us an income tax break based on the money that he is taking from us today.

M. le président, on voit chaque jour comment ce gouvernement-ci est déterminé d'attaquer les employés de cette province.

Mr. Speaker, even in today's, being the hour that it is, 3:00 o'clock in the morning, we are still debating in this Chamber, I shouldn't say still debating we have just begun.The government decided to bring us in at midnight. Even in the editorial today says, Dr. Hammer's House call, those are their words, it says, "But the government, absurdly, argues that its bill doesn't drastically curtail labour rights since bargaining is allowed to continue. In name, yes. But hog-tied unions have little to bargain with. And cabinet has the power to impose contracts when it is satisfied the parties are deadlocked. Health workers are entitled to a fairer process."

Mr. Speaker, you see, six months would give them the chance to review the fact that this failed. Your PR scam was just that, it was a scam and it didn't work. You tried to convince Nova Scotians to turn against nurses; your tried to convince them that Bill No. 68 wasn't really taking away their bargaining rights and was a good bill. Do you know what? It hasn't worked. That $5,000 you spent on each one of these ads could have been spent on a nurse here in this province, to keep that nurse from leaving this province and not be wasted on political PR by this Tory Government.

Mr. Speaker, if you want to see how serious this is, we all know, and I don't think anyone disputes how hard-working nurses are, I think even the Tory members will admit that, I can't think of any of them standing here and saying they don't think our nurses work hard in this province, and our health care workers are overworked and hard-working. To see, at 3:00 a.m. in the morning, after the shifts they have put in that they are sitting here in this gallery trying to emphasize to the government how wrong-headed Bill No. 68 is, they are still here, and I would guess they are probably going to be here throughout the night and more tomorrow, to try to show this government.Why are they turning their backs on the nurses of this province? Why are they passing legislation to prevent something which hasn't even happened yet, and in all likelihood may not even have to happen, if this government treats them in a fair way?

Mr. Speaker, six months would give them the chance to be able to look at the nurses and to say, I am sorry. I would expect the Premier himself, one would hope, he hasn't spoken on this bill yet, but I hope when he speaks that he says I, the Premier, who promised you strong leadership and a clear course am hereby announcing that I am withdrawing Bill No. 68 from this session and I want to apologize to each and every nurse and health care worker

[Page 4669]

in this province who we have offended and we are sorry and we are going to deal with you in a humane way, in a fair way and treat you as professionals.

I highly doubt that will happen. I hope he proves me wrong, but that is what he should say because in this bill, you know yourself, Mr. Speaker, the Tories say, well you know, it is not that bad. They can do the collective bargaining process, they can do negotiations and everything, but if there is something at the end of the day, a clause or one little provision they can't agree on, then Cabinet will come in and make the decision. That is offensive enough. That is unprecedented to see that, but that is not what is in the bill. The bill clearly states that the Cabinet will have the authority to impose either the provision of a collective agreement or a collective agreement itself. Imagine. So you can spend three months bargaining. You can spend a year bargaining and maybe there are two little things you can't reach an agreement on and the Tory Government under Bill No. 68 can say, well, no agreement, we are giving you a whole new agreement other than what you have been negotiating on.

That is what is in there, Mr. Speaker, and maybe the backbenchers don't know that. That is entirely possible and six months would give the backbenchers a chance to see what Bill No. 68 does. I really don't believe that members - like the member for Halifax Bedford Basin - really know what is in here and that is, in all honesty, no fault of her own. I don't even think when this bill was tabled the government members even saw it. In fact, I would bet money they didn't see it. When they walked in here today we all saw the Pages handing them all an envelope, an envelope that probably came from P & P to tell them what their talking points were and to tell them what to say and to tell them how to justify this. I would submit that some of the members over there have yet to even go through Bill No. 68. Six months would give them the chance to do that.

We saw yesterday, in the middle of Question Period, that once again, the Pages had the little notes for the backbenchers, the talking points. Be good little boys and girls, don't say anything here, you are going to see how upset the nurses are but at the end of the day we are going to trick Nova Scotians. We are going to pull the wool over their eyes. We have already spent money on these ad campaigns. Now we are going to tell them, no, if there is a little area of dispute Cabinet can come in and decide there but, you know, pay no attention to the fact that in the bill Cabinet can make an entire collective agreement on its own. That is why it is important to have an amendment such as the amendment that has been put forward on this floor to give this government six months.

It was interesting because the Government House Leader said, the hours are 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Monday's hours will be 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Mr. Speaker, on the Barrington bill, on other pieces of legislation and on Bill No. 68, the minister can say today we are going to sit 24 hours right through. Our caucus will be here. We will all be here. We will do our best to speak on behalf of Nova Scotians.

[Page 4670]

Mr. Speaker, the other thing I want to point out, why the importance of a six months' hoist? The thing I want to point out on behalf of our caucus is that in our debates here we have kept focus on the government. I am not going to spend my time standing here to criticize the NDP. Their Leader will continually stand up and will continue to refer to previous administrations, giving this government an excuse to justify what they are doing. We will not let the government off the hook. We will continue to represent Nova Scotians. Nurses aren't concerned about what happened 10 years ago or 5 years ago, they are concerned about the fact that today Bill No. 68 threatens to take away their collective bargaining rights in this province. That is the issue. It is not the issue of what the NDP will take us down and I won't speak any more on them. We will continue to be focused and Nova Scotians will see how misguided they are, but we will continue to be focused.

We will continue to represent the workers as much as we can, not only the nurses and not only the health care workers, Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 68 affects each and every Nova Scotian here. Anyone in this Chamber who doesn't realize that this impacts every single one of us is, once again, is an example of how this government has no idea what the impact of this legislation is and why a six months amendment would give them the opportunity, especially the backbenchers, the member for Halifax Bedford Basin, the member for Dartmouth South, the member for Cape Breton North, to go back and to be able to stand in their constituencies and say, I think this is great legislation. I agree when the Minister of Health said that he could not trust nurses enough in the case of a strike to provide essential emergency nurses. I agreed with that statement because, by sitting there silently, it is approval for what has been said. It is approval of the fact that their own Leader, their own Premier, has even yet to speak on Bill No. 68. I continue my challenge to him to stand in this House, to take his place now and to be able to speak on Bill No. 68 and to say why he thinks this government is doing the right thing.

Mr. Speaker, I would go so far today as to say - and I will let the Premier prove me wrong on this - I would stand in my place today and say that the Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia does not even know what is in Bill No. 68 and has not seen it himself. I will go so far as to say that. I challenge him to stand here and prove me wrong because, as I said before, we know who is running this government and who is running this province; it is the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Justice and the Government House Leader, nobody else. That is who is running this, not the Premier of this province. He is the one wearing it, because he is the one who said he would give us Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course. Six months would give him an opportunity to go back and try to work, to restore his image as a good country doctor, not the image of a hardened politician who is sticking it to nurses.

If that is not offensive enough, as I mentioned all the things that were offensive in this, there should be no other person in this province to better understand how valued and hard-working the nurses of this province are than the Premier, himself, a doctor, a man who has worked with these nurses throughout his entire career, and with these health care

[Page 4671]

professionals. Yet he is the one leading the government that is trying to bring forward Bill No. 68 which takes away the collective bargaining rights of nurses.

As I said before, we do not stand here in Opposition just to criticize, just to say bad, bad, bad and anything you bring forward we are going to say is bad. There was a way here for them to back up their statements. There was a way for them to say, we fear a strike, go through all their concerns and then say at the end of the day, we feel this is a fair deal and we believe that every Nova Scotian will agree with us; more importantly, we believe that any fair-minded arbitrator will agree with us. Had they said that, we would know, Mr. Speaker, whether this government is sincere when it tells the nurses today, we have no more money, this is the best deal you could expect and any fair and reasonable person would suggest that our deal that we have put to you is the best that you should expect to get.

Six months will give them the opportunity to revise their strategy and if the Minister of Health - how ironic, Mr. Speaker, I would welcome the Minister of Health to come to my riding and bring his ads about bed closures, long delays in emergency rooms, and to come down to the Strait and tell us why all of a sudden it was fine for us for six months, yet the threat of a nurses' strike now brings forward Bill No. 68. Why didn't we get that same concern from that minister in January when our emergency room closed?

Why has he allowed the health and safety of my constituents, the constituents of the minister from Inverness, the constituents of the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, the constituents of the member for Antigonish, why has he allowed their health and safety to be put at risk for six months yet that was okay? Yet now, a nurses' strike, they say they have to bring in Bill No. 68 and he says there is no better time to act. He says they are acting decisively and they are acting fairly. I agree it is decisively, but fairly, they ain't going to convince anyone of that and they certainly won't convince the residents in my area who today, as I stand here, we still do not have a doctor at the emergency room at the Strait-Richmond Hospital.

[3:15 a.m.]

When we talk about the six months amendment, one can only hope in that six months that they can do better than they have done in the last six months for my constituency and for the residents of my area for health and safety. How ironic to say how concerned they are about nurses. Well, go tell that to the nurses at the Strait-Richmond Hospital, who have been trying their best to work at a hospital with people coming in for emergencies and having to tell them, I am sorry, there is no doctor here, you have to go somewhere else. As if they are not hard-working enough, they have this additional stress placed on them each and every day with a minister who answered again today, I am hopeful. That is same answer he gave me in January, the same answer he gave me in February, March, April, May, and now, in June. Well, God help us all if this hope that he has is as successful for this province, for the nurses

[Page 4672]

and for the health care workers and for each and every Nova Scotian as it has been for the people of the Strait area.

At the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 68 is bad legislation and it is unsupportable. As it is I am not even sure if any amendments would be able to save this bill, but clearly we can only hope the government will have the fortitude and . . .

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to speak on the hoist. It doesn't give me great pleasure to speak on Bill No. 68, but I am going to speak on the hoist. There has been much said since we have entered this Chamber at midnight about the lateness of the hour and I think around Bill No. 68 and the hoist about Bill No. 68 and what that very vital six months would do for that sober second thought. But I think of the hour and I think of the many health care workers who are manning the various hospitals, emergency rooms and homes for special care as we speak in this room tonight, and I think of what they are doing, how they are staying on the job, how they are caring for our loved ones and the loved ones of other Nova Scotians, and to have their own government who probably some of these workers voted for believing that the good doctor from Pictou County was going to treat them fairly, well, Mr. Speaker, those people were mistreated by this government.

Those people, and some of them may have even supported this government, and I would suspect that the next time this government goes to the polls, I don't think they can expect any kind of support from any health care worker whether it be from Yarmouth, or Glace Bay, or anywhere in between, because the reason we want a six months' hoist in this bill is to allow the government to really look and try, if you will, to digest this bill and see what is in there because it is using the big hammer here, and why are they using it? Why would this government do it?

Let's look at something, let's look in the context of the workers who recently got a tentative agreement through the mediator, Mr. Outhouse. Mr. Speaker, what is baffling about that is this government knows full well that those talks are going on and I am quite sure they also knew full well that they were moving forward. They also knew that there was a deadline on those talks. They knew there was a deadline on those talks, but this government wouldn't give those workers that respect and wait for that deadline to end to see what the response was. No, this government thought - and I can only think in a perverse-type way - that if we do this we are going to seem like we are expediting that tentative agreement.

Mr. Speaker, that was wrong on all accounts. What we had were earnest people trying to do the best with what they had, whether it is the people from the Capital Health District or whether it was the union people representing the workers in the Capital Health District,

[Page 4673]

or the mediator himself, working towards an agreement, but this government wouldn't allow that process another 12 hours to work itself out. No, what this government in its haste went and did was reconvene this House and introduce this bill, Bill No. 68, that is before us now, but we have in front of that, if you will, a hoist motion for six months and I am saying to the Minister of Health to allow this system to work.

Mr. Speaker, last Saturday members of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union rejected, by approximately 75 per cent, the collective agreement put in front of them. As someone who was fortunate from time to time to represent workers in this province, not fortunate enough in the health care industry but in other areas, you know, when your membership rejects you by 75 per cent, they are sending you a strong message. They are telling you that this is not adequate, this will not do, and are we talking about splitting hairs here, are we talking about 5 per cent versus 4.5 per cent?

No, Mr. Speaker, these collective agreements, I believe at the root of them is more than just money. It is more than just time off. It is more than just having to know your schedule. It is more than just vacation periods. It is what every Nova Scotian wants, whether you are a health care worker, whether you pick up the garbage, whether you are a check-out person at Sobeys, whether you sell coffee at Tim Hortons, all you want from your employer is respect for the work that you do and this government has failed these workers. It is a very, very prime thing that workers want in and around the shop floor, respect. This government and this minister, in particular, doing what I would suspect is the Premier's dirty work here, will not show these nurses and the other health care providers the respect that they deserve as workers in Nova Scotia.

This is not a matter of who is paying the bills, Mr. Speaker, and I will get on to that a bit later, but it is about a minister who will go out in public and say to people, say to the media, if you will, well, I don't agree with their contingency plan, I don't trust them, is what you are saying, Mr. Minister. You are telling me that there were not provisions there. You said that in Question Period yesterday. That was totally wrong and you know that, Mr. Minister. There is a provision in the NSGEU collective agreement and you know that. You know there was a position on the table that would send any disputes to a 24 hour binding arbitration limit. You knew that, but you are not telling Nova Scotians that. You are not telling the workers that. So don't try to hoodwink us, Mr. Minister. You are not being open to us. You are not being open to the workers. You are not being open to the media. So, Mr. Minister, if you were in education, you would have failing grades all around. This minister and this government has not only failed these workers, they have failed Nova Scotians.

Where the proverbial buck stops is with the Premier, Mr. Speaker. The Premier, who was not answering questions today about this, the very Premier who brought us back here to this House to debate this draconian legislation, couldn't see fit to answer questions today.

[Page 4674]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I just want to remind the honourable member he is speaking to the six months' hoist and not the bill itself or the principles of the bill, or the bill before the House. The hoist amendment is before the House now so I would ask the honourable member to bring his comments back to the hoist amendment, please.

MR. CORBETT: With pleasure, Mr. Speaker. The erstwhile Minister of Health says concentrate. Well you know, Mr. Speaker, I think he should once in a while concentrate. We would give him six months to concentrate on this bill, to see how the process is going to develop. I mean, we saw the same government sit by and when talking about mediating the custodial staff of the school board here in Halifax, they dragged their feet on it when there was mediation there. This government then wants to just jump over all those steps before conciliation is even completed, indeed, in some instances, when there hasn't even been a strike vote taken yet. They want to use the big hammer here. This government is putting the fear in Nova Scotians of all these things that could happen. A six months' hoist would clear the way for that. It would allow all these bargaining units to bargain and try to get a collective agreement. Six months, six short months.

Now, Mr. Speaker, in six months' time, if this bill were to pass without this hoist motion, at what time does Cabinet come in and say okay, that's it, all bets are off, we are going to invoke an agreement. We don't know what that agreement is. Nobody knows what's on the table, what one party wants or the other party wants, or just what the Cabinet wants. So, one could assume then, if I am sitting on the management side of that table, I'm saying, well, look, they are really the ones with the money, the government has all the money, they are the ones who are going to pay the bill at the end of this, so let it go back, I'm not going to negotiate, I'm just going to sit there and let the clock run out and Cabinet is going to do my work for me because then I can go, as the CEO of a district health authority and say well you picked this number, you have to live with it. They are your numbers; but if they would give this bill a hoist for six months that would allow these parties to freely negotiate.

It is hard enough in this province, and we have talked about it many times, the disastrous shape the Trade Union Act is in this province. It is shameful when compared to other provinces, Mr. Speaker. But what they have done is they have taken what is primarily a bad Act and just kicked that out the window and made it worse. What they are telling us now is, look, it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter any more. We want to have an agreement that we need. It is not what is going to retain nurses in this province, that has nothing to do with this bill. If they would allow the six months' hoist it would be to the advantage of everybody because we could see how things would unfold.

Mr. Speaker, I had the occasion to meet with four nurses earlier yesterday. They told me something like 53 graduates from this year's class, this upcoming year at St. F.X. University, 53 in the nursing graduation program there had signed on to work outside of this province; 53 had signed to leave this province. Now if there are more than 53 in that class I bet they are looking to work outside this province, too, because this legislation does nothing

[Page 4675]

to entice these people to stay here. So maybe if we let cooler heads prevail and gave them six months maybe we could see some appropriate change. This government isn't willing to do that. This government is bent on forcing an agreement down the workers' throats. So how is that going to bring stability to the workplace? I would suggest to you if this bill isn't hoisted and if it becomes law, you are going to see massive resignations in this province and you are going to see an exodus of the health care workers of this province.

[3:30 a.m.]

I know too well, in my own family my young niece used to live next door. She worked casual work for three years within the Cape Breton Health Care Complex - three years. A dedicated young nurse who wanted to stay and live in Cape Breton, and where is she now? She left and spent about six months in North Carolina and she is now living in Portland, Maine, she and four others from her graduating class. Think about that because we are not only losing our youth here, what we are losing is the investment, the dollars Nova Scotians have invested in their education. They have been educated in these schools from Primary to Grade 12 and they went on to get their degrees in Nova Scotian universities, all subsidized by taxpayers. When the time comes to get money from that investment what do we do? We cast them aside, we get them to go and they end up working in North Carolina, Texas, Maine, Massachusetts and so on; we lose them. That is not wise planning, Mr. Speaker.

If this government would only take six months and do a de-cleansing or something and go and rejuvenate itself and find out the waywardness of its position, we would find that what they are doing here is morally wrong. Not only are we going to lose - as I said a few moments ago - the youngest and brightest, we are going to lose nurses from one end of the spectrum to the other. We are not talking about losing a new graduate only, we are talking about people in their late 40s and early 50s who are talking about going elsewhere.

I talked to another nurse today who is looking at options in Saudi Arabia. These aren't just figments of Frank Corbett's imagination, these are people telling you, real Nova Scotians. Many of these people probably didn't even vote Liberal, they may have voted for this government under the guise that life was going to be better for them but it isn't and it is not fair. It is not fair when you do not treat - and you are responsible, this government, you are the boss when the sun sets - your employees fairly.

What does this cause when we have this government causing people to work excessive overtime? We put a bill in front of this House to talk about excessive overtime and the Minister of Labour laughed at us. These are things that have to be protected. These are people working excessive overtime just to make ends meet. Don't you think they would want to be home with their families? Someone asked me coming here today, wouldn't you like to be home? Well certainly I would like to be home, but imagine the inconvenience to me - for

[Page 4676]

however long it takes to drag this bill down and have it defeated - is minuscule compared to the work these men and women have to do day in and day out. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I know some of the members in the gallery may have come in late and maybe some didn't, but it is very unfair for the ones sitting here who want to listen and are being quiet for the other ones to be disruptive. The Rules of the House are that if you want to be in the gallery you sit and listen with no disruption. I would ask you please to abide by the rules; if not I will have to take other measures and I don't want to that because I know most people are here being quiet and wanting to listen. There are some who continue to disrupt the House and I ask you please not to do that.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, that is part of the emotion. While the Rules of the House are the Rules of the House, and while I may from time to time disagree with the Rules

of the House that is part of the emotion of it.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, it is not always easy to keep them in check. I talked about the stress of working long hours. Everyone likes to portray - the Minister of Tourism and Culture does this in tourism advertisement, lays out this pristine, quaint province, and that is nice. In some ways that is an accurate picture. It is like taking the lid off a boiling pot, when you see it bubbling up inside what you see is that other surface. The idea that you have workers here who are highly-trained but being undervalued, that is what you have. The government has to be a government for everybody.

I have said many times, this government, while it has a majority of seats only got about 35 per cent of the popular vote. That should make a few alarms go off, about its own popularity. Yet, they take these large measures and they try to jam them through with their majority because they have more seats. The EMT strike less than a year and a half or so ago, they don't realize the human factor here. I don't know if you would call it heartlessness or just not wanting to put a human face on anything.

These are Nova Scotians who pay taxes, who buy groceries, who buy homes, who raise families, yet this government wants to punish them. This government is saying, look, you are an untrustworthy Nova Scotian . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre, again, that he is to bring his comments back to the hoist amendment that is before the House at this time.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre has the floor.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I was just going to take six months to do that. I didn't feel I was treading that far away, but your rule is your rule. You have the big seat.

[Page 4677]

Mr. Speaker, this bill, and one of the reasons I believe it should be hoisted for six months is because of its effect on many workers throughout this province. What we have had primarily in these Chambers the last few hours were workers represented by the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union and the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, but a look through a document I received from the Department of Environment and Labour just yesterday shows collective agreements in the health care industry that are expiring or have expired are many, but it is not just these key two units here. The Cape Breton Health Care Complex has some of its employees represented by the Canadian Union of Public Employees. That has been expired since March 31st of this year; the Central Regional Health Board, CAW, has been expired since March 31st of this year; Northumberland Regional Health Board has been expired since March 31st of this year.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is affecting a lot of people from one end of this province to the other. I don't know if the government is really seeing the gravity of this bill. That is why I think six months would go a long way. I want to read from a document that is less than six months old, well, no, it is more than six months old, January 1, 1999. This is quoting a budget background, nursing shortage addressed, Department of Finance, the good Finance Minister. I will just quote a paragraph, "Just as the province embarked on a successful program to recruit and retain doctors, we will recruit and retain nurses."

AN HON. MEMBER: When was that dated?

MR. CORBETT: That was June 1, 1999. That is two years ago. That's a fairy tale. (Interruptions) Yes, Liberals - anyway, so six months would allow the Minister of Finance to bring some clarity to that and show us how he and his good friend, the Minister of Health are going to recruit and retain nurses for this province. They are not going to recruit and retain nurses for this province, Mr. Speaker, by this type of legislation. I would tell you, in six months time, with this type of legislation, you will see fewer nurses here, who will want to work here.

We talk about - and I have heard it today - that if nurses had accepted the collective agreement put in front of them, they would have been the highest paid nurses in Atlantic Canada. Now the workers, Mr. Speaker - and this doesn't take six months to figure it out - realize that their competition isn't New Brunswick, isn't P.E.I., isn't Newfoundland, and the minister knows that full well, that the real market place is nationally and internationally. I have laid out states that have been hiring Nova Scotia nurses, provinces that are hiring Nova Scotia nurses, indeed countries in the Gulf that are hiring Nova Scotia nurses. So this flies in the face of probably this government's own mentality, if you will.

The minister will tell us that we can't negotiate against the kind of monetary capacity of Alberta or Ontario, but it is the same government that runs us headlong into some kind of globalization from time to time and tells us we can compete on a world market. Well, we can't compete with our own provinces if you listen to him. So let's sit back and hoist this bill

[Page 4678]

for six months and see really where we are at. Can we compete within our own borders? This is not a case of getting someone a little po'd at this. This is a case of having your whole industry turned upside down if this government will not listen to them. Six months would allow some sober second thought, if you will, Mr. Speaker, to come into this process to try to allow the minister - the minister should probably come in and sit at the table. I know he had his spies, if you will, around the table at the NSNU negotiations. I don't know about the NSGEU, but NSNU sent an envoy over and from both sides of that table, I was told, that that fellow did more harm than good because he came in in the middle of a negotiating process, and he didn't know if he was punched or bored and then started firing questions around and almost derailed the stuff.

Mr. Speaker, that is what this government is doing. If it walked away for six months and allowed what is on the table being negotiated, let that process take place. The minister hasn't talked in any substantive way about why the nurses rejected the contract last Saturday, why there was such a resounding defeat. I talked to both parties and when I talked to them, the first thing they wanted to do was get back to the table. In talking to people around there,

the good side of this, the good side of such a sound rejection is now we are not looking at a 53/47 split and we are kind of wondering are there just a few little things wrong, we got a tweak here or a tweak there, no, it is obviously a large issue. It is usually one large issue. But, no, the minister couldn't wait for that group to get together later on this week or next. So if he would just sit and wait, give us six months, let these bright women and men hammer out their own collective agreement, negotiated without the infringement of having Big Brother over your shoulder. It is not too much to ask.

[3:45 a.m.]

I tell the minister that these workers haven't let you down. They have done everything by the book. I go back to the strike of 1975, Mr. Speaker. Nurses did go out, but you know what? They manned those hospitals, they stayed on the job, the ones who they said would stay there, stayed there. What was peculiar about that, too, as opposed to today, you had complexes, I know in my area, like New Waterford Consolidated Hospital but also the two hospitals that were then functioning in Glace Bay, and you had the Harbourview and the Northside General, all those facilities were what you would call full facilities. They had OB and they had outpatient, they had surgical, they had pediatrics and those nurses said, look, we are staying on the job. Do you know what? They stayed on the job for no money. They got strike pay and that was it. They went on and stayed on the job. That's the type of commitment of the women and men in the health care profession of this province, that's the type of dedication they have.

Mr. Speaker, that's what I think six months would allow us. This seems to be a bill put before us in haste. It has no real merit, if you will.

AN HON. MEMBER: What would six months do?

[Page 4679]

MR. CORBETT: Well, six months would certainly allow this government to bring some vision to it. The bill, itself, I think it would be an understatement to say that it is heavy-handed. I have heard talks that there are unions looking at sending this bill to the ILO to have it reviewed for its legality. Now, Mr. Speaker, that's pretty heady stuff. That is not something that a union or anybody affected by a large piece of legislation does lightly. I have never heard it done before, as bad as some of our labour laws are in this province.

Mr. Speaker, why wouldn't the government take six months and let a group like the ILO look at it and see about the fairness of the document, see if it would work. We always like to portray ourselves, and I mean Canadians, as a people who really respect human rights and human dignity and so on. So don't be afraid to go out to an international body to see if this is fair and if it treats people with the dignity or does it infringe on their human rights. That would be a novel approach and you could do that in six months.

I don't know, again, what the minister's urgency here is, Mr. Speaker. We are talking about a short hoist of six months, yet this government certainly sees wanting to mandate a collective agreement that would go beyond their mandate, so that they don't have any messy little problems with these trade unions again until their term is up.

AN HON. MEMBER; Silence them.

MR. CORBETT: Well that may very well be a fact but I think they would hear from these workers in a whole other way if they don't treat them fairly today and by imposing a collective agreement on them that they don't really wish to have is not the way of doing it.

If this government would sit back and give it the six months' hoist, which my Leader has put forward today, it would go a long way to solving these problems. We are quite a ways down the road now, and these people have been without a collective agreement for quite some time. If the difference was for them to get a good collective agreement in six months or to be forced to take one now through this legislation, I would say they would take the option of six months. That is just me talking, but the problem here is this government wants to fence these workers in. As I said earlier about the employer, there is no onus now on the employer to bargain in good faith. The various DHAs will just sit there and let the clock tick until Cabinet moves in and says here is your deal. It will do it to all the DHAs right across the province.

What is really interesting, too, is the minister has no problem granting six months or more before we see the budgets of the DHAs. Has anybody in this province seen those budgets? They should have been done some time ago, certainly before now. Nova Scotians haven't seen them. If he is thinking of maybe giving them six months, why not give this bill six months? What are these DHAs working on? If they don't have their budget, they are not supposed to be able to operate without an approved budget, so where is that coming from?

[Page 4680]

Mr. Speaker, maybe if we had the six months' hoist in effect, by the time the hoist motion was finished we would see the budgets for the various DHAs. That could be another novel approach I would suggest to the minister that he could look at and possibly do. But no, this government would rather put the heavy hand of what they say as a "there, there, now" approach. What is interesting is this same government, from time to time, says - and this was their red tape commission - we have to get out of the way of Nova Scotians, we have to allow Nova Scotians to do this and do that. Darn it, you know, if you let those pesky unions try to negotiate a fair collective agreement, oh no, that isn't democracy, that isn't, and we have to squash that.

Mr. Speaker, this government can't have it both ways. They can't talk about the red tape commission on one hand and freeing up Nova Scotians and giving them rights, while taking away rights from other Nova Scotians. It just doesn't work, the door has to swing both ways. It has been well over six months since we have seen the red tape commission. I think it was a make-work project for last summer for them, and I don't know what little project the Premier is going to send his band of merry men on this summer, but . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Fire safety.

MR. CORBETT: Well, fire safety my colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, says, and that may very well be it. I am sorry to say I may be saddled with that lot.

Six months to help right a lot of wrongs in the health care system. I would think this government would welcome that. We know the largest portion of the provincial budget goes to health care, and wouldn't taking six months to help cure one of the biggest ailments of the health care system is its workforce. I would think that would be a bonus and I would think you could go a long way. If this minister would stand up, and he has that right to stand up and talk and say, look, we will agree to your hoist because we think it has merit and workers in this province, we respect them and we are going to see what we can accomplish in six months.

Mr. Speaker, that is not much to ask if you think overall what could be done in the health care system. (Interruption) You hear the prattling from the member, wherever he is from, outer space somewhere.

AN HON. MEMBER: Come on now, you know where I am from.

MR. CORBETT: No, I don't know if his parents know where he is from, from time to time, proverbially speaking, Mr. Speaker. He is going over there and he is saying a few words and he will not get up and debate the issue. He will sit there and he will walk in and out, but yet he will not participate in a meaningful way. He won't go up into the gallery.

[Page 4681]

Mr. Speaker, I find his little push and shove a bit juvenile to say the least. From time to time I wonder about the poor people he purports to represent because he doesn't do a very good job with the prattling back there and not getting up on his haunches and doing what he should be doing. No doubt, there are health care workers who live in his constituency and they would like to hear what he has to say about this bill, what a six months' hoist would be. He doesn't want to participate in that debate.

I want to go back, and much has been said about the minister and this, but, Mr. Speaker, I still believe the driving force behind this legislation is the Premier, plain and simple. He has a vision for health care and I can say he needs new glasses because this is not a vision enjoyed by most Nova Scotians, a vision of forcing collective agreements down the throats of workers. It is making a very untenable position in the workplace even more difficult. So I would ask the Premier if he would consent to the six months' hoist and let the people of Nova Scotia decide.

The Premier does not want to engage us in this debate, Mr. Speaker. I don't know where he is coming from. He has been quiet on it and I think he was quite vociferous, I guess you could say, yesterday in talking about what should be done. But when the rubber hits the road in this House he falls mute all of a sudden. So one can only assume that he is the driving force behind this bill, that he has a vision. Maybe if we had a hoist for six months he could spend six months cluing in all Nova Scotians to what his vision of health care is.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know how long it has been since the Premier has practised medicine in this province on a full-time daily basis. I wonder if he doesn't realize what is going on in the nursing homes, the homes for special care, and the various hospitals and so on throughout this province. Maybe, while the six months' hoist is in effect, it would give him the time to go and tour the province and find out what really the workers are doing. This bill, as I said earlier - we say the word nurses a lot here, but it is more than just nurses. It is everybody in the health care profession and if you look at Bill No. 68 it certainly would fall - anybody from whatever chain of command you want to come up with that is in a bargaining unit who works in a hospital in this province and certain other institutions. So maybe he should take this six months himself and go and tour the province and find out just what is on the minds of these nurses.

[4:00 a.m.]

I don't know if he has talked to those health care workers one-on-one, Mr. Speaker. If he took six months to do that, to talk to them. I know most times, when he entertains them in debate, they kind of buttonhole him, and it is not an even flow of information. I mean roll out your plan. If there is a plan, you have six months to roll it out and let all Nova Scotians see it. I think Nova Scotians are reasonable people. If they were allowed to see what plan this government and this Premier have for the health care system in this province, they would like

[Page 4682]

to know and if it was doable I am sure they would support him, but this game of peekaboo with the health care system in this province isn't working. It is getting worse.

You know, a document I read from earlier, and the Finance Minister talked about, a program to recruit and retain physicians, well, that is not working, Mr. Speaker. We still have doctor shortages right across this province and what is even more galling is that when the government talks about how it is recruiting doctors - and I know in the industrial Cape Breton area it is basically Dr. Naqvi who is doing all that, the chief of staff in that area - the provincial recruiter does very little. He does very little to help recruit and retain doctors in that area, so that is money coming out of that DHA, but we don't know how much is coming out of that DHA because we haven't seen the budget yet. Right, Mr. Minister? Do you have the budget for the Cape Breton area DHA?

AN HON. MEMBER: He has already signed off on it.

MR. CORBETT: Have you signed off on it? (Interruption) You think it is this week? Well, we may get it this week. I think we are going to keep you around then if we are going to see that.

Mr. Speaker, this bill, if hoisted for six months, would give us a marvellous opportunity to allow the workers real input, to allow Nova Scotians to see what the budgets for the DHAs are, to find out where we are, to articulate to the government, the workers could articulate to the government what issues are really important to them. Whether you work in a hospital, you work at Michelin Tire, you work at Sobeys - I was going to say Devco or Sysco, but you guys did that in, so we can't say those - those various jobs, it is all about quality of the workplace. This government is not accepting the fact that the quality of life on the floors of most of these hospitals, from a worker's perspective, is not very nice. They are being asked to do more with less and for less.

We have talked many times, Mr. Speaker, and we have read some introductions today about various health care providers who range I think from about 10 years, from the junior aspect, to 37, I think one had, and these people are committed to helping this province get ahead in rectifying and fixing what is wrong with the health care system, but for some unknown reason, and I don't even know if it is known to the Premier or his minister, they believe that this is going to go a long way in fixing a broken health care system, by forcing workers into a collective agreement that they don't necessarily agree with.

That is wrong-headed. So I believe our position with a six months' hoist would rectify that. It would allow this to open up. I mean I would challenge the minister to go with the Premier, we will say, start in Yarmouth and stop in Glace Bay and every health care location in between and talk to workers, talk to them about what they want. We are not talking, I believe, just in dollars and cents here where the government will say, again, we

[Page 4683]

can't pay Alberta dollars. Mr. Speaker, if somebody is working 80 to 90 hours a week, isn't that a problem? Doesn't that tell you that working that many hours, that's two jobs?

Now there goes the member for Preston. He is yabbering on again. He is sitting there like Jabba the Hut and he is not making any sense at all, per usual. He will not engage in a debate. He will not go and talk to health care providers, but he will sit there and do his little giggles and his little rants over there. He has very little respect for the workers upstairs, so I won't bother with him anymore. Mr. Speaker, maybe in six months that member could go and talk to them, instead of sitting back there giggling like a little schoolgirl, and could go and find out what is really going on with these workers. But he would rather sit there, get red-faced and be silly, than worry about what is going on in this province.

Mr. Speaker, maybe six months, but I doubt very much if six months would work on that member but (Interruptions) Isn't this great? Now before the collective agreement is finished, yahoos like that, yahoos like that are saying there is going to be a strike. You are responsible for some of the hysteria around health care. There is going to be a strike. These people are negotiating, they are not legislating. They are not going on strike, they want to negotiate. Don't you say they are going on strike, you don't know.

AN HON. MEMBER: You don't know that either.

MR. CORBETT: I know a heck of a lot more than you do, and I will stand up here and debate it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If the honourable members want to have an argument back and forth, or they want to screech, take it out in the parking lot, take it out of here, it is not going to happen in here.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre has the floor. You have about eight minutes.

MR. CORBETT: I will accept the parking lot challenge, Mr. Speaker, any day because . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There are going to be some people with you out there I think.

MR. CORBETT: . . . that's right. You won't have to worry about three minute rounds, I'll tell you that much.

But, Mr. Speaker, what that member is blabbering on about is exactly what is wrong, this whole idea of not respecting the workers. When your conclusion is that the only thing that these workers want to do is strike, it is totally wrong. These people, that's the last thing

[Page 4684]

they want to do. What person in their right mind - and that probably answers the question about why he says what he says - would think that's your best option? Your best option is to sit down and bargain fairly and get a collective agreement. That's what they want; they don't want to be walking outside with a picket sign, they want to go and get paid a decent wage, work decent hours and help heal the sick in this province.

Silly me, I think that's a noble idea, but yet this government doesn't think that, Mr. Speaker. This government, in its wisdom, thinks the best thing to do is to use this big hammer it has in Bill No. 68 and squash any initiative these workers have. So that's why I think the hoist motion for six months on Bill No. 68 would go a long way, would let cooler heads prevail and would allow these workers to negotiate an unencumbered free collective agreement. Is that too much to ask? Have we no respect for these members or their leadership? It's democracy at work, Mr. Speaker.

Clearly, last Saturday the membership of the NSNU said, we are not happy. Clearly, that was the message. How did they arrive at that? Did they arrive at it by 4 people or 12 people locked in a room? No, they arrived at that by allowing each and every individual member in good standing in that union to vote. It wasn't decided by 12 people cloistered in a room on Hollis Street, deciding what is best for workers in this province. They democratically went out and said that this isn't good enough, this isn't going to make it work for us, and sent their leadership back for more.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, what did the leadership do? Did the leadership come running to government? No, they went running back to the AHO and said we want to talk, we want to get back to the table. We were given a clear message by our membership that this deal won't do it. To the AHO's good grace, they said, yes, let's get back to the table, let's talk. Does the government agree with that? Obviously not. Does the government agree with the position from Wednesday night, when they said we are going to bang out a mediated settlement, and they did? I would wonder after what this government pulled off around the mediation process, would they ever get a reputable person such as Mr. Outhouse back to do any more agreements for them.

One thing about this whole process is trust. You have to trust the people you are dealing with. When one party does something like this government does, like in the midst of mediation, pull away and say, look, we are calling the House back, no matter what the settlement is, or if there is a settlement or if there isn't a settlement. Where is the trust? Why would anybody in this process trust this government anymore?

Mr. Speaker, we have some choices in front of us here tonight. We can continue to debate Bill No. 68 for the next however long it takes, or we can seriously look at this hoist motion. Some may say to us, well, the hoist motion is primarily a pipe dream, you are not going to get it to pass, but I look over across the way and I see members over there. I am sure there is a member or two who have either spouses or family members who are in the health

[Page 4685]

care professions. Wouldn't you think that a sober six months' look at what is going on here would be much more beneficial? For all those people, it would calm the fears of the other people who are out there that I think this government is stirring up, or are saying, if they go on strike I can't get my chemo or I can't get my cardio stuff and what about the veterans and so on.

[4:15 a.m.]

The unions have answered all those questions. They put their contingency plan out here. They have done everything that was asked of them. The only weak link here has been the government's position. It took a heavy-handed position when it came to negotiations. The same government panicked with the EMTs, as they are panicking today. It is an unnecessary panic. Governments, if they weren't so gun-shy around collective bargaining - when the Premier's good friend, John Chisholm goes with a payloader and almost strikes a couple of workers that isn't a problem in this House. But let nurses and health care workers try to bargain a collective agreement and that is cause for great consternation from that group over there. Holy jumpin' what do you do?

So let's look at the six months, if they would just give this bill six months. If this government defeats this hoist motion, it tells you what they are all about. They are about beating down trade unions. They're not about helping workers in the workplace, it is about beating down trade unions and making sure that they balance their books on the backs of the workers of this province. That is fundamentally wrong, Mr. Speaker.

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

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I don't know where to start. This is absolutely unbelievable that we are even here at this hour of the day, absolutely unbelievable why we are here and absolutely unbelievable the subject we are dealing with.

The amendment is to hoist this bill for six months and it might be a good idea if the Health Minister and the rest of his colleagues used that six month period, starting today, to pick up a copy of today's The Chronicle-Herald. The first thing you will find in The Chronicle-Herald is another $5,000 that has been spent on an ad to promote, put across the PR view of the government; so that is more money that possibly could have gone to nurses' increases. The ad that says, "The Health and Safety of Nova Scotians . . . A Responsible Act" that "The health and safety of Nova Scotians must be protected." according to the government.

[Page 4686]

You will also find in today's The Chronicle-Herald an editorial, and I am told, Mr. Speaker, that the Health Minister and seven of his PR flacks made a trip to the editorial board yesterday at The Chronicle-Herald, seven of them; seven along with the Health Minister, to try and put a positive spin on this bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did it work?

MR. WILSON: Well, Mr. Speaker, it didn't work. Now, I don't know how the Health Minister happened to get a very quick, convenient meeting with the editorial board at The Chronicle-Herald, I don't know what the connection would be over there with The Chronicle-Herald, perhaps he knows someone who used to work at The Chronicle-Herald, I am not sure. Anyway, it is possible he might be seated by someone who used to work at The Chronicle-Herald, but that special meeting was arranged so the Health Minister could try and put a spin on this bill.

The editorial board at The Chronicle-Herald decided to sum up that visit by the Health Minister and seven of his PR flacks by saying that, ". . . the government argues, absurdly, that its bill doesn't drastically curtail labour rights since bargaining is allowed to continue. In name, yes." But the bottom line is that the editorial board, after hearing the Health Minister and his seven cronies said that this is absurd, Mr. Minister, absolutely absurd that you are going through with this legislation.

If you take the same newspaper from today and you look further, you will find an article that is headlined "HEALTH CARE UNDER SIEGE" and two words that say, "'DRACONIAN,'" "'OUTRAGEOUS'".

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind the honourable member for Glace Bay that he should be speaking on the hoist amendment and we will all have a chance to read the paper later on this morning, I am sure. The honourable member for Glace Bay will bring his comments back to the hoist amendment, please.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, six months will give the minister the time to read the paper and see what people are writing about he and his government today and read it, "Constitutional, labour experts lambaste Tories, say part of bill may be illegal."

AN HON. MEMBER: What's the Attorney General saying on that?

MR. WILSON: The Minister of Justice doesn't even know enough that a bill, that part of it could be unconstitutional, should be shoved through this Legislature. Shame on the Minister of Justice, Mr. Speaker, absolute shame on him. Perhaps it would be appropriate later on if we even took the designation QC away from the Minister of Justice, if he doesn't know that much about the justice system and about constitutional law that he would try and push this through the Legislature.

[Page 4687]

Mr. Speaker, the reason we will all stand here and talk about this bill and on the amendment, the six months that we are proposing you to take to rethink this option is because there is no other way, I don't know if it is parliamentary or not but the only way I know to sum up a bill like this is that it stinks. It absolutely stinks.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am sure with his background, the honourable member for Glace Bay could choose his words a little more wisely. I'm sure he has a wide variety of words that he has used in his past life that he could make the same suggestion without using those types of words. I would ask the member to choose his words a little more carefully, please.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I agree, but if you have a suggestion perhaps of what is parliamentary language for stinks I will use it, but I agree to withdraw that term right now.

Mr. Speaker, I am here because of a nurse; that is the reason I am here. My mother was a nurse. I have two sisters who are nurses and another sister who is an inhalation therapist, so I come from a family of nurses, and let me tell you I have been told many, many times what a nurse goes through and what a nurse does. Many, many times. I say it with a great deal of pride because my mother, the nurse, raised 10 children on a nurses' salary. After my father passed away, Mr. Speaker, my mother was left with still five small children to care for as a nurse and let me tell you - and the nurses who happen to be in the gallery today will identify with this - my mom missed a lot of personal time with her children because she was a nurse; a lot of personal time. My mum, the nurse, went to work through blizzards, not to pick up her paycheque but because she was a nurse, she was a professional, and she cared about what she did. She was so proud to be a nurse and my sisters are the same way.

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely proud of my family's history in the nursing profession, but I am absolutely ashamed to stand here today before a government that would propose the legislation that it is proposing for health care workers and nurses in this province, absolutely ashamed. I know that on the government side there are backbenchers who feel the same way as I do, I know it. I know some of the members of the Tory caucus do not agree with this bill. Most of the members of the Tory caucus have probably heard now from health care workers and nurses in their ridings and those health care workers and nurses in their ridings have been telling us the same things that they've been telling us, the exact same things. They do not agree with what is going on here today.

Mr. Speaker, earlier - and again this is another example of why the government should take six months and think this over - earlier yesterday in Question Period I asked the Minister of Health to explain to me why, when this government is always crying poor, as it is now, they don't have any money for nurses, then how is it that they can find the money when they really need it? Already my colleague, the member for Richmond, has explained tonight, or this morning rather, that indeed they found it, for instance in education. As I mentioned in Question Period, Statistics Canada showed that this government took in $51

[Page 4688]

million more than it spent last year - $51 million more - but they don't have any more money for nurses and health care workers in the province.

So what we did in Question Period yesterday, we tabled a response to a freedom of information request, that we received. You see in that freedom of information request, which has already been tabled in this House, you will see that under a recent contract re-negotiation, the senior aide to the Health Minister has received a rather sizable raise, again.

Mr. Speaker, that senior aide to the Health Minister now makes over $77,000 a year, plus change, and basically that senior aide's job is to hold the minister's hand when he is in trouble and tell him what to say. My question to the Minister of Health at the time, in Question Period, was how could he justify that to Nova Scotians and to nurses and to health care workers when he is saying that there is no money to give them a raise but he can top up a raise already given to his top advisor, a decent raise.

Mr. Speaker, I also pointed out at the time that the Minister of Health has the highest-paid deputy minister in the history of the province. The Minister of Health has an assistant deputy minister; the Minister of Health has an associate deputy minister; the Minister of Health has a chief information officer; and he has an executive assistant. And on top of that, a dedicated policy advisor. If you add that all up, it would come to a considerable amount of money, I am sure, to pay for all of those people but, again, there is no money for nurses, absolutely no more money for nurses, and the Finance Minister is the one who put that forward. He controls the purse strings in this province and passes it on to the Minister of Health.

Mr. Speaker, on top of Bill No. 68, that is almost as absurd as Bill No. 68 itself. What happens here, with Bill No. 68, and it has been proposed, in the amendment, to take six months to think about what incentive is there is for an employer to bargain with the unions. What is going to be left? What incentive is there for unions to sit down and negotiate, or for the employer to sit down and negotiate with the union if you put the hammer down? You put the hammer down on collective bargaining in this province. What you have said is that if you don't like it, then we will impose a contract for you.

It certainly did not, as others have pointed out, do anything along the lines of saying, okay, well, if we can't reach an agreement then we will go to binding arbitration which has been the case in other provinces, in other health care situations. That is not even considered. That wasn't a part of this deal, a part of this bill. What they have said is, if you don't like it, too bad, we will put the hammer down and you are going to take what we give you. If you don't like that, that is too bad.

Mr. Speaker, let me get back, before I continue on that subject, to the fact of what happens to nurses on a daily basis, within the hospitals and within the health care facilities in this province. I made reference to the fact that I come from a family that is involved in the

[Page 4689]

nursing profession. I have seen them come home from their shifts, practically dead on their feet, and still have to do whatever is required of them in their family life, looking after children and whatever else is required.

Mr. Speaker, I mention again, as well, one of my sisters, who is an intensive care unit nurse in Glace Bay, and I would say with no prejudice whatsoever, perhaps one of the best intensive care nurses you would ever find in this province. In order to become a better intensive care unit nurse, she had to travel to Halifax to take a special course. After having done that and returning to the intensive care unit, what was her reward? She gets paid 10 cents more an hour, or in her words, 10 cents more an hour to save somebody's life. That is exactly what she does. Sometimes it could be on a daily basis, you don't know, but if you are in an intensive care unit you want to be where the professionals are and where the best-trained people are because your life is at stake.

How do we reward them? How do we pay these people? How do we show respect to the nurses and other health care professionals who are involved in intensive care units and emergency wards and everyday nursing duties? Well, how this government treats them and how this government shows respect is by introducing bills like Bill No. 68 and ramming it through the Legislature regardless of what anyone says, what nurses are saying, what we are saying and full steam ahead, put the hammer down and never mind anybody else, forget about it.

[4:30 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, what's happening, and it has been the case in many other instances, this government is not listening to the people of Nova Scotia. This government is not paying attention to health care professionals in this particular instance. We all know that nurses are highly-skilled professionals, as I mentioned, they undergo specialized training. I mentioned critical care, coronary care, there is ICU and many other specialities. Well, for an example, in the United States, critical care nurses are making on average about $7,000 U.S. more, that is in U.S. funds, per year because they are in high demand. In Washington State, for example, critical care nurses there make between $40 and $45 per hour. What this government does is attempt to take away any special unit pay from Nova Scotia nurses.

Again, I refer to my sister who is in a special unit and gets special unit pay, they were told they would be getting more, but in the second year of their contract - my sister explained it to me - that would disappear. Now, Mr. Speaker, my sister told me a lot more that she wanted to say to the government, but I can't say it right here in this Legislature because if stinks is unparliamentary, what my sister had to say about this bill and about this government is as unparliamentary as you could ever get. Let me tell you that. I won't repeat it but her words will stay with me for quite some time.

[Page 4690]

Mr. Speaker, this bill, Bill No. 68, and why the amendment has been moved for a six months' hoist, why we are here talking about it, and talking about nurses and health care professionals, but the bill that we are talking about is not one that supports or protects our health care workers. It doesn't even protect Nova Scotians for that matter. What this bill is about is pure and simple disrespect for Nova Scotians and health care professionals in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I have been here for almost two years and I don't think, not in my knowledge anyway, from previous governments, never before has a government such as this shown so little respect for an individual group of professionals, absolute disrespect. I think that the health care workers and the nurses in this province right now should be very, very proud of the way they are conducting themselves, very proud, because it is not nurses and it is not health care professionals who are abandoning their patients, even when things are coming down to the wire now. That has not been the case. There has never been any proof from the Health Minister that anybody's life was going to be put at risk, absolutely no proof of that whatsoever. The Minister of Health, himself, as my colleague, the member for Richmond said, didn't even know what the emergency plan was when this bill was introduced in the Legislature. It was the government that blinked first in this case.

Then, what they did after they blinked first was, they acted in haste. Now the Health Minister knows that, Mr. Speaker, and a lot of other people over on that side know that too, that this was done in haste. A mistake was made here. Then comes what was the ultimate slap in the face for nurses and health care professionals, they are blaming nurses and other

professionals in the health care industry for their own incompetency. That's what it is. This is an incompetent government that likes to blame it on other people. They have tried on other instances. They tried to blame it on the paramedics. They introduced back-to-work legislation and as draconian as that was, it pales by comparison to Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, the true voice on health care issues is not being listened to. The true voice in this province on health care issues are nurses, professionals, people who are involved and the voice of the public is not being listened to in this case. Again, today's The Chronicle-Herald has a little feature in there called, "We Asked" and they went out and they interviewed nine people that they selected, the way we used to do it in the media, we selected people at random. The Minister of Education would know this, they used to call them streeters and they still do or we used to call them, and this was a long time ago and it is not politically correct now but we used to call them "The Man on the Street", but streeters anyway. So they select people at random. Nine people in today's The Chronicle-Herald and not one of the nine people that they talked to said that this was a good idea. As a matter of fact, all nine people said that this is the wrong thing to be doing.

So, obviously, the first lesson that should be learned from that by the Minister of Health is that all your money that you are spending on ads in trying to convince the public that this is the right thing, you are wasting the money. But another ad is there today. These

[Page 4691]

are people, ordinary, everyday Nova Scotians that they pick at random and say, is the government doing the right thing? Nope, they're not. Some of the quotes, Mr. Speaker, is that everybody should have the right to express their opinion and another person says that they are showing health care workers what they really feel about them and another person said they should have the right to strike as well as anybody else does in this province and another person went on to say that I was in the hospital and the nurses were definitely a great help. I think they should have the right to strike.

AN HON. MEMBER: Or binding arbitration, at least.

MR. WILSON: Or at least, yes, something like binding arbitration. Mr. Speaker, those are, as I said, everyday, ordinary Nova Scotians who were interviewed by The Chronicle-Herald and that is what they are telling this government. But as we have seen time and time and time again, this government doesn't listen to ordinary, everyday Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, again, more thought for the six months that is being proposed to talk about this amendment for the government. More thought is the fact that one of the most outrageous facts in this whole matter is that we have a doctor as Premier, a person who above anyone else should understand the health care system and should understand the value of people like nurses and health care professionals. A doctor should understand that. A doctor relies on them, on a daily basis. My mother, the nurse, told me this on many occasions, doctors don't know everything, they are very intelligent people, very smart people, well-trained people, but they don't know everything. Sometimes they require the help of others, sometimes they require the help of nurses or lab technicians or X-ray technicians or inhalation therapists or whatever the case may be in a hospital. So the doctor would be part of a team, a health care team. That team, together, provides the best care that they possibly could provide for the patients.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I don't think that the doctor, in this case, has been provided with the right information from the rest of the team. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, I don't even know if the doctor in this case knows anything about what is going on with the patient because the patient in this case would be the Nurses' Union, the health care system itself, and other professionals and their unions. The patient in this case would also be Nova Scotians at large; everyone is involved here.

What has happened in this case is that the doctor, part of the team, is getting some bad advice, some really bad advice. Now we know where he gets his advice. He doesn't get his advice from anybody over there who is sitting against the wall; he doesn't get his advice from even some of his Cabinet Ministers. He gets his advice from two or three key people in the Cabinet. He gets his advice from the Minister of Finance; he gets his advice from the Minister of Justice; and he gets his advice, certainly not from the member for Preston, he gets it from the Government House Leader.

[Page 4692]

If you take a look at two out of those three, you know, Mr. Speaker, where their training came from. Their training came from a guy by the name of John Buchanan and we all know where that leads us. It leads us to trouble with a capital T, because we know what he has done in the past.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest in this case - and I firmly believe this and I know that some of the Tory caucus members will agree with me - that not everybody, including maybe the Premier in this case, agrees with the advice they were getting; maybe some of even the trio who advise him didn't agree that this was the right way to go. Maybe there was some nagging doubt on behalf of at least one person in that trio who said look, this may not be the right thing to do politically, this may not be the right thing. Never mind, I am not talking ethically or morally, because there is no question about that. Ethically and morally this is wrong, absolutely wrong. It smells. It doesn't stink, but it smells. What I am saying is for six months perhaps it would give the government the opportunity to take the smell off everything here, to take the edge off it, and they could review it.

What happens here, Mr. Speaker, is that the public is not buying it, nurses are not buying it, health care professionals are not buying it, and in this case some of the backbenchers, who know what it is like to think on their own, know that they don't like it either. Now this would be a great chance, a perfect opportunity for one of the promises in the blue book. This would be a great chance to have a free vote, absolutely. If there was a free vote on this issue, then some of the backbenchers would have that chance to say I am not listening to that trio who advises the Premier all the time, I don't agree with the Health Minister on this one, and what I am going to do on behalf of my constituents and on behalf of nurses and health care professionals in my riding is stand up whenever the day comes and I am going to vote against it. Vote against it. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, it has been allowed before. It has been done before in this Legislature and I would suggest to the backbenchers who would do that that maybe you would get re-elected - maybe - but this, if not, is going to come back to haunt you. Remember the old saying, what goes around comes around? People will remember this for a very long time. This bill is nothing more than a campaign of intimidation and manipulation. It is the intimidation and the manipulation of nurses and health care workers and what is going to happen, what will come out of this is that the nurses and health care workers are not going to waiver; they will keep their values; they will keep their caring; they will keep their compassion; they will keep doing the job that they are going to do because they are professional people. I have seen it time after time after time.

[4:45 a.m.]

That is for the people who will stay in this province, Mr. Speaker. This province will lose nurses over this bill and that is a crying shame, not just a shame. This province will lose young nurses and young health care professionals who they will need in the future. This bill

[Page 4693]

will drive those people from this province. The Minister of Health has the nerve, the audacity to talk about a nursing and health care strategy for this province and he tables Bill No. 68. That is shameful, absolutely shameful.

Mr. Speaker, this is a government that has really, unbelievably so, gone to great lengths to do nothing but to disappoint Nova Scotians. You have alienated Nova Scotians at every turn on every issue. It is almost unbelievable, politically, to think that a government would be that stupid they would think that that is the way to go, when at every turn they are faced with the same thing, people against them, people up against them. The government has difficulty, you know, they can't distinguish between the notions of justice and truth and what hurts people. They have failed to act in good faith. They have failed to negotiate in good faith in this instance. They don't even negotiate in good faith anymore and, most of all, time after time, they have failed to be honest with Nova Scotians; absolutely a miserable failure when it comes to honesty with people in this province.

Mr. Speaker, the introduction of Bill No. 68 will go down in history as this government's darkest days, the darkest days of this government for what it has done. We know, and that government knows that the people of Nova Scotia support health care professionals and they support nurses. We know that. I have given you an example already, just a small sampling in The Chronicle-Herald that I mentioned today. If you took a larger sampling, you would see the same results, that the vast majority of people in this province, an overwhelming majority of people in this province support health care professionals and nurses and what they are going through right now.

If Nova Scotians stand behind, and they will and we will, nurses and health care professionals - and who can condemn them, Mr. Speaker, I don't know of anybody except this government who could possibly condemn what they do and say that they don't trust them. How can you condemn nurses, how can you condemn health care professionals, how can you condemn paramedics? You say to them that you don't trust them, or you don't trust their unions to sit down and use the collective bargaining process to reach an agreement, and then you have the audacity to say to them if you don't like it we will impose one for you. It simply does not make any sense. It does not make any sense whatsoever.

Mr. Speaker, this government has done this before and what they are doing here, they condemn nurses, they condemn health care professionals and somehow they try to separate those values that I mentioned, right, the values of caring and compassion and commitment from those professionals, but the public knows the difference. Everyone knows the difference, but they view this as a game. This is all a game to the government, nothing more than a game. It's a contest. It's not, this is not a contest. This is not a political game. This is not a matter of trying to trick the Opposition, as the Government House Leader did earlier today. It is not a matter of trying to pull a fast one over on us and trying to ram legislation through.

[Page 4694]

You know, amazingly so, Mr. Speaker, that was tried today, that was contemplated today that it was going to be done. At the last minute - and the government members know this over there - they decided we won't do that because politically that wouldn't look good. That wouldn't look good to ram this through in one day and they held onto the reins and said whoa, don't go there. We don't want to go there right now but they will put down the hammer pretty soon, we will get there. It didn't come today and we will wait for it and we know it will come. Not before we are heard on the subject, not before you hear from nurses, not before you hear from other health care professionals and not before you hear from the people of Nova Scotia.

As I mentioned, this is not a game, it is not a contest, this is about health care in this province, it is an issue of faith and respect and trust between an employer and an employee and if you don't have those ingredients you have absolutely nothing. Nothing left to bargain with. What has happened in this case is that the employee has kept their end of the bargain but the employer has not. What they have done is they have broken faith, it is gone, gone. I would suggest that from this day forward whether it be LPNs or nurses or lab technicians or whatever kind of health care professionals, they will continue to care for their patients, they will continue to look after their families and themselves; but never again should those professionals follow the dictates of a government that has bargained in bad faith. They can't negotiate in good faith, you should not listen to a Minister of Health who is practically bankrupt of ideas.

Is this the best that the Minister of Health could come up with? Is this it? Was it the Minister of Health or was it someone else who came up with this great idea to introduce Bill No. 68 the day after one collective bargaining process had a mediator appointed, reached a deal, reached an agreement and then the day after they bring this in. As I said earlier, what incentive, give me the incentive that is going to be there for the employees and their unions to sit down and negotiate when they know no matter what they negotiate at the end of the day, the government will impose an agreement on them whether they like it or not. Unbelievable, totally unbelievable.

What will happen is that in this Legislature, no matter how long it takes, no matter how long we have, no matter how long they use the little legislative tricks, the parliamentary tricks that they will pull out of their hat from time to time and try to put one over on us, no matter how many times that happens, we stand up on behalf of nurses and lab techs and health professionals. We know the true story about the health care system and we know that the workers in the health care system are the heart and soul of that system. No matter what this government does, you won't be able to take that heart and soul away from anybody in the health care system.

Mr. Speaker, again the reason we are here talking on the amendment for a six months' hoist is to give the government time to rethink, just in particular, this bill. (Applause) I certainly know that applause wasn't for me, but I guess it is great to have a good

[Page 4695]

laugh at five to five in the morning, especially when you're not even paying attention to what is going on. If that is the case, so be it. They will be judged later on by that, not only by nurses but by many others in this province. As I mentioned, this is about a lot more than Bill No. 68, because as the ads in the newspapers are saying and trying to get across to the public, that a health care strike, the risk is too great. They went on, as my colleague, the member for Richmond, said earlier, that a strike would dramatically impact every hospital, every clinic, every community across Nova Scotia. It would mean emergency room closures, early patient discharges, bed closures, increased waiting lists, and restriction of services to life and limb situations.

Mr. Speaker, the sad fact is that those things that the government decided to list in its ad that was in The Chronicle-Herald are the very things that exist in the health care industry today. The very things. People struggle every day with waiting lists. People struggle with bed closures, emergency room closures and many other things that affect the health care industry but this government hasn't done anything to cure those. They haven't done anything to try to help in those situations before bringing in Bill No. 68. It hasn't been there. Why would anybody believe for a minute that it is going to change because of Bill No. 68? That is not the purpose of Bill No. 68, to improve the health care industry. You are not going to improve the health care industry by imposing a settlement on nurses and health care professionals who are only asking, please let us sit down and negotiate; let's talk.

They have said, and I know I've heard from nurses and other professionals who have told me that it's there, it's in place, emergencies will be taken care of, the plan is in place, they have talked among themselves and they have said they will put people in there who have to deal with emergencies, nobody will be at risk in a hospital because nurses are on strike, because health care professionals are on strike, because they are professionals and they wouldn't let it happen. It's not what they do, it's not what they are about, and that's what they have been trying to get across to this government, but they are not listening.

Further in that ad in The Chronicle-Herald it went on to state that we - we, as in the government - simply can't afford a strike. We can't afford it. Mr. Speaker, we know that's not true; the government knows that's not true; the Minister of Finance knows that's not true; and the Premier, the head of this government, knows that's not true.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Has he spoken on this yet?

MR. WILSON: As my colleague, the member for Richmond, pointed out earlier, and is telling me right now, and a good point - the member for Richmond has nothing but good points when he gets up to speak, whether it be in French or in English - the member for Richmond advises me the Premier has yet to speak on this bill.

[Page 4696]

Now, Mr. Speaker, I don't know how I am going to get around this but I feel it is something that has to be said. I know that you are not allowed to refer to whether or not a member is in this House, I understand that and I have a great deal of respect for the Speaker's Chair, and the Speaker himself, but Nova Scotians have to know that the Premier of this province was in this city yesterday. The Premier of this province was in this very city while we spoke about Bill No. 68 in Question Period. The Premier of this province was not in Question Period yesterday.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Now the honourable member knows full well that he can't bring the attention of the House to whether a member was or was not or is or is not here. I would ask the honourable member for Glace Bay to bring his comments back to the hoist amendment, please.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I will. Back to the amendment that has been put before us, to hoist the bill for six months. But again I wanted to reiterate that I want nurses and health care professionals in this province to know and the people of this province to know that the Premier of this province was in the metropolitan area today. He was here, yesterday. If the members who are saying it is not today, you are right, it was yesterday and I will correct myself. He was not out of town.

[5:00 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Glace Bay, I would ask you to bring your comments back to the hoist amendment that is before the House, if not I am going to have to call upon the next speaker.

The honourable member for Glace Bay has the floor.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I will bring myself to the hoist amendment that we are talking about. It is at times like this that I slap myself on the wrist for not learning the French language at an earlier point in my life. Perhaps one would be well advised to take that up at this point in my life. It can be a very useful tool. But, seriously, I have tried to get my point across, I hope I have, the fact that this bill is offensive to a lot of people. It is offensive to health care workers; it is offensive to professionals and nurses in the industry; it is just totally offensive to anyone who looks at it, constitutional experts who are now looking at and will be picking over it.

They will be going through this with a fine-tooth comb, but they didn't have to look too far, just one quick glance at it yesterday showed constitutional experts in this province that there is a part of this bill where there are a lot of problems. The fact that this government would put that forward, perhaps even knowing that, leads one to believe that, again, this government is out of control in terms of what it is doing in this Legislature. The government

[Page 4697]

is not even sure of what it is putting in its legislation. They have no idea. Or, maybe they do. Maybe they do know. Maybe this is a conspiracy or a plot.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It must be the hour. Again, I would ask the honourable member, if he is not going to bring his comments back to the hoist amendment, I am going to move on to the next speaker for the NDP.

The honourable member for Glace Bay has the floor.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I don't know if you asked me to retract those words or not, I didn't hear. I certainly will, I can't believe I said them myself. It must be the lateness of the hour, it would have to be.

Mr. Speaker, how we feel right now, and we have only been here for about five hours, well, we were here earlier in the afternoon, but I would suggest that how we feel right now is not even close to a typical day for a nurse. (Applause) All I have to do is stand here and talk. I don't have to look after somebody who needs medication or just had a heart attack or is dying. I don't have to do that.

It is unbelievable. In six months' time, as this hoist amendment is proposing, perhaps the Minister of Health and the Cabinet or certain selected people out of this Cabinet or some of the caucus members, the Tory backbenchers who have nothing better to do during the summer, take six months, and I will tell you what, visit hospitals in this province. Pay a visit to them, and spend about 8 or 10 hours a day in a hospital with the nurses, with the professionals and see what they are talking about. If they did that over this six month period, perhaps they would have a better understanding of what we are talking about today and about what these people are going through. Perhaps that would finally open their eyes to what is going on here, and perhaps after those visits to the hospitals across this province, where it is absolutely incredible, some of the work that does go on in hospitals across this province.

I know in my constituency, in Glace Bay, the Glace Bay General Hospital is one of the finest hospitals you will find in this province. The professionals who work in it are the finest that you will ever find. If the Minister of Health, if the Premier, if other Cabinet colleagues would appoint a committee - not long ago they had the red tape task force, where the boys of summer went across the province, I can't for the life of me understand what they did, anyway, it was a task force - appoint a task force for six months, to travel across this province and see what health care workers are talking about, see what they are doing, take a first-hand look at it, and then come back here and tell this Legislature that this is the right kind of legislation to put through this House; then come back and tell this Legislature that it is a fair offer for nurses, that the offer made would move them from the lowest-paid to the highest-paid nurses in Atlantic Canada, and we believe that is fair.

[Page 4698]

Mr. Speaker, if that is the case, if this is a fair offer, and this has been suggested already this morning, I would ask the Health Minister, if it is that fair, then why wouldn't you be prepared to submit it to something like binding arbitration? It is a great offer, according to the government and the Health Minister, so any mediator or arbitrator or whatever worth his salt would simply say, I have made some easy money, because the government is asking me to take a look at a fair offer already, and I can't come up with anything more fair so I will just agree with that. Please cut me my cheque, I am going home.

AN HON. MEMBER: What are they afraid of?

MR. WILSON: What are you afraid of? Why be afraid to put that offer before an arbitrator, a mediator, why? If you believe in it that strongly, if it is that fair an offer, if you are sincere about this offer, why would you not put it before an arbitrator, a mediator, in this dispute? Why would you be afraid to do that?

Mr. Speaker, I will give you the answer, because you know it is not a fair offer. It is not reasonable. You know that any arbitrator or mediator worth his salt would take a look at that and say, you have got to be kidding. You have got to be kidding. You would have to put more money in it to make it a fair offer, which is exactly what the nurses and health care professionals in this province are asking you. But, again, back to the point, we don't have the money. We don't have any more money. We have lots more money, lots more money to pay for the minister's deputy ministers and his special advisers and his EAs, we have all sorts of money for that, pay them nice big salaries to give the minister advice. I am not saying anything against these professionals, I am not, in any way, shape or form.

I am sure, as we all know, anything that comes across the minister's desk has to be approved by the minister. If his advisers are advising him that this was the right way to go and this was the right thing to do, well, I think it might be time that he had a little chat with them. I don't believe for a minute that that is what they have advised him. As a matter of fact, I think they probably told him differently. We saw evidence of that yesterday at a bill briefing in the Red Room.

I usually have a pretty good read on people, from the expressions on their faces. Let me tell you something, the Deputy Minister of Health, today, at that bill briefing was having a pretty tough time trying to justify this bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: What about legal counsel?

MR. WILSON: So was the legal counsel for the Health Department. Certainly, that is not disparaging remarks against those people. As a matter of fact, that is sort of showing that these people are having a lot of trouble with this bill in the first place, and that they are professional enough and intelligent enough to know that this is a troublesome bill. This is

[Page 4699]

not, and I firmly believe this, that those professionals don't think, deep in their hearts, that this is where the government should be going in the health care industry or with this bill.

Mr. Speaker, if you had been there, you would have seen it in their faces. You would have heard it in their answers. We have some very loyal civil servants in this province, and when they believe in a cause, when they believe in what their government is doing, they will defend it, they will have the answers. But that was not the case yesterday.

AN HON. MEMBER: How many were there?

MR. WILSON: Six or seven, however many were there. Perhaps they haven't been convinced by the Minister of Health or the Minister of Finance or the Government House Leader or the Premier that this is the right thing to do. Perhaps they know that, indeed, this was the wrong thing to do, that we just shouldn't be going that way.

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, in the United States and other places - and that's why we have a problem with the fact that nurses and other health care professionals are leaving our province - they can get paid more and they know that in places like the United States and out West. That's a problem, that's a big problem for this government and for this Health Minister to tackle, but here was a start, it wasn't necessarily a solution but here was a chance to make a start and heal those wounds and make some progress on stopping that bleeding that's happening from our health care industry. Here was a chance. But instead of doing that, what the minister decided to do was pour salt on the wounds. That's what the minister decided to do.

This is a bill that, as I said before, is about this government's bottom line and if the government was really committed to the health and safety of Nova Scotians, for instance, okay, let me give you an example, from when we were here not too long ago. Take a bill, for instance, like the bill that the member for Dartmouth East introduced, the scooter bill, do you remember that? Take that bill, it was so fewer children would end up in emergency rooms. It was a bill that required helmets for children on scooters. This government wouldn't pass that bill. They didn't agree with it. Do you know why? It wasn't their idea. They didn't like the idea because it came from an Opposition caucus, but they will introduce it themselves eventually because they know it is the right thing to do. Tied into the health care industry, Mr. Speaker, tied into what we are talking about here, about why we should take six months and rethink Bill No. 68.

This is bad, bad legislation. It is not going to do anything for anybody. It is not going to show anybody anything except the incompetency of this government. We have said it before in many instances, this is government by disaster. Government by disaster. They have proven it time and time again. They react sometimes too quickly, they put the hammer down, in this case with nurses and health care professionals. Mr. Speaker, they are not doing this for the health and safety of Nova Scotians. There was absolutely no evidence - that's what

[Page 4700]

you would call a red herring - that the public was at risk, absolutely none. Bed closures, as I said, that had nothing to do with a potential strike.

The inability of this government to provide a package, to properly plan human resources, we have seen it time and time again, heaven forbid that this government provide a package that would encourage nurses to come to Nova Scotia; a package that would say, yes, we need more nurses; yes, we want our nurses to stay, there are not enough of them. Come up with a package like that, Mr. Speaker. Come up with ideas that will not see emergency departments close in areas such as Richmond for six months. Come up with a plan that you don't have to see emergency departments threatened in areas such as North Sydney, when you have to go at the last minute rounding up a doctor from Halifax to go down there. Come up with a plan that will take care of the health care industry in this province. That's what is needed from this government, not this legislation, not Bill No. 68. This bill is not what we are looking for as Nova Scotians, as professionals, as health care workers in this province.

[5:15 a.m.]

We need something better from this government and assume if they continue to fail to do that, to provide Nova Scotians with what they are asking for, this government will eventually pay the ultimate price. They will disappear, hopefully off the face of the Earth, never to be seen again, because people will remember for a very long time what is happening in the case of Bill No. 68, what is happening to the health care professionals and nurses in this province. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and a good morning to you.

MR. SPEAKER: Good morning.

MR. DEVEAUX: What is that old song from school? Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morning To You. Well, the sun is coming up, it is 5:16 a.m. and I am glad to have an opportunity to get up and talk about this legislation, Bill No. 68. I remember asking the (Interruptions) Government House Leader.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is on the hoist.

MR. DEVEAUX: Yes, six months. Well, the Minister of Tourism, thank you for reminding me.

[Page 4701]

Mr. Speaker, I was asking the Government House Leader earlier - I guess it was yesterday - about the issue of when was the last time we sat for 24 hours. He recalls back to the Michelin Bill, in 1978 I believe was the last time. So it must be something about draconian labour legislation, that this government has a desire to ram it through as soon as possible and 24-hour sittings I guess is the way to do it. Well, I guess it is the style, that minister was there then, they did it then and they are doing it now.

I want to take us back a few more years before that. If we are going to talk about the six months that is necessary for us to have an opportunity to review this legislation, I think we need to look back at a very similar circumstance in which similar legislation was introduced, in similar circumstances with the same professionals, nurses and other health care workers, and look at how a delay in time in that case was able to ensure that our health care system was preserved at least to some extent, although we can see what happened to the Liberal Government of the day. I am talking about the 1975 nurses strike. I am going to refer fairly liberally if you don't mind, because this is directly with regard to the hoist. This is with regard to a very, almost eerily, similar circumstance in 1975 where the government had and did delay its legislation in order to ensure that a settlement could be reached. We moved this amendment because we believe that it is necessary for this government to do the same thing.

I will be referring to Chapter 4 of a book called "Strikes, Industrial Relations in Nova Scotia 1957-1987" and the fourth chapter is called "The Nurses Strike 1975." I want to take us for a few minutes to some of the issues as to why this situation today is so similar to 1975. I am going to table this, but I am going to refer to a couple of quotes from it. It says here, in the first page, "The major concern of the nurses was salaries. Their average monthly starting rate was $651 per month or $3.76 per hour, almost $300 less than the earnings of Ontario nurses. Nurses in Alberta and British Columbia were making even more." Now does that sound familiar? How the nurses in other parts of Canada were making more than the nurses here and how there were issues of parity and issues of our nurses not making as much as they were making in other parts of the country?

It goes on to say, on that same page, "The nurses' last contract provided for an 8 per cent increase in 1974 but with inflation that year running at 12.5 percent, they were already losing ground." We see that again today, that this is a 3 per cent inflation rate, even going higher I believe more recently; in Canada and Nova Scotia and in Halifax it is probably increasing at a greater rate. This government is proposing wage increases that are, in real dollars, not really providing any form of wage increase for nurses in this province, or other health care workers. It goes on to say, "There were continual nursing shortages brought about, in part, by what was being called the 'nurse drain' - nurses trained in Nova Scotia universities and hospitals were being actively recruited by hospitals in central and western Canada, which offered better salaries and benefits than anything they could get in their home province."

[Page 4702]

Again, doesn't that sound eerily like what is happening here today? You know we had this Minister of Health get up during Question Period and say to this House that we are creating all these new seats at the universities for nurses. Well, you know the irony is he is creating new nurses for North Carolina, for Texas, and now we even hear about Saudi Arabia, and Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario, because these nurses that we are training here are finding work in other provinces. That is why we need six months in order for us to go back and take a look at whether this legislation is going to address the issues of a nursing shortage in this province, a nursing shortage which I say is very eerily like what created a strike in 1975 amongst nurses. The fourth similarity which I noted on Page 2, and there were other significant bargaining demands that nurses had as well, ". . . maintenance of staffing levels of care . . ." Now, doesn't that sound familiar to what we have trouble with today? ". . . recognition of professional attainment . . ." again, another issue that we have today, ". . . differentials for greater responsibility, and portability of benefits between the hospitals."

These are all issues that I have heard brought up amongst nurses over the last few years, Mr. Speaker, but wage was one of the important issues. I think what sort of tied it all together so eerily as to why this situation is so similar to 1975, the nurses went on strike on June 12, 1975, which would have been the same day, it would have been the 26th anniversary of that event that this government announced that they were calling this House back and introducing legislation. On June 13, 1975, the Liberal Government, the Gerald Regan Government of the day, introduced back-to-work legislation and almost to the day, 26 years later this government introduces draconian back-to-work legislation at the same time.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who was the Minister of Labour?

MR. DEVEAUX: I believe it was Walter Fitzgerald at the time. Mr. Speaker, putting all of these circumstances together really provides us with a very interesting juxtaposition between 1975 and a nurses strike and what has been happening in the last few days and weeks in Nova Scotia, and a government that is unable to address the problems in our health care system and tries to download them and tries to push them onto the nurses and health care professionals in our province.

It is almost exactly the same circumstances, the same time of year as 1975, Mr. Speaker, and by the end of my talk here today I will be able to point out that maybe the same political ramifications are going to occur for this government as occurred for Gerald Regan in 1978. I am sure the member for Hants West, the Government House Leader, can tell us exactly what impact the nurses strike may have had on him being elected in the Windsor area in 1978.

Mr. Speaker, what is important to remember here is that six months is necessary for us to talk about the health care system in this province, to talk about how we can improve our health care system and how the nurses and the health care professionals and workers in

[Page 4703]

our system are a vital component. They cannot be the scapegoats. They cannot be the ones on which our government tries to pin the blame on. They are the foundation on which our health care system will be built and yet this government continues to chisel away and chip away at their morale, at their desire to stay in this province, and that will only result in the destruction of our health care system, not the improvement of it. I know many members across the way have wives or spouses or partners who are in the nursing profession and they should know full well exactly the type of work these people do and exactly what it means to our health care system.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tap into a little more about the 1975 strike, just to talk a bit. On Page 81 of the text, and I will just quote from this, "The initial statements of the government emphasized the supposed threat to public safety and welfare posed by the strike. According to Premier Gerald Regan, "'It is important for the government to react to the strike because of the disruptions which would result from picket lines being set up around the hospital.' Health Minister William MacEachern said the government had been forced to act, faced with the walkout and the critical emergencies which would develop over the weekend. They had tried to achieve a 'reasonable, realistic and civilized . . .'"

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Just to remind the honourable member that there is a hoist amendment before the House, not the bill and not the history of the House but the hoist amendment. I would ask the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage to bring his comments back to the hoist amendment that is presently before the House, please.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage has the floor.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, maybe I will go back and mention again the fact that what I said was that if you look at the history of what happened in 1975 and the fact that there was a delay at that time, it is a very good historic example of why we need a delay this time. I am asking the indulgence of the House to at least give me some opportunity to explain the history in order to understand why a hoist is needed right now. I appreciate the Speaker's comments, but I would also hope there is an opportunity for us to be able to build a foundation upon history. It is six months, Mr. Speaker, six months that is needed to talk about this.

Anyway, the point is that the Premier at the time, used idle threats of fear-mongering or public safety. The Health Minister at the time, William MacEachern, used the same threats, talking about the fact that they had made a reasonable, realistic and civilized negotiated approach to this process and at the same time we had a government that clearly was willing to bring in back-to-work legislation. It is all too eerily familiar.

Mr. Speaker, also at the same time Finance Minister Nicholson cautioned that it would be hard for the government to bear the increased wage costs, especially given that the nurses' contract would set the pattern for thousands of other hospital workers. Now, does that

[Page 4704]

sound familiar to our own Minister of Finance saying the exact same thing today? Twenty-six years almost to the day, we have a government making the exact same mistakes that were made by the Liberal Government under Gerald Regan in the mid-1970's. That's the problem.

Mr. Speaker, you have to learn by history or you will be condemned to repeat it, I think, is the old saying. That's what is important here because in the end, there are two lessons that can be learned and that is why we need six months to talk about this. There are two lessons to be learned with regard to the 1975 strike. First of all, that legislation was never passed because the Liberal Government of the day recognized that the people of Nova Scotia were very upset about this kind of draconian measure and were willing to stop it. The government of the day said that they wanted to ensure that they had something negotiated and they delayed the implementation and proclamation of the legislation.

That kind of delay of the House today, if we pass this hoist motion - give us six months for the health care system to negotiate a settlement and not have Cabinet impose one - would go a long way in building our health care system. Because in the end, in 1975, the nurses almost, if not, came close to getting parity with Ontario. It went a long way towards nurses in this province, stopped the nurse drain, nurses were willing to stay here, and they built a system that for years continued to be a good health care system until in the late 1980's, early 1990's it was again being chipped away by another government, Mr. Speaker.

The other obvious lesson to be learned from this, Mr. Speaker, is any government that attempts to legislate nurses back to work or to force or impose their understanding of a fair wage deal on nurses that are being stressed by wage problems and stressed by working conditions, will pay a political price at the polls. Maybe this government wants six months, through a hoist, to begin to think about exactly what they are doing here. From time to time you hear the gusto of some of the members across the way, when their mikes aren't on, saying we've got to move ahead, we've got to keep going, we can't turn back now. Well, those are the words of political fools.

Mr. Speaker, this is exactly the situation that happened in the 1970's and this can be the downfall of a government. (Interruption) Hey, fill your boots, I'll tell you, it's your choice, but let's be clear, that's why we need six months to talk about this. I remember just looking in The Chronicle-Herald today, when a big issue comes up, The Chronicle-Herald will do a streeter, where they ask 9 or 10 people. Sometimes there will be mixed results with regard to it, some will agree, some will not agree. In this case, all the people asked by The Chronicle-Herald said they thought this government was making an absolute mistake. That is why we need six months and that is why this government needs six months in order to ensure that it has an opportunity to listen to the people of Nova Scotia, to listen to the nurses, to listen to the health care professionals, the health care workers, the support staff so they can begin to hear that what they are doing is going to destroy our health care system.

[Page 4705]

Maybe they are blinded by that. Maybe they are getting bad advice, Mr. Speaker. Six months will given them an opportunity to listen to the people of Nova Scotia, to allow the health care system to negotiate a settlement so that the nurses and the health care professionals and health care workers will begin to believe that this system can be turned around, that it is not being forced upon them, that they are not having a gun held to their head, but that this system can work for them and that they can stay here, they can build a life here, they can retire here. That's all they want. They love Nova Scotia, they want to stay here, but this government continues to put roadblocks up to a better health care system, to nurses' ability to continue to serve and provide the professional care that they want in this province. Mr. Speaker, that is why we need six months for this government to see the error of its ways, to give an opportunity for nurses to negotiate a settlement and to give an opportunity for the people of Nova Scotia to again talk about our health care system and why the workers in our health care system are the foundation of why we need to provide them with the support they need and not provide them with roadblocks. That's the real problem here. That's why we need six months. That is why this government isn't learning from the 1975 strike. This is why this government will make the same political mistakes and they will pay the price at the polls.

[5:30 a.m.]

I want to take an opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to also talk about some of the issues around - I am not a nurse but . . .

MR. JOHN HOLM: You can tell.

MR. DEVEAUX: Thank you, the member for Sackville-Cobequid pointed out he could tell I am not a nurse. Well, Mr. Speaker, many of the other testimonies in the House today have talked about relatives who are nurses so I will add to that by saying my mother was a nurse, graduated from New Waterford General and my sister graduated from the Infirmary in the 1970's and they were committed to the profession of nursing. I was talking to a member, I introduced earlier, Carol Allen, who is on the negotiating committee and we were talking up in the gallery and we were sort of saying that it is almost a vocation, because you have to wonder why people go into this profession sometimes, given how they are treated by the government, given how they are treated in the workplace and the conditions they have to endure. It really is almost a vocation to want to do that work, to try to serve the people of Nova Scotia and the people of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I have had some experiences with nurses and I wanted to sort of take a moment or two to talk about some of those. When I had an opportunity to be a worker's adviser, I represented a lot of nurses. I worked as their adviser, I represented injured workers who had workers' compensation claims and there were many nurses who came through our doors. That's what this hoist is all about, giving this government a six months opportunity to learn about the real stories of nurses, about what they have to endure, about their working

[Page 4706]

conditions and why we need to have a negotiated settlement that they have a democratic right to negotiate and to vote on.

These nurses that would come through our door mainly had one of two issues: bad backs or environmental illness. This is a province that has had a lot of both of those, given what type of workplace we have. It used to be, years ago, Mr. Speaker, that they had orderlies that would do a lot of the lifting in hospitals but because of cutbacks and changes those orderlies aren't there anymore. The nurses, and I can remember some of them were very petite people and they would come through the door and they were lifting 200 pound people, having to move them around in their beds, whether it be in a nursing home or an acute care facility or a hospital. We had serious situations of bad backs and these nurses would continue to go back to work, they would continue to want to return to work because they loved the profession, because they needed the money, because they wanted the things that their family wanted and for all those reasons and more, they would continue to go back to work with a bad back, a back that would continue to deteriorate over the years. I would see time after time women who would continue to try to return to work to make those attempts when it wasn't the best thing for them.

We had a system that was preventing them from being able to have a career without also damaging their backs, Mr. Speaker. I saw that. That's one of the working conditions that the nurses had to endure and still endure. Again, if we had six months through a hoist, maybe this government could have an opportunity to listen to the nurses, those ones who have back injuries, those ones who can talk about other working conditions, whether it is extremely long hours or being called in on their days off on a regular basis or forced overtime or maybe they're casual who aren't able to get full-time work, all of those and many other conditions are problems in our workplaces in the hospitals and problems for our nurses, they are problems for our health care workers and maybe six months will give an opportunity for this government to begin to address these.

The other group we would hear from were nurses with environmental illness. These people, they are in a very difficult situation. Many of them were at the Veterans' Memorial Building or some of the other buildings in what is now the QE II or what is affectionately known sometimes as the Queasy II, and then there were some at the new IWK-Grace complex. They had what we would call environmental illness, a disease that the Workers' Compensation Board refuses to recognize, that many doctors refuse to recognize. In fact, here is the irony, I remember times when there were those in the medical field and those in the sort of compensation field, whether it be workers' compensation or other areas, who would specifically say that environmental illness was nothing more than women over the age of 40 who are depressed and aren't happy with their lives, aren't happy with their profession, and they had contracted something which they considered a psychosomatic disorder.

I was shocked by that, they are basically saying that these women, these professionals were prone to this kind of illness because they weren't happy, because they weren't happy

[Page 4707]

with their lives. That is just an incredible accusation that says how much people in authority in this province really don't understand the nursing profession. Maybe that is why we need six months, to give people in authority, whether it be the Minister of Health, the Premier, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, the Government House Leader, the backbenchers, the bureaucrats in the Department of Health or in the district health authorities an opportunity to learn about the real working conditions and not try to dismiss their illnesses, not try to dismiss their problems as psychosomatic, as depression, but really legitimately look at them as problems with the system.

The irony is, with the Veterans' Memorial building, it was a badly built building. Instead of trying to admit that and compensate the workers appropriately, they tried to blame the victim. That is the problem, not only with people with environmental illness but with our health care system generally. Blame the victims, and the victims in this case are the workers, who continually give 110 per cent, 120 per cent, 130 per cent in order to ensure our health care system can be held together.

This government continues to beat on them; continues to try to squish them under their boots in order to prevent them from actually getting what they deserve so their morale can improve, so that their working conditions can improve, and so that the people of Nova Scotia can again begin to believe they can have faith in our health care system. It starts with the workers, and that is why we need six months, for the workers of this province, for the nurses, for the health care professionals of this province, to talk to the government, for the government to, for once, listen to them and begin to build a system that will work for them.

Mr. Speaker, recently my wife and I had our second baby. We were in the hospital and one of the first things I ended up talking to the nurses about, there were two on that particular day just because of certain circumstances, but they were more than eager to talk about - this was at the IWK Health Care Centre - their working conditions, probably because they knew what I did, but also just generally. They are not happy. They talk about the fact that they are supposed to work four days on, four days off, but those four days off are rarely four days off, they are always being called back.

You have nurses who are not answering their phones for fear that they are being called back to work, when all they want is a break, when they have given so much and when it is their time off, they want their time off, and they are not being given those breaks, because we have such a shortage of nurses, because our health care system is, quite frankly, falling apart, and because this government has no plan and has no ability to address this other than to try to blame the nurses, blame the health care workers. That is why we need a hoist, because we need six months for this government to talk to the people of Nova Scotia and to begin to try and allow a negotiated settlement amongst the health care workers and the district health authorities. That is what we need.

[Page 4708]

It is that simple. If this government comes down with the heavy hammer or as the Herald said in its editorial today, Dr. Hammer, because he is using a big sledge hammer here, and he is going to destroy a lot with it. As I said, these were nurses who did a fantastic job in helping my wife and I with the birth. They were there. They do this on a daily basis. I can't imagine the type of pressures but also the joy of watching so many children being born, it must be an incredible experience.

Mr. Speaker, yet, we treat these people not with dignity but with disrespect. This government does not provide them with what they need, the tools, in order to ensure our health care system can survive. That is a problem. It is a problem that this government is unwilling to admit, let allow address. It is not just at the IWK, I remember on the campaign trail, talking and meeting with various nurses, and I still meet them and run into them, I have a lot of them who live in my riding. I mentioned Carol Allen earlier, there is Denise MacDonald - I don't know if she is still here. She isn't - another member of my riding who does a lot of work beyond the work that she does as a nurse.

I remember meeting one woman, Mr. Speaker, and again, she would probably want six months, she would want this hoist passed because she would want an opportunity to talk to this government about how this system is working for them. I remember running into her, and her husband was a padre or a minister in the Navy and she was an OR nurse, and they came from Ontario and she was talking about the conditions, that was two years ago, that was during the 1999 election - we had a very good conversation. Normally, everyone knows in here, on the doorstep you don't take very long, but in those certain cases maybe there is an opportunity to talk to people about their real stories and you take that extra time to talk to them and I did. It might also help that it was a rainy day and I needed to get out of the rain, but we had a really good conversation about OR nursing and about the problems in the nursing profession.

At the time I told her look, you know we don't have all the answers but we are going to work toward a plan that will get the health care system on its feet. I don't know how she voted in the end, but in the end a Tory Government was elected, a Tory Government, Mr. Speaker, that, you know, needs six months . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Again I will remind the honourable member that he is to be speaking to the hoist. I would ask him to bring his comments back to the hoist amendment that is presently before the House.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, as I was about to say, we need six months maybe for her to have an opportunity to talk to this government about why two years ago they promised so much for the health care system and now they are delivering so little. I am sure that woman, given her situation two years ago, would love an opportunity to talk to this government about it, and yet this government seems more bent on driving home legislation that would destroy the democratic rights of the nurses when what they really need to do is

[Page 4709]

pass this hoist motion which will give six months for the people of Nova Scotia, for the health care professionals to negotiate an agreement and to talk to this government about our health care system.

That is what is needed. It is that simple, yet this government doesn't see that for some reason. They seem more interested in attempting to try to stifle debate, to shut down any form of free and open collective bargaining because they have to blame someone for the health care woes. It is not working; the people of Nova Scotia don't believe it and maybe six months would give an opportunity for this government to listen to the people of Nova Scotia. Go home for the summer, maybe listen to the people, go to the barbeques, out to the summer festivals, and in that six months the MLAs, the backbenchers, the Cabinet Ministers, would have an opportunity to hear exactly what Nova Scotians are thinking about their health care system and that the backbone of that system is our nursing professionals and our health care professionals and that is why we need a six months' hoist.

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of facilities in my riding where RNs work and LPNs work and other health care professionals. Let's be clear, this legislation just doesn't apply to RNs or X-ray technicians and so on. It applies to all health care professionals and workers, whether they be support staff or they be technical staff or they be nursing professions. They would all love an opportunity to debate and to talk to the government about this legislation, and this hoist would give that opportunity.

In my riding we have Ocean View Manor, we have the Halifax County Regional Rehabilitation Centre and both of these facilities have nurses. They have other health professionals and, Mr. Speaker, there is an opportunity in this hoist to give this government an opportunity to come out to my riding and talk to the people in these facilities, to listen to what they are saying about the health care system. That is what is necessary and I would hope this government would do that.

Mr. Speaker, I have gone to these facilities and I have seen the nature of the work they are doing and the county home as I know it, the Halifax County Regional Rehabilitation Centre, is scheduled for closing. It has been scheduled for closing for years and they keep delaying it and delaying it and delaying it. Well, do you know what? If the government continues to delay the closing of that facility, why don't they delay this bill to talk to the health care providers in my community about why the health care system needs improvement, what they are doing to help it and why the professionals in that system need the government's help, not the government's disrespect.

[5:45 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, these are facilities that provide an important component of our health care system. Many of them live in my riding. Many of them live in other ridings. They live in the riding of the member for the Eastern Shore. I am sure he has people who work in those

[Page 4710]

facilities who live in his riding. He might want an opportunity to talk to them over the summer about why the system isn't working and why nurses and health professionals need the government to work with them to improve the system, and not try to make them the scapegoats for the problems. We saw in the paper in the last day or two, ads where the government keeps talking about this strike will cause these problems or cause longer waiting lists, will cause cancelled surgery. We had a bit of joke in our caucus office; they took the word strike out of that particular ad, and put in the word cuts, government cuts. It fit perfectly.

Mr. Speaker, that is the problem, isn't it? This government is more interested in blaming people and saying the strike is causing our health care woes when, in fact, the people of Nova Scotia are not having the wool pulled over their eyes. They know it is this government's lack of vision, this government's lack of a plan and this government's continued cuts to our health care system that are truly the reason why their surgeries are being cancelled, why their waiting lists are longer. It is not the nurses' fault, everyone knows that. This government is playing a game with them, a game they cannot win.

Mr. Speaker, that is why we need a hoist, for this government to finally listen to the people of Nova Scotia, to finally hear what they are saying. They will say to this government, stop blaming the nurses, stop blaming the health professionals, stop blaming the support workers in our hospitals and our nursing homes and our health care facilities, and start planning and showing us that you are going to keep your promise with regard to health care.

Mr. Speaker, that was a promise in 1999, they talked about the fact that the government I believe, for $40 million would fix our health care system. That is what all these people across the way went around knocking on doors saying. At the time they probably - I can imagine the words - would have said, ah, this Liberal Government is $600 million, they are bankrupting the province, we can do it for $40 million. It is like name that tune. I can name that tune in two notes. Well, this government said, we can fix the health care system in $40 million.

Well, here we are two years later. I think the budget of the Health Department has gone up more than $40 million in the last few years. Still, the health care system deteriorates. It doesn't improve. We need six months for the nurses and the health professionals in this province to sit down and negotiate a settlement, a fair settlement that all can agree on, that is democratically voted on by the workers, and that they can begin to talk about how we can resuscitate our health care system. Yet, this government doesn't want that. This government doesn't want a hoist, doesn't want a delay. They are only interested in stomping on the rights of workers; stomping on Nova Scotians' right to a legitimate universal health care system, instead what they are trying to do is impose Cabinet-directed, bunker-mentality collective agreements.

[Page 4711]

Mr. Speaker, we saw this a few years ago. We saw it in the early 1990's under Donnie Cameron where they froze the collective agreements; we saw the Liberal Government under John Savage do the same thing. That is what is necessary. We need a government that is not going to take the same stance as Donnie Cameron or John Savage, but is really going to try to do things differently. That is what they voted for 1999. If they wanted John Savage again they would have continued to elect Liberals; if they liked what Donnie Cameron was doing in 1993 they would have continued to elect Donnie Cameron in 1993. Clearly, the people of Nova Scotia have given mandates to government to do things differently and clearly, the governments of Nova Scotia are not listening.

This is just a really clear strong point, an example of why this government is not listening and why this government is going to pay the political price for it. The people of Nova Scotia are tired of governments that don't listen, and that is why we need to pass this hoist, so this government will begin to listen, begin to hear what Nova Scotians are saying. They are going to go home for the weekend, the members across the way, and they are going to get an earful from nurses. They are going to get an earful from the husbands and the wives and the spouses and the children and the parents of nurses. God knows, maybe in their own houses if they happen to live with nurses.

They are going to hear why nurses are so upset about this legislation. Not just nurses, why their families are, why their community members are, and why this government is making a drastic mistake. Maybe they will come back on Monday and say maybe we should delay this bill. Much like the Gerald Regan Government tried to do, they learned that they made a mistake, they tried to delay it. In the end it was too little too late and they paid the political price a few years later, but at the time they felt they had a mandate to do things and they learned that politically they cannot and should not attempt to take on nurses.

Mr. Speaker, nurses are the backbone of our health care system, they are the backbone of our communities, they are our mothers, they are our spouses, they are our children and the people of Nova Scotia all believe that they are underpaid and overworked. This government for some reason doesn't see that and maybe a six months' hoist would give them an opportunity to listen. You know, about a month and a half ago while the House was sitting I got a call one day, I've talked about this before but I just wanted to touch on it again, there was a poll. I got a call from a pollster company, I don't know if it was CROP or Ominifacts, asking questions about the nursing profession and how do you feel about the nursing profession, how do you feel about your politicians, similar questions on physicians, did you trust them. The minister, I thought at the time, had commissioned the poll, he claimed that they didn't, maybe someone else did. (Interruption) No, there was no mention of lawyers, or lawyer-politicians, I guess that would be a worse combination maybe.

Mr. Speaker, it was interesting because the poll was clearly trying to find out who did you trust more, who did you believe deserved the dignity of a decent wage and decent working conditions more, and who is not getting it, nurses, physicians or politicians. Well,

[Page 4712]

I don't think I need to see the results because I think I know what they are but it would be curious if they are published someday on who actually did commission the poll. Maybe the government could take the next six months, if this hoist is passed, to do that similar thing, maybe not through polling, God knows we've had enough of that, but actually going out in their communities and listening to the people in their ridings and hearing from them, hearing what they are doing wrong about our health care system and what they are doing wrong to our nurses. They will get an earful but it is pretty clear that the people of Nova Scotia are not happy about this legislation. They are not happy about this government's disrespect for our health care professionals and they will pay the political price.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk for a minute about the issue of the 1999 election, I talked about it for a bit. The real problem here is that the people of Nova Scotia in 1999 made a clear decision for change. This government, I believe, would have said at the time that was what they were doing, making a change, a conscious change. People voted Tory, 39 per cent, not an overwhelming majority but it was enough to get them the majority of seats.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I just wanted the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage not to forget the hoist amendment and I would ask that you bring your comments back to that. It is probably about the fourth time that I have asked.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage has the floor.

MR. DEVEAUX: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I believe that only a minute ago I mentioned that this was why we needed a six months' hoist and I would hope that the Speaker would allow me more than one minute between mentioning six months in order to reflect on the need for this legislation and why we need this amendment. I appreciate it has been a long night and the hoist is the important component of this legislation. I will continue to talk about the hoist but from time to time I will need an opportunity more than one minute to actually reflect why we need this hoist with a bit of background information.

Mr. Speaker, I was talking about the election in 1999 and this government was elected to address the issue of our health care system. The people of Nova Scotia - this is the middle of their term - they need time to talk to Nova Scotians, they need six months in order to talk to Nova Scotians about why this system isn't working. This government promised a health care system that works. It is not working and this government needs time to talk to the people of Nova Scotia about that. That can't happen overnight but maybe it can happen in six months. If they don't, this government is treading on the path of Gerald Regan in 1975 of making the same political mistakes. The people of Nova Scotia are going to have to make a decision in a couple of years when they go back to the polls. Maybe in the next six months this government can talk to Nova Scotians before it is too late for them? Maybe.

Mr. Speaker, in the next election this government is going to have to answer the question, are the people of Nova Scotia better off on election day than they were on the last

[Page 4713]

election day. That is a simple question. Maybe in the next six months this government will begin to reflect on if what they have done in the last two years is actually going to answer that question in the positive or in the negative. It is pretty clear, with legislation like Bill No. 68, I think I know what Nova Scotians are going to say and I think the government could use the next six months to talk to Nova Scotians about how this legislation is going to make Nova Scotians say, our health care system isn't better, my life isn't better, my system isn't working for me and I am not going to vote Tory next time.

Mr. Speaker, that is what happened in 1978. It will happen again in 2002 or 2003 or 2004, whenever this government has the gumption to go back to the polls because it is watershed moments like this, when this government tries to impose with a heavy foot its belief that the system needs to have a scapegoat, that the nurses must have an agreement imposed upon them. These are the watershed moments in a government's mandate. They are in the middle of their term. A few weeks ago they were thinking they were going to get out of this Legislature . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Let's have an early election.

MR. DEVEAUX: Yes, an early election and oh, the books are looking good. Look, you know, they didn't really touch us with much of a glove in the last session, we are looking good.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is Stockwell Day their Leader?

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: Is that your impression?

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, the point is, no, I think that is the impression of the government. A couple of things happened in the last little bit. First of all, I think they are probably surprised by the poll that came out the other day. Maybe they could use the next six months to understand why polls like that are still - their numbers have not gone up. They are still under 30 per cent in support and maybe in the next six months they can find out why. I will tell you, I will give you a hint. It is because our health care system is in disarray, our education system is in disarray.

AN HON. MEMBER: Our government is in disarray.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, now to top it all off, we have this government trying to put the boots to our health care professionals, our nurses, our health care support workers and that is a problem. It is a problem that all Nova Scotians know that this government cannot keep blaming others for its own incompetence. That is what this is. The government can't and will not develop a plan to resolve our health care system. It can't and it will not ensure that there is proper funding and investment, not necessarily over the next couple of years but over the next 10 years to ensure our health care system is viable.

[Page 4714]

Do you know what, Mr. Speaker? In the next six months, maybe this government can go out and talk to the people of Nova Scotia, to the nurses, to the health professionals, to the general public and say, do you know what? I was talking to some of the nurses about this earlier today. We need to see a light at the end of the tunnel. The people in this province and in this country are willing to swallow an awfully big pill if they know that this is going to result in them having a better health care system or if they work in the system, their jobs are going to be better, that they are going to have better working conditions. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not next week, but they will begin to see in a year or two or three or five or 10, that the system is beginning to work better for them. We have to see that light at the end of the tunnel and this government isn't showing that.

Mr. Speaker, they have no plan for how we are going to begin to see that light at the end of the tunnel. In the next six months, this government could use this hoist, if they adopted it, in order to talk to Nova Scotians about how they can develop a plan to get that light at the end of the tunnel, to listen to Nova Scotians so that the health care system will begin to turn around. A plan, a simple plan. We don't have that and the nurses don't see that. They get up every day, like my colleague, the member for Halifax Needham, reading that poem tonight, they get up every day knowing that they go back to work, never really knowing if the system is ever going to improve and fearing that it is only going to get worse.

So, Mr. Speaker, this government has an opportunity to change all that. As I said, nurses and other professionals in the health care system, it's a vocation. They love their work, they feel they are doing something that is good, that is honourable. All they ask is a decent wage and a sense of working conditions that are going to improve and continue to improve and this government can't even do that. Instead, it turns around and imposes legislation, or tries to impose legislation, that does the opposite.

[6:00 a.m.]

Well, Mr. Speaker, the people of Nova Scotia don't like it. They won't accept it and in the next six months this government could take the opportunity to talk to Nova Scotians about why its lack of a plan, its lack of a vision, its lack of answers with regard to fixing our health care system, are what Nova Scotians need to talk about, not about pointing the finger at our health care workers, about making scapegoats out of nurses. These aren't what Nova Scotians want. They want a government that is going to take a leadership role, that is going to act decisively, not draconian, not undemocratically, but act in a way that will ensure through leadership, through vision, that we can build our health care system once again, our universal health care system.

I see none of that. Nova Scotians see none of that. Nurses, health professionals, are seeing none of that and in return, when they try to negotiate a settlement that maybe they can begin to take a little control over their own health care system, they can begin to improve their working conditions just a little, but that hope that they can stay in this province, Mr.

[Page 4715]

Speaker, this government turns around and imposes legislation that takes that all away. It takes away hope. It takes away a sense that this system can be turned around. It destroys any last iota of morale, of passion for the job, and in the next six months, if this hoist passed, this government could begin to talk to Nova Scotians, begin to talk to health care professionals about how we can turn this system around, but instead they show no leadership. They show no desire to admit their mistakes and start fresh. Instead they continue to try to blame others, whether it be district health authorities, whether it be nurses, whether it be nursing unions, whether it be health care professionals and support staff, blame anyone, but God forbid you admit that you have a role to play to improve our health care system.

As I said, if you don't take the next six months, Mr. Speaker, through this hoist motion to truly talk to Nova Scotians about why our system is failing and what your role is in improving it, they will pay the price in the polls because Nova Scotians will ask, is my health care system better today than it was four years ago, are the waiting lists shorter, is elective surgery being cancelled less than it was before? Given today's statistics, I will tell you that the answers are no and the people of Nova Scotia will remember that. They won't blame the nurses; they won't blame the health care support staff; they won't blame the unions; they won't blame the district health authorities or the deputy minister, or the associate deputy minister, or the assistant deputy minister, they will blame the government and when you go back on those doorsteps where you said you would fix it for $40 million, this government is going to have to have a lot of answers as to why the system isn't fixed.

Mr. Speaker, maybe in the next six months through this hoist motion the government can begin to admit its mistakes, to say I am sorry to Nova Scotians. Maybe this government can begin to tell Nova Scotians how they are going to improve their health care system, working hand in hand with the workers in the system, bettering their working conditions. I started this by saying that the workers are the foundation of a strong health care system. If they are not confident the system is working, if they are overworked, if they are stressed, many of them are out on sick leave because of being overworked, if there is a shortage of workers, if they are underpaid and overworked, the system won't work. It is that simple. All the technical equipment in the world isn't going to make the system better. Everyone knows that. It is the bedside manner, it is the individual human beings who make the system work, and if this government isn't willing to admit that, then quite frankly, they will pay the price.

They don't seem to see that, Mr. Speaker. They don't seem to think that is a problem. Well, maybe if they took six months to talk to Nova Scotians instead of burying their heads in the sand, they would begin to see that it is a problem. Many of those members over there got elected by very short margins. For one of them it was a tie; another, it was 18 votes. (Interruption) More than that. The member for Preston asked how many I won by, 182, but I can assure you it is going to be a lot easier for me to go back to those doorsteps than it will be . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Because you stood up for Nova Scotians.

[Page 4716]

MR. DEVEAUX: That's right, than it will be for the Tory backbenchers to go back. The member for Preston, he has a lot of nurses in his riding, Mr. Speaker, and when he goes to the door and he says to them - I saw him outside picking fights with nurses, and if he is going to have that same attitude when he is on the doorstep, I will assure you that he is going to have a lot of problems.

Mr. Speaker, that is the key to this hoist motion. Let's give the member for Preston, or the member for Yarmouth, or the member for Chester-St. Margaret's, or the Minister or Tourism, an opportunity to go back to their ridings and talk to the nurses, talk to the health professionals in their ridings. Listen to them. Talk about why this is important and why the system isn't working. It is not the strike, or the threat of a strike, it is not the workers. It is the cuts, it is the lack of a vision, it is blaming all our problems on the financial woes, when in fact this government should be investing in a way to ensure that we can build a prosperous province, to build a have province.

Mr. Speaker, that is what we need to do in the next six months. That is what this government must be doing, and that is why we need this hoist motion. I just want to touch on, in my last few minutes, an issue around constitutionality. I am not going to get into specifics here, but there is a section in this bill that talks about the fact that this bill is unconstitutional. Incredible powers, a privative clause is what it is called that tries to completely eliminate the ability of anyone to appeal the government's regulations with regard to a collective agreement. No review by any court.

Mr. Speaker, maybe in the next six months, through this hoist, this government will have an opportunity to talk to the people of Nova Scotia, talk to some constitutional experts. Maybe they will go outside the province, maybe they will go to places like Osgood Hall, a very good law school, I might note. Maybe they can go and talk to some experts across this country, and maybe they can learn from other provinces that this kind of draconian clause is unconstitutional, it is immoral and it prevents, again, democratic rights.

This government has a long history of this in two short years, of taking away rights, of taking away the ability of a government, of a Legislature, of workers to be able to use the rule of law to ensure that they are going to make sure that what this government imposes is not unrealistic. This government continues to try to do it and, quite frankly, over the next six months, if this hoist motion is passed, this government would have an opportunity to talk to Nova Scotians and see that unconstitutional, draconian measures aren't going to help them sell themselves to Nova Scotians; it is not going to help them improve our health care system by slamming the door on anyone actually being able to review their regulations, being able to go for a writ of mandamus or certiorari.

These are things that could done, these are things that should be able to be done, and under our Constitution are allowed. Under Section 96, the Superior Court always has the right to review what governments do, and this government is trying to slam the door on that.

[Page 4717]

What I am being told is even their own lawyers are saying they are not sure if it is constitutional.

Mr. Speaker, I would hope we would have a government that would actually not try to create unconstitutional legislation. We had enough of that when I first came into this House. Over the next six months we need an opportunity for the Government of Nova Scotia to talk to the people of Nova Scotia about how we can have an open and accountable process for determining our collective agreements, where there are the opportunities for the rule of law to be preserved. Let's not take it away; let's not take away the rights of workers; let's not take away the rights of people to have the government's decisions reviewed by a court. But that is exactly what this government is trying to do. That is exactly what they are trying to do, they are trying to ram this through and prevent anyone from reviewing their decisions.

Mr. Speaker, that isn't going to fly in Nova Scotia and it is not going to fly in a country as democratic and with a Charter of Rights and Freedoms like Canada. Over the next six months, this government will learn that, if they took the opportunity to talk. Instead, they are imposing unconstitutional provisions that will prevent Nova Scotians from having an opportunity to indeed talk and review. The government can go into Cabinet and approve a collective agreement, and they are saying that no one can review that, no court, it doesn't matter what they do. They could put in place things that are incredibly unconstitutional, they could take away rights - I am not saying they are going to do this - they could do things that are a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, various parts of it.

Mr. Speaker, that is a problem. It could be a problem. This government says no court can review that, no court can turn around and stop them from doing that. In our system, a democratic system, the court always has the right to review government's decisions to ensure they meet minimum standards, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the rule of law, natural justice. When those things aren't being dealt with, that is what the courts are for, the checks and balances our system has. Until we have that, this system isn't going to work, this clause doesn't work, and this government needs six months to go back and rethink this unconstitutional, immoral, unethical clause that tries to eliminate any dissension from anything it decides down in that bunker. That is wrong, it is pig-headed and I would hope this government would rethink it through a hoist motion.

So where does this leave us? I am voting for the hoist motion, as are probably many of my other colleagues on this side. I would hope that those members who may be opposed to this hoist, who believe this thing needs to be rammed through as fast as possible, that is why we are sitting at 6:10 in the morning, Mr. Speaker, maybe they will get up and tell us. It doesn't have to be long, 5, 10 minutes. Let's put on the record the member for Pictou West or the member for Pictou East or the member for Kings West. Maybe they could stand up for 5 or 10 minutes and tell their constituents why they think that this hoist motion shouldn't pass, why they think they need to ram through legislation that takes away the rights of

[Page 4718]

workers, that takes away the dignity of nurses to be able to develop and build working conditions that they have been given the right to have. They are taking it all away.

Mr. Speaker, they are doing it under the cover of night, as quick as possible, in hopes that no one will notice. People are noticing. People know what is going to happen but I would hope these people would be able to stand up. If they believe this hoist is wrong, if they believe this legislation is so good that Nova Scotians will love them for what they are doing, then stand up and tell us why this hoist should be defeated. I encourage you to do that. That is what is necessary, otherwise all we have are people sitting in seats, remaining silent and yet voting for their own political destruction, quite frankly.

Mr. Speaker, I would hope that members across the way would think long and hard before they would not delay this legislation. Six months would give them an opportunity to reflect on our health care system, on the workers in that system and the dignity that they deserve. This government owes that to the people of Nova Scotia. They have broken the promises they made in 1999 but they have a couple of years left before the next election to try to turn around and say we actually kept those promises. There is still an opportunity. Take the next six months to use this legislation as a way to talk to people about our health care system. You failed them so far. You have blamed everyone else. It hasn't worked.

Nova Scotians know you are the root cause of all the problems in our health care system and they want an opportunity to talk to you about it. The nurses want an opportunity to talk to you about it. The health care professionals, the technologists, the support staff want an opportunity to talk to you about it and the next six months of this hoist would give you that opportunity. Stop blaming others. Mr. Speaker, this government has to begin to reflect on itself, admit it has made mistakes. People will accept that and they will say, let's take the next two years to talk about how we can build the system up, how we can eliminate waiting lists, how we can begin to address elective surgeries that aren't being cancelled, how we can begin to ensure that our system is working effectively so that when I or my grandchildren or my children or my parents are ill, that we can go to the hospital and know the system will be there for us, not have to wait six hours in an emergency room, not have to wait six months for elective surgery or, God knows, even important surgery, non-elective surgery, I should say.

Mr. Speaker, that kind of information, that kind of discussion needs to be had. This government isn't willing to do it. This government has not done it. It is not even willing to admit that it is not doing what it said. It is not even willing to admit that it broke its promise but maybe if they approve this hoist, they can take six months to talk to Nova Scotians about why they have broken their promise to Nova Scotians. It is not only health care, it is education, it is downloading on municipalities, it is jacking up income taxes by $120 million a year. Let's use this legislation, let's use this hoist to talk about the health care system because that is the number one priority of Nova Scotians and here is an opportunity for this

[Page 4719]

government to wash its hands, to say we are sorry for what we did, let's begin to talk and rebuild our health care system.

AN HON. MEMBER: They would feel better in the morning.

MR. DEVEAUX: They would.

AN HON. MEMBER: Yup, they would feel better.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, that is not what we are going to get. We are going to get a government that is probably going to vote against the hoist, it is going to ram this legislation through, it is going to destroy the morale of our nurses and our health care workers, it is going to destroy the foundation of our health care system even more. There are plenty of cracks in our health care system. This government is about to, maybe through the Dr. Hamm or sledgehammer approach, create a very large crack in the foundation of our health care system. Is it reparable? I don't know. Maybe it will take many years to fix. Maybe it cannot be fixed. Maybe we will have such an onslaught of nurses leaving this province that our system will fall apart, worse than it is now. This government doesn't seem to care. It seems more interested in the fact that it needs a scapegoat, it needs to blame someone and the nurses are who they want to blame.

[6:15 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that is unfortunate. I would hope this government would take an opportunity to talk to Nova Scotians, to listen to Nova Scotians, to listen to what they have been saying about our health care system and about the foundation of that system. That is what is necessary. That is what this government should do. I would hope that this government would take that opportunity to do it. Nurses deserve dignity. Don't forget 1975. The Gerald Regan Government paid the political price of defeat in 1978 because of what they did to nurses then. You are going to do the same thing, and I would hope this government would learn from the mistakes of other governments.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Good morning, Mr. Speaker. Isn't it a bright, cheery morning? What a great morning to be in Nova Scotia, unless you are a Tory, of course. I certainly wouldn't be too proud to stand here today being a Tory member of this government, I can assure you of that. It is a privilege for me to rise this early morning and speak on this bill. The first thing I would like to say is that it is disgusting that we have to be here. Unfortunately, because of the mismanagement of this government that is basically why we are all here. I think they are getting a little paranoid over there because that is why we are here.

[Page 4720]

Mr. Speaker, six months is a good idea for the minister to go about out into Nova Scotia and hold some meetings, some consultation meetings. Remember that, all the promises of consulting with Nova Scotians before they made any changes? Remember the promises the Premier made, where he was going to fix health care with $46 million? Imagine, $46 million, he was going to repair health care and everything will be okay. He was going to cut administration. That was where the problems were.

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to verify some of the increases this government went about and imported their advisors. They went outside the province and obtained people from British Columbia and other parts of the country to come and tell us here in Nova Scotia how to run health care. So I think the six months' hoist is an excellent opportunity for the Health Minister and his high-paid salaried staff of outlaws to go out into Nova Scotia and explain what the problems are in health care and what the heck is really going on.

Mr. Speaker, this is all about the salaries of nurses and they have no money for nurses. They have no money. That is obvious. They say that. Do we believe them? Well, no, I don't believe them, I don't, not after sitting in my seat here for the past two years and watching this government perform, I don't think, really, in all fairness, there are too many Nova Scotians who are prepared to believe this government any longer. These are some of the results; some of the salaries the minister has approved, new salaries in his department. Just for the record I would like to indicate just exactly how much these salaries are and what he has done to the Health Department.

The Deputy Minister of Health earns $188,000 per year; the Associate Deputy Minister of Health earns $100,000 per year; the assistant deputy minister, $100,000; the chief information officer, another $100,000; the CEO of the Capital Health District, $350,000; the Vice-President of Human Resources in the Capital Health District earns $145,000 per year; the Vice-President of System Development and Performance in the Capital Health District earns $145,000 per year; the Vice-President of Public Affairs, Capital Health District, $145,000 per year; the Vice-President, Administration, Capital Health District, $165,000 per year; the Vice-President, Diagnostic and Support Services, Capital Health District, $165,000 per year; the Vice-President of Health, Capital Health District, $200,000 per year . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable member, this is all very interesting but could the honourable member get to the correlation between these salaries and hoist amendment, please?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, yes, this would provide an opportunity, as I indicated before, for the minister to take his high-salaried staff out into the Province of Nova Scotia and explain to nurses, first-hand, why he has no money. That is a fair question. With these salaries - and I have three pages full, $260,000, $80,500, $80,500, $80,500, $80,500. This minister has no money. This is what he is telling Nova Scotians and, in particular, he is telling nurses he has no money. Why would the minister not agree to the six month

[Page 4721]

amendment in which he could take his high-priced team out into the general population and tell Nova Scotians why he has no money for health care workers? That sounds reasonable. It's a reasonable request.

These salaries are scary. This comes from a government that promised they were going to repair health care in this province for a mere $46 million. So, Mr. Speaker, six months would provide the minister an opportunity to go out into Nova Scotia and explain to Nova Scotians why he has spent over $300 million. Yet, health care is still in shambles in this province. Now why wouldn't that be a good idea for the minister to accept? This minister and this government couldn't run a vacant farm, simply put.

Health care has been in turmoil since this government took over two years ago. We can look at various hospitals, Strait-Richmond Hospital for instance, no emergency room yet, which leads me to ask, what are these high-salaried individuals doing? It is simply that the nurses in this province - even I can figure that out - they are the front-line workers, Mr. Speaker. They are the people who need to be supported in this system. Now, we know that doctors play a very important role in our medical system in this province and, indeed, right across the province, right across the country. However, I believe Nova Scotians deserve an opportunity for this minister to go before them, in public, and explain why he has no money for health care. Is it because he already spent all of it? Is that why he has no money, or is it because the Minister of Finance won't let him access the slush fund they have? The slush fund is rapidly increasing. The old blue Tory machine, the re-election fund, why doesn't he just say to the Minister of Finance, look, let's recognize . . .

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the honourable member is not talking to the six months' hoist. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. That is not a point of order. I would advise the honourable member again from Cape Breton The Lakes that (Interruptions)

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes has strayed considerably from the hoist. I would ask him to bring himself back to the amendment before the House.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am referring to the six months' hoist. Regardless of what the good minister has indicated, I did indicate that the six months' hoist would be an excellent opportunity for this minister, this government, the whole gang of them over there, to go out into the province and explain to nurses why they do not have any money. I don't understand why they don't have any money and I'm a member of this House. Why do we just stand here and sit here and assume ordinary Nova Scotians out there understand the issue because even I don't. Many of the members over here, none of us do. We don't understand why this minister doesn't have any funding. Now, the six months' hoist would allow an ideal opportunity for this minister and this government to go forth and meet with the nurses. Are they afraid of the nurses? Well, there will be a chance and there will be a day

[Page 4722]

coming when they will not fear nurses because as we grow old, we will be using health care sooner or later if we haven't already done so. If they really fear nurses, think about the future.

The six months would provide an opportunity for that honourable minister to go down and tell the good people in Richmond, his sister constituency, why they have no emergency ward. What is wrong with that? Is the good minister afraid of that opportunity? It seems to me that all this government does is confront, confrontation is what they excel in. We have seen it with the paramedics last year, another front-line health care workers. Attack them, that is what they did, that is what they are doing with nurses. The Minister of Finance has the funding. Six months would provide an opportunity for this government, provide an opportunity for the Premier to go out into Nova Scotia and explain to Nova Scotians exactly why they have no money.

I am sure that people will understand the comment that I am about to make. John Buchanan's graduates over there, they have money, they have funding and they have it in a slush fund and they give it out, we have seen it with education, with eduction they did the same just last month, create stress, all the stress they can. Conquer, divide and conquer, that is the approach that this government takes. This minister, and I am not standing here trying to assassinate his character because I will come right out and say, I think the minister is an honourable gentleman, I don't have a problem with that. He just can't manage health care in Nova Scotia, that is simple. Simply put, he is out of touch with his own system that he is trying to manage. He doesn't know any of the plans, he doesn't have any idea whatsoever. Now he is trying to tell Nova Scotians out there that this bill is to protect Nova Scotians.

[6:30 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, he doesn't have to worry about protecting Nova Scotians because nurses will be on the front lines today and every day, seven days a week. They provide the protection, not him. He doesn't have to worry about that, and as far as the nurses going on strike and not caring about the people in the hospitals who are in there, or the people who would arrive there in an emergency state, nurses would be there. They are on record as saying that.

They have a plan, Mr. Speaker, but that minister doesn't trust those nurses. That is what this is all about. He doesn't trust those people because he doesn't trust his own administrators he imported into this province. So a six months' hoist is an excellent opportunity for that minister to go and tell the people of Nova Scotia why he is doing what he is doing and why he is treating nurses as second-class citizens, particularly in the health system in this province. If he has money for these salaries, then why hasn't he got money for nurses?

The record shows, Mr. Speaker, this government had a surplus of $52 million last year. Statistics Canada is not wrong. This caucus is not wrong; it wasn't wrong on bracket

[Page 4723]

creep. The honourable member for Lunenburg West was not wrong when he approached the Minister of Finance over there in regard to bracket creep and he was not wrong when he told the Premier in this House that the debt would increase for the next six years, every year, and the Premier wasn't even aware of it.

Mr. Speaker, this government simply cannot manage the affairs of Nova Scotia. It is simple. Two years to go, at least, before the people have another say. They will judge this government, not I. I won't be judging this government and it will be the people on the doorsteps, they have to return and many of those people, when they knock on their doors, they can explain then. The backbenchers over there will explain, not the minister. The minister has an opportunity right now to go out and explain with the six months' hoist, and explain on behalf of the backbenchers, on behalf of his colleagues, to go out and defend what he is doing in this House, but he hasn't got the courage because he knows what he is doing is wrong, but he won't admit it. He knows that his department is full of inaccurate, high-salaried positions, some of them shouldn't even be in existence. That is why he won't go out to the population and explain why he has gotten health care in a turmoil in this province.

That minister has spent $300 million in health care already and if he continues on that pace, Mr. Speaker, by the end of his term he would have spent in excess of $900 million. The blue book and that Premier boasted that he could fix health care with a mere $46 million and he was going to burst the bubble of all administrators in this province who were ripping off the taxpayers. How did he deal with that when he became Premier and the people gave him the confidence to run a government in this province? His reply was to bring in these high-salaried imports from outside the province. That is how he answered and then he approves of the Minister of Health spending well in excess of $300 million to date in the department.

Mr. Speaker, I wouldn't criticize the minister for spending $300 million if it had been spent in a responsible manner and in a manner in which we could see results but there are no results. I will challenge any member on that floor over there to stand on his feet right now and tell us the positive changes that have come the health care in this province since they took over.

Now many of those backbenchers, Mr. Speaker, and I have said this before in this House, they were former colleagues of mine as municipal councillors. Those were the days when we bragged we were closest to the people. Elect me, I know your issues. I can help with those issues. Well, all of a sudden, they are relying on that gang up there in the front row. If I were them, I would be supporting this six month amendment, this hoist amendment, because it would take the heat off them. These high-paid administrators could accompany the minister out into the community and meet with the nurses and the general population out there and explain why they have no money for nurses. It is no wonder he has no money for nurses with these type of salaries. It is a disgrace, a Canadian disgrace is what it is. The minister should hang his head in shame along with his colleagues in that Cabinet over there.

[Page 4724]

Front-line health care nurses in this province deserve the respect that they have already earned in the past. We are losing some of our best nurses to other provinces because they are treated with dignity. It is not just the money, Mr. Speaker. People in the United States, they care about nurses. There is a shortage there from what I understand. As a result, they know how to treat people. They want to keep them employed. They need them to deliver a service, an essential service. Those circumstances are the same in Nova Scotia. We need front-line health care workers. They are vital to the well-being of our general population in this province.

Did you ever witness a car accident, Mr. Speaker? Were you ever at a hospital when an ambulance pulled in? Nurses are there first, right on the money. They are there when they are needed and they are there because they are well-trained and they care about you, about me. My children, who are home in Cape Breton, they care about their children. They care about everybody. What is wrong with these guys, these honourable gentleman across the road? Those backbenchers over there should start standing up and telling those ministers, what you are doing to nurses is wrong.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier, he could go out with the minister, since he is a good doctor - good, country doctor I think is what he sold himself on. He sold himself, oh, I am a doctor, I can fix health care. Yes, give me $46 million and let me slash all administration throughout the province and I am going to solve all the problems in health care. That is what he told Nova Scotians. So a six months' hoist would provide the minister and the Premier an opportunity to go out and tell Nova Scotians and explain first-hand to the nurses so that they are not getting misinformation from members like me. He can do it himself and he can go out into Nova Scotia and explain why he has no money for health care workers in this province. It is no wonder he has no money in the budget for health care because it is all in high salaries being paid to administrators. The direct opposite of what that Premier said he was going to do.

Another promise down the chute, Mr. Speaker. If you have the confidence in the abilities then why would you be afraid of the six months? Set some hearings throughout the province. Sit down, discuss first-hand with the nurses, never mind meeting them in the hallway here and, you know, a tug of war. I mean this is about health care in our province. This is not fun and games. It's not Nintendo. It is real. This is a real issue that affects real people each and every day of their lives. It is something that should be taken very seriously. As I indicated before, the good minister could take the six months' hoist and go out and explain to Nova Scotians why the Buchanan graduate won't give them the money out of the slush fund. Unless, of course, they are afraid that if they keep tapping into the slush fund they won't have their re-election money, it will be all gone.

This government is nothing short of an embarrassment, Mr. Speaker, nothing short of an embarrassment. I know the good Minister of Transportation and Public Works will remember during the month of April when the storm hit and it was a blizzard. Six months

[Page 4725]

would provide an opportunity for this minister to go down there and explain to the health care workers why health care is in the shambles that it is in. As I indicated before, the good minister will recall that during the April storm I was on his case pretty heavy over that storm because of the snow plowing and various issues. That is not what this is about so I am not going to get into that, but I received more calls yesterday from nurses in my constituency office and at my house and more than that, what really hits home, is that non-nurses are calling my office, residents of my community, expressing their support for the nurses and the health care in this province.

Mr. Speaker, do you mean to tell me that I am the only member in this House getting those calls? I don't believe that. Those members on that side of the House have to be receiving phone calls. The backbenchers are getting all the unnecessary pressure placed on them by their Cabinet colleagues. The six months' hoist would provide an avenue, an opportunity for the whole gang of them to get together, if it was necessary, to go out an explain to the nurses and tell the nurses there is no money. We don't have any money. They had money when the Minister of Finance went to New York last year and paid $900 for one night in a motel. They had money for that. They got money for this. They find little pockets of money everywhere they can, anywhere they can, only when the pressure is on. That is when they find the money. They find the money when all else fails and, you know, people don't back down. They take a big stick and they whack you with it and they think you are supposed to run away and if you run away, well then they keep their little slush fund intact. If you don't run away and you get the pressure on them, all of a sudden they come up with more money.

[6:45 a.m.]

Health care in Nova Scotia in 1999 was advancing; it was advancing slowly, but at least our minister was involved in the system. He was in contact with the nurses; he talked to doctors; he talked to the administrators; he talked to the residents in Cape Breton The Lakes; he talked to residents in Richmond, and he talked to the residents down in the Valley and he was aware of the issues. There was a money issue, he would have much preferred to do things quicker, he'll tell you that.

At least he knew and understood his department. This minister shows no interest. I can't believe it. This honourable gentleman has spent over $300 million. They borrowed, they added to the debt. This government has added at a pace of $3.5 million per day, $70-80 million per year more we are paying the banks because of their mismanagement. Then I hear the minister blame the Liberals for the deficit that was left. They had better wake up and smell the roses because the deficit was left to them in 1993 from their school of learning guys over there.

Mr. Speaker, the six months would provide an opportunity for that minister, those backbenchers, that Premier, the minister's colleagues, to go out into the facilities themselves

[Page 4726]

and talk to the patients. In fact, I had a call last night on the voice mail from one of those patients in Northside General Hospital very much concerned about the way nurses were being treated in this province. (Interruption) No, I didn't call the individual back yet. I intend to do that today because it was kind of a late hour when I did take the voice mail off and I will apologize to the resident for that when I return the call this morning.

Nurses have the support of Nova Scotians, they do have the support of Nova Scotians. It is very obvious that this government does not support nurses. They would prefer to hold nurses back, hold them back, keep them down in trouble. Some of us we even notice that they have two of the unions bickering and snickering. Divide and conquer, isn't that the game plan? That is their game plan; that is how we treat health care workers in this province.

Mr. Speaker, there is one thing about the clock on the wall, it is ticking. I had one phone call last night from a health care worker, the individual is not a nurse, she is a secretary or administrator, she is a single parent who could easily be on social assistance - and thank heavens she isn't, with that minister in charge of Community Services - but she easily could be home and she has a young son, she works hard. She is dedicated, in storms and blizzards, in all types of weather, and she indicated to me last night, she gets a lot of her inspiration because many of her co-workers are nurses. Nurses are underpaid, overworked and certainly ill-respected by that minister.

Mr. Speaker, he is not going to listen. We know that. We wouldn't be in this House this morning at 7:00 a.m. if that minister would listen. We wouldn't be here if that entire government would listen on all the various issues. They won't listen. They pretended, during the election campaign, that they would listen. They told Nova Scotians they were going to listen. I would like to ask any of those members over there how many doors they banged on since they got elected. I am almost sure there are not too many of them who go out into the community anymore.

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the member for Glace Bay, indicated that he has some sisters who are nurses and in fact his mother was a nurse. He indicated when he was on his feet that one of his sisters, when he had a conversation he couldn't repeat what she said because it was unparliamentary. What a legacy to leave behind for that minister. Those opinions are shared throughout the province. The six months' hoist would provide that minister an opportunity to go to Antigonish, sit down at the hospital with the nurses. He could go to the QE II, he could go to the Northside General Hospital, the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. He could visit all he hospital facilities in the province and he could do it relatively quickly. It perhaps wouldn't even take six months but he could sit down and explain to nurses - not the doctors, not the administrators, not the paramedics, because that struggle is over for them - the nurses. He could meet, sit at the table and he could hear the nurses first-hand and what their concerns are. In my opinion, the minister should welcome that opportunity.

[Page 4727]

I would like to know how a Deputy Minister of Health who earns $188,000 a year and the last time I checked he came from British Columbia, what does he know about health care in Nova Scotia? This guy educated himself pretty quick on the health care of the province. Now he might have been familiar with the B.C. health care system and all you have to do is read the newspaper, it is quite obvious what is going on with health care in B.C. We go out and we attract this guy to come down here and what is he doing? I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that health care has been in shambles ever since he arrived, ever since he got here. So what is he doing? The minister, in a six months' hoist, could take him with him, sit down with the nurses and explain to the nurses why they have no money. He could justify why he is paying all these administrators such high salaries and tell the nurses why they are not worth any money. What is wrong with that?

He could even explain why the Minister of Finance won't let him access the slush fund. He could tell them first-hand, look, whatever the reason, the minister wants that money for re-election. We are going to buy our votes in a couple of years. We need that money. We haven't got that money for you guys, you ladies and you gentlemen who work as nurses in this province. No, we are not giving it to you. No, we want our backbenchers to be safe when they visit doors the next time they are banging on them. So we are just going to dump that money in the various little vote-buying projects.

A six months' hoist is an excellent opportunity. He could take the Minister of Tourism with him down into Richmond, as I indicated before, his sister constituency. That hospital, to my knowledge, does serve some area in his area, and he could explain to those nurses and the general public why there is no doctor in the emergency ward, why there is no emergency ward in that hospital. Why they cut the position, because they did cut the position, in my opinion. I mean, if we look at the history of the Northside General, it took five days to put an emergency doctor into that department, but in his, you know, none; months now, not even any effort.

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious, at least in my opinion, that they cut the position and they are only pretending they are looking for somebody to fill in. It is babble. That is all it is, babble. This Minister of Health has successfully spent more money than any other minister that I am aware of, in his department in one fiscal year and has no results for all that money he has spent, none. There are beds closing. There are doctors leaving. He has even toyed with the idea of closing hospitals. Six months would provide the good minister an opportunity as to why this chaos is going on in his department, he could explain this to everybody.

I am interested in learning the answers to those questions, really. So I can go back to my constituency and explain to my residents why health care is in shambles and why that minister has no money to pay the nurses to deliver the service that is essential to every Nova Scotian in this province. Regardless if that service is going to be required by me either today or next week, next year. It is a service that I must ensure is protected because, Mr. Speaker,

[Page 4728]

the law of averages indicates very clearly that sooner or later I am going to require health care.

I have been a very fortunate Nova Scotian, to date, because I have had relatively good health, but I can tell you that I have had the opportunity to visit hospitals and, do you know what, Mr. Speaker, nurses were there for me. The nurses were there for me. I remember one time when I had a hot spark go in my eye from a cutting torch. Those nurses were there for me. They were there for me, and I am very confident in saying that if I need them today or tomorrow or next week, they will be there. So why shouldn't we pay these individuals the money they are worth?

When I look at this disgraceful activity with these - like a deputy minister, $188,000 a year; an associate deputy minister at $100,000 a year; an assistant deputy minister at $100,000; a chief information officer, $100,000 a year. Mr. Speaker, the last time I visited the hospital I didn't see any of these individuals. If the deputy minister is sick today or sick for a week, it doesn't impact health care, but let a nurse be off today. If a nurse is sick or home with the flu, what is the impact?

[7:00 a.m.]

That minister doesn't understand. He doesn't realize and he has no knowledge and he has no initiative whatsoever to even learn about health care in this province. In fact, I think his head is in the mud somewhere and he wants to bring it out and start smelling roses. Wake up, pinch yourself. It is reality time. He is the Minister of Health and he runs the most vital system in this province. Doesn't he understand this? Don't his colleagues, that gang over there, his colleagues in the Cabinet, they didn't change the name on them yet, I don't think. The last time I looked, they were still called the Cabinet, Executive Council. It is unbelievable, really. It really is. I can look over there and see there are no doctors and no nurses, which is fair, really.

Mr. Speaker, if I have a problem in my house with plumbing and I am not sure what to do with it, I go talk to a plumber. If my furnace breaks down, I go talk to the furnace repair man, especially if I can't fix it myself. This government, this minister, they can't fix health care themselves. They can't fix health care by treating front-line health care workers in the manner that they are. Wake up and smell the coffee, gentlemen. Go talk to the nurses. Let them help you fix health care. What is so wrong with that? I cannot believe that this minister, this government, is as stubborn as it is.

Where do they find these ideas? Who in their right mind would wave a whole fistful of money in somebody's face in British Columbia to come on down here to be my deputy minister. Yet, the people that are in this province, live, reside, contribute to their communities each and every day, raise children and, yes, contribute to the provincial tax system each and every day they work. Why wouldn't they be worth what they are asking for?

[Page 4729]

Ask the nurses if they trust this government? Ask the civil servants in this province if they trust this government? Ask the doctors if they trust this government? Ask the teachers if they trust this government?

Mr. Speaker, why would a good, well-intentioned government refuse to talk to nurses in this province, because that is what this bill is all about? They don't want to talk to the nurses. They want to hold a shotgun to their head and negotiate. Six months would provide that window of opportunity for these ministers and this minister, in particular, to go out into Nova Scotia and explain to Nova Scotians why he is failing, why his high-salaried individuals are not having the impact that he had intended on health care in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, it is disgusting when I look at this. It is a very serious matter. We are losing nurses to Ontario, New Brunswick, the United States, not only just for the money. I know they are making more money but it is the way they treat their employees because they need nurses, they respect nurses and they know that if they treat them fairly and professionally, they will keep them there. What is wrong with doing that in Nova Scotia, honourable ladies and gentlemen?

I remember, Mr. Speaker, a few months ago when the Premier indicated they were turtles one day at a speaking arrangement that he had. So then I came to the House and I called them honourable turtles. Now at that time, I thought of turtles, the little fish, the animals. Well, I think what the Premier really was indicating was these guys are Turtles that you buy in a box and you get gook all over your hands, you know. Have you ever tried to get it off and you didn't have a paper towel or a Kleenex or you weren't around a tap, water? That is what this government is like, they are stuck to your fingers and you can't get rid of them because democracy dictates that they are there for a five year term.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that if that minister has this opportunity for six months, he should take it because when the next election is called, and the clock is ticking, we are here 24 months now gentlemen, 23 actually, 600-some days. The clock is ticking and Nova Scotians are going to get rid of that gook. It is up to that minister and that government over there to do something now because if they don't, Nova Scotians will do it for them and it will be like ridding themselves of the gook after eating Turtles on a warm day. With $46 million, I am going to fix health care. Well, what a joke. What a sham.

Those honourable members over there should be embarrassed to walk down the street, $300 million spent on health care in this province to date and the shambles is getting larger. The pile is just larger all the time, the pile of rubble that they are creating. Go talk to the nurses, Mr. Minister. Go speak to the front-line health care workers in this province. Go listen to their concerns. Do you want to fix health care? Go get the advice, the proper advice, the proper direction on how to fix health care in this province if you are serious.

[Page 4730]

It is almost like in 1999 they were playing football over there and there was a minority Liberal Government and at that time they were Third Party I believe, and it was like a football game and there was a fumble and these guys have the ball and they don't know what to do with it now and they can't get rid of it. To me they just want to pass the ball, but they can't.

Mr. Speaker, six months would provide that minister, is it the minister is afraid of this stuff? Really, is he afraid to talk to the nurses? You know, really. The political football, they don't have to worry about it for two years. There is no doubt that this bill will pass, we know that, all residents of Nova Scotia know that. The six months that we are proposing here, they are not going to take that. They are going to go and do what they want. It is almost like they are promoting mismanagement just so they can take that football and toss it back because they don't know what to do over there. There is every issue, there are issues here now, the list is that long, these guys are getting that irresponsible over there, it is unbelievable. That is why I am almost ashamed of my fellow colleagues over there, my fellow municipal representative colleagues. Really, it is their doing, it really is.

I used to meet these guys at the USNM meetings and stuff like that. We're the closest to the people and we know what the issues are, we have to get the provincial government to listen to us, we can have an impact here and we can have a positive input, but now look at them, now listen to them. Do you hear them? They are pretty quiet; they are pretty quiet. The rumblings are gone, they have surrendered, it is obvious. They left the farm. No, they didn't sell the farm, the farm is vacant and that is why I said earlier when I rose to speak that they couldn't run a vacant farm. To begin with, they emptied the farm of any opportunity and now they can't manage the farm. It is almost like, I don't know, some of them I think would even haunt the house at times.

Nova Scotians are very frustrated and disgusted with this government. The only hope we have on this side of the House - and I say this with all honesty - if those backbenchers out there are going to wake up, smell the coffee, pinch themselves, this is reality time gentlemen and ladies, it is reality time, these are real issues that affect real people, not just nurses either. This affects your children, your parents, your neighbours, your aunts, your uncles, and yes it does affect health care workers. They are the people who deliver the service that is required by all of the above.

What are you honourable gentlemen doing over there to support these people? Nothing. You have a minister who is out of control, he's got a cheque book over there and he signs his name and passes it along for his administrative staff, but the people delivering the service, this is how you treat them? Do you think they will forget? Come on, Mr. Minister. Nova Scotians will not forget, gentlemen; Nova Scotians will hold you accountable, and sooner or later, Mr. Speaker, the day will come when bells will ring, but it is not going to be the bells in this House that you are hearing, it is going to be the knock-out

[Page 4731]

bell and the knock-out bell is going to come from the voters in this province who realize what a sham is going on over there.

[7:15 a.m.]

I know I am almost out of time, Mr. Speaker, and all I can do is plead with that minister on behalf of the people I represent . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member is out of time. His time has expired.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, as I rise in my place this pleasant morning on, I guess, a test of our endurance and strength, it is also a test for the opportunity for us, as members of the Opposition, to bring to members opposite, to bring to Nova Scotians who are watching and, of course, to make sure that Nova Scotians across this province are aware of the fact that we have, as members of the Opposition, major concerns about this legislation, how it has been brought forward and some of the results.

You know, Mr. Speaker, this is another interesting test for this government and I think it is important that during my comments over the next few moments we look at some of the examples that we could benefit from over the next six months when the opportunity comes to make sure this legislation sees the full light of day by health care workers, by nurses, by Nova Scotians about their concerns about the health care system because the concern always comes back to - and we saw some of them here yesterday - who is listening to the people right out there in front-line health care? Who is listening to them? Is the Health Minister listening to them? Is this deputy minister who we hear about but never see - it never ceases to amaze me that this Deputy Minister of Health does not come in this House during budget estimates.

I don't know, Mr. Speaker, whether you noticed that or not, but the Deputy Minister of Health, when other deputy ministers are allowed to come into the House and sit next to the minister during budget estimates and have the opportunity to give them assistance and advice - now maybe this Minister of Health believes he doesn't need the deputy minister here - I would like to see for once this revered Deputy Minister of Health come into the House during estimates. I would love to see this Deputy Minister of Health for the next six months have the opportunity to listen to real front-line health care workers, but there are some lessons which we have to learn and these lessons I would like to bring to your attention.

I know it is a little early in the day for me to revert to being a history teacher, but I am going to refer back to a very important - and I am going to quote from it in a couple of places and if it is necessary, I guess I will table this, but then I will have to get the excerpts

[Page 4732]

photocopied for you, Mr. Speaker. This is Strikes in Nova Scotia, 1970-1985, and it was edited by a C.H.J. Gilson. This is good reading. I want you to know in preparation for my comments today, I took the opportunity to look that book over and there is one particular section in it that 26 years ago, June 15 and June 16, 1975, there was a very eerily striking comparison to what we are going through at this very moment.

I am going to refer to that book. I am also going to refer to a wonderful poem. I don't know if you have heard this poem, Mr. Speaker, but this poem, parts of it were quoted earlier, I heard in the debate, not that I was up listening last night but, you know, I had the privilege of teaching this young woman who wrote this poem. The poem is called This Hour Has Twenty-Two Dollars. It is written by a young nurse named Melissa Cavicchi and that poem I want you to know has much to say about what Ms. Cavicchi puts up with, the stress, the wear and tear on her family. I see you, hearing that name, Cavicchi, and you are thinking, I know that name. Well, they are residents of Tantallon. Melissa Ryan Cavicchi actually is from the beautiful Village of Prospect and when I get to that poem I will quote a couple of excerpts from it and I will table it as you will expect me to do, Mr. Speaker, and I hope members opposite read that poem because stanza after stanza of it really says that it would be a wonderful opportunity for any of those members over the next six months to be able to look and to listen to young people such as Melissa Cavicchi. I say young, because as a student of mine, I know that makes me older.

I want you to know that this woman is a front-line health care worker who is frustrated. She is overworked and she is overstressed and she was in our gallery yesterday. She was in our gallery. I haven't had an opportunity to speak to her but I am sure over the weekend I will drop by and we will have a chance to talk again and listen to Melissa Cavicchi, but members opposite and members of the Third Party also would benefit from hearing from a young nurse such as Melissa Cavicchi.

Then I am going to refer, as I often do during these debates, to various health care workers who I have heard from. As I know, you, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, being the good constituency person that you are, I am sure over the last 24 hours you have a phone message bank that is full and I am sure that the light is blinking on that phone out there in the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, in Stewiacke. I am sure there are messages there from health care workers all across this province and from your constituency, in particular.

I want you to know one of the grave concerns I heard was from a woman by the name of Cynthia Driskill. Now Cynthia Driskill is the Editor of the Masthead News. Ms. Driskill has been going through some recurring health problems. Cynthia called me the other night very upset. She is undergoing chemo. I know Cynthia quite well and she has allowed me the opportunity to bring forward this concern. The concern that Ms. Driskill has is, what if this strike goes ahead. She says to me, Bill, what if this strike goes ahead, will I be able to receive my chemo? After all, there is a very serious issue that over the next two weeks - not over the next six months but over the next two weeks - will Cynthia Driskill, if we have a labour

[Page 4733]

interruption, will this be allowed? The answer, of course, is yes. ICUs, veterans care, chemotherapy, those essential services will be maintained. I am confident, I have the trust, I have the respect for health care workers that obviously members opposite do not have because of some of the fear-mongering, because of some of the scare tactics that have been brought forward with advertisements; essential services will be maintained.

From my understanding, now maybe the Minister of Health can correct me if I am wrong, there was and is a plan in effect so people such as Cynthia Driskill, so other seniors, would not have to fear the fact that essential services will be maintained.

We have seen this before, Mr. Speaker, it was June 1975. You know, some of the terms in June 1975, there was a nurses drain, they called it. They wanted - are you ready for this - a 54 per cent increase in wages. In 1975, the initial request was for a 54 per cent increase in wages. There were nurses making less in this province than retail clerks. That matter had to be addressed. I was a young teacher at that time and I can tell you that nurses have grown immeasurably because of their involvement in the 1975 strike. I had the opportunity yesterday to meet with a veteran of that strike - I think I can call her that, although we didn't get into her age - a woman, a health care worker who, incidentally, is from the beautiful Town of New Waterford that is so well served by the member for Cape Breton Centre. That woman, she worked through that strike and, as a Cape Breton nurse, she said it was one of the most important experiences of her life in the development of her professional career. Here she was again, yesterday, in Halifax taking on another government with some of the same ridiculous ideas.

So, Mr. Speaker, it would be a wonderful opportunity over the next six months for this government and members present to look closely at the parallels with the June 1975 nurses strike. Let's look at some of the personalities that were involved. The Premier at the time was Gerald Regan. The Minister of Labour was the past Mayor of the Halifax Regional Municipality, Walter Fitzgerald. Now I am sure the member for Preston can reassure us of the good working relationship he had when he was a councillor with Walter Fitzgerald. The Leader of the Opposition was John Buchanan. Now there is a name that members opposite sometimes in this House hold up for ridicule.

I know the members of the Third Party point to Senator John Buchanan constantly as the reason for their problems. I can remember meeting John Buchanan as he bounded up the steps to Sir John A. Macdonald High School, drove his own car out to the parking lot and, incidently, parked it in the wrong place, gave his keys to one of my students and said, move this car out of the parking lot. That was the Leader of the Opposition at the time in 1975, John Buchanan. Who was the Speaker? None other than Vince MacLean. So you consider this cast of characters and if you remember June 1975, it was that cast of characters that are going to have a role to play as we go through this history lesson.

[Page 4734]

I see the Minister of Tourism and Culture paying attention and I am glad he is because I am going to ask him questions later. I am going to ask him questions later about this important history parallel 26 years ago, June 15th and 16th, 1975. So let's remember those characters as we look at this parallel because it would take six months to fully be able to appreciate the difficulties of understanding the parallel between 1975 and . . .

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am a student of history and have always been very interested in history, but I am also very interested in the hoist motion. Unfortunately, the wonders of 1975, as fascinating as I am sure they are, don't seem to be quite germane to the discussion about the hoist motion. I would perhaps ask the honourable member if he could just en passant, if he might just be able to talk about why a six month delay would have any connection to the events of 1975. I was a high school student at the time and it seems a little bit - no offence intended to the honourable member - dated relative to the strike.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Well, that is a fair concern that has been raised by the honourable Minister of Justice. Possibly, before the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect does make the correlation for the House relative to his comments and the hoist, I should perhaps read the amendment into the record. I am sure it has been a few hours since the amendment was introduced. "Amendment, Second Reading, Bill No. 58, Healthcare Services Continuation (2001) Act. That the motion be amended by removing all the words following 'that' and inserting therefor the words: Bill No. 68, the Healthcare Services Continuation (2001) Act, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence."

That amendment was submitted by the honourable Leader of the Opposition. The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect has been straying somewhat and I would ask him to be a little more germane to the amendment.

[7:30 a.m.]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your guidance and I thank you for reminding us of the excellent motion brought forward by the Leader of the Opposition. I hope that the member for Lunenburg benefited from having a good, thorough, history, political science lesson in 1975 because he is going to get one here again as I look at the parallels and the importance of looking at the parallels over the next six months. In June 1975, I want to turn to Page 41, when we look at the fact this is what the author says - the author of this section, incidentally, is a Judith MacLean and I hope the Minister of Justice looks forward to looking to this particular chapter - Ms. MacLean writes that there was a clear consensus that if nurses walked off their jobs they would want to maintain essential services so no patients would be adversely affected by their action. Now, there is an issue that would take over the next six months to clearly point out that when and if a labour interruption does take place, essential services would be maintained.

[Page 4735]

If you look at what The Halifax Chronicle-Herald said, later on, because of course the nurses did go out and the nurses provided essential services, let's just see what The Halifax Herald says, from Page 44 of this same article, The Halifax Herald reported that hospitals continue to operate on a reduced scale with little sign of a major deterioration in health care. So my question is - and it comes back to the Minister of Health - why would you question the professionalism of these health care workers by saying that - if and when this labour interruption does take place - essential services could not be maintained? The lessons of history should not be forgotten. Over the next six months, it would be a wonderful opportunity for members opposite to look at the lessons of that June 1975 strike.

Who wanted this bill delayed? There is a key point. Who wanted to delay it? Because there was back-to-work legislation introduced by the Liberal Government of the day. In his place, as the Leader of the Opposition, stood John Buchanan, the good Tory godfather to those members opposite, and he said that this legislation was unfair, that it treated health care workers with no respect and that health care workers deserved a better wage. John Buchanan, as the Leader of the Opposition, asked the Speaker, Vince MacLean, to allow an emergency debate. And, Mr. Speaker, unlike you, without the fairness and the expertise of that, that emergency debate was turned down. The Liberals of that day were intent upon getting the nurses back to work. The Liberals were doing that, the Tories were fighting it.

Now we have it reversed. Thank God we have some New Democrats in here who are going to point out the lessons of history that have to be learned from this. To the credit of the Minister of Labour - and this is important and the Minister of Labour opposite perhaps could learn from this - this is my last excerpt from this book, the Minister of Labour, Walter Fitzgerald, he admits . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Goog.

MR. ESTABROOKS: The good Goog that he is, and that is a term of endearment, incidentally, here in the HRM. Walter Fitzgerald says from Page 55, one Cabinet Minister publicly expressed his regret, Walter Fitzgerald admitted that he had never believed in the back-to-work legislation.

Good for Walter. In fact, there were demands that he should resign. Eventually, of course, the Liberals backed off on the legislation, negotiation continued and that is what would be allowed to continue over the next six months. Negotiations continue, collective bargaining is a democratic right in this province, or it used to be. Collective bargaining, over the next six months, where the people involved would be allowed to sit down and continue to bargain. That, after all, would be a perfect settlement to this labour dispute.

That is one of the lessons of history, but isn't it ironic that over the next six months, all members present here could look at the irony of having John Buchanan as the Leader of

[Page 4736]

the Opposition standing up to this back-to-work legislation and the Liberals trying to shove it down the throats of nurses?

Nurses came out of that strike very, very different. I want to point out to the members opposite that over the next six months they should consider some of the conclusions that came out of that 1975 strike. First of all, nurses never forgot. My friend, the member for Cape Breton Centre, his nursing friend who was here visiting yesterday, she said to us - the member for Cape Breton Centre and other members of our caucus - that was the event in her early career as a nurse that confirmed that she was going to be a card-carrying union member of whatever union, the NSNU, the NSGEU, that represented nurses. Nurses came out of that 1975 strike more united, more professional, willing, after all, to no longer take it from government. They weren't going to take it from the Liberals then, they are not going to take it from the Tories now.

Out of that, however, comes a certain bitterness and suspicion with politicians and I am one of those, Mr. Speaker, whether it is Liberal or Tory over the next six months, it would be a wonderful opportunity for this government opposite to have the opportunity to sit down and listen to this nurse from New Waterford so that she could have her say about the comparisons between 1975 and 1991.

Now I know the Minister of Justice is dying to hear about this poem because maybe he didn't have much of a history teacher. I hope he had an English teacher who taught him the appreciation of poetry. Now let's look at this. Melissa Cavicchi, a young nurse who lives in Tantallon Woods, . . .

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. One thing that I wouldn't permit to continue would be the libel of my high school history teacher who was one of the finest teachers I have ever had and who, for the record, was one of the people who led to my tremendous interest in history. So just for the record, I would ask the honourable member to withdraw the slander that he unintentionally made of my very wonderful high school history teacher.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It seems to be more of a dispute between two honourable members but the honourable Minister of Justice certainly does want his former history teacher to be shed in a most appropriate light so I would ask the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect if he would want to make some comment relative to the concern that has been raised.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I certainly, under no circumstances, would make a reflection on the fact that that particular teacher in that particular school, with obviously that outstanding young student at the time - it is no reflection on the fact that probably that young student would have benefited much more immeasurably if he had been a student at Sir John A. Macdonald High School and his history teacher had been this particular member

[Page 4737]

and perhaps he would have seen the error of his ways, would have read the Profit and Politics from J.S. Woodsworth and would have turned out a good social democrat like his history teacher was. Certainly I am not reflecting on the fact that the Minister of Justice didn't receive a proper education at the high school that he attended.

Let's talk about the fact that there has to be an appreciation for poetry at this stage. Now members opposite know, and there are members in the gallery and, of course, members of the public are aware that there was a fantastic member of this House who took great pride in her poetry. So it is with no reflection that I refer to Eileen O'Connell, our dear departed friend. As I was going to read this into the record, Eileen, of course, in her poetry, which she often wrote, not just read. I want you to know that this poem, written by this nurse, would be the very thing that Eileen would appreciate so much, a poem that comes from the heart, a poem that reflects the true concerns and stress of being a health care worker in Nova Scotia and it would be a wonderful opportunity over the next six months for members opposite to look and listen to what a young nurse such as Melissa Cavicchi says.

Now there are three pages to this and I am not going to read it all but I am going to table it, Mr. Speaker, when I finish a couple of excerpts. Actually, what Ms. Cavicchi does, is she writes two parts to the poem. She writes about the day shift and then later on, she writes about the night shift. You know there are many nurses in the health care facilities across this province who have seen this poem from this nurse and, you know, the amazing thing is some of the things that have happened here actually happen to nurses.

I know, Mr. Speaker, you are looking forward to seeing this poem and hearing parts of it and I know the Minister of Justice, with his appreciation of poetry, will also look at it, but this is a serious issue. This is a poem written by a nurse and maybe the Minister of Justice could take this poem home because I believe there is someone in his home who might be able to do a critique on this poem and say to the Minister of Justice, you know, that young nurse from Upper Tantallon, who is the member for Timberlea-Prospect's constituent, she has a lot to say about the stress and over the next six months what a wonderful opportunity to be able to appreciate this poetry.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if you will stick with me, I want to talk about the day shift:

"By tired worn faces I don't ask how the night went

Just look at the book and write down my assignment

'They're crazy, I can't do this all in one day!

Iv'e only two hands, I must start right away!' . . .

And a minute for break is all I can wrangle

One more buzzer, look out, I'll need someone to strangle

It can't be that bad, I go through in my head

As the post-op in ten falls out of her bed.

[Page 4738]

My nerves are rubbed raw, my hair is a mess

Need some help, call the doctor and ask him I guess

'Please order some haldol for bed eight whose confused.

We are desperate! You know it's three days since he snoozed!'."

The stress and the work that this woman goes through day in, day out, and besides that, manages a home with two young people, two outstanding young children and, of course, has to make sure of all the other things that are going right in her life aside from her professional career. Let's turn to the night shift:

"Now my patient's awake. Thank God he's so sweet

So I search for a flannel and I cover his feet

Good food at the grill? We all are in doubt

Find out who wants in, make a list, order out.

Now my lids are so heavy, my stomach so ill

All I want is my pillow and just one zantac pill

Four a.m., the phone's ringing, oh, what can this mean?

More sick calls to deal with. I just want to scream!

Lifting and turning, my back is so sore

We can manage till seven, after that we need more

Now three less to work with, must get on the horn

To find their replacements before it is morn."

Miss Cavicchi now is looking for someone to come in because she has had a short on her shift and she begins with this, she says to her fellow nurse:

"Sorry to wake you, can you come to work?

We're short staffed today and the floor is berserk!

'I'm scheduled for nights, can you call next in line?'

'But you're my last hope, and you'll get overtime!'"

The issue for the Melissa Cavicchis is not the overtime, the issue is stress; the issue is working conditions. The issue is after all, does this government have respect and understanding for a young woman such as Melissa Cavicchi and the final concluding stanza:

"So to work here you truly must think I'm a jerk

But the fact is my friend, I do love my work

So when things go as planned or a patient goes sour

Just remember the title of how much an hour!" This Hour Has Twenty-Two Dollars.

[Page 4739]

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table that for members opposite. That, after all, is some reading that all members in this House would benefit from immeasurably. I again thank and congratulate Melissa Cavicchi for that poem. That, after all, is what could happen over the next six months when members opposite could have a firsthand experience to sit in the kitchen, to sit on the back lawn and listen to a young nurse such as Melissa Cavicchi and understand some of the problems that she has to endure and over the next six months, if this hoist goes through, it would be a wonderful opportunity for all members of this House to learn from some of the experiences of these nurses.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to turn to some other nurses if I may, other health care workers, and I want to share some of their concerns with you because as we are all in the business of hearing from health care workers and I know that you are too, Mr. Speaker, I want to refer to a couple of my constituents. One of them is Bruce Flemming and, incidentally, Bruce Flemming passed some comments on to me; I know Mr. Flemming quite well and I want you to know that he made some comments to me over the phone that I certainly wouldn't use in this House. They are very appropriate, the description of the Premier, but they are very unparliamentary in my opinion and I pointed that out to Bruce.

[7:45 a.m.]

I wanted him to know that I appreciated hearing from him in his usual candid, direct way with the frustrations and the comparisons of the dictatorial way this legislation was brought in. There have been great dictators - I don't know if you call them great dictators, let's call them some poor democrats over the years - and these great dictators have brought in legislation and shoved it down the throats of their people. Bruce Flemming, he compared the Premier to one of those prominent dictators. I don't want to get into the reference of the dictator because it could get very personal and there could be all kinds of comparisons and I know the members for Pictou will be upset with me but let's just know that Mr. Flemming's comparison is one that I agree with.

I want also to turn to Jean MacDonald, Jean MacDonald is a veteran nurse, she lives in Timberlea; in fact, she has a number of Dalhousie University students that she is responsible for this year. She was telling me yesterday that of the nine Dalhousie University third year students, third year students in the nursing program that she has, eight of them are looking to jobs outside of this province. Eight of the nine of the third year students that Jean MacDonald is working so closely with as a veteran nurse, passing on her expertise to these younger people, eight of those nine are looking forward to leaving this province. There is an issue that over the next six months would be of real concern. Jean MacDonald's concern, Jean told me her age and I guess I can pass it on to you, Jean is 43, 43 years of age. She is concerned that in the Halifax Regional Municipality this is the average age of nurses according to Ms. MacDonald. These young people are leaving this province.

[Page 4740]

The question that members opposite have to ask, the question that health care workers want answered is, why? Why are these young people leaving? That is a rhetorical question, because if you think about it, why would a young person stay here with the stress and the working conditions. I know the member for Shelburne brought in a controversial bill and I heard the members of the Third Party go over the edge about the fact that there were signing bonuses and golf carts promised to lure doctors to certain communities, there would be a bidding war. Well, there is already a bidding war going on for nurses. I have a daughter who recently graduated from journalism, she had a friend who graduated from nursing. That young nurse was offered more enticements to go to Texas, to go to Virginia, to go to Maine. If you are a Dallas Cowboys fan and you're a nurse, I'm telling you, season tickets are available, you go to Dallas-Fort Worth.

Now young nurses are leaving, there would be an issue over the next six months that we could look at and that nurses could say, why stay? After all, do we want to work in a health care system where we do not have the respect of the government, where we do not have the respect of the Minister of Health? That is the message that is out there, whether that is true for the Minister of Health or not. I hope not because, of course, as members know and as members of the nursing profession know, health care workers know, I knew the Minister of Health prior to politics and it does disappoint me that it becomes so personal and that the Minister of Health now is looked upon as not respecting the very health care workers that he is ultimately responsible for. That is an issue that will have to be addressed by that minister and perhaps by the Premier.

I want, however, to turn to another nurse, if I may. Her name is Sherry Rose and she sent me this e-mail and I talked to her on the phone about this because I was interested in certain sections of the e-mail and I will table this. Maybe the Minister of Health should have a look at this because it is very personal and it concerns the interview that the Minister of Health had with CBC Radio. She says, in the e-mail: I believe he - that is, the Minister of Health - is trying to scare the public into thinking there will be no emergency service and make the public think we are putting their lives at risk.

Here is the key sentence, not to mention the complete lack of respect he showed health care workers. There is the word that stings - and it must sting the Minister of Health - I mean, we can disagree with each other, we can have idea differences. They can be for and against when it comes to ideas, but we must respect each other. The key item here is, these health care workers do not believe the Minister of Health respects them.

And she goes on: As a medical laboratory technologist, I am overworked, underpaid and extremely undervalued. We are taking a stand to try to get what we deserve and Mr. Muir - excuse me for using his name, the Minister of Health - and the Capital District Health Authority are making us out to be the bad guys. I just want fair and equal treatment.

[Page 4741]

There is a health care worker who has big-time concerns. She says - and, final quote and then I will ask the Page to table this - Ms. Rose says: I came back to Nova Scotia to make $10 an hour less than previously, poorer working conditions and get absolutely no respect from the government. There is that word again and I want the Minister of Health to look at this e-mail and perhaps get a member of his staff to contact Sherry Rose, perhaps himself, to respond to that e-mail.

This morning I had the opportunity to meet with another nurse who came here to the House on her way to work. Her name is Frances Earl. Ms. Earl graduated from St. Rita's Hospital Nursing School in Sydney, Cape Breton, August 1978. Here is another issue of an older nurse who has worked in other places across this province and across this country. She brought with her, her September, 1993 pay stub from British Columbia. Very interesting. I am going to table it so the Minister of Health can have a look at it. This nurse, her pay in 1993 from British Columbia, was $26.96 an hour - 1993. There is, after all, an important document brought to our attention by a nurse who decided for personal and family reasons to return to Nova Scotia. It is not an issue for Frances Earl about just money, however. It is an issue about working conditions.

I want to share with you, the commitment of this nurse. Let's look at exactly what happened on Christmas day and Christmas holidays this past year. During that time, this nurse worked 16 hour days. She came in for overtime. The surgeons at the time were still scheduling work and she said: I was never so tired and my Christmas was ruined. I saw very little of my family. When I called to let my family know that I would not be able to attend Christmas Eve Mass with them, my six year old daughter said, Mommy, don't they know it's Christmas and you are supposed to be at home with us? I told her, Nurse Earl goes on, I told her there were many people sick and I was helping them to get home to their families. There is the concern of a nurse that continues to go out of her way to provide first-class, front-line health care. She doesn't believe she is listened to.

In fact, earlier this morning, Mr. Speaker, that was the nurse who sat there and became upset with some of those members over there because they were not paying attention to some of the comments that we are making. I want to thank Frances Earle for her thoughts and I encourage other nurses to continue to bring forth those concerns to us because over the next six months, there would be ample opportunity to be able to visit with members. There would be ample opportunity to make sure that nurses and health care workers, whether lab technologists, pharmacists, of course, nurses, it would be a perfect opportunity for them to be able to express their opinion to health care workers.

I want those health care workers to know, we want to continue to hear from you. The members of the New Democratic Party want to continue to bring your concerns to this government. Hopefully, there are members opposite that in their heart of hearts know this is bad legislation, that the June 1975 example is something that could be listened to and

[Page 4742]

studied again over the next six months and that this would be a perfect opportunity not to make the mistakes of June 1975 in June 2001.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Page for photo enhancing this, and I am going to table this one too. This comes from this morning's paper. It comes from The Chronicle-Herald. I am going to take a few minutes to read this, so the Page doesn't have to come over right now. Members opposite, perhaps, I know they are in their places there and hopefully not doing crossword puzzles, but instead are looking at the VOICE OF THE PEOPLE. Perhaps they are looking at the voice of the people when you look at these headlines: Offer an insult; Quality of life issue; Unfair treatment, Absurd suggestion; Just imagine; Won't stoop so low; Fair and just package; What's left to protect?

All of those headlines come from this morning's VOICE OF THE PEOPLE from The Chronicle-Herald. But let's look at what these average Nova Scotians say about this issue. The headline reads, "The Government plans to take away the right to strike from 10,000 nurses and health-care workers and give cabinet the power to impose a contract. What do you think?"

Well, let's see what Judith Cox thinks. "They're showing health-care workers what they feel about them. . . . If we're so essential, pay us what we deserve . . . ." Obviously, Judith is a health care worker. "Who wants to go into a hospital full of disgruntled workers?" What did Mary-Anne Compagnon say? She said, in answer to this question, what do you think, "They should have the right to strike as well as anybody else."

What does Crystal Gerbert say? "Nobody should have that right taken away from them. . . ." Here is a key thing, "We are . . .", Crystal says in The Chronicle-Herald this morning, ". . . a so-called free country. If we don't agree with what's being said, then we have the right to stand up for it.". The right to collective bargaining, the right to withdraw your services. That is, after all, one of the rights that workers in this province and in this country have fought long and hard for.

I want, finally, to go to Elizabeth Levangie, who says, and this is a really key one and I hope members opposite realize that these are just people from the street. I would assume The Chronicle-Herald just went out and took some photos and said, would you comment on this piece of legislation that is here in front of the Legislature. Elizabeth Levangie says, "I believe the health-care profession is under-rated. The workers are not getting paid what they should be getting paid, but a lot of people suffer when they go on strike. . . . It's a difficult question.". That is the answer that we know we are facing here. That is the answer that Elizabeth and many other Nova Scotians are now trying to answer.

You have to balance the benefits, the pros, the cons and the necessity of a piece of legislation that basically is going to jam it down the throats of Nova Scotians. Over the next six months, if the opportunity was there, that wouldn't have to happen. Those members

[Page 4743]

opposite would not have to return to their constituencies this weekend and put up with some of the abuse that they are going to put up with. Instead, they could stay, let's look at this legislation over the next six months. Let's let collective bargaining go ahead. Let's, after all, allow the democratic process to take place and, finally and ultimately, let's make sure that health care workers are treated fairly and that they are paid fairly.

Under no circumstances can this government blame health care workers for the long lineups, for the delays. Under no circumstances can this government blame health care workers for the budget problems. We have heard and I have read some of the ridiculous salaries that certain members of the Department of Health, on the Minister of Health's staff are paid. That is after all an issue that is controlled by the Minister of Health, the expert from out of town, the expert from British Columbia, who was brought here to solve all the problems of the world. I thought that the Minister of Health, when he sat on this side, heard enough of that nonsense from the Third Party that is now sitting here. I thought that he would at least have learned something. We don't need any more experts from out of town. We have to listen to the very health care workers who, after all, know what is happening in the health care system.

The concern, after all, comes down to what is best for Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker. Is it right to scare the seniors, to scare Cynthia Driskill, who I mentioned earlier, who is concerned about her chemotherapy treatment? Is it right to put them in those sorts of stressful situations? The health care workers I have spoken to and listened to have assured me and members of this caucus that they are not going to chain the front doors of the hospitals; that the emergency wards are still going to be open; that ambulances will still be received; that people with heart attacks and various other serious injuries will be taken care of; that people in ICUs, that veterans in the hospitals will not be neglected. Yes, there will be less staff available; yes, there will be fewer beds available. That is all part of the labour interruption and the process we are going through in this province.

[8:00 a.m.]

The other day I was quoted on the radio. Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, I haven't heard you on this show very often lately. I know that Rick Howe, a well-known local journalist, of course was on the morning shift for years on CJCH. Now, of course, he is on CFDR/KIXX Country. I wanted to hear you more often there, because it is an awkward time for us, it is between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. I was asked by Mr. Howe to make a few comments on the problems that were going to transpire because of this legislation.

I made a comment, and as soon as I got off the phone I received a call on my cell phone from one of my constituents. Mr. Speaker, I did say this and under no circumstances am I apologizing for it. I think health care workers will understand the correlation. I said on the Rick Howe phone-in show yesterday that union is not a four-letter word.

[Page 4744]

Now four-letter words to me, Mr. Speaker, are words that when I was a school principal were things you dealt with - that is a four-letter word and you are not allowed to use it, I would say and would, for various reasons, have to discipline that young person or remove some privileges. Four-letter words, and there are some good four-letter words, but there are also some bad four-letter words. That constituent who called me was Reg Knight from Lower Prospect. He said to me, and he wants it passed on to this government - there would be a Nova Scotian this government would benefit hearing from. Reg Knight has strong opinions about the union movement in Nova Scotia.

Union is not a four-letter word. It is not a bad word, it is not something we want to eradicate from the dictionary, it is not something we want to eradicate from the legislation in this province. There are five letters in the word union, and it is not a bad five-letter word either.

There are members opposite who go out of their way to trash unions because for one reason or another they believe we should have more half-time, part-time, no-benefit workers. We should have more Sobeys' workers. We should have more half-times, where we-don't-have-to-pay-the-benefit sort of workers. Unionism is something we should be proud of in this province.

I know the member for Cape Breton North comes from an area that has a strong union tradition. Unions, after all, are part of the history of this province; they are part of Cape Breton, in particular. They are part of this Party; they are part of every Nova Scotian, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a union member. When you go through the union process and you join a union and when you allow your union membership, when you have the democratic right to go in there and vote for people to represent you or, ultimately, to make that final decision to lead to that other five-letter word, strike - that other word, strike - is a word that union members do not take lightly.

Everyone who says, well, you are going to be a union member, you are going to go on strike, there is not one health care worker, there is not one nurse, there is not one lab tech who wants to go on strike. They are professional, they are caring, they are involved in their work, and they don't want to have to go on strike but, if it comes down to it to send the message to this government, they are willing to do that. They are willing to do that because of the message that they have received, the lack of respect they have received, the lack of caring and concern that they have received from this government. That is an unfortunate message for all members of this Legislature. We have professional health care workers in this province, we have workers who are trained that other parts of this country, other parts of North America, want to come to Nova Scotia to recruit health care workers.

Mr. Speaker, last week was a beautiful Tuesday, I remember it, ah, what a great day it was. I was out knocking on some doors in Greenwood Heights. I had a few moments so I thought maybe it's an opportunity, there are lots of young families there, lots of young

[Page 4745]

children there and, lo and behold, I came to the door of a health care worker. That health care worker had two young children who were just arriving home from BLT Elementary, Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea Elementary, and she was looking forward to going to work on her shift, waiting for her partner to arrive home, juggling all the commitments that she had at that time.

What a wonderful opportunity for members opposite, what a wonderful opportunity for all members of this Legislature, to go to Greenwood Heights with me over the next six months, to sit on the front porch as I did for 15 or 20 minutes and listen to that health care worker. That health care worker gave me her opinions, and they are strong opinions, and over the next six months it would be a wonderful opportunity if all members of this House had the opportunity to listen to front-line health care workers. That health care worker, Judith, does not want to go on strike, she does not want to lose the pay, let's face it. She has a mortgage, she has an important summer ahead of her when it comes to commitments to her children, she has expenses, she doesn't want to go on strike, but the message is she is willing to go out there on the line with that picket and she is willing to show this government she is not going to take it.

Health care workers are not going to continue to take the abuse that they have been faced with in this province, the lack of respect. They are not going to do that. It would be a wonderful opportunity over the next six months, the public relations, the positive public relations that would benefit those members opposite. Those members opposite would have a first-hand opportunity to sit and listen to health care workers, to listen to their point of view because I am sure that this weekend they are going to get an earful. They are going to hear it from the health care workers in their constituencies, and the best opportunity would be if you were able to say to them when you make the calls over the next two days, or Sunday or whatever time you're eventually going to get back to all these calls, you can say to them look, we're going to have a perfect opportunity over the next six months to be able to look at this legislation, to be able to talk to you about your concerns in health care.

This is, after all, what health care workers would love to hear and that would be some tremendous positive public relations for the government opposite, for the Minister of Health, for those health care workers who firmly believe that the Minister of Health has no respect for them. Now that truly questions a particular member of this Legislature, and that concerns me. That concerns me because the Minister of Health I know - I hope I know him well enough in a previous career - wants to have the respect of health care workers. He wants to make sure that health care workers are going to say that is the Minister of Health and he knows what goes on in the health care system. But how can the Minister of Health know that if he doesn't listen? Over the next six months would be a perfect opportunity for him to be able to go through that process and listen.

[Page 4746]

Let's look at a couple of really important facts as my time begins to wind down, and I know that time flies and I know that the Minister of Tourism and Culture is probably wanting to know about that trick question that I had there about the history lesson and Walter Fitzgerald's role. I think that would be a wonderful opportunity for that Minister of Tourism and Culture. There is a young minister, there is the MLA for Inverness who could say to the Minister of Health, he could say to the senior Cabinet Ministers, you know the Opposition has a point here. That MLA for Inverness, that Minister of Tourism and Culture, he could be - maybe I don't want to go too far with this comparison - but he could be the Walter Fitzgerald of 2001.

That member could be the member who is going to say to the other members of his Cabinet, I don't like this legislation, I don't think it is legislation that we should continue to push. After all, what was the lesson learned in 1975? Walter Fitzgerald had the courage of his convictions. Now the members of the time were very concerned about it, but Walter Fitzgerald has gone on to other political careers. He is, after all, in many ways a very respected municipal politician, and that would be after a long political career. Maybe the MLA for Inverness is looking for a long political career. The people in Inverness would say, good, our member stood up for us. Our member went to the Minister of Health, our member went to the Premier and said this isn't the sort of legislation that we should continue to force through.

Members in the gallery and friends and viewers at home should know that this bill is eventually going to go to Law Amendments. Law Amendments, as you well know is a unique and wonderful opportunity in this House. It is an opportunity for Nova Scotians to come into the Red Chamber, down the hallway here, and have their say on pieces of legislation. I encourage health care workers not to be intimidated by the process. I want them to come to Law Amendments, to call the Legislative Counsel's office to make appointments, to have your say about what you think is wrong with this legislation. When it goes to Law Amendments, those members who come forward at that time, there are five Conservative members - the committee, incidentally, is chaired by that very well-educated history student from Lunenburg, the Minister of Justice, and there are two members of the Liberal Party on the committee and there are two New Democrats - that is the opportunity for front-line health care workers to come forward at that time to sit at a table with us as legislators and to have your say.

It is not a big deal. We ask a few questions, we want your opinion. I hope health care workers across this province, health care workers in all lines of front-line health care take the opportunity to go to the Law Amendments Committee, to make your appointment - 15 minutes is usually what you are allowed and I know the Minister of Justice is very flexible with that. The Minister of Justice will want to hear from as many people as possible about Law Amendments and about the concerns that you have. That is the chance for us to show this government that this piece of legislation is flawed and it is wrong.

[Page 4747]

I want members opposite to be aware of the fact that when we go to Law Amendments - because inevitably this debate that we are going through in the hoist, they have the numbers, the government has the numbers, the hoist motion will be defeated and it will go over to Law Amendments - that is the opportunity, I want the members of front-line health care, I want them to come to Law Amendments to have their say, to point out their concerns, to make sure that at that time members there listen. It is very important for people who are listening or other viewers to know that health care workers, you are not going to have the Minister of Health there asking you questions, you are going to have backbenchers. Backbenchers who will sit there and hopefully will ask a question, or be allowed a question. I actually heard a question asked in Law Amendments here a couple of weeks ago. The member for Preston asked a question. It was an amazing event, because usually of course the questions are asked of the witnesses by the members of the Opposition.

Over the next six months it would be a wonderful opportunity for the member for Preston in particular, but the member for Queens, the member for Shelburne, that member who went out there on the limb about health care, who went out there to make sure that controversial piece of legislation was going to get through, that would be a wonderful opportunity for those backbench members of this government to listen to individual health care workers. That Law Amendments procedure is one that is valued in this province, it is one that we will benefit from continuously. This piece of legislation, hopefully, with the government's good wishes and the influence of the Minister of Tourism and Culture, will be withdrawn. It's wrong, it's unfair and it does not respect health care workers. I thank you for your time, Mr. Speaker.

[8:15 a.m.]

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place to join this debate on the hoist of Bill No. 68. Perhaps at the outset I might refer to today's edition of The Halifax Chronicle-Herald, the editorial page. I think what is said in The Halifax Chronicle-Herald today probably sums up what is going on here in this House. I personally don't agree with very much that is said in an editorial comment in The Halifax Chronicle-Herald from time to time, but I agree with this particular remark. "But the government argues, absurdly, that its bill doesn't drastically curtail labour rights since bargaining is allowed to continue. In name, yes. But hog-tied unions have little to bargain with. And cabinet has the power to impose contracts when it is 'satisfied' the parties are deadlocked. Health workers are entitled to a fairer process."

This is not me saying this. This is not our Party saying this. This is not the NDP saying this. This is the editorial writers of the largest daily newspaper in this province saying this on the very day after this bill was introduced to the House.

[Page 4748]

Mr. Speaker, aside from all the other reasons why this bill should be hoisted, I believe this government has committed a grave error here, but not only that, a political error that they are not going to be able to recover from. I believe with all that has been going on with this government and all that is wrong with this government they have stepped over the line here because they have now taken on the professionals working in the health care field in this province and I think it is going to be to the detriment of this governing Party now and to the detriment of this governing Party well into the future, because these health care workers, these nurses, these technicians, these people who work in all phases of health care in this province are not going to forget Bill No. 68. They are not going to forget the kind of contempt that this crowd opposite has placed on them with this bill being introduced to the House.

Mr. Speaker, as I stand in my place here, maybe we should go back in time and revisit the same place here in perhaps the year 1925 when my grandfather stood in this House and filibustered a bill. In those days you were allowed to speak in this House as long as you wanted for 24 hours. My grandfather was a member of this House from the former Farm Labour Party in 1925 and spoke against the government of the day sending troops to Cape Breton to break a miner's strike. We all heard about Davis Day, and we all heard about the sacrifices that the miners have made.

My grandfather spoke here for 24 hours. He may have been in this very place, I don't know where he sat in this House, but there were four Farm Labour Party members. Three from Cape Breton and I believe one from the Guysborough area were elected to the House at that time. My grandfather being a union man was here representing miners and tried to tell this House that they were making a grave error by putting legislation through to send troops to Cape Breton to stop a strike by miners in Cape Breton who were simply out on a legal strike for human rights, actually, not only labour rights but basic human rights which the company was not providing them at the time.

So, Mr. Speaker, after 24 hours what happened was my grandfather sat down and they sent the troops to Cape Breton. So all was for not. He made his case in the House for 24 hours against what he called oppressive action by the government against labourers in Nova Scotia. The result of the troops going to Cape Breton at that time was that Bill Davis was killed as a result of that and, today, we still honour the memory of Bill Davis and honour the memory of the miners who fought so valiantly against an oppressive employer.

Mr. Speaker, if you want to fast-forward now to this time and place and to what is going on in this House, it is not unlike what happened back then, except that it is 75 or 76 years later. Here we have a group in government that is taking oppressive action against one of the most respected groups of professionals in Nova Scotia, the health care workers: nurses, health care workers, whatever their job is in the health care system.

[Page 4749]

This government has shown nothing but contempt for this group, for many, many reasons. One reason I will highlight right now is the fact that on a day earlier this week they appoint a mediator to sit down and try to hammer out an agreement and the next day they bring this bill into the House. So that question has not been asked, Mr. Speaker, why that course of action was taken when the government felt it necessary to put a mediator in place to deal with this issue.

Mr. Speaker, it is not the fact that we want to ensure there is no disruption in health care delivery in this province. If that was the only problem here we could have solved that issue easily by having compulsory arbitration between two groups. If you can't settle the issue, then compulsory arbitration is employed with a person agreed to by both parties to set any wage increases or working conditions or whatever is in the contract; in other words, both sides would be subject to an independent person instituting compulsory arbitration in any case.

I believe the health care professionals would accept compulsory arbitration. What they won't accept, and should not have to accept, is the Cabinet downstairs deciding that enough is enough in the negotiations and we are going to impose a settlement.

Now you have to look at who is doing what to whom here. The Cabinet of this province is the employer. Now they will tell you no, no, it is the health boards. Where do the health boards get their money? From the government. Who is the employer? The Cabinet, the Finance Minister, the Treasury benches. So when they get tired of a labour dispute, of negotiations not going anywhere, they simply go downstairs in the bunker and legislate a settlement, they say what they are going to earn.

Now, does anybody really believe the Cabinet is going to go against themselves in giving out raises, or are they going to protect their own purse? They are going to come down on the side of the employer every single time, in legislating a settlement to contracts. In other words, to put it simply, there is going to be no more collective bargaining with these groups.

This is only the tip of the iceberg, Mr. Speaker, because today it is the health care workers, tomorrow it will be other groups of workers in this province, and eventually every single public sector person in this province will be subject to the Cabinet dictating what they are going to earn in this province; collective bargaining will be a thing of the past. That is what is going to happen here, this is the Tory way. This is the right-wing agenda, this is the Mike Harris agenda which, by the way, will never work in Nova Scotia because they won't be around long enough to see it work.

It is interesting that this legislation only applies until the year 2004. I wonder why that is. There is a provincial election coming in the next couple of years, so there is not going to be any more collective bargaining until after the next provincial election. The government

[Page 4750]

is not going to run the risk of any more strikes or labour disruptions, they will simply legislate it so the health care workers can't take any action until after the next election.

Then they will come in with something else, if they survive, which I doubt, because it was pointed out to me yesterday that in this profession for every 50 people in this province there is a connection to a health care worker one way or the other. This has been a group of people who have been probably the least militant of any labour group that has demonstrated over the past number of years in this province, because they are professionals. They are more interested in doing their jobs in their workplace for your relatives and my relatives than they are about marching with picket signs and causing civil disobedience. They are not interested in that but I think this government has succeeded in pushing that button. I believe the tranquility of the workplace of those organizations are going to change now. I believe in the next few days you are going to see an indication that this government has pushed this group too far.

There is no need of this legislation. There is another agenda here, just like the agenda in Bill No. 20, just like the hidden agenda, Mr. Speaker, in the Barrington bill. This government is taking control of the entire public sector in this province, including municipal situations and provincial regulations by Cabinet decree. In other words, it is going so far in this province we won't need the Legislature anymore. That will be a rubber stamp. We will come in here for a couple of weeks every year, sign a proclamation authorizing the money to the government and go home because there will be no sense in negotiating any bills here anymore because the Cabinet will have the power to literally do whatever they want. Agressive power, yes; power that is not in the best interest of the people of this province.

The bill says nothing about support for workers or anything. The bill is all about disrespect for workers in this province, particularly health care workers. In talking to a nurse downstairs here yesterday, she reminded me that there are a number of nurses who live in pockets throughout the province, in different constituencies, and one nurse reminded me that in the constituency of Halifax Bedford Basin, for example, . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Who is the MLA?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: . . . there are over 500 nurses living in a particular area there. The MLA for Halifax Bedford Basin is going to have to explain to those nurses why she sat in this House and said nothing . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: And their families.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: . . . and their families, while this bill was going through the House. I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, that the people who work in this profession are not going to forget this day in Nova Scotia to the point where in the next election they are not going to forget who sat by in the constituencies and said nothing

[Page 4751]

about this bill. The backbenchers who just sat there like lemmings never said a word about the bill, just let the Cabinet push it through. They have been told they had better toe the Party line here because if they have any chance of going anywhere with this Party, don't speak out for the wishes of the nurses who live in your constituency, don't speak out for the people of Nova Scotia this government is showing disrespect for. Sit silently and vote yes with the government.

That is going to come at a cost, Mr. Speaker, because those people won't be back here after the next election. As I said so many times in this House, some people go in and out of this place so fast you would never know they were here. Since 1993, there are only maybe 10 or 11 people at the most who are still here, most of them on this side of the House, by the way, not on that side. I am going to tell you that if you think you have a safe seat over there to bridge you to retirement, think again, because statistics will tell you that you are not going to be back and with legislation like this coming before the House it is guaranteed you won't be back in the next election.

So all you people who want to be one-termers are going to get your wish if you keep coming to the House with legislation like Bill No. 20, legislation like the Barrington bill and legislation against health care workers in this province to cut out the right for collective bargaining. That is what it is here.

[8:30 a.m.]

You have told the health care workers of this province that we are going to dictate what you are going to make. We are going to dictate your working conditions in the future and if you don't like it you can leave. That is what they are saying, the Health Minister, the Deputy Health Minister, the high-paid help in the Health Department and the Premier. The Premier, by the way, has yet to answer the nurses and yet to face this House on this particular issue. He has been absent and I think it is deplorable that the First Minister of this province would not sit in his place and answer questions in this House about this bill. He ducked the issue yesterday and he is ducking it again today.

AN HON. MEMBER: He probably has important business, like meeting with some big mucky-mucks, people with money in town.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, with the helpful interventions of my friend to my right here, I am trying to concentrate here, but I appreciate his interventions. I really do.

Mr. Speaker, the health care workers are the victims here. They are the victims and this government are the oppressors, the perpetrators and the villains. If you look at the bill it simply says, we don't trust you people to do any negotiation anymore. We think you are

[Page 4752]

looking for too much. We are going to decide what is best for you. As soon as we get tired of you people negotiating, Cabinet will decree an end to the negotiation.

Again, how is the Cabinet going to do that? Does anybody really believe that Cabinet is going to come down on the side of the workers? I mean, if you believe that then . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Not even they believe it.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Not even they believe it, that is right. I noticed with great interest yesterday, when the Health Minister was left to defend the bill almost by himself during Question Period, and I had some empathy for that gentleman at the time because when he was trying to do his best to answer the questions, every time he sat down nobody clapped behind him over there, nobody clapped, one or two who were ordered to or were in the eyesight of the Minister of Finance, they clapped. There were more heads down over there, there were more people staring at the floor. There were people trying to get out the door to go out in the lobby. I didn't see any standing ovations here yesterday afternoon for the Minister of Health. I didn't see any for the Premier.

The man who should have been facing the questions here yesterday left the Health Minister out to hang on this one, after he injected himself into the process out in the hall when he said we are only protecting the people of Nova Scotia. That's what we are doing here. We can't trust the health care system to look after the people in a labour dispute. We don't believe that the nurses and the health care workers in the hospitals will look after the people in the case of a labour disruption.

How sad a situation is that, Mr. Speaker, when our professionals are held up to that kind of ridicule by the Premier who states, we are simply protecting the people of Nova Scotia. In other words what he is saying is, we can't trust the health professionals in this province to do their job in a labour disruption when, in fact, the health care system workers have guaranteed they would not see people suffer in a labour dispute and I believe them. Both Parties over here believe them and I believe the people in Nova Scotia believe them, as well.

But this government doesn't believe them. This government wants to ensure that they are going to dictate what nurses, what other people in the health care system, what people working in the public sector are going to make in the future. It is not going to be a matter of negotiation anymore, it is going to be a matter of Cabinet decree. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that's why we need this hoist here for a six month period because I believe this government has to explain to Nova Scotians why they don't trust the collective bargaining system anymore, why they are trying to politicize the Public Service to the point where this government is going to tell the Public Service what they are going to make in the future by Cabinet decree and never mind the scrutiny of the Legislature - just as they did with some other bill here in this session of the House - the Legislature is no longer relevant, you won't

[Page 4753]

be able to debate these issues on the floor of this place, the place of the people. That is what this place is, the place of the people, the place where the decisions should be ultimately arrived at, hopefully in the best interests of Nova Scotians.

No, that is not going to happen anymore with this crowd. The decisions are going to be made by Cabinet Ministers downstairs in the bunker and the backbenchers in that Party will be told at about the same time as we are, or at about the same time as the press find out about it in this province. The Treasury benches, the people who run the government, are going to be making the decisions on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia.

I don't believe this government can point to one, single incident in this province where health care workers have abandoned their responsibilities to the people they serve, the people who need health care, if the government can stand here and tell the people of Nova Scotia that they had to do this because of incidents that happened in the health care field with nurses, with technicians, with other health care workers, if they can stand in their place and say there is a reason we are doing this because of the failure in the system, the failure in the workplace by these individuals.

They can't do that, so it has to come down to what is the issue here. Is the government determined to force people to leave this province for employment elsewhere? Are they setting the stage where they are going to make a problem happen that is not yet there, cause a problem to happen? Are they going to ensure that there is so much disruption in the workplace as a result of this bill that we will have a less than functional system in the next few weeks in this province, that people will indeed be at risk because of the frustration of the health care providers? Rightfully so, these people are working under tremendous stress now and this government is only making it worse.

Imagine, Mr. Speaker, I believe that on Tuesday of this week they appointed a mediator and the very next day they announced they were bringing a bill to the House to cut out collective bargaining. Now you can dress it up any way you want but this bill here effectively severs collective bargaining for this group. Taking away the right to bargain, that is what is happening here. That is for this group, so the precedent is being set in the House; the bill before the House is going to take away the bargaining rights for a very large group of Public Service, a very dedicated Public Service.

What is next? The ones they don't privatize, they are going to bring in legislation so they are going to dictate what they are going to earn and what their working conditions are going to be. More draconian legislation will be coming before this House if this one goes through the House, and I can tell you this one is not going through the House easily. If nothing else, we have a responsibility to stay here as long as we possibly can, to make as many Nova Scotians aware of what is really happening here, the total abandonment of any sort of democracy in this province by a right-wing government who now feels they have a divine right to rule here and are going to rule with an iron fist. I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker,

[Page 4754]

that the voters of this province will have something to say about that in two years' time, or less. Nevertheless, the government has acted in haste here.

Do you know what, Mr. Speaker? In the last day or so here, we have been looking at the expressions on the faces of some of the backbenchers in that Party. We have been looking at what is happening outside; we have been looking at the editorials and they are in a dilemma, there is no question about that. There is no question they are in a dilemma, a moral dilemma, but you know, I think everybody in this province has a connection to the health care service, whether it be as a user, a provider, a relative of a user, a relative of a provider.

I can tell you that my own daughter is a nurse in this province. My daughter was up north in Baffin Island for seven years on a medevac team, so she earned her credentials in the far north, worked there for seven years and then came back to Nova Scotia three years ago to work. She came back to Sydney and is now working as a nurse professional in Sydney. She is already disillusioned, she's been back a couple of years after spending seven years in the north and she is weighing her options now. She wants to stay in Sydney, she wants to work there as a nurse professional, she is in a supervisory capacity right now, she got burnt out on the front lines. She got burnt out as a front-line nurse. You can imagine flying around the north on the medevac team for seven years and then coming back to Nova Scotia and telling me that the strain is worse in Nova Scotia than it is in Baffin Bay.

That is only one example. I am telling you this example because that is an example that hits me personally. I am sure if we look around this room and around this province, health care workers touch all our lives in one way or another. Health care workers will be around for many years to come; that is different from this government, they won't be around as long as the health care workers are going to be around this province. We would like for as many of them to stay as possible. (Interruption) The government members. (Interruption) Yeah, right. Well, if you believe that.

I believe that the hoist is not only necessary for reflection but it is necessary for this government to explain to Nova Scotians why they are abandoning the time-honoured tradition in this province of negotiating settlements and reporting to the Legislature. If you look at every single ministry in this province what has been happening here is that the ministries are setting themselves up for less accountability to this House, this place of the people. This is the case with the Health Minister as well, and his boss, the Premier.

If you look at the political hacks these ministers have surrounded themselves with, their only goal here is to do polling and to set up a slush fund for the next election and to try to con Nova Scotians into thinking they are providing responsible government. Well, I think that is going to be remained to be seen in the next election. I think the government is making a drastic error when it takes away collective bargaining rights in a process that was working.

[Page 4755]

All governments in this province have had difficulty signing contracts. In the case of the previous governments in this province, they stood with the process until it worked itself out. They didn't resort to sending a bill to the House to say we are tired of collective bargaining. We are just going to legislate this bill through here and then there will be no more collective bargaining. We will decide what you will be paid.

It is laughable when the government states that the Cabinet is going to make a decision based on some kind of fairness. The Cabinet is the employer here. The Cabinet is the employer dealing with public servants, and does anybody in their right mind expect that the Cabinet is going to come down in favour of the employees in any kind of a decision-making process? Even backbenchers surely can't believe that. If they do, then they have certainly been well trained to toe the Party line. I have seen some votes come down in this House in the past few weeks and I have seen members over there voting with their heads down, voting without even bothering to express any enthusiasm for the vote, just vote with the government.

[8:45 a.m.]

I believe that the government has succeeded in doing one thing here, though, pitting segments of this society against one another, the public sector against the private sector, the public sector against the public sector, union group against union group; the old theory, conquer and divide. Get everybody fighting among themselves and then they won't fight with us.

One thing I do know, Mr. Speaker, that this government has employed a number of political strategists who have one duty, to get this crowd re-elected and look after their friends while they are doing it over the next couple of years. Look at the appointments that are coming down. Look at the kinds of salaries that are being paid to the headhunters in those departments, particularly in Health and Education. My colleague, the member for Cape Breton The Lakes, earlier this morning, talked about the salaries of some of these people, obscene salaries of some of these people. They are not being legislated, they are being contracted and being paid huge salaries to come in here. They don't have to throw themselves at the mercy of anybody.

The government, Mr. Speaker, has failed to act in good faith, has failed miserably to act in good faith here. Then, the Government House Leader and his advisers, whoever they are, have said we are going to ram this through, we will sit 24 hours a day because if we catch everybody by surprise and get out of Dodge in three or four days with this bill, people will be left scratching their heads. What happened? How did this go through in the heat of the summer in this place? We know what is going on here. That is why the hoist should be employed, for this government to explain to Nova Scotians and to health care workers why this bill is necessary.

[Page 4756]

Has the collective bargaining system in this province failed us so badly that we need this kind of oppressive legislation, that we need to tell the bargaining units and the people, the professionals, that we no longer trust you, that we no longer trust the process, that we are going to tell you what is good for you and what isn't good for you? We are going to dictate your working conditions, we are going to dictate your salaries and if you don't like it, go down the road. Well, the people I talked to yesterday are going down the road and the quicker the better. Some of your young, bright people working in that system are not going to stay in Nova Scotia under these circumstances. They are simply not going to do it.

I don't know where the government thinks they are going to get support for this when they take on the health care workers. As I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, I have never seen a less militant group in all my years in public life than health care workers. They are professionals. They get on with doing the job that they are getting paid for, looking after the needs of their fellow citizens who need their service. They are not out there with placards in hand every second day for every run-of-the-mill issue that comes along, they are too busy doing their job and this is how they are treated for that, with mistrust that we can't come to an agreement with you people; we don't trust you. If there is a labour disruption, we don't trust you to look after the people you normally would look after. They are telling this government they will look after people, no matter what happened in negotiations.

Combine that stand of the government with the fact that they appoint a mediator one day and bring a bill in the next day. What a double-cross that was, Mr. Speaker. You know they talked about the great mediator that has been put into place here. They put him in place one day and then they bring a bill to the House the next day. Did somebody decide a quick deke in direction here, that we better get this bill in here because these people are going to walk and these people are going to leave people unprotected? What hogwash. What pure hogwash because this group in Nova Scotia is a dedicated group of individuals who are going to look after the people they are out there serving. That is more than I can say for this government.

As I said earlier, these people working in the health care field are the victims here. They have been treated very shabbily by this right-wing agenda that we see opposite. This kind of agenda would make Mike Harris look like a socialist.

MR. JOHN HOLM: It might.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: My colleague to my right says - who is not ideologically necessarily to my right, but he is sitting to my right - he and Mike Harris are identical. But I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that in all serious situations that come before this House, I can't think of a worse one. I thought I had seen the ultimate in Bill No. 20, I really did, because Bill No. 20 and Bill No. 30, both of them, have cut out virtually any accountability to the Legislature in various departments.

[Page 4757]

For example, and I digress for a moment, the six months' hoist that we are talking about, the Minister of Tourism and Culture reminds me, if we had a six months' hoist, Mr. Speaker, for example, to let Nova Scotians know how their money is going to be dished out with lack of accountability by this Legislature, maybe they would reflect on this particular bill because it is too late to reflect on Bill No. 20 because that bill has gone through the House and is now law. All the departments are going to be loaded with Tory hacks and people distributing money willy-nilly throughout the province in Tory ridings, cherry-picking where they are going to have projects because they are no longer responsible to come to the Legislature.

That is the Tory way. Look after your buddies and to heck with the rest of Nova Scotians. To heck with the people who don't have an advocate, but that is different. The health care workers have all kinds of advocates - the people of Nova Scotia. That is why I don't understand why this government has gone this route, because if there is any group that is revered in this province, it is the health care workers because they have acted most responsibly in very tough times. They have done the job with very limited resources.

If you talk to some of the people in the system about the overtime they are required to work, about the working conditions they are required to work under, about the tight budget restraints they have been put under over the past number of years, the fact that these people are doing all of this and performing a great service for their fellow Nova Scotians, this is how they are treated. This is how they are treated by this right-wing agenda opposite.

What happened to respect between employer and employee? You know, you stand in this House day after day and you hear the Health Minister say, we are not the employer, the health boards are. But, suddenly, we are the employer now, after all of these weeks of saying that we are staying out of these negotiations, this is going to be done in a democratic way by the boards and the employees. That is all we heard for weeks and weeks when it came to health care issues.

Now what happens? The government decides to inject themselves in the process directly by taking control of it. The Cabinet has now become the employer here. Cut it anyway you want it, nothing else matters because the Cabinet has the final decision and, by the way, that decision is not debatable. That decision cannot even be taken before the courts. That decision can't be challenged. In other words, the Cabinet of this province has now become the lord and master when it comes to dealing with health care workers in this province, single-handed justice is going on here and it is the justice meted out by the Cabinet.

Who is the employer? Now, can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, that the collective bargaining process has failed and instead of putting a mediator or compulsory arbitrator in there, as some people are suggesting might be more fair to the nurses and the health care workers, if they don't want them to have the option to strike, compulsory arbitration might be the way to go but, no, that would be too democratic. Somebody might make a decision in

[Page 4758]

favour of the health care workers in terms of giving them better working conditions or better salaries. No, we can't let that happen. We are going to make the decision. Now, here you have the employer making a decision to settle a dispute. Which side do you think the decision is going to come down on every time? It is not going to come down on the side of the employee. If anybody believes that, then they are in the wrong place.

I don't think these professionals, Mr. Speaker, should have to wake up every day worrying about these kind of things. They should be able to wake up every day and go do their job of looking after the people they are employed to look after. I don't think they should be meeting about where they are going in the future, whether or not the Cabinet is going to make a decision that impacts negatively on them, that gives them that uncertainty week after week, month after month, year after year, about where they are going to sit. Whether the Cabinet is going to be gracious to them one week or treat them as victims the next week depending on their mood of the day, the Cabinet's mood of the day, depending on whether or not the Cabinet feels it necessary to put any money away in a slush fund for re-election.

You have the ridiculous situation where a hoist, like was suggested here, that we are now debating, could give the opportunity for the Finance Minister to explain to Nova Scotians why his own people have told him that the debt of this province is going up, the debt repayment costs are going up. Yet they had a surplus this year and they haven't got any money for health care workers to solve this problem. I don't think the Finance Minister can do that and that is why this government is not going out explaining anything to anybody. They are hiding behind the protection of the House here. They know they have a majority government. They can ram this through whether it takes two weeks or two months, but we are not naive enough over here to think that this bill is going to be stopped by me standing here or by my colleagues over here standing on the floor of this House and debating it, but we are doing it for a reason and that reason is to make Nova Scotians more aware of what is going on here than they already are.

I believe we have a responsibility to protect our health care professionals in this province, each and every one of them because they are too few and they are too valuable to let go. Mr. Speaker, of course, we didn't get an advance notice of this bill. We were all surprised yesterday with what was in it. We never thought it was going to be such a bill as it turned out to be. My own opinion was that it was probably going to take away the right to strike and impose compulsory arbitration which, by the way, I think a number of people would consider perhaps to be something they could live with if they were going to be faced with no-strike clauses in their contracts. At least then there would be a third party that would be independent of the employer and the health care professionals deciding a resolution to a collective bargaining problem.

I believe that would be a fairer process than the process that is going on here which is not fair at all because it is one-sided. It simply gives the Cabinet the ability to do anything it wants with these workers, have their way with these workers, that's what it does, but that

[Page 4759]

is not unique with this session of the Legislature. We have had that happen time and time again with different bills in this House. So we are moving down the road rapidly to a situation where this House is going to become more redundant and almost a place of afterthought. It will be something like a group of people who can sit and make decisions, but really can't enforce them because the decision has already been made for them and that's what I liken that to. We will be here to rubber-stamp decisions made by the Executive Council and I think that is terrible. Public accountability has gone out the window.

[9:00 a.m.]

At least we should have to stand on the floor of this House in our places and tell Nova Scotians why we support or do not support various pieces of legislation. We can't be continually taking that right and responsibility away from this place and putting it in the hands of the Executive Council who will make arbitrary decisions based on what they feel is best for them, best for the Tory Party of this province and best for the Executive Council to get on with their business of trying to get themselves re-elected. Make no mistake about it, Nova Scotians should know that this is the path this government is charting with their political hacks behind closed doors, some of them probably sitting here today monitoring what is going on here, some of them out doing polling as we are speaking to find out what the mood of the electorate is today.

Well, I am going to tell you something about the mood of the electorate. If you disrupt the health care system in this province by treating health care professionals with the kind of disdain this government is treating them with, you are going to find out what Nova Scotians think about this government in short order. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, you are going to find out what Nova Scotians think about this government in this respect before this bill is passed through this House. That would be unfortunate.

I would think this government has the responsibility not only to discuss the hoist with Nova Scotians, the reasons why they are bringing in this bill, a six month cooling off period. Let the mediator settle this issue and then tell Nova Scotians over the next six months the real reasons why they are bringing this bill to the House. We think we know the reasons and they are using the Health Minister this time to start a process of cutting out collective bargaining in all areas of the Public Service of this province. Health care workers today, who tomorrow? Which other group is targeted next?

AN HON. MEMBER: Next it will be the teachers.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Oh, is it going to be teachers? Probably.

AN HON. MEMBER: Teachers are the next negotiations that are coming up.

[Page 4760]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Yes, it will probably be teachers next and then that will be another number of Nova Scotians that will be angry at this government, like I mentioned about health care workers. There are not too many teachers in this province who don't have a family member or somebody they teach or somebody related to them who would have more than a passing interest in the decisions made by this government. But I digress again.

Let me get back to my point about the health care workers here and where we are going with this particular legislation. Now with the Barrington bill, Mr. Speaker - and I make this analogy because it is relevant here - the government simply could have made an amendment to that bill but their pride told them not to. Their pride wouldn't let the Opposition have any good suggestions here on how to make that Barrington bill saleable. They rode it through the House, people over there with their heads down voting for it, because the agenda wasn't what they said it was in this House. It had nothing to do with the Municipality of Barrington. It had everything to do with setting a future policy for how they are going to deal with doctor recruitment in this province. That is what it had to do with. In other words, they are going to abandon their responsibilities with that bill regarding doctors as they are in creating a new bureaucracy in this province controlled by the Cabinet and the Public Service with this bill, the one that is before the House now, taking collective bargaining out of the hands of anybody else really but the Cabinet.

I never thought in Nova Scotia I would be standing in my place and trying to suggest to the government that there is an easy way out here for the government and I will tell them what it is, an amendment to this bill. An amendment to this bill is a way out of this dilemma and that amendment will probably come in due course, over the next three to four weeks that we are here debating this bill. It will probably come and it will be a way for the government to act responsible in its deliberations with health care workers. Now we will wait and see whether this government is going to take the advice of either of the Opposition Parties here or is going to come it with their own amendment in the face of what surely is going to be great indignation by people in this province over the next couple of weeks, once they get to learn what is really going on here.

Now, I suggest that the government should perhaps come in with their own amendment to this bill, or meet with the House Leaders of the other two Parties - our Party and the NDP - sit down and discuss a way we can achieve what we want for the health care workers here, without resorting to this draconian legislation and setting a precedent that will surely hurt the health care delivery system in this province because it will tell each and every employee in that system that you are not needed, you are not wanted and you are not trusted, we are going to make the decisions for you. That is what is going on here, but the government still has - we are not that far down this road yet - an opportunity to do something here, to make this bill saleable, if, indeed, they feel the bill is necessary at all.

[Page 4761]

I don't think it is, members on this side of the House don't think it is, and I would suggest to you, Cabinet Ministers and Mr. Minister of Health, that some of your own backbenchers don't think it is, either. I can tell you because we have been talking to a few of them. They are shaking their heads, they don't even know why this bill is here. They have to go home and sell it to their own health care workers. (Interruption) Good luck is right. They have hospitals in their own areas with nurses and doctors and health care workers and technicians and other professionals working in those facilities. They are going to go back and explain to them that you don't trust them; that you don't trust that they are going to look after the people they are sworn to serve, in the event of a labour dispute? How ridiculous for the government to even suggest that these workers wouldn't look after these people.

What kind of crowd are we dealing with here in Nova Scotia, that, as a government, they don't even trust its health care workers to act responsibly. Give me one, single example where health care workers in this province have not been responsible, either historically or currently. You can't, the Health Minister couldn't, when asked to. So why is this bill here?

The same kind of agenda is employed with the government in this bill as was employed with Bill No. 20, and the Barrington bill and other bills that have come before this House to cut out accountability here in the Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, I hope nobody on the government side thinks that health care professionals who are talking about leaving this province are making veiled threats here. They are not, they are serious. Why wouldn't they be serious? Their talents are demanded all over North America, so why wouldn't they be serious? They are not wanted here; they are not trusted here. They are told they can no longer make decisions that affect their own lives here, that the Cabinet is going to make them for them, and if you don't like it, hit the road. That is what this government is telling people. They are telling people about a recruitment. Well, it is an out-migration that is what is really going to happen here, as a result of this bill.

Again, the bill is offensive to a group in our society that does not deserve this, that does not deserve to be treated this way. It is the most offensive bill that has been before this House in my time in this House.

I might remind you, Mr. Speaker, that I think it is a responsibility of the MLAs to take this bill and go back to their constituencies and tell their constituents why this bill is before the House, to tell their constituents that this Bill No. 68, which is the start of a series of actions by this government to kill collective bargaining in Nova Scotia, an institution that has been successful in this province for many years.

Now, some of the MLAs are going to have great difficulty with this, particularly the MLAs on the government side in Cape Breton. There is only one - oh, no, there are two, I keep forgetting about the Minister of Tourism and Culture but I don't include him because

[Page 4762]

he is a member of the Executive Council; I don't really include him but I do the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

They are going to have to explain to their people why they support this bill. Why they are anti-union in terms of health care professionals. I might also remind you of something I said earlier here, that some people never learn. We have seen a lot of people go through this House since 1993 and those who are pretty smug over there right now are going to be facing an election in a year and a half to two years time. I will guarantee you, that I will be standing here again looking over there and making remarks about the people who used to sit there and to tell Nova Scotians why they are not sitting there now, why they are what we refer to as one-term wonders. (Interruptions) I am not pointing out that at all, Mr. Labour Minister, but I am pointing out that you will be one of the ones not back here. I am pointing that out. Yup, the Labour Minister is what I refer to as a one-term wonder. (Interruption) A wonderful one-termer.

Anyway, I believe that the MLAs in this particular government have not had the opportunity to talk to the front bench about some of this legislation that has come before the House. It is evident to us in this place representing our citizens, it is evident to us that this government is controlled by the backroom boys in the Tory Party, probably under the guidance and advice of Donald Cameron, who is still lurking there. The front benches, with two of the remnants left from the Buchanan days, Buchanan-Cameron days, who are well-schooled in politics and who were two of the architects of the bankruptcy of this province in the 15 years they were there. To hear the Finance Minister talk about finances is laughable because he was part of the crowd that bankrupted the place in the 15 years the Buchanan Government was in power in this province.

But, the decisions are being made by a few. Not all the members of the Cabinet, either. A few select people in the Cabinet led by Prince John and his sheriff, who go around taking taxes from every little hamlet in Nova Scotia by calling them user fees, but they can't find enough money here to look after the health care professionals. You have to ask yourself why? Not only that you have to ask yourself, why don't they trust them with the people's lives in this province who they have looked after so well up until now? Why, suddenly, to the Premier outside here, he didn't say he didn't hear because he didn't face the questions of the Opposition in this regard, but he may next week. Why, outside, he says we have to protect the people of Nova Scotia? By saying that, he is saying that if there is a labour disruption the health professionals in this province will not look after the people they serve and that is wrong. The health care professionals in this province have guaranteed the safety of people.

But this government doesn't trust its own health care workers. This government doesn't trust anybody except its own political agenda. What has happened here is that they have been told, don't take your eye off the ball and the ball is getting re-elected, in the meantime here is a list of Tories to look after. Look after them first, get yourselves re-elected

[Page 4763]

then after the next term, perhaps you can be a little bit more benevolent to Nova Scotians. For anybody we missed in the 15 years we were in power, before we are going to look after now. Donnie Cameron presented a list to the Finance Minister and the Economic Development Minister, who doesn't even have a department left any more, he's shovelled all that off to his friends to dish out. I don't even know what he is doing in the Cabinet, he doesn't have any work to do any more.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the hoist is necessary here because Nova Scotians were caught off guard by this legislation in the dog days of summer. Nurses and other health care professionals felt that they were on the road to meaningful mediation, negotiations here, and were slapped down one day after with this bill.

[9:15 a.m.]

What a betrayal, Mr. Speaker, of the health care professionals in this province. Is it any wonder they are out there talking about leaving? You know, if you were thought so little of, as they think this government thinks of them right now, why wouldn't you leave? The reasons for leaving - better working conditions, more money, probably a little bit more time to spend with their families and less strain.

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

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I doubt as I begin my remarks, and I say so at the outset, that they will have much impact upon members of government. I am certainly glad that when people go to a health care facility and receive the care and treatment that they do receive at those facilities that the health care professionals pay a lot more attention to our health care needs than we in this House, the members in this House, seem to be paying attention to their needs and their concerns with this legislation.

There was some discussion, Mr. Speaker, by a number of speakers about the price that will be paid if this legislation passes. One of the things that was talked about was the political price that will be paid by members of the government benches if they pass this particular piece of legislation. Quite frankly, that is unimportant. Whether I am re-elected, whether any member on the government benches is re-elected is really, in the grand scheme of things, insignificant. It is insignificant. So whether some members over there or over here are returned or not returned, there will be somebody here, but there is a much bigger price that will be being paid if this legislation passes and that is the harm that will be done to the health care system in this province and that is significant, is important.

[Page 4764]

The Minister of Economic Development, if he is defeated in the next election, he might care, his family might care, a few loyal Tories might care, but in the scheme of things it is not important because there will be somebody to fill his seat, to fill his vacancy, but if health care professionals in this province leave this province and if those who are studying to be health care professionals in this province leave this province, that vacancy will not be filled. That means that each and every Nova Scotian can suffer.

It is interesting as you take a look around and you see who has and hasn't been present, and certainly one of the people who has been absent conspicuously and continues to be is really one of the key people behind this bill and that is the Premier.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid knows full well that he is not to either recognize the absence or the presence of a member in the House.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I will withdraw my comment in which I acknowledge or recognize that the Premier wasn't present and I am sorry for that although it is widely known and been reported, but I won't report what has been known.

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: There aren't a lot of NDP members present, too.

MR. HOLM: The member for Colchester North says he notices that there aren't a lot of members from the NDP present in the House. Do you know, Mr. Speaker, we don't have to keep the quorum and it is by design that our members are not sitting here.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Again, I remind the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid that he is not to take notice of any members who are absent or present, no matter which side of the House. So I would ask the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid to bring his comments back to the hoist amendment.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I shouldn't have been sidetracked by the rabbit tracks and I won't comment on who holds those rabbit tracks because if I did that, I would be acknowledging his presence and, physically, that individual is here. I am not so sure whether he is here in another sense. There is some suggestion that not necessarily all people are here and I am not talking about the physical presence by the Government House Leader.

Mr. Speaker, members on the government benches, and particularly those on the backbenches, over a six month period in which we are suggesting this bill be delayed, have some pretty serious moral and ethical questions to be asking themselves. I think that we should take a look at what this legislation does do. I am even going to be making reference, and I say this to you up front, to sections of the legislation that I believe, over a period of six months, need very close attention.

[Page 4765]

The Government House Leader knows, that for example, there has been a select committee that has been established and members appointed to go around this province and hold hearings on fire service. That is an important service in the Province of Nova Scotia. People's lives often depend upon that fire service and we have a dedicated fire service, both full-time professional and volunteer who defend you, Mr. Speaker, and your property and your lives and those of your loved ones in your community, as well as mine.

I don't say this in any way to undermine their significance and importance in our society, but health care professionals, Mr. Speaker, are also important - extremely important. In fact, without speaking to our caucus about this particular issue, I am pretty sure that this caucus would agree to the establishment of a committee and of the appointment of members to that committee to travel this province, to listen to what people have to say about this bill and about health care in general and to the treatment of health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia.

I lay it out there to the Government House Leader, to the Premier, whom I am sure is paying close attention to every word that is being said, somewhere, and that he will be aware of all that happens. To the Minister of Health, we are more than willing to co-operate and I would be willing to bet you that health care professionals would also be willing to have people who would serve on that committee or to travel around and to hear what people had to say, as well as making representations.

Instead, what we have here is one of the most contemptuous pieces of legislation that I have ever seen. Let's take a look, and I am not going to go back to the history of 1975 and what happened then, let's just look at what health care workers and other workers in this province have endured. Mr. Speaker, this government has the audacity to stand and say that we respect health care workers and nurses in this province? That is so much hypocrisy and even stating that is contemptuous, given the way that they are treating health care workers.

Health care workers, Mr. Speaker, had their wages rolled back by the Don Cameron Government. The Liberals came in and socked it to them again. Now, this government, the Tories, the Cameron reincarnate, are now coming in and taking away the right to bargain. It is not just the right to strike and it is not only affecting nurses, it is taking away the right to bargain.

I will explain that to the government backbenchers. However, before I do that, Mr. Speaker, I would invite each and every government member, especially the backbenchers, to agree that when you go home this weekend, some time tomorrow morning, to call a public meeting in your communities and ask to meet with health care workers and others who are concerned. I challenge you to do that. I challenge you to say that on Saturday afternoon or Sunday afternoon, we will be at a community hall, or a church hall, or out in a public square, wherever, to meet with your constituents, health care workers in your community.

[Page 4766]

I would invite health care workers to contact your MLA who lives on the Tory benches over there, and say, will you come to a public meeting with us? Not just a secret, quiet phone call or an e-mail, but come out and face to face meet us as a group.

What this legislation does. Mr. Speaker, you have been around some time and you follow legislation closely. You know that Bill No. 20 restructured the province and gave the new Treasury and Policy Board new powers, broad powers - Bill No. 20, passed this spring, now in effect. That gives that board - right now it is all at Cabinet, I understand, all 11 people, the muscle, the power behind this majority Tory Government. They have the ability now to oversee any contract. In fact, a contract with health care workers and so on cannot be approved if they say no. They are not at the table, they are just controlling the purse strings.

What they are really doing is, they can tell this board or that regional health board or this hospital what the limits are, how much you can and can't offer, what terms, what conditions you can agree to. They say, but oh no, it is not our responsibility, they are the employees of the health boards, but behind the scenes they are dangling the strings, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Finance, who are more concerned about this so-called election promise of giving a few per cent back to Nova Scotians in the way of taxes because that is supposedly going to get us re-elected. That is what this is all about - more concerned about having a few dollars left over so we can have a tax cut than about protecting health care and other vital services in this province. They control what the negotiators on the government side or on the board side, the employer side, says.

Now, Mr. Speaker, you have that behind the scenes, the backroom boys and girl, the Cabinet. They set the parameters for the negotiations. Of course now they can set those parameters so low that no, an agreement can't be reached at the bargaining table, which is what they want. They don't want agreements because agreements might cost them a couple of dollars.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Oh, get serious and sensible . . .

MR. HOLM: Oh, the Minister of Health over there says, get serious and sensible, why wouldn't we want agreements? Why don't they want agreements? Because they want to be able to impose their own terms and conditions, their own agreement. Mr. Speaker, if, at the bargaining table, no agreement is reached, that same bunch that is sitting in the backrooms setting the terms as to what limits can be reached in negotiations, they, according to this legislation, can impose whatever they want. They can set the wage scale. They can set the shifts. Any of the things that are in a collective agreement, that bunch that doesn't even appear at the negotiating table, can set them.

[Page 4767]

[9:30 a.m.]

I ask the member for Shelburne, is that ethical and fair; the member for Queens, is that ethical or fair? Are you tinpot despots or do you believe in collective rights and democracy? You say you don't want to strike. Do you really believe for one second in your heart of hearts that those who are the health care workers in this province, those who are here now, those who have been here and, more importantly, Mr. Speaker, all of those who are working in our health care facilities across this province right now as we speak responding to patient's needs in a caring and compassionate way, do any of you seriously believe that they want to go on strike? Does the Minister of Health believe that?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Absolutely not.

MR. HOLM: He says absolutely not. Do you think, Mr. Speaker, that they want to leave Nova Scotia? There is a whole process of negotiations that can go on and negotiations can happen and settlements can be reached and compromises can be reached if there is some trust and trust comes from respect. If I give my word to the Government House Leader, I have a responsibility to try to do everything I possibly can to keep my word if we make an agreement in here. If I have, with anybody, or if the government members do, if you make agreements, whether it is written or not, it is a contract and there are consequences if you breach that contract, whether it is a written one or not, and you will have those kinds of agreements if you can build up a sense of trust.

Truthfully, Mr. Speaker, I say to the Government House Leader, who even though we are battling over this particular bill, I take his word. If he says something to you, if he makes a commitment to you, he keeps his word. I have no hesitation in saying that. So I trust him on that. It doesn't mean I agree with him. It doesn't mean that I don't think that it is contemptuous that he is supporting this bill. The Premier and the Minister of Health, however, told health care workers in this province, I don't trust you. They said that because health care workers had said that if a strike does occur and even their collective agreement that is currently in place, Mr. Speaker, has provisions to ensure that there will be sufficient staff on to meet urgent patient needs and that no life-threatening kind of situation would be allowed to go unattended because of lack of workers. They said that they would meet that. It is in their collective agreement and they even went further than that.

Mr. Speaker, this legislation really has nothing to do at all with ensuring that there are essential emergency services there. I know the Minister of Health referred to comments and said that, oh, the Executive Director of the central regional health system, Mr. Smith, said that he is not satisfied with the contingency plan. He doesn't feel confident. He is also the one who is quoted in the press as saying he doesn't believe health care workers should have a right to strike. So he is never going to be confident, Mr. Speaker, but they did offer that if there was a dispute over the number of people who were needed, that they would, by arbitration, agree that if an arbitrator, an independent person, looked at it and said that, yes,

[Page 4768]

additional people were needed, they would provide them but, obviously, the Minister of Health says, we don't take your word. We will take Mr. Smith's word but we won't take those who are on the front line, working.

I have been fortunate, I have not had to call on the health care system for personal attention, personal care over the last number of years. Other members in this House have. I have not heard one of them, and I certainly can't myself, Mr. Speaker, suggest for one minute that those who cared for me when I was in the hospital provided anything but exemplary care, in a caring and compassionate way.

This isn't just about money. Those workers have been fried. If you don't believe it, go and talk to them. I was speaking to some nurses from the riding of the Minister of Community Services. They were telling me some stories about the hours they work and the fact that they have not been able to have days off, that they worked 10 or 12 hour shifts, day after day and that they are afraid to answer the telephone when they do finally get a day off, because it could be a call to come back into work. They would like to have a little bit of time to spend with their families, to attend to a few personal matters, but they know that when that phone rings and if there is a vacancy, if somebody is not at work or not able to be there, they have to respond, and they go. So they are afraid to even answer the phones.

These are the kinds of people - who have been going far above and beyond their legal responsibilities, according to their contracts, because they care for their patients - that this government, this Premier and this Minister of Health are saying, we don't trust. Give it a break. Who has lost the respect? Is it the health care workers or is it this government? Who has broken the faith and breached the trust? It is not the health care workers.

Six months, Mr. Speaker, might give members on the government benches an opportunity to think about it. Maybe the member for Kings North will have an article in the paper, talking about the ethical dilemma he is going to be facing with this bill. I take it from the fact that none of the government backbenchers jumped up to say, oh no, we won't meet with your constituents or health care workers in our community if they want to meet with us over the weekend, since none of them jumped up on a point of order, that sounds like they probably would welcome the opportunity. That would be a start in the six months, the legislation, things that should be looked at over six months.

It says in this bill that where the Governor in Council - that is the Cabinet - is satisfied that an employer and a union are unable to conclude a collective agreement - so who makes that decision? It is the Governor in Council. They are satisfied - it doesn't mean that the employer is satisfied, it doesn't mean that the union is necessarily satisfied that we can't reach an agreement, but if the Governor in Council, at their whim, says, oh no, we can't, they are not going to get any agreement, then, of course, the Governor in Council may, by order, determine any collective agreement or provision of a collective agreement.

[Page 4769]

They are not an arbitrator; they are not a labour tribunal; these 11 members of the inner sanctum of the Tory caucus, they, who have no experience to speak of in labour matters. We have had a couple who have been labour ministers, that is very different from being involved in negotiations and that whole process. Those members, former teachers, business people, doctors, journalists, with their infinite wisdom, have the power to set any terms or conditions of not just wages but of the whole collective agreement.

Do you know, Mr. Speaker, some of those members on the front benches used to be members of a union. Some of the backbenchers, I am sure in their previous life before being elected here, were members of unions. I wonder how many of them would have felt satisfied in saying, oh yes, we think it is perfectly fair, let our employer dictate our contract.

There is nothing in this legislation that even says the representatives of the workers would have a right to make representation to the Cabinet before the Cabinet imposes its new collective agreement. I would say to the Minister of Finance, who is as much, if not more, behind this bill than the Minister of Health - the Minister of Finance has been getting off relatively easily, but this is more about money than it is health care, say to them, why don't you table what collective agreement you have already decided on? You have decided that you are going to have that power, you must know by now what you are going to put in that collective agreement. Put it on the table, let the people see. Let health care workers know what kind of terms, conditions and wages you are prepared to impose upon them. You might, if you are actually generous, persuade some of those who already have letters of resignation written waiting to be signed, it might persuade some of them to stay here in Nova Scotia.

This legislation is repugnant. It doesn't only deal with nurses either, as supposedly the government would have you believe. The government has money for all kinds of high-priced ads in the newspaper, pretty well full-page ads. Does anybody know what one of those suckers would cost; $3,000 or $4,000?

AN HON. MEMBER: Plus HST.

MR. HOLM: Well, they are exempt from the HST. They don't have to pay that. I wonder how many of those ads they have had saying, we are good; workers, bad. In essence, that is what the Tories are saying, paid for by the good taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia. Maybe the Tory caucus should pay for them or the Tory Party, if you want to put out your political propaganda, maybe you can pay for them and say, this is a paid advertisement on behalf of the Tory Party of Nova Scotia. Then you can do it. But, you are wasting taxpayers' money. You are wasting my money, you are wasting the money of the health care workers in this province who you are collecting taxes from; as long as they continue to work in Nova Scotia, you are spending their money to put out your political propaganda to use against them.

[Page 4770]

We can go back less than two years, not much less. Today is June 15th. Two years ago plus four days our now Premier, the good Dr. Hamm, said, while speaking during the start of the election campaign, on June 19, 1999, down at the - gee, this is a centre that is being talked about quite a bit now - the QE II Health Science Centre.

[9:45 a.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: What did he say?

MR. HOLM: What did he say? I have a colleague who is interested in what he said. I am, too. I am sure that a lot of the health care workers don't want to be reminded about what he said because then he sounded respectful and it reminds them how much this legislation is betraying them. You know, the members for Pictou, Yarmouth, Antigonish, Chester-St. Margaret's, Kings North, Liverpool - it is called Queens - all of these MLAs should know what the Premier then said.

He started off by saying, as Yogi Berra once said, it is déjà vu all over again. I would guess that health care workers are saying, it is déjà vu all over again. Here comes Don Cameron, John Savage, Bernie Boudreau and company. Dr. Hamm said, and he was referring here to the 1998 election, A little over a year ago, I started and ended my campaign on this spot. Maybe the next campaign will start and end at the same spot again. Only at that time, I would suspect, that the outcome, because of this kind of arrogant action, is going to be very different than that election.

But as I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, that is really insignificant in terms of who does and doesn't get elected. What is important is not who occupies the seats in this Chamber, but whether we have a quality health care system that Nova Scotians can depend upon when they need it and what this government is doing is destroying that. The Premier went on to say, It was a long, cold journey that had brought us to the QE II Health Science Centre. This time you can swap your winter coats for sunglasses. That was his punch line, I guess, his humour.

He said, There is no question, this time around, the main issue in this election is health care. He seems to have forgotten that, Mr. Speaker. He said, I think that is great because that was and is the issue I fought so hard for during the last election. It is the issue I have pounded away at for six years. So, for six years, he pounded away at health care. Now he is pounding away at it again, but in a different way. Now he is pounding away at the health care workers.

I am sure that the Premier and the Minister of Health aren't intending to create havoc. They don't want to destroy the health care system. That is not their goal. So maybe if they took a few months and sat back and listened and gave the collective bargaining process a chance to work and showed a little bit of respect, then maybe, Mr. Speaker, they can undo some of that harm. Stop pounding away at the workers and start working with them and with

[Page 4771]

others to improve the quality of health care in this province, start to make this an attractive place to work so that more health care workers will be willing to come and work in Nova Scotia. Then our existing health care workers will be able to have a safe and an appropriate workplace in which to work in which they are not being run off their feet and over-stressed and actually have a little bit of time off to have a life of their own, instead of having to give 100 per cent of their time, or as they feel like 100 per cent of the time, looking after the lives of others who need them.

The Premier went on to say, I knew then as well as we all know now, hundreds of men and women across this province who work at institutions like the QE II, have been abandoned by Russell MacLellan and his government. Well, I wonder how many health care workers would today suggest that those words could be turned around again and, instead, insert the name John Hamm and his government.

I realized long ago, the many hours, the emotional stress, the sheer physical endurance of health care workers were being taken for granted. I knew that in June 1999. Of course he was sincere, he wasn't saying that only to try to win votes, surely not, and I honestly don't think that he was. I think that he was sincere then. So I really have to wonder what accounts for the transformation that is occurring.

Mark my words, it is not only the Minister of Health and the Premier who are on the line with this bill; each and every one of you on the government benches are as accountable for and responsible for this legislation and the consequences, should it pass - each and every one of you, those who are in their seats and those who aren't. Each and every one of you is equally responsible.

The Premier went on to say, I applaud the efforts of each and every health care worker, doctors, nurses, technicians, orderlies and cooks; they are all doing their part to provide good health care in this province. So people might be expected to ask; well, Mr. Premier, you believe that we are all doing our part to provide good health care in this province, excuse them if they wanted to ask the question then, well, Mr. Premier, why aren't you and your government doing your part to provide good health care in this province?

What bothers me is the fact that the efforts of health care providers are often thwarted by a government that has completely mismanaged the health care system, said Premier Hamm, then the Leader of the Tories in Opposition. Great words. You know, Mr. Speaker, of anything and everything I read from his comments in June 1999, said by John Hamm, I don't disagree with a word of it. If I didn't know better, and if I wasn't a candidate, I might have even wanted to vote for him. If I had, and if I had seen what has happened since, I would also feel extremely betrayed. The feelings of health care workers, the anger that is being shown is genuine. We, in this House, can sometimes use theatrics. I have certainly done that from time to time, most members have, except for backbenchers because they are not allowed to get up and talk.

[Page 4772]

Mr. Speaker, this is a very genuine issue. The consequences, the stakes and the dice game that this government is playing are very, very high and I know the way that many people will react. If someone kicks sand at me, I will kick it back. This government has thrown down the gauntlet to health care workers and it encompasses just about everybody, whether you are a nurse, a technician, a cook, an orderly, clerical staff, anybody who works for any health care board, any hospital, the IWK-Grace, the QE II, the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre, are covered by this whether they are currently in a negotiating position or not.

Then, Mr. Speaker, after the Cabinet lays on their hands and says this is what the contract is going to be, they can't even take it to court because, of course, the government has so much confidence in their ability to be unfair that they won't allow a challenge. They are gutless.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid to withdraw that. It is unparliamentary.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I will withdraw the word that I used and I will say that they are spineless, is that more appropriate? They lack courage.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, sometimes certain Speakers will find certain words acceptable, other Speakers may not and, therefore, I will use it and say it in the most gentlemanly way I can. It doesn't truly reflect how I feel emotionally, to say that they lack courage.

Government goes on and has this into effect until March 31, 2004, and I pose this scenario to you. I would ask, first of all, the question, I wonder why 2004 might be significant. Could it have anything to do with the fact that the last election was held in July, 1999, and that the next electoral cycle is almost certainly to be over prior to the 2004 date that has been set in this bill? Could there be politics at play here? Surely not because I am sure this highly-principled Tory Government would never play politics with the health care in this province or the lives of health care workers and if you think that I am saying that seriously, Mr. Speaker, and that I believe those comments, I have a bridge to sell you.

Under this right now, what the government could do and we don't know what their plans are - they could decide, okay, no contract has been reached, we will declare that this is a contract. It is going to be whatever they have laid out. They already have a plan, just like this legislation was drafted even before they had appointed that mediator, because in no way was this legislation drafted in a day.

[Page 4773]

Mr. Speaker, they have this legislation and they can turn around and say that, okay, then the contract that we are going to impose shall last until let's say March 2003. They can say in that collective agreement that negotiations shall commence no later than February 2003. So it can begin a month or two before it, mandate the negotiations will begin before that, and they could state in this that negotiations will have concluded by September 1, 2003, picking dates at random, and they could say, oh, gosh, gee, the Treasury and Policy Board, of course, they ranched it down so far that no agreement could possibly be reached after the workers were shafted - is that parliamentary? Given a raw deal, mistreated, whatever word is acceptable, that means the same thing - by the Don Cameron Government, by the John Savage Government and now by the Hamm Government.

[10:00 a.m.]

So, Mr. Speaker, they could turn around and say they have to have been concluded by September 1st, but they are setting the terms. The Treasury and Policy Board are the ones who dictate what the health boards and hospitals can offer. They can dictate terms that will mean that no new settlement can be reached again. I don't see anything in this bill that would stop them from doing that and then saying, well, no contract was reached, so guess what? In September 2003, we are going to impose yet another collective agreement on health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia and that one they could say would last until 2007; oh, possibilities.

The government is sure doing their part to build up confidence and trust in the health care workers. They are really doing their part, everything they can to show that they, yes, respect health care workers. Not, Mr. Speaker, I say to that former statement. Nothing could be further from the truth. Even if one wants to take a look at the editorials, something else the government can take a look at. The editorials that appear in the paper don't normally tend to be all that harsh against governments. I have only looked at two today from the two Halifax papers. Gee, you haven't sold them, the government hasn't sold them that what is being done is fair. This legislation doesn't even pretend that it wants to provide any fairness to the workers.

I was in this House, as were other members, when the bill was passed requiring the paramedics to go back to work. That piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, had contained within it a provision that there was to be binding arbitration. That means that the employees and the employers, both, would be bound to state the obvious - if it is a binding arbitration - to whatever decision and recommendations came forward by that arbitrator. One of the consequences of that binding arbitration, one of the results was that is showed, quite clearly, that paramedics in the Province of Nova Scotia were overworked, they were underpaid, and substantive adjustments were made and that is right on. Guess what? That costs some money.

[Page 4774]

This legislation contains absolutely nothing about binding arbitration, not even a whiff of a suggestion that that would happen. Why? Is that, Mr. Premier, because it might cost some money if the arbitrator finds, in fact, the working conditions and the wages are unacceptably low? Could that then interfere with the election plans? Because, oh, we have to have our balanced budget and we have to give some money back. Well, I say to you Mr. Premier and all members opposite, keep my share of whatever tax breaks you are going to give back and put that back into the health care system.

I would be willing to bet you, Mr. Speaker, if you were to ask Nova Scotians - and you are doing polling over there all the time at public expense - ask them, what do you want, what do you want more, do you want to have a quality health care system you can depend upon when you or your families need it, or do you want a few more bucks in your pocket? I firmly believe the majority of Nova Scotians would say they want a quality health care system, a top quality health care system. They want their employees who work in the health care system to be well treated, they want them to be properly paid, they want them to have proper working conditions and they also know that it is in their best interests to have their health care workers have proper working conditions. Because, as you see, looking around this House, when you put in long, hard hours it can be very draining on your system.

Mr. Speaker, this legislation is unprecedented. It's an absolute betrayal. Government likes to say, oh, we are not rolling back wages. We are not going to do that and we are not going to increase taxes either. No. Well, I will tell you, the government has a very selective view, because if you take away the democratic elective bargaining rights which this legislation does, you are denying those health care workers the ability to even negotiate for a fair wage. Therefore, what you are doing is you are taxing them. You are taking the money from their pockets and their families' pockets. Don't do anything to offend your big buddies. Some bank may want to come along and have a few more millions of dollars to set up a call centre. Sobeys may want some more money. We will still sell our rights to explore for oil and gas on Nova Scotia for 11 cents an acre because we don't want to drive away these multi-national, huge, billion dollar industries; a whole 11 cents an acre we collect from them.

To say that this government isn't increasing taxes is something that I would suggest if I would use the word that comes to my mind immediately, you might suggest that I might wish to withdraw that as being unparliamentary, so I will just think it rather than say it. I could come up with a synonym and baloney might be one that would fit in there, sort of a semi-close. This government is betraying the trust, and to do this even before the collective bargaining process has been allowed to run its gamut, and to do it in a way that gives government control over what is going to be negotiated at the table and then the ability to impose whatever it wants without any recourse to the courts.

This legislation should be torn up. Government members, over the weekend, should go home to their ridings and, as I said before, and you can even make the call today, call your local radio station, call your local newspaper, and say you want to meet with health care

[Page 4775]

workers and constituents on Saturday afternoon or Sunday afternoon, before you come back here for your midnight sitting on Sunday. You want to meet with them in your communities and face to face, eyeball to eyeball, listen to what they have to say. They are the ones who elected you; they are the ones you promised to serve. The Tories, the big platform issue, as John Hamm said in his June 1999 statement, the primary issue is health care. I tell you, widgets and gidgets and gadgets and all the machinery in the world is important but without the staff, the dedicated, hard-working health care workers, they mean nothing. That is the heart of the health care system.

"No collective agreement may be concluded or amended to be contrary to an order made pursuant to Section 6 and, where there is a conflict between an order made pursuant to Section 6 and a collective agreement, the order prevails." Of course, number 6, Mr. Speaker, was the one that gives Cabinet all the power.

How can any member on the government benches look at themselves in the mirror and say that passing this is showing anything but contempt for health care workers? There isn't a strike on, as far as I know. I understood that conciliation and discussions were about to begin again next week. This bill won't take three or four weeks to pass, as some previous speakers, like the previous speaker from the Liberal Party talked about. It won't take that. I am not going to create that so-called perception out there because the reality is that government wants us in and out as fast as humanly possible. That is why we are sitting 24 hours a day now, because the government knows how many amendments we can put in, they know how many hours that can take. We will sit, I predict - I might be wrong, but I predict we will be coming in at midnight on Sunday, to sit for 24 hours. If this hasn't passed second reading yet, I predict - I may be wrong - we will then be coming in Tuesday morning at midnight, or at least sitting as many hours as it would take to pass this bill, if everybody spoke for the full hour on the Opposition benches. The Law Amendments Committee will sit long and extended hours to rush it through there as quickly as possible, so that health care workers and others won't have many minutes, or a chance to get in to say anything.

Then, when we do Committee of the Whole House, my guess is, 24 hours a day again that time, Mr. Speaker, because only 20 hours can be used. Third reading, you know what is going to happen there.

This bill is intended to have this rammed through here as quickly as possible, so that the public of Nova Scotia won't have an opportunity to find out the true and full consequences of what you are doing and give the workers not only who represent the nurses and the technicians, but all workers who are covered by this, whether they are a member of a bargaining unit with the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, the NSGEU, others as well, whether it be CUPE or others, Mr. Speaker. This one bill catches all. Is that what this government means when they say they respect health care workers? Was that what the Premier meant when he said, I applaud the efforts of each and every health care worker, doctors, nurses, technicians, orderlies and cooks, they are all doing their part to provide good health care in

[Page 4776]

this province? Is that how he shows it? Is that his method of applauding them? If it is, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that most health care workers would ask the Premier and his government colleagues to please keep their opinions to themselves.

[10:15 a.m.]

I know, Mr. Speaker, my time has expired. I just looked at the clock. I look forward to having the opportunity to return to speak again and maybe again and again on this bill.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: On an introduction, if I may, Mr. Speaker, throughout the prolonged session that we have been involved in, there have been a number of nurses and health care workers who have been here. A couple of my constituents, who are health care workers, are here. In fact, one of them was here last night at midnight and has been very concerned about some issues in here, including decorum. So I would like these two constituents of mine from Timberlea to stand. Both work in the OR and the Halifax Infirmary operating room. If they could stand and receive the recognition of the House. Linda Mills and Carolyn Doucette, welcome to the House nurses. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I have another introduction. I apologize to the member for Cape Breton West. Also in the gallery, we have - and I was told I could actually mention - a nurse with 31 years experience. She works at the IWK day surgery unit and we all know what a special place the IWK is, not just for Nova Scotia, but for all of the Maritime and Atlantic Provinces. I would ask Barb Christensen to stand and receive the recognition of the House. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on this particular amendment. I am rather perplexed at this amendment, actually, because a six months' hoist would effectively kill the intent of the bill, which is to prevent a strike which could very easily occur within the countdown period of the 14 days, of which we all know the clock started ticking several days ago. So it is rather perplexing, but I guess, from an Opposition point of view, it certainly makes a point about what the government's intent is.

But that having been said, the reason for supporting the hoist . . .

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

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 4777]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Yarmouth.

MR. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for allowing the time for an introduction. Today, in our east gallery, we have 90 students from the new school in Yarmouth, Meadowfield school. They are in Grade 6. Half of them are here now and the other half are down in the museum and they are going to switch and the other half will come and this group will go to the museum. They have been on the road since yesterday, as the teacher, Mr. Kent Bain, just explained to me. So I would ask the House to give a warm welcome to the Grade 6 students from Yarmouth's Meadowfield school. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I certainly welcome this class and their teacher here in the gallery today.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I too welcome our honoured guests to the gallery here today to watch the proceedings. What is perplexing about this particular piece of legislation is that it kind of draws into focus really where we are going with a lot of the legislative process on matters such as health care, education and so on. The reason for the Opposition, particularly our caucus, supporting this particular hoist, has a number of very strong reasons attached to it. For those who aren't aware, this Legislature is the oldest seat of responsible government in Canada and it is for that reason that I speak on this particular amendment because one of the clauses in the bill denies the right of the nurses or the Nurses' Union any recourse whatsoever before any court, either in this province or in this country. That, in itself, is a charter challenge. It completely flies in the face of all the rights and freedoms that we as Canadians, and in particular Nova Scotians, enjoy. I strongly suspect that Clause 13 of Bill No. 68 is unconstitutional because every individual has the right of recourse before a court of the land in this country. For any government to deny an individual or a group of individuals that right, is perhaps one of the most authoritarian, heavy-handed style governments that you could ever witness.

Let's look at it from the government's perspective. The government is making the argument that they have to guarantee that the public interest is protected; in other words, we have to ensure that health care is provided in the eventuality of a strike. Because they can't guarantee that, or can't receive that quality assurance from the nurses or the Nurses' Union, then they are going to bring in the legislation, an Act, to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia, better known as Bill No. 68.

Let's look at the facts. The Premier himself has stated that he would prefer seeing a settlement. The Minister of Environment and Labour yesterday during Question Period, indicated he was hopeful that the mediator would be able to bring a resolve to this impasse. If they are that hopeful, what is the purpose of having a mediator if you are going to put a piece of legislation in to say you are going back to work, whether you like it or not, even before they walk off the job?

[Page 4778]

I think if there is a sense of insecurity anywhere it would be within the government ranks, it would be within the government circle - that is, the Cabinet and in particular with the Minister of Health and the Premier and, to a lesser extent, the Minister of Environment and Labour because he, for all intents and purposes has been nothing more than a cheerleader to the whole process right from day one. For him to appoint a mediator on one day and the government to introduce a bill that would legislate the workers back before they even leave the job site, it kind of undercuts everything that the Minister of Environment and Labour has said and done. Really, this sense of insecurity is within the government circle, not within the Nurses' Union or any of the associated health care bodies.

I was rather perplexed at the Premier's comments a little earlier when he did a scrum with the media, the fact that he indicated that we couldn't get that type of guarantee of quality service from the health care workers. Well, I am just going to read briefly a letter dated May 10, 2001. It was addressed to Ms. Jean Candy, Labour Relations Officer of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union and it was sent by Mr. Phil Veinot, Director of Human Resources from within the management circles of our health care circle. This is what he says. He says, "Let me begin, on behalf of all the employers, by thanking you and your committee of Janet, Gerry and Sonya for their candid and productive discussions that we had today.

To me, that doesn't speak of a lack of respect, that doesn't speak to me of a lack of confidence in this process, but rather it indicates to me that progress was being made. This letter is in reference to, not the issue that is being negotiated back and forth between the Nurses' Union and the various health care bodies, but rather speaking to the issue of what is referred to as patient care services continuation plan. So, Mr. Speaker, in effect, for the last several weeks the nurses and the health care authorities, whether it be in the central region or the Cape Breton Health Care Complex, or wherever it would be in the province, a contingency plan was being put in place. So what is the purpose of the legislation if both bodies were working towards an agreement, as recently as several weeks ago, and I am led to believe that this agreement was all but ready for signing, with the exception of one or two minor points.

Now this contingency agreement, this memorandum of agreement - and I will table it for the approbation of the members of the House - is referred to as Draft 2, revised May 10, 2001, entitled Terms of Reference, Patient Care Services Continuation Plan between the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union and the respective employers names, for each of the respective health care bodies.

So what is wrong? The guarantee was here to ensure a maximum quality service with the minimum amount of staffing. So what has gone wrong between May 10th and yesterday, that would force the government to bring in this particular piece of legislation? That is why we are looking at this delay, so that perhaps the government, the Minister of Health, could explain why this agreement seemed to have been, perhaps trashed, or put in abeyance or ignored or what have you, but what happened that this agreement was never completed?

[Page 4779]

When I speak with the nurses' representative, they say they are prepared to sign it, but you can't get that answer from the government. So why is it that the health care authorities who would negotiate this agreement and compliment the negotiators of the agreement, all of a sudden not want to sign it?

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that the government is taking advantage of a rather unusual situation; they see an opportunity, as was done in other jurisdictions, to use the nurses' unions, all two or three of them, as whipping agents to try to generate some political support. The optics are there. There is no rationale for us to be here in this House today. If the government had that much foresight and that much concern about the health and safety of Nova Scotians, why wasn't it included in Bill No. 20, in clear form? Why wasn't there some kind of a contingency plan put in place while the House of Assembly was open in the spring session? Why are we doing everything haphazardly? Why is it that the Minister of Health stood in his place yesterday and said you couldn't trust the nurses and the Premier stood outside this Chamber today and says yes, we trust them but we just couldn't get an agreement, when the documents are there? All they have to do is sign them.

The nurses are saying they are prepared to sign for that contingency plan, so what is the rationale? The rationale is, they see an opportunity to develop a couple of key, strategic initiatives, not just in the short term but in the long term because this agreement is only for three years. What will happen after three years? Well, we all know that another election will have come and gone, so that kind of allows some of the wounds to heal a bit, although I am not so sure that a lot of the health care workers in this province will forget that easily.

[10:30 a.m.]

Let's not forget, Mr. Speaker - and I am sure it is the same in your constituency or any other constituency in this province - health care workers are not militant individuals. They are just honest, hard-working, dedicated professionals, dedicated to helping people be healthy. I mean, that is as simple as you can put it. But it's a rather demanding job. It is a rather complex job. I don't profess to know all the dynamics of health care. It is like when you pass an ambulance on the highway, you look at that and all the bells and the whistles and all the sirens and it looks pretty impressive. You will see the paramedics driving and you say, wow, that is quite impressive. It is nice to look at but you wouldn't want to be a customer.

That is a lot like when we go by our hospitals or when we walk through the hospitals going to visit a family member or a family friend or what have you. You will see the nurses and the doctors and the support staff there, the cleaning staff and so on and so forth. We take that for granted. We don't realize how tough it is on these individuals. Heaven forbid, Mr. Speaker, we all know with the way things are evolving in health care today there are greater demands on health care workers, particularly the nurses, from a professional liability point of view today, than there were 10 or even 20 years ago or even 2 years ago, for that matter.

[Page 4780]

So these are factors why I am rather perplexed as to why the government is so anxious to force this legislation through.

It is rather ironic that the Premier - he spent a considerable amount of time with Ralph Klein last weekend at a chamber of commerce dinner. It seems like every time he gets tangled up with one of these Premiers from the western provinces we seem to get hit with all this rather strange legislation and right-wing propaganda. It would do well for that honourable Premier from Alberta to stay in Alberta and look after his own problems.

Years ago, when he was the mayor for the capital city there, what did he say - easterners go home, we don't want you. He essentially said that we were nothing more than a bunch of bums. That is really what he said, and now he is coming here to advise us on other issues?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind the honourable member for Cape Breton West that he is speaking on the hoist amendment that is presently before the House. I would ask him if he would bring his comments back to the amendment that is being discussed at this time.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I focused on that in part because it's what the bill says. The bill says a lot. If you look at the word "lot", l-o-t, it says, lack of trust. That is really what it means. The fact that the government seems to be taking advice from extraneous sources that do very little to engender confidence between the government and the health care workers in this province; that was the point I was making.

We can extrapolate to the nth power, if you want to look at it in mathematical terms. Certainly, that would draw us out of the focus of the amendment and I certainly appreciate your guidance on that, Mr. Speaker. But it goes right to the heart and soul of why we are here, because the government has lost confidence in itself because it is legislating on a lip-service basis. We saw what happened with the paramedics' legislation and now we are seeing the same thing here with Bill No. 68. This will not go away.

I am sure the good member for Cape Breton North will certainly be receiving an earful when he goes back to his constituency this weekend because everything that is happening here is contrary to what the government said about health care in the dying days of the Legislature, in the spring session, the Barrington bill. It is so dysfunctional what is happening across, Mr. Speaker. That is why people are rather perplexed as to why we are here. The Opposition will support any initiative to ensure the safety and well-being of Nova Scotians. The government knows that, any reasoned individual knows that, the nurses know that. Why bother to be here when we have appointed a mediator, we have a tentative agreement that, for all but one minor point, is agreed to, for a contingency plan to ensure guaranteed health care in the eventuality of a strike. So what is the problem? Is it the question

[Page 4781]

of money? Maybe that is why the government doesn't want to go to binding arbitration - they are afraid that the arbitrator will say, these nurses are not being paid a fair wage.

It is ironic, Mr. Speaker, we are celebrating a rather unique day today, it is the signing of the Magna Carta, signed on June 15 in the year 1215, by King John. I will just read the first script - King John - not the King John we have in the Premier's chair because he would want to take the Magna Carta and tear it up because that is what Bill No. 68 does, so we don't support that. It says, "The Great Charter of English liberty granted (under considerable duress) by King John at Runnymede on June 15, 1215." There were a couple of very important points that were made in this. This is the premise by which we have responsible government. That is why Bill No. 68 is so unsavoury. It is not a good piece of legislation when you can pass a piece of legislation that says that any decision of the Executive Council, the Cabinet, is not appealable to anybody. They have put themselves above the law; they have put themselves above reproach; they have even put themselves above the court system, the legal system, the very foundation which has brought us here, through the Magna Carta.

Item No. 16 says, "No man shall be forced to perform more service for a knight's 'fee' or other free holding of land, than is due from it." Well certainly I would think that the government is not expecting the nurses to work any harder than they are because they are under-staffed, over-worked and inevitably you know what will happen - burnout and they will quit or they will go somewhere else. We have seen considerable evidence to that effect.

I think the government has been a little bit unreasonable here. They knew back when the House was open, two weeks ago, what was happening here. They knew full well what the dynamics of the negotiating process was. Mr. Speaker, you know the Minister of Finance stood in his place yesterday and said, you know the Opposition is distorting Statistics Canada's figures, they really didn't have a $51 million surplus, like the federal government said, or Stats Canada said, because they didn't take into account the expenditures for universities and so on.

If you look at his budget, all that stuff is calculated in, all those figures are in that. The government itself, this year, Mr. Speaker, by its own admission admitted that it has a $26 million surplus on the restructuring fund. That came out during the estimates, when I questioned the Government House Leader. They spent only $50 million out of the $76 million that was budgeted. So what happened to the other $26 million? That goes into the Minister of Finance's slush fund that he started last year.

Now, Mr. Speaker, you wonder why the Minister of Education or the Minister of Health or whoever, would all of a sudden, under certain pressures, be able to find this money because they are playing games with the numbers. The Minister of Finance said yesterday it was so bad, it was a $0.5 billion deficit - not a $1 million surplus. But, on a previous day, he equally admitted that over $200 million of what was booked towards Sydney Steel was

[Page 4782]

just paper talk, it wasn't just real dollars. That wasn't the real net debt that he was talking about.

It goes to show you that they can spin as many numbers as many different ways as they want, but the fact remains, the nurses are not being treated fairly in this negotiating process. They are not. If they were, the Premier and the Minister of Health would have allowed the mediator to do his job. They have undermined that process within 24 hours of setting it up. Is that how ineffective, is that how little respect the Minister of Environment and Labour has at the Cabinet table? Is that all he is, a choir boy, a cheerleader for the dictates of other members in Cabinet? It just defies all logic. That is what is so disappointing.

Item No. 13 of this particular document, the Magna Carta, and I quote . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member is well aware that the amendment motion before the House is for six months hence, not 700 years past. I would ask the honourable member for Cape Breton West if he could bring his comments around to the reasons for the six months' hoist and why he is supporting that motion.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, Mr. Speaker, I agree. We shouldn't be going back in time, we should be going ahead and that is why this bill should be taken from the House. Bill No. 68 takes you back even further than the year 1215 when at least King John had the good sense to recognize the democratic rights of his citizens. He did that under duress and he was king. This is not the King John that we want sitting across in the Premier's chair. What we see here today, it is very discouraging. The more things change, the more they stay the same with this government, because that is what it is all about. The government is removing the accountability process of the elected government by the people, for the people, away from the people. That is what they are doing.

Bill No. 20 in the last session of the Legislature was just one of a whole bunch of measures. Bill No. 68 is another. They are all tied together, they are all interwoven because it demonstrates quite clearly that this government doesn't like accountability. That is what it says. We don't trust you. We are right, we are the government. We saw that in a previous administration. (Interruption) Absolutely. The previous administration, on another day, they paid the price. They had the numbers, but you know there was a certain element, there was a school of thinking that developed in that government that is pretty much the same as what is happening over here today: we are right. You do as I say, not necessarily as I do. You can't even appeal anything we say. We are so right that you don't even have the right to go to court to question it. That defies all logic. So you wonder why the nurses would be upset.

[Page 4783]

We had approximately 200 nurses here at the Legislature yesterday stating their case and coming and listening to the proceedings, some of which I am sure they weren't really impressed with, but you know there are thousands of them out there. They have resigned themselves to the fact that this government is not going to listen to what they are going to say anyway. It is like talking to the wall; sometimes you have to knock on their desk over there and ask if anybody is home. You don't know if they are in a different world or what.

Bill No. 68 is very regressive, it is a very regressive piece of legislation. Not to belabour the history, but I think King John would be embarrassed by what this government is doing. Under great duress he went to fight for - as is stated - that all shall enjoy their liberties and free customs.

[10:45 a.m.]

The nurses don't have that anymore. With Bill No. 68, that is taken away from them. That is not fair negotiating. That is not an even playing field. When questioned, the Minister of Health himself says that he has to take the advice from more experienced professionals within the system to be able to come to the conclusion that he introduces this legislation. Give us a break. He is the chief administrative officer over at the Department of Health. He should know, and he should be well briefed and not come up with some frivolous statement that he is just taking advice from some experts within the department and not be able to rationalize or understand or articulate his reasons for bringing this bill here, other than to say we can't trust them.

Who is right? The Minister of Health says, we don't trust you. The Premier says, we do trust you. And you have the Minister of Environment and Labour saying, well, I am hopeful that the mediator will resolve this issue. Which is it? It demonstrates quite clearly that the government doesn't have a cohesive plan. Somebody is advising the government that this would be good politics. I am afraid that this will come back, in the literal, political sense, and bite the government, big time, on a future day. It doesn't matter whether it is the nurses, whether it is police officers, doctors or what have you, any essential service, it is not the way to do things.

If the government, the Premier and the Minister of Health had come along and said they are not willing to sign this agreement, this contingency plan, well then you could see them coming in here and stating their case, but that is not the case. It is almost as if the Premier is unaware of this Patient Care Services Continuation Plan. It is almost as if he is totally oblivious to what is being said within his own Cabinet.

Mr. Speaker, from the government's perspective it is all about politics and money. Let's look at the money side. I touched on the issue about the Minister of Finance spinning the numbers. We pick up the paper today and you will see the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, the former Governor of Massachusetts, Paul Celucci. What are they talking about? They are

[Page 4784]

talking about access to our natural resources, our oil and our gas and so on. Well, they are getting it now. Because we can't even use it, we can't do anything for value added, which means less tax revenue in this province.

The most the Premier has been able to do on the issue of money, tax revenue that could certainly address this issue for the nurses and other critical mass sectors in the Public Service would be to ensure that we get fair agreements. The Premier is talking about levying fines against oil companies that don't hire Nova Scotians. Give us a break. You would have to be a Grade 2 student to accept that at face value. He is the chief administrative officer for this province, and he has the authority, he has the power to put that in writing and demand it from these international oil companies. We shouldn't have to listen to the western propaganda advocates or the Americans as they siphon off our tax dollars. That is why there is no money for health care, because they haven't got a cohesive plan. He can't even negotiate a meagre agreement.

PanCanadian was invited before the Public Accounts Committee three weeks in a row, and every week there is an excuse why they can't come. Why? Because they want to do offshore processing. In other words, no jobs for Nova Scotians, no value-added, no tax revenue that would certainly deal with the harshness that has been pronounced in Bill No. 68.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, it is very difficult. If the government is concerned about money, get its act together. They say there are no tax increases. Well, we know that within the next month or so, there is going to be a tax on all paint cans in the province. That is going to be another tax. There have been at least, I would say, close to 20 different tax increases within the Department of Environment and Labour this year, this budget. They call them user fees, but they are tax increases. Where is that money going? What is happening?

The government hasn't got a cohesive management plan. The only thing that we can identify, substantively, is that the Minister of Finance has a slush fund and he is sitting on it and he is waiting for next year for when an election may roll around in the fall of 2002 or the spring of 2003 and then they will open the floodgates and they will hope that this issue with the nurses will be forgotten. Well, I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, it will not be because people don't accept this anymore. They don't accept their politicians acting like heavy-handed authoritarians. We are just as human, just as vulnerable and just as apt to be wrong as any one else in their field of expertise.

I think, Mr. Speaker, we have an obligation to listen. I will be very interested to see some of the stories that will be brought before the Law Amendments Committee by the different health care providers, the nurses. Hopefully, some of the spokespersons for the different regional health bodies, I think it would be good to have them come in and listen to both sides, listen to them state their case. I think what is most disappointing is the fact that the government doesn't want to listen at all.

[Page 4785]

Do you know what is even more frustrating? Not one government member, not one backbencher on the government side has stood to defend Bill No. 68. Tell us, give us substantive reasons why the government has chosen this course. The Premier, the Minister of Health and the Minister of Environment and Labour all contradict each other. Surely to heavens, you can't have at least 30 of them over there contradicting them over there, although that is possible. I would invite those members to stand up. But isn't that the way it goes, silence. They are going to do it. It is heavy-handed. We have the power. We have the authority to do this so we are going to do it and we don't care what anybody says because we are right and that is the way it is going to be.

Mr. Speaker, I was looking at a letter I received this morning from a doctor from my constituency who watched the Minister of Health's opening remarks on second reading yesterday. I will just read the first line: I just finished watching with disgust on the evening news how you introduced a bill to guarantee the safety of Nova Scotians by preventing health care workers from striking. I could go and on, it is a rather lengthy letter, but what it says in a nutshell is that the Minister of Health really didn't do consulting to the extent that he should have. To appoint a mediator, perhaps one of the most well-respected mediators in this province, if not the country, and then, within 24 hours, cut the ankles from under him. If I were the mediator, I would be a little upset. The agreement was reached and I will take that and I accept that.

What about the other two? What about the contingency plan proposed to be put in place? What is wrong with that? Why, all of a sudden, did the government, through its hospital boards, not want to sign the agreement? The nurses seemed to want to sign it. Is it more politically popular to beat up on the nurses? Is that what it is all about?

I don't think it is really the issue of money, in the final analysis, because if everything that has been said, particularly at that forum yesterday that the Premier attended, is so correct, then it is all about mismanagement in Nova Scotia. The question was raised time and time again that the government didn't have the capacity to be able to deal with the big boys in the oil industry.

It is strange, you know, when we are looking for ways to get more tax dollars - last year, I believe, if the figures are correct, in revenues, royalties, there was a little more than $16 billion collected by government, both federally and provincially. Alberta got $10 billion of that.

Now, think about it. If Ralph Klein or Peter Lougheed are coming to Nova Scotia, they are not coming to give, they are coming to take - the same ones who told us when we went looking for jobs out West, 10, 15, 20 years ago, to go home, we don't want the bums from Eastern Canada. So it is all about management, Mr. Speaker, and money. That is what Bill No. 68 avoids. It is about mismanagement and using the heavy hand of the law to make

[Page 4786]

up for the government's mistakes. That is really what Bill No. 68 does. So yes, it does say a lot, lack of trust. So the more it changes, the more it stays the same.

I would be very interested to see how the government backbenchers feel, even if two or three of them would be brave enough to stand for 5 or 10 minutes and tell us why they support this bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: They are not allowed.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, maybe they aren't allowed. Maybe the heavy hand of the Government House Leader has come down upon them, you know the minister of all things, the king of patronage, but what can we say?

If nothing else, this is a good lesson for the government. They say the bill is going to pass anyway, so why are you bothering to filibuster? Well, if everybody felt the way the government did, there would be no democracy, there would be no purpose in the nurses coming before the House to express their opinion. The gates now being put around Province House will be getting bigger and bigger. I am not going to go there, Mr. Speaker, I don't want to get in trouble with the Speaker this early in the day because I will be back later in the day to speak on this particular issue.

I think what is happening here is most unfair to the nurses. How many of us have taken the time to sit down and listen to some of the concerns they raise. Well, I have to admit that perhaps maybe I haven't listened as much as I should have or could have, but I do know from the ones I have spoken to that they make some very compelling arguments as to why Bill No. 68 should not be here and that the government should be looking at other ways.

You have the Minister of Health, who admits that he really doesn't know what is in the bill, other than what is told to him is in the bill; you have the Premier who says, unlike

the Minister of Health, we trust you. Then you have Dr. Seuss over there at the Department of Environment and Labour who appointed a mediator, only to cut the ankles from under him 24 hours later. Give us a break. This is like Piccadilly Circus, watching that crew over there, but it is really serious what they are doing because this is the thin edge of the wedge; it will be the nurses this year and then who will it be next year?

[11:00 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Will the honourable member allow for an introduction?

The honourable member for Yarmouth on an introduction.

[Page 4787]

MR. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for allowing me the time for an introduction. In the east gallery I would like to introduce to all members of the House, the other half of the Grade 6 students from Meadowfields school in Yarmouth. I forgot to mention there were 10 chaperones and they have been on the road since yesterday. They spent the night here in the city. They are doing some business and on the way back today, they hope to be home by 10:00 p.m.

Anyhow, I welcome them here and I would ask the members to give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our young visitors to the House today and their chaperones.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I welcome our guests as well. It is always good to see them coming to watch the proceedings. It is also an excellent opportunity to see some of the government members get up and speak. I was beginning to believe that maybe the cat got their tongues. So that is twice for the honourable member from that part of the province, a good part of the province, a great part of the province. Now, if we could only encourage him to stand up and defend Bill No. 68, that would be quite an accomplishment as well.

Mr. Speaker, Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms clearly contradicts Clause 13 of Bill No. 68. The Minister of Justice would know that, he should know that, although he probably won't stand up and defend it. We wouldn't expect him to because any Minister of Justice who would support doing away with a person's constitutional rights to the basic principles of fundamental justice, I would have concerns about his ability to ensure justice for all Nova Scotians. That was a concern raised in a previous government, with a previous minister of a like mind and that is scary. If this is what they will do to the nurses, what will they do to others?

Mr. Speaker, when the Premier promised strong leadership in this document, this blue book, we read it quite extensively, the underlying message in this Tory blue book, the platform for their election, in health care, it was all about consultation. It was all about having the nurses being active participants in the health care system. I quote, on Page 6, one of the commitments in health care, by John Hamm, "Reversing the trend to casualize the nursing profession by properly funding full-time nursing positions based on the results of the process noted above;", which outlines quite clearly what the government's intent was.

Bill No. 68 does not do that. Bill No. 68 is 180 degrees opposite to what was promised in their blue book. So, yes, it comes back to the little old word "lot" - this bill does say a lot; lack of trust, that is what it is.

[Page 4788]

Mr. Speaker, why haven't any of the government members stood up and defended this bill? If they don't think this bill should be postponed for another six months, stand up and say so. We need more than the assurance from the Minister of Health that he has listened to experts in his department and they told him that this was the best course of action. Who are these experts? Is it that hired hand that he brought from British Columbia who we can't even get into the Legislature for an accountability session during budget? It is the first time ever in the history of this Legislature that a deputy minister refuses to come to the Legislature for accountability in the budget. This is unprecedented - $180,000, plus shipping and handling, for someone who doesn't like to be accountable to anybody but himself.

There is something wrong. The government brags about reducing the size of the government service. Yes, it is reducing the number of front-line workers but it has increased the politburo and that is just about the size of it, that is what it is, a politburo, because it is unelected, unaccountable and faceless, and arrogant on top of that, because they have been given the licence to be arrogant and unaccountable. I would say, shame on the Minister of Justice, in particular, shame on him for not protecting the basic, fundamental rights of Nova Scotian citizens by preventing them the right to appeal to a court for recourse, by supporting Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, shame on that minister but, not surprisingly, Bill No. 68 is an issue, I think not just for the Nurses' Union but for all Nova Scotians because the government hasn't been able to clearly define, in measurable form, the extent of the compromise to the health care system that would exist in the absence of Bill No. 68. We haven't seen any substantive evidence to that form, outside of the fact that the government is saying there are two unions that haven't completed their negotiations, they are at an impasse. The countdown is on and the government needs this bill before the strike date.

Well, I am afraid that is just not good enough. It has been noted, with the nurse down in the Valley last week, she didn't wait for somebody to guarantee that she was going to be paid x number of dollars to save somebody's life, she did it because she took an oath that she would help to save lives, to prevent people from becoming sick, to help people be cured, in whatever capacity she could, and that is the way it is. It is the same with the medical profession. They do it because they believe in their profession. They believe in what they are doing. Is it so wrong to expect a fair compensation?

The Minister of Health has an obligation to tell members of the House how much money are we talking here? What is the outstanding issue? Are we talking $5 million, $10 million? What are we talking? But the government hasn't done that.

I realize my time is getting a little short. Suffice to say, everything that was put in the government's blue book in the last election showing strong leadership and a clear course - well, it is getting pretty cloudy, like many of the issues that are brought before this House. Everything that is in the government's plan for health care - one, two, three, four - four pages

[Page 4789]

with perhaps upwards of about 50, maybe 60, commitments in health care. A large number of them are made on the premise that there will be considerable consultation with the nurses. That seems to be void in Bill No. 68. Perhaps that is why the government members don't want to stand up and defend Bill No. 68. Maybe they can't. They can't stand up and defend Bill No. 68.

The member for Chester-St. Margaret's, I would invite him to stand and defend the nurses. They were there when he needed help and when everybody else who got sick needed help. Stand and give a measure of your appreciation. And yes, every member in that government, that governing Party, has an obligation to stand rather than sit quietly as the senior members of the government ram this legislation through.

Mr. Speaker, I know it is not parliamentary to say hypocritical, so I am not going to say it, but I think there is a good measure of how I feel about this bill and why we would support delaying this particular piece of legislation, coming very close. If you say the word and say you are not going to say it, it makes it easy and government members know. That is how people feel, they feel that the government has betrayed them. I suspect that this government has developed the same chemistry, the same mindset as a previous government that thought they were above reproach, and they paid a high price. It doesn't matter what political stripe, it doesn't matter, it only takes a few, and that is really what's happening.

Mr. Speaker, I will support this particular hoist because I think Bill No. 68 is a rather regressive piece of legislation. I could appreciate it if the government was going to include binding arbitration or at least provide some relief by taking out Clause 13, which even if it is in I still think there will be charter challenge. I think, on balance, the government has made a mistake. They have made a mistake, because the basic principles of fairness and justice don't exist. I would say that unless the Minister of Health gets firmer control on what is going on in his department things are going to get progressively worse. Not everything can be run by one faceless bureaucrat in the Department of Health. It just is not acceptable in Nova Scotia's terms of reference for what is fair and what is decent.

Mr. Speaker, with that I will be taking my place, and I will be supporting this hoist to refer it for a six month period.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, we have to ask, what on earth are we all doing here? The whole apparatus of the provincial government has been called together in an extraordinary, virtually unprecedented session in order to deal with a piece of legislation that is designed not to effect anything useful but which is purely an exercise in an expression of disrespect for the bargaining process, for nurses, for other health care workers, for the members of this House and for the intelligence of Nova Scotians.

[Page 4790]

I have to ask again, what on earth are we all doing here if that is what this bill is all about? I believe it is and I believe, therefore, that the hoist amendment deserves support.

[11:15 a.m.]

There can be no compelling or even reasonably plausible rationale for Bill No. 68. Let me tell you that we certainly haven't heard anything even remotely convincing from the government, not from one member of the government. I am not just talking here about the backbenchers who are habitually silent as the government moves ahead. I am talking as well about the Cabinet Ministers and the Premier and I am talking about their performance in Question Period. I am talking about their performance outside this Chamber and I am talking about their shocking performance inside this Chamber.

Nothing of any substance has been said that could possibly justify calling the House into session to deal with this bill. I include the paid advertisements because there certainly isn't anything convincing in that and those advertisements haven't convinced any of the editorial writers in this province, they haven't convinced any of the columnists in this province. They don't convince the ordinary public and they won't convince the ordinary public. No one in this province is going to be taken in by any of this nonsense.

This bill is an expression of arrogance and contempt. This bill is an expression of the absence of trust for exactly that group of employees that Nova Scotians trust above all others. When people provide hands-on, personal service in circumstances where life and health are threatened and do so with professionalism, they earn the respect and admiration of Nova Scotians. That describes what nurses do. That describes what health care workers do. For the government to have come forward with this bill, so ill-considered that it reeks of the arrogance, contempt, disrespect and absence of trust that they are showing, is completely scandalous.

Now the amendment that we have in front of us essentially says, take the bill off the table for six months. I support that. I support that for a whole variety of reasons and I am going to get into them. But before I do that, I am going to call the government to account for the one flimsy and - as it happens - completely inaccurate justification that they have tried to put forward for this bill and here is how the discussion goes. It was pointed out to the government inside this Chamber and outside this Chamber that the nurses of this province have agreed that in the event of a strike, they would provide adequate nursing care to meet all emergency situations.

Now just think about that for a moment. That is an extraordinary provision. In normal labour negotiations what you get is a balancing of the bargaining power of the employer and the employees. All an employee can really do is withdraw their labour services. That is all they can do. That is the only leverage that they really have. Now, in a commercial context, if employees withdraw their services, then the employer doesn't carry on their business

[Page 4791]

unless they have piled-up inventory and sooner or later they run out of that. So there is an economic dimension to the pressure that the withdrawal of labour services brings about.

In the public sector, that isn't the case, at least it certainly isn't the case with health sector workers. If they withdraw their services, the government revenues don't go down. In fact, if anything, they are putting the government in a better position because they are not having to pay them during that time. So, what is their leverage?

Their leverage in the withdrawal of their labour services is only limited to the fact that the government will be held accountable by the public if the services are not there. That is the way it would work. Of course, anyone who withdraws services in the health care sector is relying on the public to be worried. They are relying on the public to call their MLAs, to call the government and say, you better settle this strike, if, in fact, it gets to a strike.

Well, that is reasonable. But what have the nurses done here? What the nurses have actually done is they have agreed to lessen the leverage that they would otherwise have, and here is how they have done it. It is of long standing in their collective agreement, and it is right there in the collective agreement in force now between the QE II Health Sciences Centre and the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, the one that expired last October, the one for which negotiations are going on now in the hopes that there will be a new collective agreement, clause 6.03.

Mr. Speaker, I am quoting from the document, I will be happy to table it. Perhaps one of the Pages will come get this document. What I have here is an extract from the collective agreement, but I have, in addition, something that has clarified that clause. But let's just look at the clause that they have signed. It says, "notwithstanding an employee's right to strike, the union agrees that during a legal strike a sufficient number of bargaining unit employees will be provided to assist the employer where there are insufficient numbers of excluded persons to provide emergency treatment or care of any patient, if in the opinion of the majority of the emergency services evaluation committee a patient's life would be endangered." It goes on to say that "The emergency services evaluation committee shall consist of equal representation from the employer and the union." That is clause 6.03.

Now, any lawyer could look at a clause or any clause in a collective agreement, and try to pick it apart and try to say there are weaknesses in it. Well, that is what the government did in this round of negotiations. They said, this clause isn't good enough for us, we are worried. They said, it is very nice that you have promised that you will provide nurses to take care in emergency situations if a patient's life would be endangered, but that is not good enough for us, especially because there is a committee on which there are equal management and employee representatives that could be deadlocked. What do we do about that?

[Page 4792]

Yesterday the Minister of Health said that there was no way to resolve differences of opinion at that committee. What he said was, there is no binding arbitration mechanism to deal with that. Well, that is completely inaccurate and this gets me to the point about the absence of any factual foundation for this bill, Bill No. 68, that the government has presented before us. I cannot imagine that the Minister of Health, the other Cabinet Ministers or the full government caucus couldn't possibly be aware of a letter dated May 10th of this year, exchanged between the NSGEU and the administration of the QE II, focused on this very issue. The letter is focused on the question of how do you just work out the details of the emergency services that have to be provided. It is because I cannot believe that anyone over there can possibly have had their attention drawn to this letter that I will support the hoist, because the government and every member there needs to read this letter and think about it.

I have tabled it. They should pick it up off the table and read it right now; I encourage everyone who hasn't looked at it. This is part of the letter that has come from the NSGEU binding them to the following amplification and detail of that clause 6.03 in the collective agreement. I will quote from it now, "Once a legal strike begins, should the ESEC be unable to agree that a patient's life would be endangered because of insufficient numbers of employees to provide emergency treatment or care in accordance with Article 6.03, either the Capital District Health Authority or the NSGEU can refer any such dispute to an adjudicator who will make a decision on that issue. The decision of the adjudicator must be rendered within 24 hours of referral to adjudication and shall be binding on the Capital District Health Authority and the NSGEU."

Now, just a moment here - 24 hour decision making, binding on the parties? Yesterday, in response to my questions here in the House, the Minister of Health was saying there is no binding arbitration mechanism to resolve these disputes, we're not satisfied. Well, I want to hear something from the Minister of Health, from any Cabinet Minister, from the Premier, from any person over there as to why it is that they are not satisfied with this. Why is this not good enough?

If we have a hoist, they can have a chance to step back from this ill-conceived, and as I said, arrogant, contemptuous, disrespectful piece of legislation that they have brought in in order to digest the full implications of this letter. What is wrong with it? Not one word. This was in response to a request that was made from the administrators at the Capital District Health Authority through the QE II who came to them and said, we are a little worried about the clause as it exists. I have to say as a lawyer, clause 6.03 combined with the demonstrated goodwill and professionalism of the nurses in this province, looks pretty good to me.

They have even gone further. They have said, here is how we will resolve the dispute. If that joint management-labour committee can't resolve something, we will deal with it here. We will get an arbitrator in and the whole thrust of this letter is to talk about sorting out what is to happen in the course of a strike. I will quote another paragraph from this letter which

[Page 4793]

is tabled. It says, "The objective of the ESEC is that this comprehensive strike plan will be finalized during the 14 days prior to the union's legal right to strike, subject to any individual tailoring that may be necessary after that date."

In other words, what the union is doing is they are saying - which is an extraordinary thing to do in any labour relations setting - we are going to tie our hands in terms of our leverage at the bargaining table because if we go out on strike, only about half of us are going to go out on strike. Furthermore, we will sit down and negotiate with you the details of who is going to be on duty. And that will happen before the strike, not after the strike starts, not at some point after we think we have held your feet to the fire for a long period of time. The negotiations over that and the development of a comprehensive strike plan will take place before any strike takes place. This is an extraordinary concession on the part of the union. But you know what? It is exactly the kind of thing that one would expect from good-hearted, professional Nova Scotia nurses who are concerned about their patients, who are concerned about the public of Nova Scotia.

I apologize for going into a lot of detail, back and forth about legal documents and quoting from clauses from collective agreements and letters that are exchanged between unions and bargaining agents on one side and management at the hospital on the other. There is a certain amount of technical language there, but I have to say that the thrust of that language is as clear as it could possibly be. That takes away any flimsy, factual underpinning that the government has attempted to assert on its behalf to justify Bill No. 68. This is completely shocking, there is no justification for this bill. As I said, I cannot believe that there is one member in the government caucus who can be fully apprised of all the details and still support this bill, which is why the hoist makes sense.

[11:30 a.m.]

If this is the true state of facts, it doesn't sound as if the Minister of Health, who is the person mostly responsible for this bill, he introduced it, his name is on it, he is the one who has been answering questions about it in the House, the Minister of Health cannot possibly be aware of the exchange between the union and management. I draw that conclusion because of the way he answered my questions yesterday. He asserted that management at the hospitals had told him that there was no satisfactory plan in place and when he got down to any kind of detail, all he would say was, in the case of a dispute, there is no mechanism for resolving differences. Well, I am sorry. Clearly, the minister is misinformed.

Now, if the minister who introduces this bill doesn't know about that exchange, then what are we doing here? That was my question at the beginning. If the minister doesn't know, then we ought not to be here. The hoist makes sense. Everyone ought to vote for the hoist and we ought to just go away until the government establishes what the facts are and lets them sink in. It is not hard. It is as clear as it could possibly be.

[Page 4794]

I saw some murmuring and nodding over there when I referred to this exchange of correspondence. It looks to me as if indeed there are members over there who weren't aware of these details. If it turns out, though, that the Minister of Health was aware of these details, what possible reason could he have for bringing in this bill? Well, when I speculate about that, I think he has to give us more information, which is what a hoist would be all about. But let's think, what could the explanations possibly be? One possible explanation could be that this clause that I have read into the record, that I have tabled here today, which was exchanged between management and the union, isn't good enough for the minister.

It may be that for some arcane, obscure reason, the minister feels there is some legal technical problem with the wording. Well, you know what? He hasn't said so. If that is his problem, he ought to say so. Furthermore, if that is his problem, what he ought to do is go to his lawyers and say, I think there is a little problem with the wording here, why don't you go back and talk to the union and try to change the wording a little bit. That hasn't happened. That is not what is going on. So it kind of ran up to a dead end on that one. Either that isn't what is happening, or there must be some other explanation.

Again, we have to ask ourselves, what can the minister say to deal with an explanation for the facts? Well, it may be that there is just something else going on. Now if that is the case, then I think the six months' period of the hoist would be a useful time for the minister and his caucus, the whole government caucus, to explore the questions with their constituents, their presumed voters. I think that a reasonable person looking at this scenario could come to but one conclusion. What is the scenario? The scenario is, negotiations with the health workers are going just fine. Mediator Bruce Outhouse knocked heads together the other day and got an agreement that is being voted on right now - no emergency, no problem, probably an agreement after the votes are counted this weekend, unless the government doesn't like the deal, unless the government is trying to welch on the deal. Who knows? If that is what is going on, they better tell us.

In the nursing sector, inside our hospitals, bargaining is still going on, there hasn't even been conciliation yet, let alone a countdown to a strike, let alone an attempt to bring in a mediator. We are miles away from any kind of strike here.

What on earth is the minister doing bringing in this legislation? I ask again, what on earth are we all doing here with the full apparatus of the government called into movement in order to deal with this arrogant, contemptuous, disrespectful piece of legislation? I don't think it will take anyone very long to come to the conclusion that this is an attempt at intimidation. That is what this bill is about. If that is the case, then the government should stand up and say honestly to the public, we are just trying to intimidate the nurses so that we can get a better deal at the bargaining table, we are looking to scare them, and we are looking to follow our traditional tactics of trying to divide people in Nova Scotia instead of building communities, dividing Cape Breton from the mainland, dividing the rich from the poor, dividing the middle class from the poor, dividing the nurses from the public.

[Page 4795]

Well, do you know what? That isn't much of strategy, and they have picked it wrong. Have they ever picked it wrong. I support a hoist. I support a hoist because so far as I can see there is nothing in the way of any factual basis that would lead any reasonable person to come to the conclusion that there is justification for this bill. When we ask ourselves what it is that the government is on about, I would like people to notice the language that is used by the government in describing its bill. What it does is it titles this bill, an Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia. Well, this is what George Orwell called Newspeak. This is language designed to mislead. This is language that says one thing but it actually means something else, to continue health services in Nova Scotia.

Health services are continuing in Nova Scotia. They are continuing just fine, within the limits of the government's funding constraints, within the limits of their mismanagement, within the limits of the stresses that already exist, but there is nothing wrong with the dedication and hard work of the people who are actually there delivering the services. Why this bill is so objectionably labelled is because it will accomplish exactly the opposite of what it says.

In bringing in a piece of legislation that attempts to intimidate workers, a group of workers who are mobile within a continental and even an international market, the net effect will be to drive them out. The net effect will be that nursing graduates, especially new grads who have not yet put down their roots here, who have not yet married and had families, who have not yet acquired mortgages, homes, those new grads are going to find the offers from other places in North America and internationally extremely tempting when they look at the inhospitable, arrogant, contemptuous, disrespectful atmosphere that this government is creating here in our province.

Mr. Speaker, I want to read you a couple of words from a letter that I have just received from the nurses at the QE II. This is a nurse named Ruth Garrett. He home town is New Glasgow, in Pictou County, she lives here now. Here is what she has to say to us, "I have . . .", she writes, " . . . two realistic concerns, one the insult to democracy that the Act to continue health care services in Nova Scotia demonstrates; two, that the government would be concerned that the health care workers of Nova Scotia would put any citizen's life in danger. It would be in no more danger during a strike, with beds closing and non-emergency services ceasing, than it is already with the over-worked and under-staffed health care workers of today." Now that is a clear statement from one of our dedicated nurses at the QE II. She works in the Home Dialysis Unit.

It seems to me that that gets at the heart of it and that gets at the heart of why it is that the title of this bill is Newspeak, that is why the title of this bill says one thing but it actually means another. If it doesn't intend the result of driving our nurses, sure as shootin', that is going to be the result. That is why a six months' hoist makes sense, because it will give the opportunity for those who brought forward this misguided bill to consult with the nurses who live and work and are part of the fabric of their communities. They will hear, and I am sure

[Page 4796]

they are already hearing, in no uncertain terms and in exactly the kind of language that Nurse Garrett used in her letter to us, that the nurses feel insulted by this bill. They will hear that this bill will not do anything to promote the continuation of health care. They will hear that nurses are going to be driven out of this province because they have other options.

This is not a group without other options and this is a group that we need. Everyday, ordinary Nova Scotians, all of us need a good cadre of nursing care here. It is not as if there is an overabundance; everyone knows there is a nursing shortage that is continental in its breadth. What that means is it is a seller's market if you have the skills and the qualifications.

I have a variety of other reasons why I support this hoist. It makes sense to hoist this bill because it is bad industrial relations. Now let's think about that for a moment. This is the second time this government has brought in special legislation to try to force a group of workers to end up with a collective agreement. It happened with the paramedics a year and a half ago and now, in even more abusive terms, it is happening with the nurses and associated health care workers. The reason I say more abusive is that with respect to the paramedics, at least when we were dealing with a bill - I think it was Bill No. 9 - to legislate them back to work, at least there was binding arbitration over the terms of the collective agreement that would finally be put in place.

Well, that made sense. We don't like back-to-work legislation, we think it is wrong, but if there is going to be back-to-work legislation, at least what you do is offer binding arbitration. You don't say, we have all the cards right here, in our fist, and you have none; we will decide what your collective agreement is going to be. We have been bargaining with you across the table. We happen not to like your proposals, we like ours. We are not going to submit the wisdom or appropriateness of our proposal to an independent person to decide no matter what the stature of that person might be, no matter that we would have to agree to that person. We are not going to do it. We are going to impose it.

[11:45 a.m.]

That is why I say that this piece of industrial relations legislation, Bill No. 68, is much worse than Bill No. 9 dealing with paramedics before. This bill actually says that it is the government that will decide what the terms and conditions of employment will be. They will decide the whole shebang and that cannot be right. Surely, a six months' hoist would make sense for the government to swot up its homework and learn a little industrial relations.

Surely, there must be someone over there who has some experience with industrial relations and who is capable of getting it right. I know the evidence is all to the contrary, but if the problem is that no one has any experience of industrial relations, you might have thought that they might actually have some memory for recent history. Because I have to tell you, this is not the first time that the question of essential services and their role in the health

[Page 4797]

care sector has come forward for discussion in Nova Scotia. Furthermore, it was the predecessor of this government that looked into it the last time.

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you that 10 years ago there was an Industrial Inquiry Commission that was set up by the last Progressive Conservative Government to consider the question of health care sector bargaining. And there is, on record, a report from 1991, just a decade ago, signed by William H. Kydd, QC, who is a respected labour arbitrator in our province. I know Bill Kydd, I have worked with him and I have sat on arbitration panels that he chairs. This is a very well-informed man. This is a very fair-minded man and this is the man . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber. I would ask the honourable members to take their conversations outside if they have to.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I was explaining another reason why I favoured the hoist amendment. It was to give the government the opportunity to go back and recollect a little history. It is their own history from a decade ago. The Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, the honourable Government House Leader, were both part of the government of the day that set up this Industrial Inquiry Commission. They went to Bill Kydd and they said, Mr. Kydd, we want you to study bargaining in the health sector and we particularly want you to look at emergency services.

Mr. Speaker, can I interrupt myself and do an introduction? (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Certainly.

MR. EPSTEIN: I give my thanks to the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto for yielding the floor. (Laughter) Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the members of the House to the presence in the west gallery of a number of visitors who are here from Oxford School. There are 20 Grade 6 students, along with their chaperones, their teacher, Susan De La Ronde and I would like all of them to rise and be acknowledged and receive the welcome of the members of the House. Thank you for coming. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I certainly welcome our young visitors and their chaperones here in the House today.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I was explaining that the predecessor of this government actually asked this kind of question of an Industrial Inquiry Commission. Now let me just explain what is an Industrial Inquiry Commission. An Industrial Inquiry Commission is a special mechanism that is available under the Trade Union Act that allows the Minister of Labour to refer a particular complicated general question for analysis to someone who has the expertise.

[Page 4798]

I happened to have been involved a little bit in the periphery of this process, so I know exactly what Bill Kydd did. He didn't just go away and think about the question on his own, he didn't just read what it is that scholars have written about essential services in the health care sector. He actually asked all the participants. He asked the Association of Health Organizations, the unions, anyone who had any knowledge about it to come forward and talk. After he considered what it is that they had to say and since I am going to quote from his report, I will table a copy of this. This is an extract from the Industrial Inquiry Commission Report of Bill Kydd from 1991 and I want to table this. I am going to draw the attention of the members to two of the provisions. Well, I shouldn't say provisions, two of the recommendations that Bill Kydd made a decade ago.

One of his recommendations, recommendation number 7 and he said, "The need for and the content of any essential services provision should be left strictly to the parties to the collective agreement, including decisions on balancing the numbers of personnel who can work to provide adequate essential services and the numbers that should be withdrawn in order to give the unions an adequate strike sanction."

Well, thank you, Bill Kydd. I remind the government members opposite that Bill Kydd was the person that the Progressive Conservative Government of a decade ago chose as their expert in industrial relations to advise them on precisely the matter that the government today is poking its messy fingers into so abysmally and with such arrogance, contempt and disrespect for our health care workers. He said that the kind of provision in Clause 6.03 that exists in the collective agreement at the QE II should be left to the parties. Leave it to the parties; don't, the government, try to get involved in it. That is what Bill Kydd said and he was right then and it is true now.

What a hoist will be useful for would be for the government to go back, remember a little of their own history, not someone else's history; not Saskatchewan history, not Manitoba history, not B.C. history, not industrial relations from Missouri or the U.K., their own history from a decade ago. This is not a new problem. It is not as if bargaining just took place this year for the first time in Nova Scotia in the health care sector. It has taken place lots of times and these very questions have been looked at.

Let me read you the next paragraph from Bill Kydd's Industrial Inquiry Commission Report. Paragraph 8, his recommendation number 8. This is tabled, it is right there, I invite the government members at their leisure during the six months' hoist to read it over. "That the settlement of collective bargaining negotiations can best be encouraged by the absence of any specific emergency services, legislation and the absence of a reason to enact ad hoc emergency legislation whenever a hospital strike looms. Public reassurance is the best means of discouraging such ad hoc legislation. The public can best be reassured by knowing that the Parties have already negotiated arrangements to provide essential services so that there is no need for the government to interfere."

[Page 4799]

Well, there it is. Paragraphs 7 and 8 of Bill Kydd's Industrial Inquiry Commission Report and if there isn't an adequate reason in what I have said before to support a six months' hoist, there it is, jumping off the page at every government member opposite. How on earth could they bring forward Bill No. 68 in the face of that specific recommendation that they invited? Bill Kydd tells them, they asked and they are chosen, they are hand-picked. Their selected labour arbitrator, expert in labour relations told them, hands-off, don't bring in any specific emergency legislation on an ad hoc basis when a strike might be looming in the hospital sector. Can they not read the English language? Do we have to take them aside and explain the tough bits to them. Maybe Bill Kydd will take them aside and explain the tough bits to them. That is what a six months' hoist will be for. That is why we are going to support it. That is why it makes sense. There is nothing clearer.

Well, as if all of that weren't enough, I still have more reasons why I am going to support the hoist. I am going to take a few more minutes and explain what a couple of those reasons are. It has to do with potential abuses of the power that the government proposes under Bill No. 68 to give itself. We just went through this last month in long sessions in this House with respect to Bill No. 20. The government already went on record with Bill No. 20 that it wanted to have strong powers vested in the Cabinet to take control of bargaining.

Well, you know what? We didn't like Bill No. 20. We fought it. We voted against it, but it is the law. I would have thought that any government, even a government that had an overwhelming thirst for centralizing power, as this government so evidently does, would have been satisfied with Bill No. 20, but apparently not. That is apparently why they called the House back into session, because they wanted even more power. Bill No. 20 wasn't enough. They wanted to go farther and yet I am worried about abuses of the power that they are proposing to give to themselves.

This goes back to the point I made earlier. This bill does not say if the parties can't agree at the bargaining table, there won't be a strike and an arbitrator will decide the terms and conditions of employment. Bill No. 68 says, we the government will step in and write the terms and conditions of employment. Well, you know what? That power is completely unfettered and the government should rethink that. The government should go back and rethink that part of this bill. That is what a hoist should be for.

You know what? That means that they could go back and look at any term and condition of the collective agreement and say, you know that clause that has been in effect for 20 years and that has worked well? We don't like it, we are going to change it. There is nothing in this bill that would stop them from doing that. There is nothing in this bill that would stop them from going back and completely rewriting the collective agreement. If the government means not to do that, then they should rewrite this bill or they should go on record as saying in detail which clauses they would not touch. But they haven't done that and a hoist would allow them the opportunity to do that. That is one of the reasons I will support a hoist.

[Page 4800]

I'll tell you something else that I think would be an abuse of power with this bill as it is written now. It says that the government will put in place the terms and conditions of the collective agreement. Well, you know the question that immediately arises? The question that immediately arises is, will the government, will the Cabinet, which is the entity that has the power to put in place this collective agreement, listen to representations from the employees? You know what? It doesn't say in the bill that they will. If the government intends to listen to representations from the employees, how will they do that? Will they convene a special meeting? Will it just be to listen? Will it be to bargain? Will they listen to management, as well? Will they try to take the role of some kind of arbitrator?

The government may find this a novel proposition. They may say to themselves, what on earth is that man talking about? If we are going to write the collective agreement, of course we are not going to listen to anybody. All the talking is over. Well, I have news for the government. Just because the Cabinet has the power to do something in legislation does not mean that they can exercise that power in a high-handed, arbitrary, unfair fashion. This point has been litigated in Nova Scotia.

[12:00 noon]

I would call upon, well I see the Minister of Natural Resources over there, I would call upon the Minister of Natural Resources to enlighten his colleagues about the Beaches Act and the Mossman case. In case he has forgotten it, let me enlighten the government about the Mossman case and the Beaches Act. Here is what the Beaches Act says, that the Cabinet can designate any beach in the province as a public beach. That is a Cabinet power, it is there in the Act. The Beaches Act says that the Cabinet can do this, and they did it, Kingsburg Beach. They did it.

People who own property there said, well, wait a minute, you have just done something that affects our property rights. We should have had the opportunity to talk to you. You never told us you were going to do this, you didn't listen to us, and they went to court. They went to court and the Supreme Court judge in Nova Scotia said, you have a point. In the Mossman case, the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia said, if the Cabinet is going to exercise this kind of power, it has to give the opportunity for those affected to make some kind of representations. The court said it didn't matter that the power was given to the Cabinet by Statute, and it didn't matter that it was the Cabinet that had the power. Just being the Cabinet does not make them immune from the requirements of fundamental fairness.

The minister had better think about that one. The minister and his government had better think and tell us what kind of process they are going to go through if this Bill No. 68 actually does go through in the form in which he presents it. A hoist would give him the opportunity to deal with that one and think it over, because he better think it over pretty darn quick or he is going to end up in court. It doesn't matter that Clause 13 has a privative clause there that says you can't go to court, because the courts will always look at fundamental

[Page 4801]

fairness, it doesn't matter what the privative clause says, it doesn't matter what you write in Bill No. 13, the courts will think about fundamental fairness. If the courts are of the view that you have gone too far, they will step in and they will tell you.

In the Mossman case, the courts didn't say that the Cabinet had to have a full-scale public hearing with lawyers and briefs. What they said was some kind of fair representations had to be allowed for. I am worried that the government is preparing to abuse its power. So this is yet again another aspect of why it is that I am prepared to support a hoist; it is why a hoist is the only appropriate step to take in these circumstances.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to wind up, in just a moment, my comments. I have spoken already with the next speaker, so I think he is understanding that I am not able today to take the full hour, but I am puzzled, I am completely puzzled when I try to look for a good explanation for this bill coming in front of us. In the end, I am driven to being cynical. I think the public is driven to being cynical about this bill because there is no other explanation. We would wish for another explanation, we would wish never to have seen this bill, but it is in front of us and there is no good explanation. It can only be characterized as arrogant, contemptuous, disrespectful and a profound expression of mistrust by the Minister of Health, his Premier, his government, his whole caucus of health care workers. Let me tell you, that is the wrong group of workers to dis.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to address Bill No. 68. Bill No. 68 was introduced yesterday to this House of Assembly, in rather a rush. It was a surprise to many of us - or to all of us, really - that at this time when there were signs of at least modest success, particularly with one group, that the mediator, Mr. Outhouse, had achieved some understanding of an agreement in the collective bargaining process as a mediator.

Yesterday, lo and behold, out of the darkness came Bill No. 68. I guess rather than showing light onto the darkness, it has really darkened the days here in Nova Scotia. This bill, while it is called an Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia, really has far-reaching implications relative to the collective bargaining process in Nova Scotia; not only for health care workers, but also for others. This bill could easily be amended to encompass a broader range of workers within the health care system and probably even outside of that, although that is the title.

I want to speak in favour of the six months' hoist because we think this has been rushed in light of the successes that have been indicated. We don't know the status of negotiations with the physicians of this province. Physicians usually go fairly quietly; we don't know where they stand on this type of legislation. It would be interesting to know. I think perhaps there tends to be a pecking order that some groups within the health care

[Page 4802]

services - the professional workers have been singled out for certain attention within the negotiating hierarchy of this government. So, we have the LPNs and the technologists and support workers. We have other groups represented by the Nurses' Union, including LPNs and RNs, and then the NSGEU with RNs and other workers. So the physicians are silent and it will be interesting to see what they thought of this legislation in light of their ongoing negotiations.

I would just say in rising to speak to this bill that this government has engaged in a very dangerous journey. I know that they had Cabinet meetings lasting several hours all of last week or the earlier parts of this week, I should say. They were offered choices as to how to proceed. In line with this government that is taking a hard-core approach to the oil industry, to other groups within this community - Sempra and others - that they have chosen these health care workers - the RNs, the LPNs, the technologists and other support workers within the health care system - to target and get tough with.

The first sign of that were the ads that came out. I don't know how much they cost. Somebody said a couple thousand dollars, probably even upwards of $5,000. The first one was the ad with the graph. Most Nova Scotians looking at that would say, my goodness, I didn't know that nurses were making that much money, that is way more than I am making. The government knew what it was doing when it did that. Is that fair bargaining? Is that what you call fair bargaining? That graph is misleading. Look at it, it is pointing up to the ceiling, it is going out of sight. It is up off the graph. That is a technique of public relations that is very, very unfair. It is misleading and that doesn't represent the frustration and the anger and the hostility of the nurses, the LPNs, the technologists and the other support workers within the system. That is not a reflection of the accuracy of what is happening here in Nova Scotia at this time.

This does not address the issue of what nurses are paid in other parts of Canada, in other parts of the United States, the New England states, obviously Texas. You might say, well, the nurses aren't going to move to Texas and that is what this government is banking on. That may well be true for some.

I made a choice years ago when I graduated from medical school, I could have gone to other parts of the world. I thought about British Columbia where I had also gone to university, but I chose Nova Scotia because I love this place and I love its people. I don't regret that for a moment, but others are faced with that, particularly in this environment. In those days, in 1964, when I chose to practice medicine in Nova Scotia, there was a feeling of comfortableness, of camaraderie, of support and I am not speaking in terms of one government or another. Those were the days when we had excellent community hospitals like the old Halifax Infirmary. Now the City of Halifax doesn't have a community hospital, Mr. Speaker, we have tertiary care hospitals. So the environment has changed a lot.

[Page 4803]

I don't know what decision I would make if I was graduating here this year in medicine in the year 2001. But it is pretty clear what the nurses and the technologists that are being trained in New Brunswick and the nurses that are graduating, what choices they are going to make. They are going to walk and that is pretty clear. With this kind of misleading information in the middle of negotiations, with a mediator in place for some of the groups and conciliation going on, then that is unfair to use taxpayers' money for that.

So it is pretty clear that this government was getting advice. So the choices they were faced with in Cabinet is that you guys have to stand tough, you females and males. I don't mean to indicate that they are all guys, I suspect that it is a macho-male-type decision, is what I mean. I expect to see shotguns in the backs of the windows of these trucks going down like you see in the southern United States. The reason it is important that we have the hoist is that we need time to sort this out.

What is not being said in this ad, this graph depicting the salaries of nurses or whatever it is depicting, maximum, is what is the percentage of nurses that are getting that top rate and all those sorts of things. There are a lot of questions. Nova Scotians have a lot of questions. But then along came another one, a health care strike, the risk is too great. The Premier injected himself - much like he did in telling the oil industry that he was going to be tough right in the middle of this. Whether that is wise or not, I don't know. I suppose it is easier for the ministers to have a Premier that is going to step in. Personally, I wouldn't like that if I was the minister responsible. I would like the responsibility myself. I would try to answer for that.

The Premier got things off to a very bad journey prior to the introduction of Bill No. 68, essentially accusing nurses already, even at this stage of the negotiations, that they were deserting their patients, that beds were having to be closed. That wasn't an initiative taken by the employer, Mr. Speaker, to close hospital beds, to cut out day surgery, to transfer patients from one hospital to another. All of this was part of the tough stance of the macho image of this government.

If it wasn't so serious and sad, it would be almost humorous that you have a blood pressure cuff there, just like the one I still have at home. It is a dramatic indication of health care and it is saying emergency room closures. Well, my colleague, the member for Richmond, says what's new about that? For six months they have had emergency room closures down in the Strait-Richmond Hospital. What about Digby? I don't know, I haven't checked lately, but there was indication that people have to ring a bell to get in after midnight in Digby.

Early patient discharges. What is new about that, Mr. Speaker, and even earlier than that, perhaps? But patients are adapting to that fairly well, but this is what will happen. A strike would dramatically impact every hospital, every clinic in every community across Nova Scotia. There is no question about that. Strikes are very difficult. It is a very difficult

[Page 4804]

decision for anyone to take to go on strike. I have been on some strikes. I was in the pulp and paper industry when I worked in British Columbia and I never want to go through one again. So there is no question, we all agree that strikes are serious.

There is evidence coming forward today that there was, within the agreements being put forward by the union, the NSGEU, that the contingency plan would be in place, would work. The minister said he didn't know what was in it. I don't know if he knows what is in it yet. But I would ask, through you, Mr. Speaker, did the minister know that there was also a plan to build in safeguards so that any dispute in the effectiveness of the contingency plan would be referred to an adjudicator who would make a decision on that issue? That would be a binding decision by the adjudicator. If the minister didn't know what was in the contingency plan, perhaps he didn't know about this either. Anyway, I am sure other members will be speaking on that.

[12:15 p.m.]

That was an effort by the Premier and the minister to scare Nova Scotians, to say that nurses were not only prepared at the time of the strike to desert them, they were also, in fact, deserting them now. Really that is unfair, it is not true, it is not right, and it is just bad faith. It sets a bad tone. The health and safety issue that is supposed to be addressed in Bill No. 68, like the editorial said this morning in the paper - I never thought I would see the honourable member for Cape Breton South quoting from The Halifax Chronicle-Herald, but he did today because he supported what that editorial was saying, much to that effect.

Mr. Speaker, this is a hammer, hammer legislation. The government has embarked on a very dangerous course, a course that they may not be able to get out of so easily. Going back to those Cabinet meetings and those choices, they had some choices. They have a responsibility, no question, to ensure the safety of patients within not only the facilities of this province, the hospitals and clinics, but also for all Nova Scotians needing health care. We don't argue that, that is a given.

But when Bill No. 68 does arrive then, lo and behold, there is Clause 6, particularly, that speaks in terms of a collective agreement in effect or being worked on that can be determined by Cabinet, by the Governor in Council, which is the Cabinet, which just wipes out 100 years of collective bargaining, legislation and progress.

Mr. Speaker, for something like that, here today, plus Clause 13, which says that ". . . pursuant to this Act shall be questioned or reviewed in any court and no proceedings shall be taken or order made in any court to question, review, prohibit or quash any order or regulation . . .". When this was being introduced yesterday in the Red Room, when the lawyer who was introducing this was asked by a CBC reporter, was this constitutional, she just simply said, it is in the bill. That is a sad comment to justify legislation.

[Page 4805]

You put Clauses 6 and 13 together with no recourse to the courts. People are dying across this world, in conflict, who are fighting for the rights of those two initiatives that are being taken away in this legislation. That is what is going on. That is what is going on in the Balkans; it is going on in many parts of the world. People are dying throughout this world, fighting for what this government is taking away from Nova Scotians in Bill No. 68. That is a travesty and a tragedy of justice. They spoke earlier about the Magna Carta, and I don't want to get back into that because I know we have to look to the future, the six months' hoist that we need in time to debate this legislation and the impact of it further. But that is what is happening here.

Cabinet had choices earlier in the week and they were flashed up. I can picture the slides, probably, that were there. We had those presentations, and we never moved in that direction. I am not saying that we wouldn't have, maybe we would have under the circumstances. But we wouldn't have done it a couple of weeks, at least, before a strike, when there was progress being made by a mediator.

They had choices, but why did they go to this? This must have been number three or four or five or six on the list. Why did they go to this? Why did they go to Clause 6 and Clause 13 that takes away rights, rights that are valued around this globe. We are not talking about the Atlantic Region or Canada, we are talking about this as a global piece of legislation that would be an offence to any part of the world. We know what is happening in many of the African countries, the Balkans and those types of communities. That is the level that this government has been prepared to stoop to, the level that we are seeing in dictatorships and

governments that are unravelling in eastern Africa and the Balkans and other countries like that.

This legislation is inherently offensive. It removes any requirements of the government to negotiate with unions. I know that some good people have been quoted as saying that is not so. Well, with all reverence to them and respect to them - and I am not going to name names, but there have been some in the media, I haven't spoken with these people personally and until I do, I wouldn't want to quote them - but, people in high places within the government, within the health care administration are saying that this doesn't take that away.

That may not take it away, but it can, at the end of the day - how can you come to the table and bargain in good faith when, with the stroke of a pen, the Cabinet can take that away? That is what we need to talk about in the next six months during the hoisting of this Bill No. 68. It is offensive, it is inherently offensive, it removes the requirements of a government to negotiate with unions. They can simply, unilaterally impose a contract of any labour group. If this is not so, please, would the minister or some person representing his government, stand and explain it to us and with a few other changes, maybe we all can go home.

[Page 4806]

That is not going to happen. We saw they couldn't agree to support legislation for helmets. You talk about preventive medicine and positive public health initiatives, they couldn't support that and yet they supported the bill to drive through Bill No. 54, a bill so that municipal units would be able to compete with each other.

I remember when we debated that bill here. We were being told by some people in this Legislature that we were reading too much into that legislation. Has anybody followed what has happened in New Brunswick lately? When an emergency room physician was bargaining his salary? I know of members who are sitting in this Legislature now criticize me for saying doctors would never do that. Well, I have great respect for doctors, outside of people who go to sea, they are my favourite people - and legislators are probably third on my list - but physicians are basically good people. There are those out there who will bargain their services and this is exactly what is being reported that happened in New Brunswick. That this doctor bartered his services between emergency departments - he went where he could get the most money. So a child needing care who would have been taken to that hospital had that doctor been there, he may have saved the life of that person. That is what that person has to deal with.

They supported legislation that would have municipal units bargaining with each other, hospital out-patient departments bargaining with each other, the administration of those hospitals. That is the sort of legislation. So, why are we surprised that Bill No. 68 comes here today, tabled yesterday and being debated here today with this Clause 6 and Clause 13 being so, some would say shotgun legislation, where you just hold the gun to the head of the nurses and the LPNs and the technologists.

So, who will be affected by this? All Nova Scotians will be affected by this legislation - certainly all unions will be affected by it. What does it do? It removes the rights of those designated under the Act - that is, all health care employees, anyone in the system over the regional boards and the regional health authorities - it takes away their right to strike or to have recourse in contract negotiations. In other words, recourse even before the courts.

When will it come into effect? It will come into effect probably within the next week or so, that type of thing. This bill was rushed. I said that earlier. They didn't even have enough copies ready, they had to rush and get copies yesterday. Obviously, some of the staff people were very uncomfortable. The lawyer had to say, is this constitutional? Clause 13, had to say, well, it is in the bill. That must be very uncomfortable and to compromise a person with a professional training in law, that they would be co-opted into being a front. A public relations front for the government in front of the health care workers who were here yesterday.

This government, I know that they were told in the Cabinet and when the caucus was called in to be briefed, that they were called to push the health and safety issue. That is what Nova Scotians are afraid of. That is what they will believe. So keep pushing this. Don't talk

[Page 4807]

about dollars and cents. Don't talk about how much money is available to nurses who want to go just beyond the borders of Nova Scotia. Push the health and safety issue. Well, it is not about the health and safety issue, this is about the right to strike. It is about collective bargaining and it is about the rights of people and fairness. It has to do with treating people such as nurses and LPNs and other health care workers fairly.

They have been crying out, Mr. Speaker, and this bill has served as the focal point to bring all their frustrations, anger and their hurt and their fatigue that they carry home to their families, this has served to focus. This bill that this government has embarked on is going to be a tough, long journey for this government. It will not go away and it will be in the annals. Sure, this legislation has been brought in before. It has been brought in during a strike, there is no question about that. But this is well before a strike. This is a pre-emptive strike. This is part of the program of the ads in the paper, the pre-emptive strike. It is like a child saying, we hit back first. That is what is happening here; this government is hitting first.

Why would a union, you could ask, why would a membership within a union encourage its negotiating team to go to the table and negotiate when this can be just swiped away by a stroke of a pen by this government, by a selected few of this province? This bill, really, Mr. Speaker, is an admission by the government that they have, in fact, not made a fair deal to the nurses of this province. That is what this says. If they had a fair deal on the table, why not let it go to binding arbitration? That is why it is about dollars and cents. It is not about health and safety of Nova Scotians.

I am wondering if this government and these ministers who are responsible even care any more, Mr. Speaker, when they can just flaunt this. So if they had a fair deal, let it go to binding arbitration. That is what they could do. So there would be a provision for binding arbitration. Why not have that in the legislation, that ability? You don't see that mentioned there. You don't see that mentioned in this legislation, rather than the ability of the Cabinet to set the rules.

We have seen Bill No. 20 and we warned Nova Scotians. We did as well as we could as a Third Party Opposition in this House to speak against the workers' compensation changes and taking all of these initiatives into a commission that can make decisions and that can govern by regulations made by Cabinet. That is what it means, that Nova Scotians must understand that regulations are really done by Cabinet. So why didn't they allow this to happen? They are saying a fair deal. Remember the graph? If they are so secure in that and the minister really believes that, why this legislation that negotiations can stop when they deem them to be not working to their favour, obviously, and impose a settlement? Then they have the nerve to go ahead and say that then you can't go to the courts anyway.

[Page 4808]

So like I said earlier, people are dying around this world to fight for legislation that would protect those rights and we are taking them away from Nova Scotians. I hope Nova Scotians can understand that. So the choices that that Cabinet had last week and earlier this week, Mr. Speaker, what was the conversation like around that table? Did the minister stand up for nurses and LPNs and technologists? Did he fight the Minister of Finance? Did he fight the Minister of the Treasury Board? We call him the minister of landscaping of Highway No. 101. But did he stand up to that minister? That is why he must listen. That is why it is important that we have this six months' hoist, so that we have time to give the minister support.

If he truly does care for the nurses and is sensitive to the frustration that they are feeling and the undervalue that they are feeling, then let's give him time to get support from Nova Scotians so that when he goes back to that Cabinet and they have those choices to make, you don't come in with legislation like Clause 6 where the Cabinet decides what the imposed settlement will be, or Clause 13 that takes away the recourse of going to court. Who is denied the right to go to court?

[12:30 p.m.]

One might want to have been a little mouse over in the corner of the Cabinet Room to hear some of that discussion. I hope it was a difficult discussion, because if this was a breeze and it was a unanimous decision, then I really say shame on that Cabinet Minister and it would be a grave disappointment to me about some of the ministers who wouldn't stand up for all Nova Scotians and particularly the people affected by this legislation.

That is what I want to say here today in the few moments that I have allotted to me. This bill represents the demise of collective bargaining in Nova Scotia. It will allow the government to overrule any decision reached in labour negotiations. I said earlier this government is turning back the clock on workers' rights in Nova Scotia by at least 100 years. It is nothing more than union busting and shotgun bargaining and it disgusts us on this side of the House. (Interruption) No, that is not true.

We had choices and we have made choices. I have been in government when these decisions are being held and I remember the discussions that we had and they weren't easy, but we didn't proceed - maybe it was not the same situation - but, we were not jumping in when a mediator was effecting progress and just hijack off the (Interruption) You be quiet, we will talk about Mr. Romanow later and what he did in Saskatchewan, the NDP there, he did an imposed settlement as well. People were blaming Mr. Klein for putting some seeds of doubt into the Premier's ear the other day, maybe it was also Mr. Romanow because he had considerable experience in 1999 and do you know what? They are back on the picket lines in Saskatchewan again. And that is what you are going to see in Nova Scotia when you impose this kind of a sentence on nurses.

[Page 4809]

It might solve the problem in the spring, early summer of 2001, but they will be back again in 2002, you can be sure of that, even though this legislation carries it right through to 2004. So I don't know if Mr. Klein or Mr. Romanow put the Premier up to this, but at least we know that it is here.

Normally when there is a legislative solution to a strike, which we don't even know if we have yet, we don't know about that strike, although they have the right to go, there is a bit of a trade-off in a group deemed to be essential service, then they are usually offered binding arbitration as an alternative to the strike and I mentioned that earlier. So, if this government feels that this offer is fair and is just and it is right and it is enough for nurses in Nova Scotia, then if they are so sure that they are right, why do they mistrust binding arbitration? Also, the effect of the government is taking no risk in this process. It is trying to distance itself from the role of the employer. That is obvious. I am just waiting to have the blame shifted to the district health authorities that have no power now that decisions are being made back in the Deputy Minister and Minister of Health's office.

You can argue about that, but with the Cabinet controlling the purse strings, essentially you have the nurses and the LPNs and others in the health care system working for the Cabinet. You can cut that however you want to, but also, it is that very Cabinet that is going to impose the new agreements - not agreements, they will be just imposed settlements.

Someone mentioned yesterday about General Motors. Do you think that they would ever get away with negotiating with the union and then having the final offer simply handed down by their board? That would be very peculiar for General Motors. What is good for General Motors should be good for the nurses, technologists and the LPNs and all the others of Nova Scotia. So, we are turning it back.

When asked where is there any other similar legislation in the country, someone weakly commented, New Brunswick. Well, we fleshed that out and even that is not as bad as this legislation, Mr. Speaker, in our humble opinion. Members can look at New Brunswick for that.

I am not going to get into the merits of any offer that is being made or any discussions that are currently in conciliation. I can only assume that if the government thought it was fair they wouldn't be afraid of binding arbitration.We respect that process as a caucus, Mr. Speaker, and we respect the individuals who are at the table.

I would like to comment on the wages of other jurisdictions; not just here in the Atlantic Provinces. Mr. Speaker, contrary to the Tory propaganda machine, nurses are not leaving Nova Scotia to go to New Brunswick, P.E.I. or Newfoundland. They are not going to other Atlantic Provinces. They are going to Ontario, they are going to Alberta, they are going to Boston and they are going to Texas. Nurses in Boston can make $64,000 a year and

[Page 4810]

they work a lot less hours but, more importantly, they feel, there, that they are valued. This is the information that I have, that they are respected by their employer. They are valued by their employer and they are not used to be made scapegoats as this government and this minister is doing.

Nova Scotians, themselves, know and they feel that the nurses are being overworked and they are being poorly treated, relative to other health care professions. I mention the silence of the physicians and how that process is going. Is the government treating the doctors the same way they are treating the nurses? Have they the guts to do that? Or are you scapegoating the support workers, the technologists? Is there a pecking order in the minds of this government, if they have enough room for anything left in their minds. Do they have a pecking order and are they treating doctors like that? That is going to be very interesting to see, if they have got the guts to take on the medical profession on this type of legislation, or are they just going to give them what the doctors are asking? That would be a fair deal.

Let's not balkanize and polarize, and have groups fighting with each other in the health care system. Surely to goodness, in the year 2001, we have moved toward a team. This government has clearly tried to pit one group against another; one unit against another, one group of workers against another.

Even the percentage of wage that is being offered, when you are working at a lower wage and then there seems to be some justification in giving a lower per cent, if you are making higher money, there seems to be some justification in the minds of this government that you give a higher per cent to that group. I am not quite sure how that works. That doesn't sound fair.

They are playing political games with nurses. They are beating up on nurses and they are saying, shame on you for ruining the health care system. That is the thanks that the nursing profession of this province is getting from this government today, here, with this legislation. Also, with the words of some of the members on that side of the government and particularly the Premier.

Once again, the government refuses to accept blame for their own poor management of the health care system. They voted against the plan for this health care system. They poured equally as much money as a Liberal Government would have put in at this time, and they still haven't reformed the system and they haven't improved the system. In fact, I think the system has deteriorated in the last year and one-half.

Mr. Speaker, to repeat the phrase, we are doing this for the health and safety of Nova Scotians, that is absolutely nothing but a red herring. As I mentioned earlier and tried to point out, the reasons why I believe that, this is about dollars and cents. If they have a fair agreement, go with it. Take the chances with an arbitrator.

[Page 4811]

There is no evidence, also, Mr. Speaker, to date, that the public is at risk any more than they are at risk from the policies and the health delivery system under this government. They are at risk. They are at risk in Richmond because they don't have a physician in their emergency department. So what else is new, that under a strike - I mean, it would just be the rest of the people in Nova Scotia might be treated like the people in Richmond.

Is that bad? Well, if it is so bad, let the Premier and the Minister of Health do something about that, if their recruitment plans are so innovative and working so well, better than the ones that we had brought in, that is not so and it is not happening.

They have churned out $5,000 ads saying, beds are closing as a result of a potential strike. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You say there is going to be a strike so we are going to close our beds. Then you blame the nurses and try to get favour with the public so they will blame the nurses for the closed beds. There is something wrong with that logic, Mr. Speaker. It doesn't quite follow. I am not that intellectual but I think I can follow what the government is doing. They are playing hard ball and they are scapegoating the nurses. They did it early in the process, when I think there was still hope.

The nurses don't want to go on strike. This would be a terrible experience. It will be the worst experience of the lives of nurses, nurses who are in intensive care, the nurses who were here yesterday, a whole half a dozen or more - seven or eight of them who looked after my mother at the time of her death - they were here in tears yesterday, Mr. Speaker. They don't want to go on strike because people like my mother will go in and they will need their care. She died but, yet, it was a good experience because of the nurses and the doctor who gave her the type of care.

To have them made scapegoats, the people who came here yesterday, who looked after my mother at the QE II, I am really embarrassed to be a legislator and that we have to even touch this bill, be part of it, even though we are bringing our concerns and, certainly, our criticism of it. We have a responsibility here on this side of the House.

If this was such good legislation, we could all be home and away from here, but it's not so we intend to do what we have to do. You are taking ads. I would argue that the beds are closing anyway but they are going to make the nurses scapegoats and try to get public opinion against them. They are too overworked and too stressed and there are not enough nurses, Mr. Speaker.

I have asked the minister to document how many new nurses - not those who are temporary, part-time or casual made into permanent, how many brand new nurses - have come into Nova Scotia. I still haven't got that but I don't think there are very many and we can't find that there are.

[Page 4812]

Bed closures, essentially, had nothing to do with a potential strike, Mr. Speaker. This government's inability to properly plan human resources or, heaven forbid, provide a package that would encourage nurses to come to Nova Scotia, that is the real reason why the beds are closing. This is a great opportunity to shut down some beds and blame it on the nurses.

We blame it on vacations, we blame it on Christmas holidays and the edges are being pushed out further on all of those. We saw this. There was going to be a real attempt this year - you could see that, this summer, it was coming. If it hadn't been for this confrontation at this juncture, there would have been, instead of the holidays, well, nurses want to take holidays, we want to make it easier for them so we will shut down the hospitals. That is peculiar.

Emergency room closures. I mentioned the Strait-Richmond's emergency department has been closed for months now. Shame on this government for blaming the potential strike of nurses, on this. A potential nurses' strike never closed the emergency department in Strait-Richmond, Mr. Speaker. This government's inability to recruit physicians for that emergency department in that isolated community caused that. The inability of this government to maintain an infrastructure to adequately resource the health care system in this province, that is what is closing beds and offering less services, increased waiting times and limited access, either through primary care or into the emergency departments.

Mr. Speaker, this is all about government extracting a wage agreement on favourable terms for the government, nothing else. The public is at risk now and when they go to a hospital, they are being cared for by an overworked and underpaid nurse. That is an unhealthy working condition for the nurse and also for the patients. They are already accessing a system that is under terrific stress and this is going to do nothing to improve that. You can be sure, next year, that things will be back again in one way or another, for one reason or another.

This legislation does nothing to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians. It is not about health and safety, and it is all about money. This government is using nurses to hide all of their own failures in the health care system, so let's blame the nurses for our own incompetency and blame them for deserting their patients. To that end, I say, shame.

The Premier was the first one off the mark on the government side to do that, to mislead and misrepresent the real true goal and desire of nurses, to serve their patients and to be there for their patients. So they are closing the beds, they are blaming it on nurses.

As backbenchers, they must be most embarrassed about that piece of legislation. I certainly would be. How is the honourable member - for, we will take an area like Halifax Bedford Basin - going to face all the nurses in her riding? I know she has a lot there because a lot of them live in that area, I know some of them personally. You know that we, as a

[Page 4813]

government, have messed up government but thank you for taking the blame. Is she going to personally thank them for taking the blame for this government? I doubt that, Mr. Speaker.

[12:45 p.m.]

This bill, Mr. Speaker, is about government's bottom line. That is all. If this government is committed to the health and safety of Nova Scotians, they would have passed a scooter bill, for instance, that was brought forward so that less children will end up in emergency departments and emergency rooms this summer. That would be a positive initiative. No, they are too stubborn. They didn't want to do that. They want to wait and do it themselves and maybe get a little glory for that.

Well, they are probably going to need it by the time they are through this because the journey that they have embarked on - I am telling them today from a little experience I had on this type of legislation - that you have got a wildcat. If the honourable Minister for Natural Resources is around looking for the cougars, the Eastern Cougar, and he finds one, I will tell you what it is going to be like. It is going to be like getting hold of this legislation. When you start, there is no turning back.

You made the decision, you in caucus, you were part of that decision. You obviously must have been informed. You and the ministers on the front benches in Cabinet, you must admit, you had a say, I suspect. It was democracy so you had a say. So when you close ranks, you are all together and you are all going to be tarred with the same brush. When you go home this weekend, if we get out of here - I don't know if we will, it doesn't matter to me, I'm prepared to stay, I would like to be up to the beautiful South Shore of Nova Scotia - but you tell them that you are sorry that your Premier scapegoated the nurses for closing hospital beds and bringing in legislation like this prior to any strike, two weeks before a strike.

The health and safety angle will run thin in this province. It is not going to fly, Mr. Minister. It is not going to fly, Mr. Premier. It is shameful, it is not right, it is not believable and it will not wash, not only with the nurses and the LPNs, the technologists, the physios and all the others that are covered under this legislation. It will not only not wash with them but it will not wash with Nova Scotians.

Nova Scotians are slow to anger and sometimes they are slow to move, and we get criticized - particularly people who come in from Toronto and other places - but I will tell you that Nova Scotians are really large on fairness. They will be quiet for a while, and then they will move and they will make a decision. They will look and they will realize that this government is fighting, playing hard ball with nurses and all the other LPNs, technologists and support workers. They are playing hard ball, they are making them scapegoats and then, on top of it all, they are bringing in draconian legislation that will take away the rights, not only of those people that I have mentioned, but directly and indirectly, all Nova Scotians.

[Page 4814]

Mr. Speaker, I have another appointment that I am committed to, so I am going to stop a bit short of my hour. I hope that others are ready to address this type of legislation because it is not fair. We will be here to address this every step of the way. I want to thank you for the courtesy and the opportunity to address this horrible legislation. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and to the member for Dartmouth East. I am pleased to have an opportunity to participate in debate on Bill No. 68 and, in particular, the amendment, the motion that has been introduced by my colleague, the Leader of the New Democratic Party, the amendment to hoist Bill No. 68 for a period of six months.

I will be speaking in support of that motion, Mr. Speaker, because I believe that this bill is wrong-headed, that it will create far more problems than it is meant to solve and that what we need to do is let cooler heads prevail, put the bill aside and allow collective bargaining to run its course, as it should.

I want to speak on that basis, if I may, Mr. Speaker, about the current situation that is facing us. I want to talk a bit about health care in the Province of Nova Scotia and, particularly, health care workers, the significant challenges that they have been facing over the past decade, and why I believe that this move by the government, Bill No. 68, will in fact set back any positive initiatives that they might have brought in the past number of weeks, months, that it will set all of those back some considerable distance and not contribute at all to a positive and constructive climate for industrial relations or human resources management within the health care system.

Let me start, Mr. Speaker, by referring to the Minister of Health and his government's explanation for why it is that Bill No. 68 was so important. They have referred to needing to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians, that they are concerned that if the health care workers, in particular who are involved in this dispute, those covered by the collective agreements of the NSGEU and the Nurses' Union, particularly here in the capital region, that if they were to go on strike, there would be no way of ensuring that Nova Scotians' lives would not be put in jeopardy.

What is difficult about that, first of all let me say this, is that no one in this House would want to see the lives or the well-being of any Nova Scotian put in jeopardy but we have been talking for the decade I have been here about problems in the management of the health care system, the lack of resources and decisions with respect to the management of that system which have been affecting the ability of Nova Scotians to access quality health care where they need it and when they need it. Those problems that have existed that this government has been part of and responsible for certainly in the last two years - prior to that it was the Liberals when they were in power - the whole question of management decisions

[Page 4815]

and resource decisions were the government's and the government's alone. Those decisions were very much putting in jeopardy the health and well-being of many Nova Scotians.

We have talked about that. The decision by the Liberals back in 1995 to cut 33 per cent of the acute care beds in the Province of Nova Scotia and what that meant in many communities, whether that be in Kentville, whether that be in Richmond, in Shelburne, in Yarmouth, throughout the province, the reduction in beds alone meant that when many Nova Scotians needed access to acute care, it wasn't there, it wasn't available to them. We have also seen over the past decade a very serious problem with waiting lists for operations, for various procedures in our hospitals, in our medical facilities, that have again put the health of many Nova Scotians at risk.

For this government to now all of a sudden say that they are concerned that if health care workers withdraw their labour, then it is their responsibility and theirs alone if somehow the health and well-being of Nova Scotians are jeopardized, I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that were this government so concerned about the health and well-being of Nova Scotians, they would properly assign the human resource management plans, that they would properly allocate resources so that the waiting lists, the bed closures, the shortages of nurses, of doctors, of various health care medical technicians would not be a problem. It is simply not fair, and it is completely inconsistent for this government, at a time when they are having problems managing health human resources, to now try to shift the blame for the problems they have created in the management of the health care system onto the backs of those workers, that is something that I am not prepared to accept nor, would I suggest to you, are the women and men who provide those services.

Let's go, particularly, if I may, as I talk about the six months' hoist, let me speak about the very issue at hand that the government has put up as an excuse for Bill No. 68, that is that, as the minister himself has said, the CEO of the Capital District Health Authority does not have confidence that the contingency plan that is being negotiated in the event of a strike, a contingency plan to provide emergency services that is being negotiated between the unions and the Capital District Health Authority, that that contingency plan is sufficient to protect the lives and well-being of Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out to you and other members of this House that the employees and the employer, in this case, have been in negotiations since February, because negotiations have been going on some time, they have been in negotiations over the whole question of a contingency plan since at least February. Now, it is particularly related to this dispute, because, as has already been cited by other members, there is a provision in the NSGEU's collective agreement that deals with essential services to collective agreements, a master agreement between the QE II Health Sciences Centre and the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union. It is Clause 6.03, which talks about emergency services, and it talks about, when a strike takes place, that the union will agree to a sufficient number of

[Page 4816]

bargaining unit employees to assist the employer where there are insufficient numbers in order to make that available.

Now, it is our understanding that the employer did raise questions, did have some concerns about whether that would suffice, whether or not that provision was good enough. What the union agreed to do was to discuss this issue before a strike actually took place, in other words in advance of a strike it had agreed - really taking a position contrary to the provisions of its collective agreement - to discuss the whole question of what would happen and what they would be able to do if and when a strike took place.

Mr. Speaker, the contingency plan, as I said, the discussion over that started in February, and the union agreed to staff emergency rooms, hemodialysis, cancer care, veterans in long-term mental health wards at the levels that the Capital District Health Authority had requested. In the event of a strike in these areas where full staffing is maintained, the union wanted the Capital District Health Authority to continue scheduling workers. The idea being that the managers manage, the employer manages the workforce, the health care workers provide the services, but they do not manage the resources in terms of its allocation and its distribution. So, the union felt, and this is normally the case, that decisions around scheduling will be reached jointly by the employer and the union representing the employees. But it appeared, in these negotiations, that the employer did not want to accept this responsibility. They wanted the union to suddenly, completely outside of their responsibility prior to this, but for some reason the employer wanted the union to take over scheduling for all units, including those which were to remain fully staffed.

[1:00 p.m.]

Now, as I indicated, management manages and they have the skills appropriate to do that scheduling, to do that management under both the strike situation when there is less than a full complement and in a strike situation in those units where there would be a full complement. There needed to be an agreement on how that would happen. The concern here by the union was that the employer did not want to have responsibility for scheduling during a strike, because they were concerned about any liability that might exist. What they wanted to do was to have the union look after this responsibility itself and, therefore, absorb any and all responsibility or liability should anything happen.

In order to try to overcome this impasse, it was suggested by the union that this issue be referred to an arbitrator, that in the event of a dispute over how the scheduling would happen, how those resources would be allocated, that there would be a decision by an appropriate and third party arbitrator. The Capital District Health Authority did refuse, saying they were not interested in arbitration at that particular time. They did agree to provide the union with scheduling templates whereby the union could fill in names. They were in the process of providing those templates on Wednesday of this week, two days ago, when the government announced that it would take this unprecedented action and recall the

[Page 4817]

Legislature, bring this legislation forward. Needless to say, contingency plans, negotiations fell apart at that time.

Again, let me say to you and to all members of this House that every attempt has been made by the unions, by the employees involved to deal with the concerns of the employer around what would happen in the event of a strike and the provision of emergency services. They went so far, in an unprecedented move, to agree outside of the collective agreement, which provided for disputes during a strike, they reached an agreement, and it has been cited before and tabled here in this House, that in a letter of May 10, 2001, a letter to the vice-president, administrative services, Capital District Health Authority, from the chief negotiator for the NSGEU, they agreed to stronger language and made a greater commitment

with respect to the provision of emergency services. They said, and this has been referred to before, Mr. Speaker, they agreed that once a legal strike begins, should the emergency services group be unable to agree that a patient's life would be endangered because of insufficient numbers of employees to provide emergency treatment or care in accordance with Article 603, either Capital District or the union can refer such dispute to an arbitrator who would make a decision on that issue. That decision would need to be rendered within a 24 hour period. That is what I was advised, anyway.

So that is a pretty significant commitment that has been made, Mr. Speaker, in writing, an agreement that goes above and beyond any provision of emergency services plan that I have ever seen, and I have seen a few in this province and Newfoundland and Ontario, where the employer and the employee group, the union, works out an arrangement to provide emergency services. This union, this group of employees has gone above and beyond to deal with any concerns that the employer might have.

If that is the case, Mr. Speaker, and it is the case, we have it in black and white, we have it in writing, it has been tabled in this House. The minister knows, and if members of his Cabinet and his caucus don't know, they should know by now, that the employees have gone the distance in trying to ensure that this issue is dealt with. Again, I say to you and other members of this House that management of health care in the Province of Nova Scotia is not the sole responsibility of the people who do the work.

This government has the responsibility for ensuring that the resources are there, are in place and that the managers are able to properly distribute and allocate those resources in order that the health care needs of Nova Scotians are met. That has not been happening and that, I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, is exactly why we are at this point of dispute between the government and many health care workers.

Mr. Speaker, if in fact the government's explanation of ensuring the safety and health of Nova Scotians, if that is their stated primary concern and reason for tabling this bill and that is not true, that has no validity and has no basis, then why are we here? I think that is something that needs to be discussed at some length and that is why I support this

[Page 4818]

amendment to hoist the bill for six months. I do so in an attempt to be quite constructive in my concerns and in my criticism of the direction this government is heading.

Yesterday, during Question Period, when the Minister of Health was asked by the Leader of this caucus, the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, why are you doing this? Why are you treating nurses and health care workers in this shoddy fashion? The minister rightly stood up and listed a number of issues, a number of initiatives that they have taken since coming to power two years ago to deal with the concerns of nurses, in particular, and other health care workers, and it is a long list. It talks about nursing co-operative education, it talks about RN and LPN legislation, nursing student bursary program, attendance at job fairs, funding to the Nurse Practitioner Program, legislation which will make nurse practitioners a reality, more seats in the Bachelor of Nursing Program, the pilot projects. The list is fairly extensive and each one of these announcements we have said, good for you, we have said, this is good. We have said these are good moves but at the same time we said that while these initiatives are important, they aren't enough. They are not the kind of commitments that you made when you were running for power back in 1999. They do not match the full extent of the commitments that were made by your Party, by your Leader, when they were seeking office in 1999.

Mr. Speaker, the problem in nursing cannot be dealt with simply by a few of these initiatives. I say, obviously it can't be dealt with simply by that because the problems in health care are very significant, in particular nursing are very significant, and it is going to take some time to deal with that. What is most important, I believe, in responding to these problems is to develop a partnership, to develop a commitment to solving these problems together, the government and its health care workers. We have been saying this, there has been report after report after report over the past 20 years, the Province of Nova Scotia, Royal Commission on Health Care, the Blueprint Committee, and others which have said what we need most assuredly is a sense of trust amongst the partners in health care because the problems, the challenges are so significant.

I say to you, that this government came to office in 1999 having raised expectations amongst health care workers as well as Nova Scotians, but particularly amongst nurses, that they were going to treat nurses with respect, that they were going to respond to the problems raised by nurses over the past decade and begin to deal with those issues. This list that the Minister of Health has cited is part of that, it is part of that but is it not enough. When you do something like introduce Bill No. 68 which unilaterally takes away health care workers' right to strike, right to bargain collectively, freely and collectively, when at the same time you tell them that you don't trust them, that they don't take their jobs seriously enough for them to be trusted, you are setting the relationship between the Government of Nova Scotia and its health care workers back 20 years. It is going to take a lot more than a few initiatives and $5 million here or a few more spaces in the Bachelor of Nursing Program to correct the damage that is being caused by Bill No. 68.

[Page 4819]

It is wrong to treat people this way, it is wrong to try to achieve some goal by trampling over the rights of working people in this fashion. It is simply and utterly wrong and the damage that is going to be created, the damage that is already being created is going to make it that much more difficult for this government, or any future government, to solve the problems that we face in health care in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[1:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, as a trade unionist I have had probably 20 years of experience in dealing with health care workers, whether that be people who work in long-term care, or acute care, or home care workers, nurses, orderlies, ward clerks, cleaners, people who work in the kitchen, and what has always struck me is the level of dedication and commitment these women and men bring to providing care to the people that they serve.

It doesn't matter what age. Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity, call it unfortunate if you will, to spend many hours in the neonatal unit where I have seen nurses spend hours and hours helping little, tiny infants, a pound, two pounds, or premature and very ill, helping those infants live, helping them survive. I have seen these women and men handle elderly persons in the most extreme situations and the most difficult circumstances and do it with a level of dignity and a level of responsibility, a level of conviction that I probably haven't ever seen before. When I think of those women and men in those circumstances, when I think of the people who are being affected by Bill No. 68, I see those women and men outside these Chambers who have dedicated so many years of their lives to helping people who are sick and infirm and it is like you are physically attacking them when this government says it doesn't trust them. That is wrong, it is unfair, and we have to address the problems that it is going to create. I understand that someone wishes to make an introduction.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Halifax Atlantic for giving up part of his time. In the east gallery we have some visitors from my riding. They are 20 Grade 7 students from Whycocomagh Education Centre. They are accompanied by their teacher, Cathy Gillis, as well as chaperones, Michele MacInnis, Janice Buston, Marion Campbell, Mary Ann MacKeigan, Kathleen Richardson and Sandra Gillis. They are also taking part in going to the Museum of the Atlantic as well as the Museum of Natural History.

They came up this morning and they are going back and we had an opportunity to touch base with Angus MacIsaac as well and to talk about what is happening and right now we're in the process of debating Bill No. 68 which is called An Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia. The member for Halifax Atlantic is in the middle of his hour of

[Page 4820]

speaking. So I would ask the students to rise and to receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, indeed, welcome to our guests from the Whycocomagh Education Centre and welcome to all our guests in the gallery. I certainly hope you enjoy your afternoon in Halifax and, more especially, here at the Nova Scotia Legislature.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, welcome the guests in the gallery and would say to them that their timing is good. They are witnessing a bit of history, that this is the first time in I think at least nearly 35 years that the Legislature has been called back in this manner to deal with a piece of legislation. I would suggest to you that this is the first time in the history of this country that such difficult legislation has been brought in to take away the rights of working women and men in the Province of Nova Scotia. So I hope you enjoy your visit to this House.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk for a little bit, if I may, about health care workers and the challenges that they are facing. Again, I believe that maybe with the six months' hoist this government would begin to realize how damaging this piece of legislation is to it trying to build a relationship with the people who deliver health services in the Province of Nova Scotia. There have again been studies done on health care needs in this province and in this country. I will find the report that I was just referring to. It was from October of last year. It was the Advisory Committee on Health Human Resources that developed a report called, The Nursing Strategy for Canada, recognizing the significant challenges facing this country and the health care system in this country with the shortages and the problems within various sectors, in this case, particularly, in nursing.

It deals with all kinds of things with respect to the shortages of nurses in various jurisdictions in the province, Mr. Speaker. It talks about education, it talks about retention and recruitment, and regimes. A number of extremely important issues within this document are, in fact, raised. One of the very important issues, they are all important issues, but one of them that I think you are going to hear much more about over the next number of hours and days that we debate this bill is the issue of quality of work life being faced by nurses and by health care workers in general.

Mr. Speaker, over the past decade, over the past 25 years, there have been great changes in the way nursing care is being delivered, other health care is being delivered. Health care delivery has changed greatly. It has become more complex, it has become more technical in many ways with the reform changes that have been going on, the reform measures that have been brought in by this government and previous governments. There has been a reduction in the nurse managers, the more administrative people. There has been a reduction in the number of support people who are available for nurses. The acuity levels of patients has increased, all of which has combined to make the pressures on nurses much greater.

[Page 4821]

We have seen a reduction in the number of people who have come into the nursing profession because of the difficulties that they have been seeing. We have talked about how nurses from this province have left and gone to other provinces for various reasons, not just money, but that's part of it. That is certainly part of it, Mr. Speaker, but increasingly because of the changes and the nature of the work, there are less opportunities for new nurses just graduating to come into the workforce and get permanent positions. There are less opportunities for those new nurses to get on-the-job training, to get the kind of support that is necessary, the kind of clinical training and support that is necessary for them to move on and move into permanent positions.

What many nurses face when they graduate and when they come in and begin working is an increasing reliance on casuals. In other words, they are on call, their level of benefits are certainly not adequate and not appropriate to those if they were permanent. They are working extended shifts, they are simply always on call and it creates a really unstable working situation as well as an extraordinarily stressful situation, Mr. Speaker. If those young graduates, if those young nurses, young women and men are unable to, or do not see a good prospect of getting a permanent job, then why would they want to continue working under those circumstances? That is what many young nurses have said to me and have said to my colleagues. Suddenly the prospect of greater salaries, of more stable and permanent working environments, working conditions, in other jurisdictions become very attractive.

So we are losing people here, we are not able to retain them. We have to do a better job and that is something that the profession understands, but it is our responsibility as well, as legislators, certainly it is this government's responsibility, to try to make the profession more attractive and you do that by dealing with education issues, by dealing with working condition issues, and by dealing with pay issues.

Mr. Speaker, a woman was in here last night, a registered nurse, I believe she had 17 years experience, currently working in the operating room. She explained to me that she now makes $7.48 more every two weeks than she did in 1994. I mean, imagine, I bet you there is not one member of this House who hasn't come in contact with the services that are provided by nurses in the past few years, whether that be directly, yourself, or whether it is a family member, or a friend. Try to imagine the circumstances under which these men and women work, alone the working conditions and the demands that are placed upon these people, and think about that level of remuneration.

I mean dedication is one thing, commitment is one thing, professionalism is one thing, but in the final analysis these people have to be paid at a level that recognizes what it is that they do, that allows them to contribute to their families and to their communities financially, in a way that gives them the quality of life that they are looking for. That is only fair, Mr. Speaker, surely members will agree that that is only fair.

[Page 4822]

I mean let's not forget that back in, I believe it was 1991, the previous Tory Government froze the wages of these health care workers, froze their wages, froze their contracts. In 1993, the Liberal Government again - and I may be getting my years wrong here, but I think it was in 1993 that the Liberal Government again - froze their contracts, or maybe they froze their wages and rolled their wages back 3 per cent. I remember in those days talking to nurses whose last set of negotiations was back in 1989. Then in 1991, when then Premier Cameron and the Tories froze collective bargaining, they were trying to renew that collective agreement and then it happened again in 1993, which extended that freeze through to 1997, rolled back their wages 3 per cent, so many of these people that we are talking about here today had their wages and the ability to negotiate their working conditions frozen and rolled back since the mid-1980s.

[1:30 p.m.]

There have been some modest gains since then, in the late 1990's, but I say to you, Mr. Speaker, and I say to other members of this House, I say to the Premier, that is simply not good enough. In the final analysis, you can talk about a nursing policy advisor, you can talk about developing a nursing recruitment brochure and information kit. You can send staff out to recruitment conferences, but that is all just words in the breeze if you don't pay these women and men the kind of money they deserve so that they can provide for their family, that they can go and do their work and hold their heads up high because they believe that they are being treated with some level of respect. That is so important and I suggest that is where this government has broken down so badly by bringing in Bill No. 68 at this particular time.

While I know that after they were elected in 1999, the level of expectation was pretty high amongst health care workers and amongst Nova Scotians generally, high because of what was said and the commitments made in the election. I won't go over it because I know others have. Undoubtedly, if they don't to my satisfaction, I will get to do it again. The road over the past two years has not been particularly smooth in the relations between health care workers and this government. But, to bring in Bill No. 68 at this juncture is idiotic, it just doesn't make sense. You are slapping these people in the face. You are treating them with such disrespect, they will never get over it. They will always remember that in the final analysis, even with all of the nice words, what this government did was that they slapped them, they turned their backs on them, they walked away, and they treated them with contempt. That in the final analysis is what is going to happen.

Let me talk in a little more detail from an industrial relations perspective, what this bill does. In Clause 6 of this bill - and this we could talk about in some length if we had the opportunity, if this hoist amendment is accepted - it provides that this government can impose itself, by Order in Council, into the collective bargaining relationship between these unions and their employers, unilaterally. If these groups do not achieve a resolve before this bill is passed and proclaimed into law, this government will take upon itself the sole responsibility of determining what the collective agreement will be with these groups.

[Page 4823]

First of all, let me just talk about what impact this has on what is happening right now. I talked earlier about the negotiations for a contingency plan for emergency services and how those negotiations broke down on Wednesday, Mr. Speaker, because of this bill. I know that this government will say, if there is an agreement reached between now and the time this bill gets passed - because this government has a majority - they will say it is because of this bill. They will say it is because we brought in the hammer, because we were tough, because we inserted ourselves in this process.

I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that what this government has done is they have so badly unbalanced the relationship between the employer and the unions, between the employer and the employees in this circumstance, to make the process of free and fair collective bargaining an absolute farce, an absolute joke. Any employer in these circumstances is going to say to their employee group, hey, I don't have to give you a better deal. I don't have to negotiate with you fairly because I know that the real boss, my real boss, your real boss, the Government of Nova Scotia, is going to come in here and do what I want anyway as the employer.

Don't think that this government is somehow an independent party to this process, they are not. They back up the employer, they provide the money, Mr. Speaker, that is the reality. So what they have done is they have stepped in on the side of the employer, in this case, the Capital District Health Authority, and they have said, don't worry, if you don't get a deal that you like, a deal that we like, we will just make it happen. How do you think the employees feel? I will tell you how the employees feel. The health care group that achieved a mediated settlement two nights ago are so angry at the arbitrary, dictatorial action of this government that that itself, regardless of whether it is a good deal or a bad deal, the fact this government has intervened the way they have may be enough to throw that deal off the rails.

You can't muck around in the tenuous balance of a relationship between an employer and the employees; you just cannot do that. There are going to be consequences and I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that the consequences in these circumstances are dire indeed. We have heard others say that this legislation is unprecedented in this country. There has been back- to-work legislation introduced in other provinces, and we don't agree with that, but even in that case, it has always been in circumstances or it has always been dealing specifically with the situation and particularly there is always a component, as there was - when was the paramedics dispute here? Two years ago or last year?

AN HON. MEMBER: Just a year and a half ago.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Well, this government brought in legislation which imposed a settlement with its paramedics, a piece of legislation we opposed because it took away the rights of those workers to bargain freely and fairly. The difference between that and this is night and day.

[Page 4824]

That was bad, but it provided for binding arbitration. It at least said that the terms of this deal will not be set by us unilaterally, we want a deal to happen because we don't want this group of employees to go on strike. If the employer and the union cannot reach a settlement, then what we will impose, and they did that, they opposed that, they didn't allow the two groups involved to come to this, they said we will have these matters directed to an independent third party who will arbitrate, who will come up with a binding settlement on this list of issues, and that is what happened.

What has this government done? I refer to Clause 6. In Clause 6, it would be appropriate, I would suggest to you, to have that section about binding arbitration, that for those items still in dispute, agreed to by the parties, that those issues will be directed to binding arbitration, to an independent third party to be determined, and the decision will be binding on both parties.

Instead, this government, in its lack of wisdom, I would suggest to you, has said, we are not going to apply to a third party, we are going to do it ourselves. We are going to do it down in the bunker, the Cabinet itself, the Executive Council is going to decide what the terms of conditions, the wages and working conditions of the collective agreement between the nursing groups involved, the health care groups involved, if that applies, and I suggest to you, that the language in this provision provides that it won't be just the nurses and it won't be just the health care employees covered by the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, that it will be the CUPE locals in the capital region, that it will be the CAW locals, and that there is an opportunity here for it to go outside of the acute care facilities into the long-term care facilities as well.

Let me tell you, the provisions in this bill are far-reaching, they are draconian, and they are simply and utterly unpalatable to members on this side. Do you know - and I would suggest to you that this is not a group that are necessarily fond of the whole process of free and fair collective bargaining, although they do it themselves, they do it in a bit of a different way, perhaps, they have a little more influence - the Medical Society in the Province of Nova Scotia has come out fully opposed to Bill No. 68, calling it draconian, saying it is draconian and that instead, what this government should be doing is working to make Nova Scotia more attractive for health care professionals, instead of doing just the opposite which is Bill No. 68. The Medical Society of the Province of Nova Scotia has said that Bill No. 68 is draconian.

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union has come out against this bill, saying that it is regressive and it has implications for all unionized public sector workers in health care and outside of health care. I would suggest to you that also the National Union of Public and General Employees has come out in opposition to Bill No. 68. Why? Why have these groups come out in opposition to this legislation? It is because it is unprecedented, some have suggested that it is unconstitutional.

[Page 4825]

This government is saying in this bill that not only are we going to strip you of your rights to bargain freely and collectively, not only are we going to impose upon you conditions that we believe it is appropriate for you to work under, but if for any reason you think that what we have done is wrong or not correct or that there are problems, you can't challenge us. They are taking away the rights of these working women and men in this province to bargain collectively, to bargain freely, to bargain fairly and they are saying to them that you can't complain, that you can't take this to the courts, that you can't question our right to impose our will on you.

[1:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that is wrong, and this government has bitten off more than it can chew, I will suggest to you, and it is going to create problems that are going to reverberate throughout this province and throughout this country as a result. It has brought upon itself and upon all of us more problems than I dare to imagine because I know that the working women and men of this province are not going to sit by and take this lightly, are not going to take this intrusion on their rights lightly, that health care workers in this province, nurses, technicians, technologists, orderlies, ward clerks, cleaners, doctors, I would suggest to you, hospital administrators are not going to think very much of a government that instead of trying to deal with the problems, the real problems that exist in health care, instead of working together collectively to try to solve some of these problems, that they are going to try to deal with them on the backs of ordinary Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to you - I realize I only have a minute left - that Nova Scotians understand that this is an attempt to take out on the backs of health care workers, nurses and others the financial strategy this government has to bring in a tax cut next year that is going to benefit the wealthiest in the Province of Nova Scotia as a re-election campaign platform. I say it is not going to work; it is wrong; it is unfair. Workers in this province deserve a lot better than what they are getting from this government.

Mr. Speaker, I know that I am going to have the opportunity to get on my feet again to speak, if not today then someday soon, and tell you just how much I detest what it is this government is doing and report to you what other Nova Scotians are saying to me. I look forward to that opportunity, and I will be supporting this hoist amendment when it comes for a vote.

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak in favour of this hoist amendment on Bill No. 68, an Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia. First of all, I am disappointed that the Tory Government has decided to introduce this bill, and I am sure you probably are as well, disappointed that this bill was tabled in the House

[Page 4826]

yesterday. As I look across the floor, I am sure there are many government members who are very disappointed that this bill has made its way to the floor of the Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, this bill will certainly provide many challenges for the members on the government benches. I am sure over the next few days, especially on the weekend, government members will be asked many questions, why they are bringing this forward. I am sure they are going to receive earfuls from constituents, from nurses, from health care workers living in their constituencies and I am sure they are going to hear from many more individuals that are in support of nurses and health care workers.

Mr. Speaker, this bill affects approximately 9,000 nurses and health care workers at hospitals throughout our province. Why has this bill been introduced by this Tory Government? Well, this Tory Government said they wanted to prevent a strike by nurses and health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia. Well, what did they decide to do? They introduced Bill No. 68, an Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia.

Once this bill, Bill No. 68, goes through the proper steps and becomes law, this bill will take away their right to strike. Mr. Speaker, I am sure you will agree with me that this time this Tory Government has gone too far. Why, you may ask? Well, let's just look at some of the facts that we know.

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

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for yielding a bit of his time so I can make this introduction.

Mr. Speaker, and other members, I am very pleased that we have with us today in the west gallery, Wendy Lill, Member of Parliament, for Dartmouth. Accompanying Wendy is the partner of the Leader of the Opposition, Darrell Dexter's wife, Kelly. I can't quite tell who the other - Jean. I would ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, indeed, welcome to MP Wendy and her friends Kelly and Jean. I hope you enjoy your stay in the Legislature this afternoon.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to extend a warm welcome to our special guests in the west gallery.

[Page 4827]

Mr. Speaker, again we have to ask why did this Tory Government decide to bring this bill in at this time? As I was indicating earlier, let's look at some of the facts. We know nurses are underpaid in the Province of Nova Scotia when we start looking at what nurses are being paid around the country, outside of the country, especially across the border in the United States. We know that nurses are moving outside of Nova Scotia because the same job elsewhere pays a lot more. We know that nurses are in demand and not just in Nova Scotia. We know that their working conditions need to be looked at here at home.

Mr. Speaker, this bill does absolutely nothing to address the long-term crisis in health care in Nova Scotia. This bill does more harm to the health care in Nova Scotia and that is a shame. The people of Nova Scotia want this Tory Government to treat nurses and to treat health care workers fairly and with respect throughout these negotiations and not for this government to bring down the hammer on these individuals or, again, just impose a settlement as they may see fit.

Mr. Speaker, these 9,000 or more health care workers don't deserve to be treated this way. (Interruptions) I am sure you would agree with me, as my colleague for Sackville-Cobequid and many more would probably agree with me, that these workers do not deserve to be treated this way with this bill. This Tory Government truly believes that this bill, and I want to quote from a press release issued by government a few days ago, "The legislation encourages the collective bargaining process to continue, enabling the parties to reach negotiated agreements."

Let's stop there for a minute, Mr. Speaker. I will table this at the end. We know that there are approximately 9,000 health care workers that are currently involved in the collective bargaining process in Nova Scotia. This was an article that appeared in The Daily News yesterday. It indicated that there are approximately 2,397 nurses in the Capital Health District involved with the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union. We have 2,754 health care workers here in the Capital Health District as well, involved with the NSGEU and we have approximately 3,980 registered nurses and 320 licensed practical nurses in 38 hospitals throughout Nova Scotia represented by the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union involved in this bargaining process.

Mr. Speaker, negotiations are underway with the NSGEU and with the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union. Early this week, we heard that the government had appointed a mediator in this metro dispute. Two days ago, the Nurses' Union was contacted by a conciliator to return to the bargaining table. Nurses and health care workers alike should be very proud of how they have conducted themselves throughout these negotiations. Never did nurses or health care professionals abandon their patients throughout these negotiations. Nurses will always keep their values of caring, compassion and commitment, but we cannot say the same thing about this government.

[Page 4828]

This Tory Government, yesterday, decided to table this bill, Bill No. 68. So what did they decide to do by tabling this bill? Mr. Speaker, they decided to hijack this whole bargaining process that the NSGEU and the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union are currently involved with. They hijacked the whole system. People cannot understand. A few days ago, the Minister of Environment and Labour appoints a mediator and then the next day, or practically the next day, the Minister of Health comes in and tables this bill in the House.

Mr. Speaker, this government truly believes that this piece of legislation will encourage the collective bargaining process to continue enabling the parties to reach negotiated agreements, then all I have to say is this has to be a joke. If they truly believe that this bill will allow the parties to reach negotiated agreements, then they must be in another world.

[2:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this bill will eventually go through this House and if this Tory Government believes that this bill will solve the Minister of Health's problems dealing with these nurses and with these health care workers, then he has a few surprises waiting for him. This Tory Government has interfered with the collective bargaining process. This Tory Government has put an end to these negotiations between the NSGEU and the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union by tabling this bill, this back-to-work legislation.

Mr. Speaker, you may ask whatever happened to bargaining in good faith. Well, this Tory Government is willing to take this action against the 9,000 or so health care workers, then you have to ask, who will be next? What is the next group that this Tory Government will take on? I am willing to make a prediction here in this House this afternoon. If this government sees this bill go through, they can expect to take someone else and there will be more to come, more to come once this bill goes through, this back-to-work legislation. So I hope that I am wrong, that this is not the beginning of more to come. I certainly will take my seat if the Minister of Health, the Premier, anyone on the government benches wants to provide us with some direction over the future of what this bill may hold for Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, this latest action by this Tory Government proves again that they have no trust in nurses and the health care workers in our province. They have no trust in the collective bargaining process and they have no respect for the nurses and the health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia. So by introducing this bill - again I am looking at their press release of June 14th - if agreements cannot be reached, Cabinet will have the final say. That is the new form of collective bargaining, Cabinet will have the final say if agreements cannot be reached. That is what it states in this bill. This is a sad day for collective bargaining in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 4829]

Mr. Speaker, with this hoist amendment that is before the floor of this House, this would certainly allow the government six months to reconsider, rethink what they are proposing to do once this bill becomes law. It is a golden opportunity that the Opposition NDP has provided this government with, six months; an opportunity for them to reassess, revisit this course of action that they have set before the floor of this House. Nova Scotians do not want to see nurses and health care workers strike. Likewise, nurses and health care workers do not want to strike, it goes against what they believe in and what they have trained for.

Mr. Speaker, I want to make reference to a press release that was issued by the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union this past Wednesday. This was Heather Henderson, President of the NSNU, saying that the NSNU nurses have an incredible amount of loyalty to their patients and residents, they don't want to strike.

Mr. Speaker, in the last several weeks we have heard many stories from the front-line health care workers, that they only want to be treated fairly. That is all they are asking for, to be treated fairly. Well, that is not what is going to happen with this bill. They are not going to have any final say because the Cabinet, Governor in Council, will make those final decisions affecting those nurses and health care workers. No respect. Looking for respect, they have none.

Mr. Speaker, these employees will not be treated fairly with the introduction and the passage of this bill. This Tory Government has gone too far and I'm sure many people will agree with me. This time, this Tory Government has gone too far with introducing this piece of legislation. This Tory Government has gone too far; I'm sure these employees and their families know first-hand that this government has gone too far this time.

If the government thinks for a minute that this bill will solve all their problems with our nurses and health care workers, then I can only say, good luck to the Minister of Health and good luck to his colleagues on that side of the House. Not for one minute do I believe that this bill will solve all the problems.

Mr. Speaker, there are many problems in our health care system. There are many issues and there are many concerns that this government needs to recognize and address along the way before any agreement can be reached between the parties. This piece of legislation does nothing to address the crisis in our health care system in Nova Scotia. The only thing that this bill does is to provide that almighty power to the Cabinet, the Governor in Council. That is where the final decisions will be made and reached; they will reach and make those final decisions, regardless of whatever negotiations take place.

You know, again, when you look at that press release issued by government yesterday, that this legislation will encourage the collective bargaining process to continue enabling the parties to reach negotiated agreements, then you have to wonder, what a joke.

[Page 4830]

They believe this and I have to say they must be the only ones in this province who believes that this bill will actually provide the minister and the government the opportunity to reach agreements. I don't believe it will.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words about nursing salaries. This week, the government has put out advertisements in newspapers saying that their wage offer will make Nova Scotian nurses the highest paid in Atlantic Canada, at $48,000. I will table a copy of that announcement later on. I'm sure that salary is the top end of the scale and does not represent the salaries of all nurses in Nova Scotia.

Now, Mr. Speaker, you have to ask, why has the government not included in that same advertisement what nurses are making in other provinces in Canada or, yet, across the border in the United States? Into this mix, looking at nursing salaries, we need to include something very important in this whole discussion. We need to include the nursing shortage that exists.

Mr. Speaker, what this government - and, particularly, the Premier and this Minister of Health - doesn't get is that the nursing shortage is not just a Nova Scotia issue. In fact, it is not just an Atlantic Canadian issue, contrary to what the Minister of Health's propaganda machine would have us believe. Nurses are in demand all across North America. According to the American Hospital Association; 126,000 nurses are currently needed in the United States, 126,000 nurses are needed now in the United States.

Mr. Speaker, the average nursing salary in New England, right now, is $64,993 Cdn. On top of this, hospitals in the U.S. are also offering anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 U.S. in signing bonuses. It is a very competitive market out there for nurses and the Minister of Health recognizes that. Again, the government can put out all the advertisements they want. The government has no conception of the magnitude of the nursing shortage on this continent. At the same time, they bring forth this piece of legislation, Bill No. 68.

[2:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, if this Tory Government truly believes this piece of legislation will prevent our nurses from leaving Nova Scotia, then they should look again. We are losing them now and we are pushing them out of the province, especially with this type of legislation. (Interruptions) Maybe the Minister of Health will take this back.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, honourable members. The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party does have the floor and I would ask all honourable members to please respect that. The honourable member should try to avoid the rabbit tracks. I know it's difficult sometimes.

[Page 4831]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I know that the Minister of Health can hardly wait to enter this debate but if he is so interested, I am certainly pleased to take my seat and allow the Minister of Health to inform all my colleagues here in the House exactly what is being proposed here and the rationale behind Bill No. 68. The Minister of Health just has to indicate and I will certainly be more than glad to take my seat.

Mr. Speaker, the tabling of this legislation, this back-to-work legislation will only encourage more Nova Scotian nurses and more health care professionals to leave the province and look for work somewhere else. That is what this Bill No. 68 is going to do. The Minister of Health knows this and many of his colleagues are aware of that as well. That is exactly what this bill will do, will force them, will push them out.

Mr. Speaker, our province will continue to lose nurses and health care professionals to other parts of Canada and to the United States unless we act quickly to improve working conditions and wages. The Minister of Health knows this and the Premier of the province knows this as well. If we don't act now, that is what is at stake. We are going to lose more of our health care professionals to other jurisdictions. Again, with this bill, this government is pushing these workers out of the province and that is truly a shame. That should not be allowed.

Throughout this whole debate, Mr. Speaker, we need to recognize that we have many nurses and many health care workers working in Nova Scotia, not because of the money but because of their dedication in helping those in need and because of their dedication to their profession. I want to acknowledge that, as well, and say a thank you to all those individuals on behalf of our caucus.

Mr. Speaker, continuing to speak on the nursing shortage in this province and what impact it has around this province, I just want to share with you a few stories. We have heard from many Nova Scotians on just how dire the nursing shortage has become around the province.

Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, I was talking with Helene Comeau of Meteghan Station about her recent experience at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital. Helene is currently looking after Madame Thérése Saulnier, a 96 year old woman living in her own house. Unfortunately, over the weekend, Madame Saulnier was rushed to the hospital by ambulance for an emergency. She was admitted and she had to stay on a stretcher for two days in the hallway. A 96 year old woman, very sick, had to stay in the hallway for two days before she was moved to a room. During Madame Saulnier's stay at the hospital, Helene helped the nurses to feed and care for her. Helene was telling me, it is not the nurses' fault. The Yarmouth hospital had to close 16 beds in order to allow nurses to take some time off. Helene told me there is not enough nurses to look after the patients.

[Page 4832]

Madame Saulnier has now returned home from the hospital and worries now about her next visit if she needs to be hospitalized again. That is a sad situation to be in. Yarmouth hospital is probably no different than any other hospital in size throughout this province.

Again, this Tory Government should keep the commitment it made to nurses in the last election. They were going to fix the health care system for $46 million. Well, nurses, Madame Saulnier, Helene and many Nova Scotians are still waiting for this Tory Government to do what they promised to do in the last election.

So, Mr. Speaker, that is a sad story. As Helene indicated, she is not blaming the nurses. When you have to close 16 beds in order to allow nurses to take some time off - and I am sure they certainly needed it awfully bad. You know, the working conditions - and the Minister of Health certainly knows - this is not just a money problem, we need to talk about working conditions.

Mr. Speaker, with this amendment this government has an opportunity. The Minister of Health is not aware of what currently is happening around the province in hospitals. He can certainly take this time to travel the province and find out first-hand what exactly the current situation is in many of our hospitals.

Getting back to Bill No. 68. This bill is all about disrespect for nurses and health care workers in Nova Scotia. Never before has a government shown such little respect for an individual group of professionals. This government has failed to act in good faith; they have failed to negotiate in good faith; they have failed to be honest with Nova Scotians. By introducing Bill No. 68, yesterday, this government has shown no respect for nurses and health care workers in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I would welcome the Minister of Health, the Premier and any member on that side of the House to stand and tell this House and tell all Nova Scotians why this Tory Government has decided to introduce Bill No. 68. Tell us. The Minister of Health and the government benches have been challenged many times since midnight last night to stand and tell us and tell the people of Nova Scotia why they have decided to table this bill. I am not aware that anyone has taken on that challenge, yet.

Mr. Speaker, the people of Nova Scotia support nurses and other health care professionals but, today, that very same group is not being supported by that group across the floor. They are not being supported by this Tory Government. This is a sad day for the Province of Nova Scotia. This piece of legislation has to be the most offensive piece of legislation ever, ever tabled in the House of Assembly. Did you know that once this bill becomes law that no order or regulations made by Cabinet shall be questioned or reviewed in any court.

[Page 4833]

Mr. Speaker, I am not a lawyer but I have to question who came up with this idea. Someone did. Who and why? If this Tory Government is desperate enough to bring this type of protection forward in this bill, then we need to ask ourselves, the people of Nova Scotia need to ask themselves why do they need this provision, this protection under this Act. I hope that the Minister of Justice will stand up and explain the rationale behind the need for this clause in this bill, or the Minister of Health.

Mr. Speaker, there are many concerns with this bill. This bill is eventually going to go through this House. The Tory Government has a majority government. They have the numbers on their side. It is just a question of time before this bill goes through third and final reading. Especially sitting in these extended hours, it shouldn't take too long for this bill to go through the House. Once this bill goes through second reading this bill will go the Law Amendments Committee. This is an opportunity for the public to come forward and appear before this committee to make a presentation.

Nova Scotia is one of the few provinces left in Canada that still allows the public the opportunity to come forward and make a presentation before the Law Amendments Committee with regard to any piece of legislation that is tabled in this House, Mr. Speaker. So I would encourage anyone in the gallery, who is watching this debate, who has been reading about this debate to call Province House, the House of Assembly, for an appointment to appear before the Law Amendments Committee and share their thoughts on Bill No. 68.

[2:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, in closing, this bill does nothing to address the long-term crisis in health care. This bill does everything to give this Tory Government, to give this Cabinet, extraordinary powers over Nova Scotians. When this bill becomes law, and it will, effectively, this bill will take away the right to strike. It will allow Cabinet to impose a settlement without negotiations or without proper negotiations. It will eliminate the constitutional right of appeals to the courts by health care workers and it will prevent fair collective bargaining by health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, with those few comment I will take my seat but I am sure I will have an opportunity to return back to my feet to speak on Bill No. 68.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place to participate in this debate on the motion to hoist Bill No. 68, an Act that is actually misnamed. It has been brought onto the floor of this House entitled, An Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia, but in reality this is an Act to continue to erode health care services in Nova Scotia and I think, given what we have heard this far in the debate, it is pretty clear that that

[Page 4834]

will be the outcome of Bill No. 68 if this obstinate government continues down the road to force this bill through this Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, not so long ago I had a constituent in my riding, a man of 75 years whose name is Bill Fenton, who, in my constituency in Halifax Needham, is often referred to as Mr. Horseshoes because of his love for playing horseshoes and the work he did organizing a horseshoe club at the George Dixon Centre. Mr. Fenton died not so long ago, sadly, for our community. On the day of his funeral I had occasion to speak with members of his family who all spoke to me about their great concern at how he had been sent home much too soon following a heart attack without ample home care being provided in the community.

Mr. Speaker, this will come as no surprise to you. It's a concern, it's an issue that members of this Legislature, I am sure, have raised with us on many opportunities as we talk to people in our constituencies. Part of the reason why people are being sent home soon is because we have cut to the bone our acute care facilities. The health care providers who have been coming here to this Legislature since we have been here to debate Bill No. 68 can tell you about the kind of enormous pressure they are under to provide quality care under circumstances that are less than optimal most of the time. The people who are fighting to save our health care system are the health care providers and the nurses, not this government, not the federal government, so let's be clear about that.

If there is anything, Mr. Speaker, I think we need to do on the floor of this House of Assembly is call things the way they are, not wrap ourselves in clichés and spin that has been constructed by communications staff that want to do damage control when this government is embarking on a profoundly wrong-headed path.

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Liberal Party has just characterized this bill as profoundly offensive, and I could not agree more. This is the reason why I believe the hoist resolution is absolutely appropriate and, in fact, critical and important for us to proceed with here in this Chamber. There are few words to describe just how offensive this legislation is and, certainly, any words I can think of wouldn't be permitted, I am sure, in this Chamber. As a New Democrat, as a Social Democrat, I find it offensive. The assault on the democratic rights of people in this province are being crushed. The rule by the elite, by the few over the many is totally unacceptable. I think democracy is about providing a place for everyone and learning how to work collectively and co-operatively and being accommodating and, certainly, that is not in any way a part of Bill No. 68.

People in this province are not confused and they are not taken in by what the government has had to say thus far about Bill No. 68. I would just say that it's unfortunate that government members, including the Minister of Health, haven't taken an opportunity on the floor of this Legislature to participate in debate about Bill No. 68, but rather have confined comments on this bill to media scrums outside this legislative Chamber.

[Page 4835]

Mr. Speaker, I had a call two or two and a half hours ago from a member in my constituency, an elderly gentleman who certainly isn't taken in by this legislation, who is a veteran who lives in the northern part of my constituency who asked me why did he fight in wars. He specifically said, and these are his words, that that legislation, Bill No. 68, shouldn't be on the floor of the Legislature, that this government is behaving like a dictatorship and that he, and many people like himself, had fought to ensure a democratic process in countries such as ours, and to see what is occurring here is very offensive to him. This gentleman has two daughters who are nurses. One of his two daughters has left the nursing profession because the situation had become so unbearable for her. His other daughter works in the dialysis unit over at the QE II and he, understandably, is very upset and very concerned on behalf of his daughters and on behalf of other people like himself who value nurses, who value the health care services they provide, who value all of the other health care professionals who are involved in our acute care facilities.

Mr. Speaker, it is truly ironic, isn't it, that this is a Conservative Government that brings in such a profoundly radical piece of legislation, that uses and grabs every bit of power it possibly can on behalf of itself to deal with the health care providers in this province, while at the same time, this is the government that has preached self-reliance - the Minister of Community Services - and less government intervention for those who are the most vulnerable people in our community. This is a government that doesn't want to use the tools that are at its discretion to provide adequate basic income to people like poor children and poor families and people with disabilities, yet it has absolutely no difficulty bringing down the full force of government onto a group of its own employees. This is shameful, it is disgraceful, and as a member of my constituency said to me last night, when we had a chance to talk about why we had been called back, she said, you know, this government scares me.

Mr. Speaker, when you look at the members of the government, they look fairly ordinary, they look fairly benign, but when you look at what they have done in the slightly less than two years of their mandate, you have to question exactly what their ideas are, what their vision for Nova Scotia is, and it truly is a very narrow and a very indefensible vision. The one thing we do know is that it is actions, it is an approach they will have to justify at some point in time; their lifespan as a government will not be unlimited.

Mr. Speaker, I am in fairly good company, I think, in terms of people who are groups and organizations and other critics of the bill. Not only are members of the Opposition very concerned, but we have learned this morning that the Nova Scotia Medical Society has very clearly and very strongly come out with a statement that Bill No. 68 is draconian, that it is the absolute wrong approach to take in terms of building an effective and a caring health care system and that what this will do will undermine any of the work that people are doing to restore health care to the level that Nova Scotians require and that they need and that they pay for. They pay through their income tax and, increasingly, they are paying for through the many user fees that are being and have been imposed by this government.

[Page 4836]

In today's newspapers, the daily newspapers, both of the newspapers here in metro, the editorial writers are clear about the excesses of this bill. The Daily News, quite rightfully, I think, says that the powers this government is seeking are almost unprecedented in the country and they are creating great concern throughout the country, but let's think about here in Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker. Let's think about those groups that are in the process of collective bargaining, but also groups that have collective agreements that they will be negotiating in the fairly near future.

Mr. Speaker, this sends the worst possible message that you could imagine to members of the Public Service in Nova Scotia. I have to say that I feel more convinced, having seen Bill No. 68, now than ever, that members of the Opposition were absolutely right to raise the concerns we raised on Bill No. 20 that passed not too long ago. This particular piece of legislation is the absolute manifestation of the power grab into the secret backrooms of Cabinet that we were concerned about, and it does demonstrate that what some people characterized as the paranoia of the Opposition was not paranoia at all, but was very well founded. So the true colours of this government are there on display, loud and clear for every member of our community to see.

[2:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, not only am I concerned about the extent to which this government has gone in terms of eroding the opportunity for consensus and discussion and collaborative approaches through a negotiated process and the erosion of the power and the abilities of people who are not dominant groups in our society through this legislation, I have to say that as NDP Critic on the Status of Women, I find this legislation extremely troublesome and very offensive.

Mr. Speaker, there isn't any disputing the fact that this legislation, in fact, is focused on women in our labour force, and although male nurses and male members of the bargaining unit are part of this process, I believe it is generally understood that in the health care sector the health care workers are primarily a labour force comprised of female workers. In 1998, approximately 80 per cent of all those workers who worked in the health care sector were women. In particular, in the nursing field, 97 per cent of the workforce are female, whereas if you look at other professionals, for example if you look at doctors and senior managers in acute care facilities, you will find that, specifically in terms of specialists and senior management, at least three-quarters of that workforce are composed of men.

If you look at the government, if you look at the Cabinet, if you look at the dynamics of the people who will be making the decisions and who control the lives of this group of professional health care workers who are predominately women, you see very few women, Mr. Speaker. I think that that is very unfortunate and I think that perhaps if that was different, the circumstances, the conditions under which health care providers are attempting to meet the needs of people who are sick, people who are dying, people who are recovering from

[Page 4837]

illnesses and life-threatening circumstances, you might find that there would be a different appreciation for the situation that these people are in. You might find a different valuing of the work that is profoundly under-valued, that is reflected in this legislation with incredible disrespect for what it is like to have to provide care in these kinds of circumstances and to be the people who are the workers who do the caring work of the society, not only now, but historically.

I was struck, Mr. Speaker, in looking at some of the information about the nurses strike in 1975 in the Province of Nova Scotia. I was looking at some of the documents that probably members who have spoken before me drew attention to. The fact that nurses, historically, have been so poorly paid and under-valued, for example, in relation to the skills that are required to do that work and the job content of the work, the stress, the pressure, the intensity, the level of responsibility, the requirements for a high level of proficiency and a real knowledge-based practice for nursing and other health care professions, and then you compare that to other groups of professional workers, you compare the salaries, it makes no sense.

Nurses consistently have fallen short on the wage scale to the extent that in a very interesting book that I would recommend to members if we were to hoist this bill for six months. This book called Vital Signs: Nursing in Transition, written by Patricia Armstrong, who, I believe, at one time was a nurse, talks about not only have nurses been paid at very low and inappropriate rates, historically, but there was a point in time, Mr. Speaker, when nurses made less than secretaries, teachers, cocktail waitresses, garbage collectors and hospital cleaners. So the struggle for nurses to have their work valued and recognized and reflected through pay and benefits has been a long struggle. Unfortunately, it is one that isn't over yet, which is very obvious from Bill No. 68.

I would recommend that the Minister of Health take a little time and look at this incredible history of this particular profession and try to understand why it is that these workers feel so strongly about the current situation that they find themselves in. The minister is probably very well aware of the Nursing in Nova Scotia: strengthening the foundation document from the Planning Division and Health Support Branch that talks about what has occurred in the nursing profession in Nova Scotia in the last 10 years. It is truly shocking. It is no wonder the level of frustration has risen to the point that nurses and other health care workers are unprepared to sit back and be abused by government anymore.

Mr. Speaker, for a period of time in Nova Scotia, up until 1993, the Province of Nova Scotia, according to this report, recorded an average increase of approximately 100 registered nurses per year. However, in 1993, that trend stopped; it not only stopped it reversed itself so that approximately 150 nurses per year were being lost. Between 1993 and 1998, the number of full-time nursing positions in this province declined by nearly 800 positions. Most of those jobs were in institutions that became increasingly dependent on a casual nursing workforce.

[Page 4838]

Mr. Speaker, this has meant a couple of things. First of all, well over 23 per cent of the nurses who are employed in our institutions are employed on a casual basis and for many nurses this is not acceptable. This is not an acceptable way to try to work. For many of these nurses, when the recruiters come here from other areas and they are able to offer full-time work with good benefits and better working conditions, then many of these nurses would be foolish not to be enticed into those situations. As a result, women and men who are nurses who have been working here casually because of their disenchantment with casual employment, they leave the province. That then puts pressure on the full-time workers who have full-time jobs. It means that many of those workers are increasingly required to fill the breach. They no longer can expect a regular work schedule. They are pressured into doing multiple shifts, into coming back, being recalled into what has been referred to as forced overtime. It is forcing nurses to work more hours than they feel appropriate. They lose out in terms of their family time. They lose out in terms of their own health and well-being and they have serious questions about whether or not these are the kinds of circumstances that allow them to provide good, quality care.

Mr. Speaker, you and I both have been through a couple of elections in this province in the last little while, in the last three year period. I would imagine that there are very few members in this Legislature, if there are any members, I would be surprised, who haven't, on the doorsteps, met nurses who wanted to talk about our Party's platforms on health care, on nursing retention and recruitment, on improving the conditions of their work, not just nurses, other health care providers as well. It has been a very interesting process for me to try to understand, because I am not a nurse, to get a better handle on the complexity of this issue because it is very complex. You have, actually, as I understand it, acute shortages in particular areas of care; nursing care for example. It is very difficult to have nurses work and retain nurses in particular areas of our health care system, like perhaps the emergency departments, because the intensity of the work in those departments is so heavy and because the resources that have been required, really, to run a good emergency care service are always in doubt and are always, I think, under the gun from year to year in annual provincial government budgets and certainly in the federal government's budgets, as well.

So, we have seen these and we have heard these men and women on the doorsteps in our ridings really tell us their stories and ask us to make a commitment that we would address these issues they are raising. Yet I think many of these health care providers now must be feeling exceptionally betrayed by the message they would have received from members of the government and certainly from the Premier during the election campaign in 1999.

I must say, Mr. Speaker, I can't blame people for feeling that way. I have had nurses in my constituency call me and contact me in the last couple of days and say, Maureen, you know, I have to be honest with you, I didn't vote for your Party in the provincial election, I voted for the John Hamm Government because I believed what they had to say. I believed what Dr. Hamm had to say, the commitment he made to address health care and I can't tell

[Page 4839]

you how betrayed and angry I feel because not only haven't they addressed what it was they said they would do, they are behaving as bad as, if not worse than, the government that we wanted to see replaced.

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, these are people who spoke to me in genuine terms, they have no political agendas, they were just expressing what they wanted me, as their member, to know, to understand and to take here onto the floor of the Legislature as part of this debate. I know that sometimes as members of the Opposition we don't have the numbers when votes are ultimately taken on bills, but at least we can bring the stories and the information, the feelings of our constituents here and I am very pleased to do so.

Mr. Speaker, it is not only the Nova Scotia Medical Association that have expressed their deep regrets and concerns about this legislation and what it means. Regrets and concerns are being expressed, outrage, actually, is being expressed by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. I will table a news release from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, Nova Scotia Teachers Union President Brian Forbes. I would like to quote what Mr. Forbes, who is the President of that union, had to say about Bill No. 68 this morning, or today. He says, "'This is perhaps the most regressive legislation ever introduced by any government in the history of this province . . . If this bill is enacted, collective bargaining in this province is dead'" That is what he says. He says that, "'This act effectively suspends the Trade Union Act at the whim of Cabinet . . . It presupposes that the collective bargaining process will fail. Government seems determined to turn collective bargaining into collective begging.'"

Mr. Speaker, maybe the health care workers of this province will have to join the growing numbers of people who are poor, who are being thrown out of the community services system by the Minister of Community Services because, certainly, this is another mean spirited move on another group of Nova Scotians that is entirely, entirely unworthy of any government in this province, entirely unworthy of any government in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I had an opportunity, as I was thinking about the bill and thinking about the hoisting of the bill, to make contact with the School of Nursing over at Dalhousie. Prior to being elected I was very privileged to be a member of the Faculty of Health Professions. The School of Nursing is one of the schools within the Faculty of Health Professions at Dalhousie and I am in the School of Social Work. We often collaborate with the School of Nursing on a variety of courses, generally around things like ethics, ethical practice, ethical practices of great concern in professional schools in the field of health. I was very interested to find that not so long ago a former director of the School of Nursing, Dr. Barbara Keddy, was commissioned by the Maritime Centre of Excellence for Women's Health to undertake a study of health reform and its impact on nurses in Nova Scotia. I will table a copy of that paper after I complete my remarks.

[Page 4840]

Mr. Speaker, it is a very, very interesting paper that Dr. Keddy and a number of other faculty members from the School of Nursing, as a result of their research, have been able to put together. It is a comparative study between nurses in Nova Scotia and nurses in B.C. The other members of the research team are Dr. Fran Gregor, Donna Denny and Suzanne Foster. These are all women faculty members who are also nurses by profession. I am sure if they had an opportunity, and perhaps some of these faculty members may have an opportunity to come to the Legislature and speak on Bill No. 68, I would certainly be very interested in hearing their point of view on this bill. I would be particularly interested because they have laid out quite well in this paper the context in which nurses have been trying to perform their role in the health care system and the problems that nurses have faced.

They say that in the 1990's there were unprecedented cuts in nursing jobs during the reign of the Liberal Party and they say that the Conservative Government took control of power in the province and made some promises to provide 650 full-time jobs for nurses. Dr. Keddy indicates that this government, at the time of her report on March 3, 2000, had only fulfilled 20 per cent of that promise. She went on to describe and outline what she sees and what the research team sees to be an ongoing crisis in the field of nursing in this province, where nurses are overworked, they are stressed and they believe their practice is unsafe. That there is a need for more full-time nurses in a salaried environment and that the introduction of business practices into the health care system has eroded the quality of health care to consumers and it has seriously undermined the health and well-being and the work environment in which nurses perform their jobs. She says where reform of health care should be seen as a positive thing if, in fact, the system was going to be more responsive and providing the kinds of services that people require, reform, in fact, has been a very sorry pretext for cuts, slashes and privatization of the health care system.

The report they did is just fascinating in terms of all of the information that is here. I think a person like myself or a person like the Minister of Health, who doesn't work in the health care system, could really learn a lot. For example, I didn't know that things had deteriorated in many acute care facilities in terms of the time that nurses have to do their jobs to the point where home care organizations are hiring sitters to sit with patients in health care settings. The primary responsibility of these people is to watch patients because of understaffing, nursing isn't able to do that. These people are paid $6.00 an hour, they work 12 hour shifts, they have no specialized training, their work is specialized training. Their work is casual, they don't have benefits, and this is a kind of privatization of the multi-skilling of the nurses role. I must say I was quite taken aback when I read this and I thought about my own somewhat limited experience in the last few years in the health care system. Having watched a very good friend struggle with breast cancer and bone cancer, I know how hard those nurses in the palliative care unit worked and I know how important it was to have other people come into the hospital setting and sit and provide some additional support and really just be with the patient for things like maybe cold drinks or wiping off the brow, things like that that literally the nurses have absolutely no opportunity to do given the heavy workload they have.

[Page 4841]

Now, Mr. Speaker, this paper indicates that the cuts in the health care system have meant that you have this polarization of situations for nurses. Some nurses are underemployed and some nurses are forced into overtime. Some nurses can't find work and other nurses have too much work. They have more work than is humanly possible. There is something radically wrong with our management structure, surely, when these are the findings of an empirical research study by a very competent research team. Many of the issues they are raising are not new issues. Bill No. 68 isn't about addressing these things. Bill No. 68 is about burying your head in the sand just about as deeply as you could possibly get it to avoid dealing with these things, to avoid dealing with the very important issues that are confronting health care providers and nurses.

One of the things I found most distressing when I read this report was what this research staff had to say about nurses in rural communities. They said health care providers and nurses in the rural communities have fared even worse than their urban counterparts because the services in those parts of our province have been cut even more drastically.

So, Mr. Speaker, a much more constructive use of this government's time and this minister's time and this Premier's time and the time of all members of this House could be spent in learning the day-to-day reality of health care providers in this province, of really trying to understand how complex that picture is, how it got to be that way over a number of years, what are the solutions that nursing staff and health care providers are looking for and then looking at the tools of government in a positive way, looking at ways we can address these very serious matters in a positive way. I feel confident that if we were to take that kind of approach then we would be able to address many of these issues, perhaps not overnight, but if we had good will, if we were prepared to work in good faith, there is no doubt in my mind we would be able to do this. The first thing we would have to do is to start by really respecting the people who are doing this work and really getting to know what it is that they encounter, and how we, as legislators, can help address the situation.

[3:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I think that most families around this province, many families around this province probably have a nurse in their family or have had a nurse in their family or a health care provider. I look at my own family, my grandmother was a nurse, there are many cousins in the field of nursing, lab technology, pharmacy and various forms of health care delivery. I don't know what our communities would do without these people, these are valued members of the community. Bill No. 68 is not the way to treat a valued member of your family; it is not the way to treat a valued member of your community. It is just wrong. There is no other way of looking at this situation; it is entirely wrong.

Mr. Speaker, the reason we are here is, in fact, because health care reform under this government and under the previous government has profoundly failed in addressing the problems that need to be addressed in the health care system. I have sadly reached the

[Page 4842]

conclusion that chief among these problems are the decision-makers themselves, the decision-makers at the top of the hierarchy. For that reason, I think we need a period of reflection, and this bill should be hoisted.

Mr. Speaker, let's not forget that the collective bargaining process is going along or has been going along without any disruption in service. To intervene in a process that is going along without any disruption in service is more than questionable, it is unconscionable really, as my colleague, the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic, pointed out very well. As a 10 year veteran of this Legislature, who has seen many industrial-relation situations and as a person with expertise in industrial relations prior to coming to this Legislature, he certainly knows what he is talking about.

The delicate balance that is required to ensure not just a good, healthy relationship between employers and employees at any given point in time, but into the future is very important. Bill No. 68 is such an in your face, we couldn't care less about who you are, what you do, what you think, what you are going to do, you just make our day. That is what this bill is basically saying. It is a Rambo piece of legislation, make our day, we really don't care, we've got the numbers, you don't, ha ha.

Mr. Speaker, what kind of a way is that for a government to behave with the fine health care providers in this province. That is really reprehensible. It is truly reprehensible. Who would ever have thought, in the election campaign in 1999, that the friendly, smiling, relaxed, tanned face of the good doctor, our Premier - who I certainly hope will take an opportunity to join us in the debate, because I think if there is anybody in this Legislature who needs to account for Bill No. 68, it's the Premier. I don't think there is any question about that. Members of the Opposition will want to hear from the Premier. We, in particular, would like to know what his position is on Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, I have to say I find it curious, to say the least, that the Premier hasn't taken any opportunity whatsoever, he hasn't shown the leadership that I think just common courtesy would dictate, that he would take a few moments of his time to show some respect, not only to members of this House who have been called back for this incredibly offensive and invasive piece of legislation but for all of the people in this province who are concerned and who want to hear from the Premier what the ultimate justification and rationalization for this piece of legislation could possibly be.

Mr. Speaker, we heard many, many things from that member, our Premier, when he went around this province campaigning, encouraging people to support him and his Party. He said, we will address, as our most urgent priority, the need for new full-time nurses. He said nurses want a positive, rewarding environment where they know they can properly care for their patients, where they know they are valued and where they know they have a meaningful voice in shaping change. I would like to know, I would like to hear the Premier stand up in this House and tell me what has changed. What changed his mind? Why has he

[Page 4843]

decided that nurses no longer deserve a meaningful voice in the health care system? Is it the fact that there isn't an election in four weeks' time, is that what has changed his mind? Is that what has changed?

He needs to account for what he said to Nova Scotians, the word that he gave people in this province and people who believed him. I know that the Minister of Health hasn't had a lot to say on this bill, but the Premier needs to come here and he needs to account for why he has made this u-turn, this absolute u-turn in terms of Bill No. 68. Not only that, I would like to know from the Premier whether or not he feels nurses can't be trusted to ensure essential and emergency services in Nova Scotia. I would really like to know that. Not only is this person our Premier, the ultimate leader in the Province of Nova Scotia, the person who "when the buck stops that is where it stops", with him, I want to know if he accepts the murmurs from the Minister of Health, all of the silly murmurs we hear from the good Health Minister that nurses can't really be trusted, they can't be relied on to ensure emergency or essential services.

I found the Minister of Health's comments hard to take, given that I know the dedication of the health care providers and the nurses in this province. I can certainly say without any hesitancy that if somebody asked me, who do I trust with health care in this province for my family, my parents, my friends, my neighbours, my niece and nephews and so on, a nurse or the Minister of Health, the nursing profession and health care providers will get my vote, hands down, any time, without any question. But we need to hear from the Premier on this, and I want to know where he stands on this and on some of these very important questions.

Mr. Speaker, there has been information that has been provided to the public by the government and by the minister's media people that has me concerned, that implies that there was no plan for emergency health services. The Minister of Health has a practice of making lots of comments about things that he apparently knows very little about. We all remember the Pollyanna, the silly comments that the minister made about the residents in the tar ponds neighbourhood, how much they loved that neighbourhood and how much they all wanted to stay there. We have witnessed the flippant non-answers of the Minister of Health in this Legislature on many occasions; the attack on Dr. Kendrick for participating in a press conference about his report and the importance of government acting on the recommendations of that report. We have heard the minister talk about the physicians refusing to treat patients around the province. (Interruptions) Well, I don't actually remember those names. I don't think we ever had any names.

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

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Yes.

[Page 4844]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: I want to thank the honourable member for yielding the floor so that I might make an introduction. Mr. Speaker, I want to draw your attention and honourable members of the House to the Speaker's Gallery. We have with us a guest from the Province of Alberta, and he is accompanied by his sister, a resident of Dartmouth. Our guest is the Hon. Guy Boutilier, who is the Minister of Municipal Affairs for the Province of Alberta. He has roots in Nova Scotia, he was born just outside of Glace Bay; he has a degree from St. Mary's University; he has a Masters of Business Administration from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. That education was all built on a foundation from a degree from St. F. X. University. (Applause)

Hon. Boutilier is the representative from Fort MacMurray in the Province of Alberta. He tells me now that the population there is 60,000 and growing. He said that gives us an indication of some of the prosperity that might be ahead for Nova Scotia. I am very pleased to welcome him here today. It is an opportunity for him to renew his roots. He met with Mayor Peter Kelly this morning, and I believe it is a combination business and pleasure trip, and it's always great to welcome back an alumnus of St. F. X. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our special guests to the gallery today, and ask them to bring our greetings to Speaker Kowalski and the rest of the Alberta Legislature. Welcome.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham. You have about one minute.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I welcome our guests. I am a graduate of St. F. X. University, as well. At this time, I would like to make a motion to adjourn the debate on this motion.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate.

Is it agreed?

A recorded vote is being called for.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[Page 4845]

[3:30 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: A recorded vote has been called for on the motion to adjourn debate. The Clerk will call the roll. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[4:30 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Manning MacDonald Mr. Rodney MacDonald

Mr. Downe Mr. Christie

Mr. Gaudet Mr. Russell

Mr. Boudreau Mr. LeBlanc

Mr. MacKinnon Miss Purves

Mr. Pye Mr. Fage

Mr. Estabrooks Mr. Parent

Ms. McGrath

Mr. Ronald Chisholm

Mr. Olive

Mr. Morse

Mr. MacIsaac

Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. Taylor

Mr. Dooks

Mr. Langille

Mr. Chataway

Mr. Clarke

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

THE CLERK: For, 7. Against, 22.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is defeated.

[Page 4846]

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, actually, I am not happy to have to get up and speak on this bill because to me it is an admission that this government has failed. To be here, to talk about Bill No. 68, means this government is prepared to do absolutely anything it wants to to take away the ability to properly govern the Province of Nova Scotia. This is an admission of failure on behalf of this government to be able to move forward with health care delivery in the Province of Nova Scotia. This government, by this bill, is admitting it has nothing to offer the nurses and the health care workers of this province that would be fair. It is also, in my view, admitting to the public that they do not trust the nurses and the health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia. They are admitting they do not trust the nurses and the health care workers of the Province of Nova Scotia.

I find it very frustrating, the word is draconian, or whatever you want to call this bill, this bill is about what we have been saying this government is committed to; one thing, and that is power, absolute power, power to be able to control whatever they want, when they want and how they want to do it. You know, it's a sad commentary on democracy when we are standing here debating a bill, a bill that basically moves the labour relations out the door, turns the clock back on labour relations in the Province of Nova Scotia, turns it back 100 years.

It is a sad commentary when we, as the Province of Nova Scotia, on the verge of opportunities, economic opportunities, whether they are offshore or the knowledge-based economy, we are on the verge of building a strong province, but you can't build a strong province unless you have a strong health care delivery system or unless you look after the people who are in need. The nurses of the Province of Nova Scotia are frustrated. They are mad. The health care workers are frustrated and mad and they have a right to be.

I remember during the election campaign this government said they were going to restore the nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia. Well, I wonder what signal this sends to any nurse who was looking at coming to the Province of Nova Scotia? What message does this give to nurses or health care workers throughout North America that we want them to come to Nova Scotia, or across this country, we want them to come to Nova Scotia. They are going to take one look at the fact that this government brought in Bill No. 68, and they are going to turn their vehicle right around. They are going to say no way are we going to go to a province that is going to have a dictator's approach to collective bargaining and to the rights of individual workers in the Province of Nova Scotia.

What message is this government really wanting to send about how they want to manage health care in Nova Scotia? What is next in the whole issue of health care delivery for this government? One only has to think for just a second to realize that the demise of the collective bargaining process has only begun. We have a Premier and a Minister of Finance who seem to preoccupied with one vision of the province when the rest of Nova Scotians are

[Page 4847]

saying we want to make sure we have a health care system that is sustainable, dependable and predictable in the future. We tried to deliver that. I remember all too well that it was that side of the House who said to Nova Scotians trust us over here, the Tory Party, for $46 million we will fix all our problems and we will restore the nurses complement in the Province of Nova Scotia, and people believed them.

I want you to know, today, that there are not a lot of people who have a lot of belief. I think people will believe nurses a lot quicker than they will believe individuals who are saying they want to deliver a health care system and they want to do it through this piece of legislation. Today, approximately 150 nurses went to Truro. Those 150 nurses went over to the minister's office, the lights were out, the doors are closed. That's the kind of reception nurses are getting in the Province of Nova Scotia when they go to the government. The lights are out. The doors are closed. When they talk about trying to bargain in good faith, with this bill the lights are out and the doors are closed. That is the message they're sending to the health care providers in the Province of Nova Scotia today; the health care workers and the nurses in Nova Scotia today. What message does that send?

I know in my riding nurses are very upset. I talked to one today, a Miss Lillian Hiem, and she was saying that nurses are frustrated by the fact that this government has shown contempt for them. They said, you know, if there is an alternative plan in the event of a strike, if there was a strike and we don't even know that there would be a strike, if there was a strike, the nurses gave their word that their plan would work. Health District 1 had developed a strategy and a plan, and that plan was sustainable. As I understand, it would work. The nurses said they would co-operate, because a nurse is committed to helping people.

One of my colleagues was speaking earlier about how all of us are touched by nurses one way or the other. We might have them in our family, or related, or a neighbour, a very good friend. My sister was a nurse and I understand a little bit of where their minds are. They care about what they do. They believe in what they do. They have a cause and a purpose of what they do. They are saying if there was an emergency plan they would be there if there was a need, but they had a right to stand up for their view and they felt they had a right to be able to stand up and speak their minds about their concerns.

What has the government done? Well, you go back to the table and you do your thing but, by the way, whatever you come up with we are ultimately going to tell you what you are going to accept. We are going to tell you what you are going to take. We are going to tell you how you are going to take it and if you don't like it there will be fines and penalties if you abuse the system, the system they and the Cabinet have created. The bargaining process is something that has been around for the whole issue of labour law and the process of bargaining for 100 years; 800 years of rule of law, and in that rule of law and in that whole issue of labour law, there has always been an appeal process established. There has always been an appeal process established. Who, amongst that group over there, would ever want

[Page 4848]

to be convicted of something or accused of something without an appeal process? They would say, constitutionally, I have a right to an appeal process, I have a right to stand up for what I believe is right and truthful.

If you're a criminal today, you have an appeal process. If you murdered somebody in society today, there's an appeal process. But you know, our nurses and our health care providers are not going to be given even the ability to have an appeal process because of this bill. Is this constitutionally right? Some could argue whether it is constitutionally right or it is constitutionally wrong. I can tell you one thing, whether it is constitutionally right or wrong, it is morally wrong. It is ethically wrong. As governments and as leaders in this province, you are taking back an appeal process of these nurses and health care providers. Boy, it's a sad day for Nova Scotia.

I could imagine in the Cabinet Room there must have been quite an argument and debate whether this should go forward. I would assume there must have been some debate, should we bring this in before - we don't even know if we are going to have a strike, and if we have a strike should we at least allow a process to follow as due diligence. We did, and it is a nerve-wracking process, but it works. Binding arbitration can work. Really, when this government goes around the province and they come up with their propaganda about the fact that it is about money, or that the system couldn't provide adequate health care, I think it is all about the reality for them and that is their so-called fiscal agenda, that by the way we indicated, I think they showed a $50 million profit last year. Stats Canada numbers will show you that that would be the fact.

Yet, they don't want to even sit down and negotiate in good faith with the workers and health providers, front-line workers, in the Province of Nova Scotia. This bill takes away the ability for nurses and health care workers to appeal and to be able to do their job properly. What is this going to do for the morale of the workers today? I talk to nurses and they say they are stressed out, they're tired, before we even got to this process. Now that this bill is in place what's this going to do for the people who are trying to provide the front-line health delivery in Nova Scotia?

I wonder if anybody in the Cabinet thought about what this means to the quality of health care, to the quality of respect for the people who are providing front-line delivery in the Province of Nova Scotia? As the Speaker knows, the morale where he works is important because the job he did before he came here was a very important job, a very serious job, and one where morale is important. If you have a lot of depressed people, then you have problems. What you have done by bringing in Bill No. 68 is taken away the morale within the health care delivery system. I will tell you what you have created, I think what you have created is you have created nurses, male and female, and health care workers who are going to be prepared to fight this battle to the end. They are not going to give up. They are not going to give up on their rights, their belief in their rights to a proper collective bargaining process.

[Page 4849]

There is an article in the paper today that I saw earlier, that Dr. Hamm admitted and conceded that removing the rights of health care workers to strike would hurt his chances to be re-elected in two years. (Interruption) Well, he might have said that, but I don't know if the rest of them understand that. I don't think they realize how serious this issue is, how this will spin out into the Province of Nova Scotia.

AN HON. MEMBER: They think it will go away.

MR. DOWNE: It is not going to go away and the health care workers and the nurses of this province will not let this go away. This torch is lit. They have lit a torch in the hearts of those workers and their frustration of being able to stand up and believe in a cause.

[4:45 p.m.]

I believe what has happened now, this government has just created their biggest opposition they have ever had and that is they have taken away the rights of people who provide health delivery to the sick in the Province of Nova Scotia. They have said to these nurses and front-line workers and health workers that they do not trust them. They don't trust them and they don't believe in them. That is what they are saying in this bill. By doing that, they have created an army of people that will be fighting them, I believe, right to the next election because this government did not even have the decency or respect to be able to allow those individuals a proper collective process, a process that has lasted the test of time in the Province of Nova Scotia.

We are turning back the clock on labour relations in the Province of Nova Scotia. This government is like they are in a time machine. They just turned back the clock; they reverted back. In a society that is supposed to be progressive and moving forward, you would think you would learn from the past. We are going right back to the past. I don't know what their agenda is on doing that. I am trying to understand their agenda. There must something else in the agenda that I don't understand. I note that part of the bill is almost word for word Premier Lord's bill in New Brunswick. I think the first few pages are literally word for word.

There must be an alternative agenda here. Maybe the agenda is, because in Clause 12 or 13 it says that they can allow anybody else that is going through that process to be brought into that same provision. So maybe the paramedics that are coming up next, there is another negotiation that is going to happen between now and 2004. Maybe there are going to be a couple of negotiations that are going to happen between now and 2004. Provisions in Clauses 12 and 13 allow for Cabinet to make a decision to not allow the collective bargaining process to continue. Maybe that is part of their alternative plan. Of course, the year 2004 wouldn't happen to be until after the next election. So maybe that is part of their strategy.

I think their strategy is wrong. I think they have really caught themselves on this issue because they are now creating a war with the front-line workers in the health care system that

[Page 4850]

are the most respected in the health care delivery system, nurses and health care providers. They have now created a war with those people. I don't believe that war will go away.

Bill No. 68 is a mean-spirited bill, it is a dictatorial bill, a bill that has been referred to earlier as draconian in its measures and in its concept and it is taking away the rights to strike by NSGEU and NSNU, nurses and health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia. It takes away their rights to strike, their rights to an appeal, their rights to proper collective bargaining, arbitration. It takes away their rights.

There have been countries around the world that have had a lot of wars because governments and dictatorships have tried to take away rights of individuals. When you take away the rights of individuals, something happens to them. They don't become as easy going on certain issues anymore. This government has stuck a red flag out in front of everybody, kind of like the sword under your nose, and went up to these people and said, we don't want you to have those rights. We don't think you should have them. We don't think it is fair that you have those rights. We don't trust you to have those rights. By doing that, those individuals, whatever number of thousands of nurses and health care workers we have, over 9,000 in the Province of Nova Scotia, are feeling pretty disillusioned and pretty disappointed and very, very upset.

AN HON. MEMBER: There are over 5,000 in the metro area.

MR. DOWNE: My colleague was just saying there are over 5,000 in the metro area. I would think the members from the metro area should take note with interest what impact that is going to have on them. Halifax Bedford Basin, I understand, has 500 health care workers and nurses in that riding alone. I think the MLAs in those areas should go talk to the people, the health care workers and the nurses. Talk to them and ask them what they feel about Bill No. 68. You must know them. The members over there must know them very well, their constituents, and talk to them. Ask them what they feel about that bill. Ask them what they dislike about the bill or their concern about the bill.

I think they will get an earful. They will get a story. They will be told. I would be anxious to hear how they handle that, because I think they should try to do that. They should phone their people up and talk to them. There are over 5,000 in the HRM area alone. I have talked to some of mine in my riding and I certainly heard, very clearly, their frustration and their hurt and their desire to not give up in this battle.

This bill also gives power to Cabinet to not only decide the deal they want, but how it is going to be implemented. So you can imagine, 12 individuals around the Cabinet Table will decide what they feel will be the package, period. There are no ifs, ands or buts about it. It is not going to be allowed for somebody to come in, a third party, to review it and say, well, this appears to be fair. It is like the old days when the big companies came in and said, you are an employee. This is what you are going to do. That is what you are going to be paid.

[Page 4851]

You can come today, you are gone tomorrow or whatever. Do you remember that? That is way back at the turn of the century we used to have that. Well, that is basically what you are doing to the nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia.

AN HON. MEMBER: The company stores, the company houses.

MR. DOWNE: Well, the company stores and company houses, but the issue there is that this government now will have the power in Cabinet to decide on any deal and the deal that they want for the workers in the Province of Nova Scotia. Clause 12 amends the definition of who this applies to. They can define who they want it to be. So it could be teachers - teachers could be next - it could be paramedics. It could be almost anybody that works for the Province of Nova Scotia.

In this bill and the regulations that will go with it, they can decide in the Cabinet, anybody basically working for government, to say, we are going to take away your rights. We are going to decide that you are not going to go through a collective agreement process. You are not going to go through arbitration negotiations. We are going to tell you what you are going to get. So I think Clause 12 would cause a lot of concern to a lot of individuals in the Province of Nova Scotia.

I think what they are doing in this bill, they talk about this bill coming in because they are worried about health care being provided across the Province of Nova Scotia. If that is the case, then why have they got Clause 12? Why do they have Clause 12 written the way it is? If they are worried about health delivery, which already the nurses have said - in District 1, for example, that the emergency system they have in place will work, the staff are saying it will work - they want it to work and they will work with them to make it work. If that is the case, then why do you have Clause 12 in the bill, unless you want this bill to go beyond nurses and health care workers? I think maybe that is the issue. Maybe that is part of that alternative agenda that we don't see.

The Premier and the Minister of Health are saying that they are worried about health delivery in Nova Scotia. So when we go to bring in this Bill No. 68, that is going to take away the powers of individuals, the rights of individuals, the fairness in a process. We are going to take that away. So if we are going to take that away, we better set up a bill that will give us more power than we have ever had before to do virtually whatever we want. So that is what they are doing under Clause 12.

Then they add in Clause 13, which means no one can challenge the government on the regulations or on orders of the OIC. They are saying you cannot challenge the government. They are saying you cannot challenge them by law. Well, I don't know about that. I am not a lawyer, but there are lawyers around who said that even legislation can be challenged. People will challenge it. People will probably want to challenge this if they think there is a reasonable way that they can bring it forward in the courts.

[Page 4852]

Anyway, this government is saying, we want this bill, it is not a matter of health delivery, it is not a matter of protection, it is not a matter of making sure that they can provide health delivery to all people in Nova Scotia. This bill is so broad and so wide in its scope and so kind of neutering of rights of individuals that they have brought in a clause that says they are not responsible for this in law. They are above the law now. They want the Cabinet to be above the law. They want their government to be above the law, the law of the people, the law for the people. They want to be above all that. Shame on this government. Shame on them.

I wonder what the editors of the papers would have written about this back 5 or 10 years ago if anybody else was in power and they brought in a bill like this; I wonder what they would have written about the rights and fairness of individuals. This bill lasts until April 1, 2004. I guess probably the next election will be over in 2004. I wonder when it is over if that government, that side of the House, will be regretting this bill here today. I think they might, I think they will. I ask the members on the backbench, the ones that are not in the Cabinet, to think about that. This bill will have an impact on your ability to be re-elected.

I tell you, those nurses and health care workers in this province are highly respected in Nova Scotia. If they go out on a war path and start telling people the truth about what is going on about salaries and income and hours of work and they start laying out that agenda and that reality of what this government is doing, not the spin doctor stuff that is in the newspapers right now, then you are going to have a battle on your hands. When they start explaining to Nova Scotians, as we are here today, saying that the ability for them to even have an appeal process in a bargaining process is gone, people will say, well, how can they do that?

A criminal has an appeal process, but you are not going to allow a nurse or a front- line worker or health care worker the right to appeal. The decision that will be made in the Cabinet Room cannot be appealed. It is absolute. So if they all happen to be in a grumpy mood some Thursday morning or whatever morning they meet, you hope that they don't come up with some sort of an Order in Council that takes away another right of another individual or groups of individuals.

I would think that there are members on that side of the House, in that Cabinet Room, that really questioned this bill. They probably questioned the timing of the bill to begin with. Why are we doing it now? Why don't we allow the process to continue? Let's work in good faith. Let's show that we believe and that we have faith in the process. Let's have binding arbitration, if we need to. Bring in somebody that can try to bring the parties together to find a solution.

[Page 4853]

[5:00 p.m.]

They didn't want to do that. They could have done that, but instead they brought this bill in before that was even done. I am sure that there are members on the front bench who question the logic of that. They probably question the logic, the moral logic of that. I would hope they would. Obviously, the Premier didn't argue that battle because he has allowed the bill to go in. Obviously, the Minister of Health didn't argue that argument because he brought the bill in himself. The Minister of Finance seemed to be quite happy with it, but there has to be somebody over there with a conscience about the rights of individuals and workers in the Province of Nova Scotia.

The last time we were called back into this House on an emergency debate on a bill was with another Tory bill. Do you remember that one? Billy Joe. The Billy Joe bill. I hope this isn't the way this government plans to run the next two or three years they are going to be in power, that every time they want to do something their way they are going to bring in an emergency sitting of the House. They have done it in the past and they can probably do it in the future.

They keep throwing this red herring out that the emergency rooms are going to close and the world is going to come to an end if this strike happens. There is no question, if there is a strike, it is a big issue. There is no question. But, you know, I have talked to nurses and they have said to me, Don, we have committed, if we are out on the front line, and if somebody comes in as an emergency, we will go and look after the person. We will be there. We are not going to let them go because they care. They care about the patients. They care about Nova Scotians. They care about seniors. They care about women and men and children. They believe in what they do. They have a value system in being a front-line worker. I tell you, that ability, that belief they have, that caring, compassionate belief they have is real and they want to have the rights to be able to go forward and this government has said no. They said no, we are not going to allow it.

So they say we are going to have these closures. Well, we have closures now. In Richmond County, the emergency wing has been shut down now for a number of months. We have closures across the province right now. Beds are closing right now. Beds have been closing for a long time. I had beds close a month ago, long before this was started. That is their plan to manage health care, close beds, shut them down, because if you don't have a bed open it can't cost you money. We are talking about Nova Scotians here. We are talking about people. We are talking about life. We are talking about individual Nova Scotians who care about this province and we should care about them.

So they say our strategy in health care delivery is simple. With $46 million we will fix it. Well, it didn't fix it. They said the only way they can find a way to fix this health care system is close the health care beds, shut the doors, lock it up and whatever space is left,

[Page 4854]

whoever can kind of squeeze in through the door, you are lucky, but if you can't get through the door, tough luck. What a way to run a government.

You know, I want to go back about this nurse recruitment process. Some of the younger members won't remember this because they weren't around. Some of the ones who have been around for a little while will recall the last election or before that, the last sittings of the House. They talked about the need for more nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia. They talked about what are we doing about it? We have to create a better image. We have to go after them more aggressively. We need more nurses. There is a nurses' crisis in North America. There is going to be a nurses' crisis right here in Nova Scotia. We are in it now. Then all of a sudden, now, they brought this bill in.

I am wondering, now, if somebody is out there recruiting nurses to come to Nova Scotia, they are going to say, well, what do you have to offer? Well, we are one of the lowest paid in the country. You are going to work probably 1,957 hours, if I recall correctly, is the average hours of work for a nurse; one of the highest in the country, not the highest but one of the highest. We are going to tell you that you are going to be doing a lot more and there is going to be more stress than in other areas, but it is nice place live. It is a beautiful place to live. It is pristine, the people, Nova Scotians are caring, compassionate people. So, the nurses are, well, maybe, I don't know, and then they come out and say, well, by the way, to make the deal even better we got Bill No. 68. We have Bill No. 68 for all of you who are looking to come to Nova Scotia as a nurse or a health care worker. We have Bill No. 68, that is an inducement for you to come. So they ask, what is Bill No. 68? Well, Bill No. 68 means that, number one, you don't have any rights; number two, we will tell you what you are going to get, when you are going to get it, and how you are going to get it - we, the government. - and number three, we don't really trust you an awful lot, so when you come here we want to make sure we can manage you.

That is the message that we are going to be sending to nurses who are looking at coming to Nova Scotia: this province is not open for nurses. I wonder how many nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia right now, how many are seriously considering going somewhere else because of Bill No. 68? I wonder how many nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia, because of this bill, because of this action of this government, because of this lack of trust and faith in the people in the health care delivery system in Nova Scotia, how many nurses today are seriously looking at moving away?

This is all happening at the same time, June 14, 2001, 4:28 p.m. - Province Bleeding 3,500 nurses per year - it is an article about Ontario; the Province of Ontario. Ontario, now, they are organizing a two-day nurse job fair that starts on Friday, downtown at the Royal York Hotel, where they are going to be trying to wine and dine nurses to go to Ontario. Members of the front bench and members of the government, listen to this. This is what is going on in Ontario right now, today. In Ontario, over the next two days, they are trying to lure nurses to the province. And do you know what they are going to be doing in Ontario?

[Page 4855]

They are going to be talking about what they are going to offer them and then they are going to say, here is Bill No. 68 in Nova Scotia. Beside the fact that we are going to pay you more, you are going to have less hours of work, less stress, here is the other reason why we want you to come, because in Nova Scotia they have Bill No. 68.

Bill No. 68 that was presented in the House of Assembly, an Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia, by the Minister of Health; an Act that takes away the rights of individuals in health care delivery. Nowhere else in society do they have that. So the Ontario ministry is going to be luring and going after nurses in Nova Scotia, and saying we don't have Bill No. 68 in the Province of Ontario. We don't have - that is a Tory province - we don't have Bill No. 68 in Ontario, so for you nurses who are considering, we want you to know that we want you and we respect you and we care about you coming to our province.

The average American nurse's salary is $60,000. Nurses in the U.K. earn an average of $40,000. Recent changes in the pay structure have bumped some of those salaries as high as $70,000. Ontario nurses earn between $36,000 and $50,000. Nova Scotia is substantially lower than those spreads, and I will talk about that a little later on.

They talk about, in Ontario the reason there is such a drain - bleeding of nurses out of the province, 3,500 a year - they are saying in the article that - a Miss Sharkey saying - that they are not leaving because they want to, they are being pushed out. Well, if they feel as though they are being pushed out of Ontario, just think if they had Bill No. 68 driven down their throats, just think if Bill No. 68 was out in Ontario, what would the nurses do in Ontario?

Well, they are going to do it here. I am sure that nurses are very seriously looking at what their options are, what their options are going to be for their future. They are looking at building a career that will last their lifetime. They are looking at where they are going to locate to start the lifestyles that they want to have. So do they want to go to a province that is prepared to bring in legislation that is like a hammer? It is like a sledge hammer right over their heads (Interruption) What? Yes, John Hamm's hammer. That is what it is, John Hamm's hammer.

Nurses have said to me, this is a direct quote from a nurse in my area, this bill will cripple the health care system as we know it today. They ask the question, how are they going to be able to provide some incentives for nurses to come here? There was a poll that was done not too long ago and 72 per cent of Nova Scotians say that they trust nurses. They are one of the highest, if not the highest, in Nova Scotia, 72 per cent of Nova Scotians trust nurses. So what does this government want to do? It wants to go to World War III with the nurses of the Province of Nova Scotia. They want to take out their rights and they want to tell them this is what they are going to give them and this is how they are going to do it. How wrong can you be?

[Page 4856]

As I understand it in my riding, in District 1, and I think they should check it out with a Mr. Merkley, there is no problem with essential services in District 1. The union and the employers and employees have set up a good program. It will work. It is not the best but it can work. Nurses will deal with emergencies. They gave their word. They have indicated they would be there on an emergency basis but it appears that this government does not believe them. It appears they do not trust them. It appears they don't want to believe and trust what they are saying.

Mr. Speaker, I think we are going to be here for a long time on this bill and I understand probably the Government House Leader will probably run some pretty extraordinary hours in this House over the next five, six or seven days and beyond, probably. All week, 24 hours a day, all week long, even on Wednesday. Can you do that on Wednesday?

AN HON. MEMBER: They can't do that on Wednesday. It is Opposition Day. You know that. It can't be done.

MR. DOWNE: See, the Government House Leader just indicated that we will be putting long hours in all week long, whether Wednesday is there or not, that is yet to be debated, but 24 hours a day. I can tell the good member, that is the Government House Leader, and I say that in a respectful way, I don't agree with this bill but I can tell you something, we will be here 24 hours a day and we will be here telling you and bringing to your attention what the public of Nova Scotia and what the nurses of Nova Scotia and the health care workers of Nova Scotia are telling us because you don't want to go out and call and talk to the nurses yourself. We will tell you ourselves what they are saying.

In fact, they are here as I speak. They are going to be here around the clock all week long or as long as it takes and they will be there to tell you, as you walk out, exactly how they feel about Bill No. 68. So you are not going to get away with this legislation at this period of time because I believe this will be with you for a long time to come. I believe this bill will haunt you for a long time because you have said to the nurses and the health workers in Nova Scotia, you don't trust them and we are taking away your rights. As tempting as that might have been to some, it is morally and ethically wrong what you have done. You have brought us back to the turn of the century when it comes to labour law and labour relations and for that I am sure that you will feel it. We call it, the good member, the former Minister of Health, Dr. Smith, this bill is about nothing more than union bashing and shotgun bargaining. There is a clause in business, the shotgun agreement; if you're in business and somebody offers you a partnership, they offer you so much for the business that if you don't want to sell you can buy his share or her share for the same price - shotgun agreement.

[Page 4857]

[5:15 p.m.]

You don't have a that type of an agreement with these workers, you don't even give them that respect to allow them to have the right to stand up and fight for what they believe in or to negotiate in good faith. You have taken that right away. You would never do that in the private sector and get away with it, you would never do that today and make it work. Why is it that you are doing it to nurses and health care workers? Business people, there are not a lot of business people in this room, not a lot of people who ran a business, but the ones who ran a business, if they walked up to their employees and said this is what I am going to do, this is what you are going to do and whether you like it or not that's the way it is, there is no negotiation, there is no discussion, there is no nothing, this is the deal, take it or leave it.

I have employees working with me, they're my partners in a way, I want them happy. They work hard, they work very hard, they're bright, they study, they do a job, they take responsibility seriously. I know that if I'm going to have employees that are going to be there for awhile I am going to have to treat them with respect and I want to treat them with respect because they treat me with respect. That is not what this government is doing with the employees of the Province of Nova Scotia, the nurses and the health care workers. In this bill they can do it to a lot more. In this bill it allows them the ability to do it to whoever they want. They will deem it essential and they can do it to whoever they want. Take away their rights, the rights of the workers, how wrong, how wrong.

We will be here to do our part to fight for the health care professionals and let you know that they have not been abandoned by themselves by this government. The government blinked, they had no idea what was going to turn out, they blinked. They said, we had better come up with something here that is like a big giant stick to totally protect us no matter what. They didn't believe in the process of proper negotiation and bargaining in good faith. They simply decided to do it their way and then they go on; they go on lately and say they want to blame the health care professionals for their own inability to do their job. You know, it must be frustrating for a health care worker to read about Jamie Muir and some of his comments, the Minister of Health's comments.

In fact, I have a letter from a Ms. Gregory who is a RN, she states, I am writing to express my outrage and disgust at the insulting remarks made by the minister. I am appalled that he could suggest that nurses and other health care workers in Nova Scotia would put patients at danger. We are not monsters.

They are not monsters, that is what they are trying to tell you, they have never been monsters. They enjoy, they care about what they do. You can't go along insulting people and expect them to support you; you can't do that but that is what you are doing. She goes on again to say about the fact that these contingency plans would be able to provide for essential

[Page 4858]

services if given a chance. We don't even know if that would be the case if they would even have to go that far.

Another letter I received, actually it is a copy of a letter received to the Caucus Chairman of the Progressive Conservative Party, and they go on to say that this law to remove the right to strike from the health care and nursing staff is unfair and unjust. The words they use are unfair and unjust law. I think that sums it all on how people feel about what this government is doing. (Interruption) Pardon me? Mr. Tapper. Do you know him? Well, I am sure he is a constituent of yours and I am sure that he has let you know how he feels by this letter. I hope you had a chance to talk to him about it and that is why we are saying, I hope you have a chance to talk to him as well as the hundreds and thousands more across this province so that is why we are talking about hoisting this bill for six months, or some period of time, so that you can go out and talk to the people.

It was not that long ago you were knocking on their doors, you know, saying please let me have your vote. Please, let me have a chance to represent you. Please, let us fix the health care system. Please, trust us and let us do the job. Go back to those same doors now, to those health care workers and those nurses and say, well, do you remember just a little while ago, a few months ago, a little over a year ago, two years ago now I guess, and I was knocking on your door and I asked you to trust me, I now have Bill No. 68 and I want to know how you really feel about that because I am here to represent you. I want to know as a nurse, or as a health worker, how do you honestly feel about Bill No. 68?

Do you know what? I bet you if you were to say at the end, now, I hope I have your vote next time, you might not get the answer you received the first time. You might be surprised at the comments you might hear, but that is why you should take the time and go and hear what people have to say. When we get into the Law Amendments Committee here, it is going to be interesting to see if you are going to be there to listen to what people have to say, unless you are going to put closure on that process, shut that down, close the doors off because it is like sticking your head in the sand, I don't want to hear anything, I don't want to see anything, I don't want to hear anything, I don't want to hear any bad comment about Bill No. 68.

I do think if you had time to go back and reflect, some of you might want to change the decision of Cabinet to bring this bill forward. Some of you might want to come back and say we made a mistake. Let's have faith in the people at the table. Let's have faith in the nurses and the health care workers who are there. Let's have faith and let's show faith in the system, the democratic system, a system that talks about rights, freedoms and choices. Let's have faith in what we said we stood for. Why don't we show them what we said is what believe. Why don't we show them what we said is what we are going to do but, no, you decided not to do that, much to your peril. You said no, we didn't really believe it when we told them, I guess, we didn't really mean that. We meant we will fix health care even if it is on the backs and the rights of nurses and health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 4859]

We will, in our view - fix health care in your view, in your estimation - fix it, which some people will question right now on Bill No. 68.

I don't think you are going to fix anything. I think you are going to make it worse and as Miss Lillian Hiem told me today, what you are doing in Bill No. 68 will cripple the health care system in Nova Scotia as we know it today. You will cripple the health care system in Nova Scotia as we know it today. So you have a choice here today and tomorrow, not tomorrow, you can't sit tomorrow, I guess, and Sunday, but Monday at 12:01 a.m., that is one minute after 12 Sunday night, 12:01 a.m. Monday morning, every hour for the next whatever period of time it takes, you will have a chance to reflect on the comments that people are going to give you and you will have a chance to reflect on the bill. You will have a chance to reflect on the comments that people are going to give you and you will have a chance to reflect on the bill. You will realize that maybe Clause 12 in the bill is wrong, maybe Clause 13 is wrong, or maybe there are some other clauses in here that are very wrong, and maybe what we should have done is allowed the process to continue and maybe the outcome would have been that we wouldn't have needed anything. Maybe everybody would have been happy to say we have done our part, but we will never know that now because what you've done is you said we don't care, this is what you are going to take and this is what you are going to get.

It is interesting how Nova Scotia nurses and health care workers rank in regard to salaries and hours of work in the Province of Nova Scotia compared to other areas of this country. In some of the statistics that are there for Nova Scotia, there is a range and I think in the articles in the paper they only talk about the high-end range. They don't talk about what is across the board. In Nova Scotia, in terms of minimum salary, we rank fifth lowest in Canada. In terms of maximum salary in the year 2000, we ranked the second lowest next to Saskatchewan.

I see the member across the way shaking his head. I mean I am hearing people say that what's in the paper from the government spin doctors is not accurate. I am just saying these are the numbers that I have and if you want to question the numbers, I would be happy to share them with you any time you want, but in terms of maximum salary in the year 2000 we ranked the second lowest next to Saskatchewan.

It goes on to the issue of hours of work, 1,956.9 hours. Nurses won't be going to New Brunswick or P.E.I. They will go out West. They might even pick up on this article in the newspaper that came out today where Ontario is going out and having a work fair luring nurses to Ontario because in Ontario 3,500 nurses are leaving every year. So maybe the nurses in Nova Scotia will go there because they don't have as many hours to work, salaries are higher. In fact, in Ontario the low end is $39,975 and the high end is $58,968. (Interruption) The member asked why they are leaving. Because they are being paid more in other areas. Their benefits are better and they don't have to work as many hours, but we in

[Page 4860]

Nova Scotia are worse off than in Ontario and then you bring in Bill No. 68 that actually takes away anything else they had.

AN HON. MEMBER: Why are they leaving Ontario?

MR. DOWNE: They are leaving Ontario because they are not happy with what's happening in Ontario with their income, but they are not happy in Nova Scotia and what did you do? Instead of trying to reason with them, they have taken away their rights of fairness and equality in the Province of Nova Scotia, the right for proper collective bargaining, the right to be treated with respect, that is what you have done. That is what you have done and to some people that's more than money; it becomes then a moral issue, an ethical issue in the Province of Nova Scotia.

This bill is nothing more than a campaign of intimidation and manipulation of the health care workers and the nurses of the Province of Nova Scotia. Health care workers and nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia should stand proud on the fact that they are going to let Nova Scotians know exactly what this government is doing. They should stand proud on the fact of what they've done for the years that they have provided health care in the Province of Nova Scotia. The nurses and the health care workers in this province should be proud and we are all proud of what they have done.

I ask this government to do the honourable thing, which is to reconsider Bill No. 68, reconsider the fact that they want to take away the rights of Nova Scotians. Whether it is constitutionally legal, it is morally wrong and corrupt. It is wrong and what this government should be doing is reconsidering Bill No. 68. We are going to let them know over the next number of days in this House exactly how people feel.

[5:30 p.m.]

This government that has gone to great lengths to disappoint Nova Scotians, primarily because they have no shame, they have barricades around the House, this Legislative Assembly. They will do anything to maintain power and to have control. They have no shame. This government has great difficulty with the notion of justice and truth.

This government has failed to act in good faith with the workers in Nova Scotia - the health care workers, the nurses and the front-line workers. They have failed to negotiate in good faith and they have failed to be honest with all Nova Scotians. This bill ultimately will take away the rights of Nova Scotians.

I only have less than a minute left and I want to say I will be speaking on this again and again, as all of us will be on this side of the House. We believe that what this government has done is so wrong. When they have a chance to go home at night, or while they are in the House to make a phone call, phone a nurse or a health care worker that you

[Page 4861]

know. Ask them what they feel about this bill. Maybe their conscience will get to them. Maybe their conscience will guide them to go back and reconsider this bill.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to say a few words and I now will stop and allow my colleague to continue.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying it is not a good day to stand here and speak to the hoist of Bill No. 68. I do want to acknowledge that my Leader, the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, brought this hoist forward. He brought this hoist forward for a very specific reason - that we have the opportunity to at least review this Bill No.68 for a period of six months so the government will have the opportunity to understand the consequences of this bill. I would say that it is absolutely outrageous and an outrageous abuse of legislative power by the Government House Leader and the Minister of Health to bring in such bills.

This bill goes beyond any democratic right for people to work with the legislation that is presently before them. I am speaking about the collective bargaining Act, the right to collective bargaining, the right to be able to bring about full, collective bargaining in a manner in which the collective bargaining process should take its course.

This government has actually taken control, it has taken control by way of Bill No. 20. We are now seeing the forces of Bill No. 20 coming before this Legislative Assembly. When I stood here in my place and spoke about Bill No. 20, I had those very concerns that Bill No. 20 would, in fact, impact on the direction in which this government was going to go. As I stand here today speaking about the hoist amendment to Bill No. 68, I can certainly see the resemblance as it reflects itself across this floor the way the government is going to go and what direction it is going to take.

There are members of that Conservative Party across this floor who have been proud members of policing services, who have stood up for the basic democratic rights of individuals and made sure that when they apprehended an individual that they were entitled to their democratic rights. There are no rights within this legislation, absolutely no rights whatsoever. Those rights have been thrown out the door; the abuse of legislative power once again, the bunker mentality that stands in this Legislature from time to time, by the government on the opposite side.

I was here in 1999 and I watched the former Liberal Government and I remember those kinds of days. It was those sorts of days back when they introduced legislation. They introduced legislation for anyone who earned an income of $25,000 or more - a 3 per cent wage cut - even though their collective agreements had been ratified and signed off. That is the kind of legislation that was brought in by the former Liberal Government and that is one

[Page 4862]

of the reasons I ran for public office, because it is simply that I firmly believe it is time to stand in this Legislative Chamber and be counted. If we are going to stand here and be accounted, then irrespective of what political Party we represent, then we ought to stand here and be counted for those people who are our constituents, for those individuals who we represent. From time to time I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to do that.

I want to tell you that this Conservative Government came into power under a blue book with 243 promises; 243 promises they made to Nova Scotians in the campaign of 1999. Those 243 promises were in fact what one would consider social promises, so they campaigned on a social agenda and once they got elected they turned around and ran a right- wing agenda in order to satisfy their particular agenda. Again, lies, lies and more lies, have been presented across this province with respect to that kind of information that was put into that bill toward a new direction, a clear course. That is the kind of thing that happens and it consistently happens and it is time that it is changed because if it doesn't change it destroys . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth North knows full well, being a veteran legislator, that the terminology lies, lies, lies is not permitted and I would ask the honourable member to please refrain from that type of language.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much and I am glad that you brought that to my attention and I am glad that you brought me on track. Thank you very much. I will try to refrain from that once again and I am sure that if I don't, the Speaker will bring me to task once again.

Anyway, having said that, I just want to say that this is the kind of thing that destroys the democratic process. This is the kind of campaigning that turns off voters in Canada and in Nova Scotia. That is the reason why less than 70 per cent of Nova Scotians voted in the last provincial election. That is the reason why many people just simply don't believe their politicians or are concerned about their politicians anymore. It is simply because you campaign in one way and you legislate in another way. It is time for that kind of action to stop. If not, I can tell you that we are going to destroy and erode the democratic process.

Mr. Speaker, I don't profess to know much about the nursing profession. I leave that to the nursing profession and their particular expertise. I know that it takes them approximately four years to get a Bachelor of Nursing Degree. I do know that it costs them somewhere between $40,000 to $60,000 after they have completed that degree. They go out there and they look for financial stability, they go out in the workplace to bring in a career in which they have educated themselves for, to offer the best quality health care to Nova Scotians. In the nursing profession, in the health care profession, I must say, that many of those people are professionals. We rely on them when the time comes for them to provide us with the medical attention that we need, or our loved ones. Somehow it seems that we

[Page 4863]

forget that they exist when we don't need them. That is consistent with the attitudes of all of us and it ought not to be.

The reason why I stand here today is not because I don't try to fully understand, because as an individual who had been afflicted with poliomyelitis at one and a half years old, I have spent five years in a hospital. I have relied upon the health profession, I have relied upon the expertise, the skills of those individuals not only to address my concern of the disability, but also to be a guardian and a parent away from home. After all, when you spend five years in a health institution - and that was in fact at the old Children's Hospital on University Avenue here in Halifax - and you are miles away from home, 100-some odd kilometres, 160-some kilometres away from home, you don't get to be home very often. Not only that but because this was, in fact, a very rare disease and there had not been any research done, you were quarantined as well. You were quarantined for a certain period of time, simply because there was no vaccine until Dr. Jonas Salk introduced a vaccine against poliomyelitis.

Mr. Speaker, today, thank God, that is eliminated in Canada, for the most part. There are very few cases in Canada, and certain parts of the world. To rely on a health profession for approximately six years and then to continue to rely upon those people in the professional services who provide health care, who provide specialty services and so on through rehabilitation, hospitals and so on in this province, I have become accustomed to the time of work and the hours that they actually put in. I have become accustomed to appreciating the kind of dedication that they provide to those people who are in need of health care.

It is simply not easy to take for granted. When we stand and we look at the health care profession and particularly the nursing profession, because back then it represented a large portion of the children in children's hospitals who needed care. They were there continuously, the specialists and the doctors may not have been there but you can rest assured a nurse had been there or a health professional had been there 90 per cent of the time or 99 per cent of the time, I should say.

Once again, you understand the value and the importance. For this government to not recognize the value and the importance of health care professionals today, particularly with the advanced technology, the need to keep abreast of those particular issues, the continuous retraining programs that the health care professionals need, to continue to keep up to speed to provide us the best possible health care in this province and in this country.

Then we have a government which such a callous attitude, to think that they can't rely and depend upon the nurses of this province to keep their word. When I say about the nurses and those people in the health profession keeping the word, I just want to say that the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, and I am sure this is a test to the NSGEU, that they have provided us today, June 15th, and it says, "Dear Members of the Legislative Assembly . . ." and every one of us has a copy of this, there is no need for me to read this, but it says, ". . . the essential

[Page 4864]

services agreement . . .". As a matter of fact, it shows that the memorandum of agreement, draft two, revised May 10, 2001, and it outlines the terms of those agreements.

When I look across this Legislative Assembly and I see the District 1, I see the sites of the hospital, the Fishermens Memorial site, the South Shore Regional site, the Queens General site; and I look at District 2, the Roseway Health Hospital, the Yarmouth General, the Digby General; and the District Health Authority Three, and I can go on and on; as you know, there are nine of them.

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to go on and on because each and every one of us has received a copy of this document. Each and every one of us has received a copy of this document. We know that the professionals that the nurses are and the professional people on the technical side who are employed within hospitals make agreements, and they stick to them. For this government to undermine their competency by introducing Bill No. 68 is beyond belief to many Nova Scotians. Every one of those members over there who are backbenchers in the Tory Government ought to be able to stand here and speak on behalf of their constituencies.

There was a member who told me here not so long ago that this is like a football game, it is really only a game you know, you bounce this back and forth across this legislative floor; in a while people will forget about it. That is not true. They don't forget. It is quite evident that people don't forget by how quickly they dispose of governments in power. The Liberal Government was very much aware of that in the last 1999 election. Even a $640 million health care plan could not save them, because they had already alienated as many Nova Scotians as possible, with respect to the direction in which they are going.

[5:45 p.m.]

This Conservative Government now stands at 28 per cent in the polls. It didn't even have a honeymoon with respect to the voters of Nova Scotia, simply because it strayed from its campaign agenda. It strayed from its campaign agenda because it only answers to the bosses, to those people who are downtown, who offer the advice, or down in the bunker with a handful of Cabinet Ministers - and not all Cabinet Ministers - to come up with this decision.

Mr. Speaker, I don't believe for a minute that this was the idea of the Minister of Health alone. The Minister of Health is an honourable man, and I have always felt that he was an honourable man. The Minister of Health is very much aware as an educator that, in fact, he believes in the value of the democratic process, and he believes that it ought to prevail; the democratic process which includes the right to collective bargaining in this province, the very basic right. As my colleague, the honourable member for Lunenburg West, had spoken earlier, just briefly, about the history of the trade union movement.

[Page 4865]

I don't particularly profess to know a great deal about it, although I must say that I am proud to have been actually involved within the trade union movement and to assist in a small way, in my way, to help people organize themselves, knowing full well that that is the only best way they can get at least good wages and at least quality benefits, and to be assured that in the future should they need educational and training programs to enhance and better their jobs for Nova Scotians that, in fact, they would have the opportunity to do that through training programs, much of which is negotiated. That is the reason why there is negotiation, so that it can work back and forth across the table, when you are in the negotiating process.

Mr. Speaker, I only had the opportunity once to be a part of a negotiating team, and that was back in 1982, as a matter of fact, at Dalhousie University. It was an interesting experience for me, because back then the mentality was that you get all you can get and we will give you nothing. That was the kind of basis in which they started a negotiating process. Fortunately, we have moved, intellectually, away from that kind of thinkings and that kind of an attitude when we get to the negotiating table. So many people come with specific issues, specific articles in the collective agreement and specific items which are true and dear to them, and ones which they are willing to put themselves on the line through a strike for.

There was no intent of a strike; there was no talk of a strike. The minister jumped the gun here in this particular issue. The minister hauled out the gun and he said, listen, if you don't do it my way, we will make sure you do it my way simply by introducing legislation. The impact of that kind of legislation works this way, the negotiators now, for the employer, which is the government and the Minister of Health, despite the fact that they might be the Capital District Health Authority and despite the fact that they might be district health authorities, one of nine across this province, the fact is that it lays in the hands of the minister. The fact is also that the minister holds the moneybag. The minister holds the bag in which he is able to dispense those dollars to the health authorities all across this province, in which they can give reasonable wages.

Mr. Speaker, to think that, in fact, nurses don't understand the economic situation of the Province of Nova Scotia is wrong. Many Nova Scotians understand the economic position of the Province of Nova Scotia. We know that the government is taking a direct step and hopefully trying to bring it on course. But many Nova Scotians should be made aware that it was that government, during the Buchanan era and the Donnie Cameron era, that turned around and left this province with an $8 billion debt, which continued to accumulate to this day. It was also a contributing factor by the Liberal Government that tried to say that it was trying to get their house in order in a fiscal way as well. Can't have it both ways, Mr. Speaker.

We turn around and we listen to the government who said that they had $1 million surplus, walk out and now they are the Third Party. We walked in with a government that turned around and said, well, you know there was a $780 million deficit that was left to this

[Page 4866]

province by the Liberals and started counting out reasons as to why it should be causing reduction and providing fee increases. They did this knowing full well, Mr. Speaker, because we were here in 1999 as well, knowing exactly what the budget would be. They did this knowing full well when they went out there on the election doorstep, knowing that in fact they had to address those particular issues of deficit.

Mr. Speaker, not only could they say they did not know, because they were a contributing factor to this deficit and that is the kind of thing that is annoying, the kind of issues that need to be addressed because today we could be providing the professionals and the nurses with adequate salaries so that they will not leave the Province of Nova Scotia. You know that you can turn around and you can simply say that the Province of Nova Scotia is a beautiful place and everyone has the right to live here and everyone wants to live here and they don't want to go, and that is true, but you can't enhance your quality of life nor can you enhance your economic value for your family in future years simply by staying in Nova Scotia. So there is the opportunity for professionals to move and that is one good thing about our education system. Hopefully because we have five to seven universities within the Province of Nova Scotia - we don't expect every single person to stay within this province - we are a contributing factor to the high quality of expertise not only throughout this province but throughout this country and around the world.

I know many people, in fact, from around the world who come back here and many people who are recognized in Canada and Nova Scotia throughout the world because of their expertise. So we ought not be concerned about that. What we ought to be concerned about, Mr. Speaker, is making sure that we provide a quality wage so that those professionals will have the opportunity at least to stay here. To think that the nursing profession, and no one else realizes, once again, the consequences of deficits are wrong. They deal with their household budgets. They deal with budgets and they actually watch the budgetary process from time to time taking place here in this Legislative Assembly. Many of them have access to the budget and they certainly know that over $1 billion is put into health care but they also know that this government made promises during the election campaign and promises that they ought to keep.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to take the opportunity to go through what was called John Hamm's Plan for Nova Scotia Platforms and Policies. I just want to read the first preamble. I don't want to go beyond that but I think that it is important to put this on record, this preamble with respect to health care and this is what John Hamm's platform and policies had said, "During the six years the Liberals were in office, Nova Scotians watched health services steadily decline as costs increased sharply. Doctors left, nurses were let go, the number of hospital beds cut by 30 per cent, the number of ambulances cut, insured services cut and a freeze was put on new long-term care beds. Nova Scotians paid $300 million more for a lot less service as a result of Liberal waste and incompetence. Some examples: Less than four years ago, the Liberals offered a $20 million incentive package for nurses and other health care providers to leave. Today, we need a significant investment to get them back."

[Page 4867]

Now that is Premier Hamm's statement in the first preamble. "Today we need a significant investment to get them back." Mr. Speaker, the cost of living has rose in this province to 3.1 per cent.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Has risen.

MR. PYE: Has risen, excuse me, absolutely, thank you. The Minister of Economic Development is quite correct, has risen by 3.1 per cent, and I thank you for that grammatical correction, Minister of Economic Development, but the Minister of Economic Development should know that, in fact, the government does have the money. There is some $55 million slush fund set aside. That Minister of Economic Development, if he is doing his job, will create the kind of climate for innovative technology. That minister will create the kind of environment for the offshore oil reserves to make generous profits to Nova Scotians. That minister will know that, in fact, his government is turning around and saying that in the year 2003 we are going to give a 10 per cent tax cut. That's how confident that government is of generating revenue in this province, that it can turn around and it is going to give every Nova Scotian a 10 per cent tax cut.

Mr. Speaker, you know that in a most recent Corporate Research poll that was done in March of this year turned around and said that health care was the number one priority by 44 per cent of Nova Scotians and that, in fact, a 10 per cent tax cut was only supported by 9 per cent of Nova Scotians; 9 per cent of Nova Scotians supported a 10 per cent tax cut. The reason why they supported that is because they believe that their tax dollars ought to go to contribute to a quality health care system and they ought to contribute to a quality education system as well.

Mr. Speaker, that is the reason why Nova Scotians have their priorities straight and that, in fact, this government doesn't have its priorities straight. If this government had its priorities straight, it could know full well that - I should say it could, in fact, turn around and give a reasonable package to those nurses who are out there. It can set on that table a reasonable package and a reasonable collective agreement that will cause not only those nurses to stay in Nova Scotia, but will also attract more nurses to this province. That is paramount, that is important, and we have to recognize that that is the kind of action that this government ought to take.

Mr. Speaker, I received a letter from an RN who lives in my constituency. I just want to read the letter as to what she had said and put it on the record. In that letter she says:

"Dear Mr. Pye,

I am writing to voice my concerns regarding the impending strike by nurses and other health care professionals in our province. We are not taking this action because we are greedy and care only for the almighty dollar. We

[Page 4868]

are going this route because we have not had a decent increase since the 1980s. We have dealt with two rollbacks and a wage freeze in the past dozen years. The cost of living has increased but our paycheques have not.

We are constantly being asked to do more with less. The nursing workforce is aging - a large proportion of us are middle aged. What is going to happen to health care in this province when we retire? Who is going to replace us? There is no magic garden growing new nurses to take our places and there is certainly no incentive for the few new nurses who are graduating to stay in this province. It is ridiculous to expect them to stay where they cannot find anything but casual employment. It's difficult to pay off thousands of dollars in student loans when you don't have a guaranteed income, not to mention rent, food and transportation.

I truly feel that a government that can find millions of dollars for big business . . . can find a way to increase our salaries to a more competitive level . . . As much as I would hate to leave this province, I don't feel I can stay here with the present working conditions and level of pay. Unfortunately, many other nurses are voicing the same thoughts. I urge you to consider the fact that, unless our concerns are heard and taken seriously, the nursing shortage in N.S. may worsen."

Mr. Speaker, I will say to you that legislating nurses back to work does not make a climate for nurses to continue to seek employment in Nova Scotia. I think it is important for all those members opposite in this Legislature, members of that Tory Government, to speak on behalf of the nurses and the professionals in the health care service in their constituencies. I think it is ultimately important for them not to hang their head, but it is important for them to speak on behalf of these individuals.

[6:00 p.m.]

We have a former member of the NSGEU over there, a retired member, the member for Pictou West as a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, who chose not to say one single word, who chose to say nothing, who has been a former member, now a retired member enjoying the benefits of retirement, and walks away without saying a single word. That is the kind of thing that happens here in this House. Individuals should have the basic right to stand up and speak.

We have the member for Kings North who has actually been in South America. Forgive me for not knowing the specific site, but understands the need for a professional health care service. (Interruption) Colombia as a matter of fact, he spent some time in Colombia, who understands the need of that and Bogota happens to be the capital of Colombia. Thank you very much, Mr. Minister, I certainly know that.

[Page 4869]

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, they understand the importance of needing a professional health care service in this country and they certainly don't want us to move backwards 100 years. Surely, that is not the direction in which this government wants us to go because I can tell you that many Nova Scotians certainly will give this government its marching orders if, in fact, they think that they can move backward 100 years.

We have the Minister of Education who represents Halifax Citadel and Halifax Citadel, in fact, Mr. Speaker, has at least, I am sure, three of the major hospitals within this metropolitan area. I am sure the Minister of Education fully understands the kind of expertise that is offered to us by our health care professionals. If there is anyone who has actually talked to more health care professionals than the Minister of Health himself, it has probably been the Minister of Education.

Mr. Speaker, I remember the member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley standing up here and speaking on behalf of seniors and seniors' licences. That individual member has been mute since that individual member has become a member of this Tory Party across the floor. That member does not speak on any particular bill at all any more. That member used to speak out continuously when that member was across this side of the floor. I am sure that the Colchester Regional Hospital at least tends to some of the citizens in his area and some of the patients from that member's area must be there. Surely, that member knows individuals who, in fact, might be nurses at the Colchester Regional Hospital. Surely that member knows that.

Then there is the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury who, in fact, knows about the Strait-Richmond Hospital and the particular concerns. The member for Inverness has spoken continuously in this Legislative Assembly about the need for doctors and the need for professionals in the Strait-Richmond Hospital. I don't know, as I stand in this Legislative Assembly, and maybe it is because I am new and I am naive, but I really don't know why members of that Opposition, or members of that Party I should say, do not stand up and speak on behalf of their constituencies, do not stand up and speak on behalf of the professionals in the health care service and their constituencies.

Mr. Speaker, it puzzles me when they have the opportunity to speak here, that they do not speak. They can turn around and they can certainly say, well, we will have our say at the Law Amendments Committee. They say very little at the Law Amendments Committee. I served my time over there at the Law Amendments Committee and I have watched the government's five members at the Law Amendments Committee and their actions. They don't say anything and they leave it up to the Opposition Parties to bring all the issues forward and even when the Opposition Parties have provided the government with good amendments to legislation, the government was very reluctant to take all of it and rarely took some of it. So it is hard to tell Nova Scotians that in fact you have tried your best, when you are in this Legislative Assembly, to get that message across.

[Page 4870]

I just want to say, Mr. Speaker, the power that has been imposed by Bill No. 68, the power for this government to circumvent existing legislation that has been on the books and has been amended for over 100 years and amended from time to time in this Province of Nova Scotia, the right to free collective bargaining in the Collective Bargaining Act, and there is within that Collective Bargaining Act the process which people go through. They go through the process of negotiations, and when negotiations break down they bring in a mediator. When that process of negotiations breaks down, there is always a form of conciliation that takes place, and when that process breaks down the government can impose binding arbitration.

Mr. Speaker, the reason why the government is not even considering imposing binding arbitration is because they believe - and this is all about money, every single bit of it is about money, the Minister of Finance, the Government House Leader, the Minister of Health, they all know that this is about money and that is the reason why they fear binding arbitration - is because they believe that the arbitrator might come up and make sure that the health care workers and the health care industry, particularly the nurses, deserve more and that they deserve more, because of the long hours that they put in, the overtime that they put in, the loss of vacation time, the accumulated hours that they may never get a chance to expend, all that is taken into consideration by binding arbitration and the arbitrator assigned, and it certainly is not an easy task, but that government over there knows that through this process it stands to lose.

That is why it decided to circumvent the collective bargaining process in this province. That is why it decided to take the hammer, and that is why it decided to do the kind of things it is doing. Simply because, Mr. Speaker, they are able to do it and get away with it because they have the numbers; they have the majority in this House. You can stand here, and I have stood in this Legislative Assembly and I have stood here and I have spoken on bills, I have spoken on six months' hoists on bills in order to get the government's attention so that they can go out and see Nova Scotians. We have recommended amendments to bills, all that, and the government pays very little attention. It is as though you are talking to the walls in this Legislative Assembly when you get up here to speak because they have a one-track mind and a set agenda to do the kind of thing that they think is right.

Well, Mr. Speaker, they never got elected on a mandate of doing what they think is right, because if they were they probably wouldn't be government today. Many Nova Scotians are taking a picture of the political Party that they elected. They are taking a very good picture of each and every one of those members that they have elected, and watching the kind of legislation that comes through this House and, if you can't see that picture, I can only tell you that it was reflected in the most recent poll that you didn't have a honeymoon, you are still at 28 per cent of the polls in the Province of Nova Scotia, you are going into your third-year mandate in July and you still haven't gained the confidence of Nova Scotians because you have done quite the opposite of what you told Nova Scotians you would do.

[Page 4871]

When I look at the Hamm blue book towards a new direction, Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course, and you know, Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I came without that book; I usually come here and I have that book with me. I have had to get some photocopies of some pages today in order to give myself some sense of direction of if I was really believing that Bill No. 68 was actually before this Legislature because when I read the health section of their platform, and I just recently read the preamble of it - I couldn't believe that Bill No. 68 was before me. Then again, I most recently saw the kind of legislation that has been introduced, like the welfare reform bill, go through, where the government just rip shod it through and then brought in the regulations after the bill and not the regulations with the bill, so that people would know and they wouldn't understand.

Then we saw Bill No. 20, and Bill No. 20 allowed the government to turn around and grab this ultimate power of allowing a few members of the Cabinet - not all members of the Cabinet but a few members of the Cabinet - to make decisions for all Nova Scotians with the boys downtown. The boys downtown give them the direction, and members of their former political government of the John Buchanan era, and probably even Senator John Buchanan is whistling some messages down here across the winds, the prevailing winds that come from Ontario from time to time down here through to Nova Scotia. Particularly on this very hot day there are probably some heat inversions that are driving it a little faster than what it normally would in coming down through here.

That is the kind of mentality, attitude and kind of thing that turns off Nova Scotians with respect to their politicians. Mr. Speaker, it is that attitude and that kind of thing that has to change.

I just want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that when you look at the 10 per cent tax cut, many people may not realize this but the government doesn't have a balanced budget and in year three they still are committed to this 10 per cent tax cut, and even if it does have a balanced budget it means that that is less revenue going through the government's coffers and there is a reduction in services and programs that are offered by government.

That is why, when I come back to that percentage of Nova Scotians, the 9 per cent of Nova Scotians who said they were not interested in a 10 per cent tax cut, that they wanted the single most important issue of health care addressed, and they wanted the next most important issue of education addressed, Mr. Speaker. That is the reason why we need this six months hoist.

Mr. Speaker, we can go out to Nova Scotians and we can talk to that aging population who, in fact, are in need of health care, who are in need of home care services and so on, who will tell this Minister of Health just exactly what his agenda ought to be and why it is important to keep nurses here in Nova Scotia and not to send them abroad.

[Page 4872]

Mr. Speaker, there are no assurances or guarantees that we can ever keep all the nurses but what we can do is we can make sure that they have a reasonable salary and benefits that will allow them to stay here in Nova Scotia and not move elsewhere. We can't compete with the Albertas and the United States, and we can't compete internationally on those kinds of bases, but what we can do is we certainly can offer the quality benefits and the reasonable salaries, that those individuals will be encouraged to stay in Nova Scotia.

Once again, Mr. Speaker, I have never been repetitive, or tried not to be repetitive on these particular issues but I want to repeat one point, that the nurses are not out to bankrupt Nova Scotia. They understand the economic conditions of Nova Scotia. They understand and they know how difficult it is for Nova Scotians to pay their tax dollars, particularly when they know that the Voluntary Planning report says that 55 per cent of Nova Scotians earn less than $20,000 a year. They know that. They also know that they need to be compensated for their professional career, the years that they have spent in university, some four years, getting a Bachelor of Nursing degree. That comes with a cost. They understand that and they know that.

When they sat at the negotiating table, since the 1980's, and watched their spending power, their economic wealth diminish and continue to be eroded, then they have to question why they ought to continue to stay here. It might be the most beautiful province in the world but you can't stay if you are not respected, you can't stay if you don't get the right kind of benefits that will encourage you to stay. This is not only about dollars and cents; this is about quality time that takes away from stress; this is about hiring more nurses and making sure that nurses are in there to do the kind of job so that nurses will have that respite time, in order to function even more so when they go back, and offer an even better quality of service because of the number of hours they place in those hospital institutions, giving care to our loved ones. Mr. Speaker, that is the kind of thing we have to recognize.

[6:15 p.m.]

For that government over there to stand and erode the democratic process on one of the most respected professions in this province, which is nursing, is absolutely horrible. I can just say it is, once again, the most outrageous abuse of legislative power that I have ever seen in my time and maybe that is because I have only been here since 1998, but I intend to be here a little while longer and I intend to tell you that, in fact, that is why we are here on this particular side of the Legislature, that is why we are the Official Opposition. We listen to Nova Scotians and we carry the voice of Nova Scotians in this Legislature, despite the uncaring attitude of the government across this floor.

There has to be someone who makes government accountable. Hopefully, there will be a line-up at the Committee on Law Amendments when those professional nurses and the people from the health profession come forward and speak about the draconian measures this government has taken by introducing Bill No. 68. Hopefully, they will line up and hopefully,

[Page 4873]

the chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, who might happen to be the Minister of Justice, will not cut them off and allow them the opportunity to speak about the important values of their profession that is offered to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, we can sit here continuously and we can talk until we are blue in the face, but if government is unreceptive and unwilling to move and unwilling to budge, then there is very little we can do as an Opposition. I want to tell you how callous the attitude is of the Government House Leader. His attitude is so callous that he turns around and says, we are going to be here 24 hours a day, every single day of the week; that is a callous attitude. It is not so that people can come here to watch the debate of Bill No. 68, but because it satisfies a government agenda, the minister's agenda, and the Government House Leader's agenda. It satisfies their agenda, that they are going to turn around and they are going to do a complete circle as the day goes by, around the clock, so as to say, this is a process of wearing the Opposition down, wearing down those people who are speaking on behalf of Nova Scotians.

Because that minister and that government will not allow its Opposition members to speak it is a process of trying to deny other people the opportunity to have a refreshed period of time, so they can come back and collect their thoughts and speak articulately across the floor on this bill. That is the process being carried out by government. That is the kind of callous attitude, with respect to bills that come through this Legislature. That is the kind of Government House Leader and the kind of minister that we have that would do that for 24 hours around the clock.

That minister has been here for a long time and I know what he is thinking. He is thinking that two years later Nova Scotians won't even think about that bill, Nova Scotians won't even think about what we tried to do, that is what he is thinking, it will all be forgotten. That is the kind of attitude that carries that type of mentality year in and year out, day in and day out through government because they think people will continue to forget and people will not care. Mr. Speaker, people are thinking. People are caring and people do understand the legislative process more so than ever before. I think in all fairness, we can attribute that to the Tory Government who, in fact, brought in budgets that were absolutely frightening to education and to health in 1999 and then had to backtrack by finding this surplus of money and shoving it in and then introducing bills in which people came to this Legislative Assembly bringing forward their opposition, even to the point where the Speaker of the House was going to, in fact, lock all the doors, cage the place, as a matter of fact, and you weren't going to be able to get in unless you came through a monitor because forbid that you might have some kind of a weapon that would wipe out a government. I don't think that we live in that kind of an era in Nova Scotia yet but you might say the climate is changing or hostility is taking place and hostility is taking place because of government's agendas.

Now the government might think that it can act on an agenda like the Mike Harris Government in Ontario but I want to remind the government that it does not have the

[Page 4874]

population base to get away with such attitudes with respect to introducing such legislation and such budgets. It is a clear message that is coming, Mr. Speaker, from Nova Scotians on this issue and the message is to get back to what you promised us in the 1999 election campaign. Get back to that blue book of 243 promises and get back and live up to your commitments.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that when the government decided to take out ads to stir up public opinion against one of the most highly respected professions in Nova Scotia, they knew that Nova Scotians would not buy this but they decided to spend taxpayers' dollars anyway. I don't profess to know how much those ads cost. I don't profess to know at all but I do know that, in fact, it was money wasted because it was premature. It is premature advertising based on the premise that people are going to walk out when in fact they didn't go through a negotiating process. That is the reason why this government spent that money. Bill No. 68, An Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to think, with the number of years that I relied upon the health care profession and the nurses, that in fact I have a great deal of confidence that they will uphold their part of the bargain, that they will make sure that there is a continuation of a level of health care in this province even during a strike and don't ever think that there won't be some disruption with the strike because, after all, strikes are designed to cause a bit of disruption because if they weren't designed to cause a bit of disruption, then what would be the purpose of them? People are out there demanding and they have a right to take away their services and to get a dollar value for their services and that is part of this whole process.

That is part of the collective bargaining process again but through all that process, not one of us here in this House can say that they chose not to provide a continuation of health care services or a continuation of basic health care services to all Nova Scotians. The Minister of Health can't stand up here and say that. I am sure the Minister of Health would not stand up here and tell us that nurses told him that if there is a strike tomorrow that they are going to totally disrupt the health care system in Nova Scotia because that is not true. They are professional people and when you have professional people, they will live up to their commitment of the bargain and the bargain is right here. Mr. Speaker, that is one part of the essential services agreement, which I have seen, and I do know that it is for the entire Province of Nova Scotia.

When I stand here and I see many of the members opposite in that Tory Government who know and can speak about this issue and articulate this issue across the legislative floor and they continue to be mute on this particular issue, then I know why I am here; I know why my Party is here, it is because someone has to stand here and speak on behalf of Nova Scotians out there who need and who want to be respected because of the profession they offer Nova Scotians.

[Page 4875]

Mr. Speaker, once again, I will tell you that it's one of the most difficult things to do, to stand in a Legislature in a province where a government wields so much power that it can turn around and it can bring forward a bill that not only circumvents the collective bargaining process but also says there is no court in the land, that you can turn around and challenge this legislation because we have made it within this bill that it does not go to any court.

Can you imagine? Living in a country - what kind of a country would that be? Is that Nova Scotia that I am talking about, that a government wants to introduce legislation, Bill No. 68? Is that Nova Scotia that says nobody can take the government to court?

Mr. Speaker, I am going to tell you, things are certainly eroding in this province when a government can wield so much power that it even tells the courts of the land that nobody has a right to challenge this legislation in court. I have stood a long time in my day and I am telling you . . .

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: So much for accountability.

MR. PYE: Yes, thank you. The member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, our Leader, has stated, so much for accountability. That was all that campaign was about. We heard about this government being open, accountable, transparent. We heard about all those nice descriptive adjectives about what we are going to do when we are in government; we are going to address those particular needs. We have heard about them. But this government to this very day has not been open, it has not been accountable and it chooses not to be.

Mr. Speaker, it was not open and accountable on Bill No. 62; it was not open and accountable on Bill No. 20; and it is not open and accountable and transparent on Bill No. 68. As a matter of fact it was going to ramrod the ambulance workers, legislate the paramedics back to work in this province. It was the Opposition who stood in this very House until the wee hours of the morning forcing this government to live up to its commitment to health care in Nova Scotia and to provide those ambulance attendants with the kinds of wages and salaries that they rightfully deserve and the hours in which they could be employed.

Mr. Speaker, I will tell you, government ought to take a good long look in the mirror at itself. Particularly, I can say to the Minister of Justice, who knows full well the rights of legislation and what kind of negative impact legislation can have on people in this province. As I said earlier, one of the very good reasons I ran for the Legislative Assembly was because I believed the government of that day turned around and circumvented the collective bargaining process and decided to do what it chose to do best, by imposing a 3 per cent wage cut on individuals earning $25,000 more.

That was the Third Party Government which, in fact, was a John Savage Liberal Government and that is why they are not here today. I think that Nova Scotians told them in

[Page 4876]

no uncertain terms how quickly they were going to go. That same message to each and every one of those constituencies - 31 constituencies over there who represent their members in this Legislative Assembly will stand the test of time. They will know, because one day, despite how powerful Bill No. 20 might be, at least we have federal election jurisdictions that causes this province to have an election within a five year period. So, they can't go beyond a five year period despite whatever legislation they try to introduce. The mandate is no more than five years.

[6:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, sooner or later, they are out there and they have to be accountable to Nova Scotians. When Nova Scotians ask them, where was your accountability? They will be asking the nurses for the votes. They will be asking the doctors. They will be asking the technicians and all those health care support services that deliver health care in this province. They will be asking all those individuals.

Mr. Speaker, they can't escape and with an aging population, whom the Tory Government relied on as their constituent voters, it will diminish like a flash. It will just erode like that simply because that is the population who needs the greatest level of health care in this province and they are the ones who the nursing profession, for the most part, are providing health care services to in Nova Scotia here to this very day. We have seen a gradual erosion of the health care services under the former Liberal Government and we are now seeing a continuation of the erosion of health care services by the Tory Government in power today.

Mr. Speaker, I just want you to know that we over here know full well that we don't have an open money bag either, but we do know that it is a matter of distribution of the dollars and cents and to appropriate those dollars and cents into the right levels of service that Nova Scotians are asking for, and that is 44 per cent of Nova Scotians who are asking for an improved health care service in this province and that was a result of the polls on March 31, 2001. So I thank you very much for having the opportunity to speak and I will be looking forward to speaking again.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to be able to say that it is a pleasure for me to rise today to address Bill No. 68, but it's not a pleasure. I am going to talk about exactly what I think is wrong with the bill and why the six months' hoist is a good idea. I may say that the Leader of the Opposition, with his usual thoughtfulness and one might even say, wisdom, has proposed that this bill be considered six months from now because there is a great deal that the gang on that side could use six months for in order to consider what it is doing here. So I certainly hope that they are listening and they are paying attention.

[Page 4877]

If they don't pay attention to us on this side of the House, I certainly hope they are talking to their constituents because I am not sure if they realize it, but we are talking to their constituents and their constituents are talking to us. Let me tell you one thing, their constituents are not happy. As I said last night, Mr. Speaker, this would have been very shortly after midnight when this 24 hour marathon started, the fact is that the nurses of Nova Scotia, the health care workers of Nova Scotia that are affected by this legislation, they are us. My sister is a nurse. The people affected by this bill are our families. They are our friends. They are our neighbours. The people affected by this bill are us and they are us, as well. They are in your families. They are your friends, they are your neighbours, and they are not happy.

Unlike most members of this House, I had the privilege, very recently, of talking to literally thousands of my constituents as I contested the by-election in Halifax Fairview, which came to a vote on March 6th. So I have been in this House for only a little over three months, but I like to think that I am close enough to that contact with my constituents that I haven't lost touch with them yet, not like the crowd on that side. It is quite amazing that it has taken less than two years for them to lose touch.

I have spoken before, Mr. Speaker, about what it is that I learned on the campaign trail and if anybody on that side wants to check Hansard for the first speech I gave in this House, not long after I started, they will see that one of the things I spoke about is the fact that there was one occupational group that was unanimous in their anger, in their hurt about the way their government was treating them and that occupational group was nurses.

I was struck by the fact, as I was going door to door in Halifax Fairview only a few months ago, that every single nurse that I spoke to was angry. They were angry. It wasn't just that they were passing the time of day with me or that they wanted to just shoot the breeze with me, they were angry with this government. They were angry about their working conditions. In case anybody on that side is under any illusion, it is not because of something that happened the week before or the month before or the year before, this anger is the result of 10 years of having their wages frozen and rolled back. It is 10 years of not having their working conditions dealt with and over the course of time I talk in this hour and another time that I am sure I will have to speak to this bill, I want to talk about some of the nurses' stories, about some of the working conditions they have to put up with.

Their anger is a result of 10 years of disrespect and I hope there is no one on that side of the House who is underestimating the depth of their anger and the firmness of their commitment in doing what they have to do. Bill No. 68 has only added to their anger because it is called, Mr. Speaker, An Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia, but what it really is, the principle of the bill, is an Act to continue a decade of disrespect for nurses.

I am going to talk a little bit about how exactly it does that, Mr. Speaker, and I am going to start by saying that the reason I am here, and I said this before and I will say it again, the reason I am here is to speak the truth. That is why I was elected. Any illusion I ever had

[Page 4878]

that this House was the home of debate has been shattered. It may be that one day when I was young and naive, I had the idea that in a Legislature, what goes on is something called debate - a little bit of back and forth where ideas are put forward and then they are tested by the other side. They are criticized in a constructive way by the other side and, at the end of the process, what you have are the best possible ideas.

I have spoken before, Mr. Speaker, about the fact that these two enormous portraits looming over the members of this House don't necessarily represent eminence of achievement of Nova Scotians because what they represent is debate, back and forth discussion. Although Joseph Howe is one of the most famous Nova Scotians who ever lived over on that side of the House, the great dissenter, the great reformer, the members on that side of the House could learn a little bit from Joseph Howe. The portrait on this side of the House, the Honourable James William Johnston was never particularly distinguished. He did serve as Premier, but he was never very distinguished. But what he represents is the debate over responsible government, over how the Executive has to be responsible to this House, to this Legislature, because what he is most famous for is opposing Joseph Howe. But he lost and he will go down in history as a loser, the Honourable James William Johnston, but his portrait is here looming over us all because together with Joseph Howe, they represent the spirit of debate.

Once again, Mr. Speaker, here I find myself, the new member of the House, facing a government that slaps a bill down on the table - and what a bill it is - and the Minister of Health manages one single sentence. He moves second reading of the bill and that is all that the minister is prepared to say. The members on that side of the House sit on their hands and wait and wait. They know under the Rules of the House that were brought in by the Liberals - something they now have to live with - there are strict time limits on every stage of debate, except for the Committee on Law Amendments. I sure hope the members on that side of the House sit in the Law Amendments Committee and listen to the stories of the nurses.

The most important thing that could come out of this sitting of the Legislature is that the members on that side will have to face the nurses, they will have to face them in the gallery; they will have to face them in the hallway; they are going to have to face them in their constituency offices; they are going to have to face them in the streets; they are going to have to face them in the Law Amendments Committee; and they are going to have to listen to their stories; they are going to have to listen to what they have to say.

Members on that side of the House know that there are strict time limits on debate and there is only so long the Opposition can speak for, even though any member on that side of the House is at perfect liberty at any time to stand up and speak and tell their constituents what they think about this bill. I am not expecting that they will but if they do, if any of them feels that way, I want to give them the opportunity. Gazing into my crystal ball, Mr. Speaker, I foresee that I am going to be speaking on this bill again later tonight. I feel so strongly about this bill that one hour isn't enough for me, I want two. I want two hours and I want

[Page 4879]

them today, but I will yield the floor tonight to any member on that side of the House who tells me after I am finished here, after the vote on the hoist amendment, I will yield my spot in the rotation to any member on that side of the House who lets me know that they want to speak. The opportunity is there to have some real debate because there is plenty to talk about.

Now I want to talk about some of the things that the members on that side of the House might feel the urge to speak about. I am going to talk about truth, first of all. The government is not telling the truth about emergency services. As if Bill No. 68 wasn't bad enough, the Minister of Health has insulted every single member of these bargaining units, by suggesting that they cannot be relied on to keep their word about maintaining essential services and that is shameful. Every single person I have spoken to in this House that is in one of those bargaining units is outraged at that statement by the minister. Without it, the minister has no excuse at all for us being here, he needed a reason and he manufactured one.

There is a word I know that I can't use, Mr. Speaker, and I won't use it, but where I grew up when you knew the truth and then knowing the truth you said something different from the truth, that was called a certain thing, which I know I am not allowed to say. The most amazing thing, well not the most amazing - there are plenty of amazing things in this House, but one of the most amazing things in this House is that the minister can stand in this House and do that thing and that is okay, it is parliamentary for him to do that thing that I just talked about but for me to stand here and actually say out loud that he just did that thing, that is unparliamentary. It is unparliamentary for me to actually say what it is that the minister just did.

[6:45 p.m.]

The fact is and why we need six months to examine this bill, is that the truth is that an agreement is virtually concluded on all essential service; that is the truth. Yes, there are a couple of details to work out but anyone involved in the process says there are a few minor details. The two unions involved here and the government have been working very hard to come up with that essential services agreement, and they are almost finished, they are just about there. In order to deal with any remaining questions, there has been agreement on what I will call the 24 hour arbitration clause, and that is, if there is anything yet left un-negotiated, both sides agree to submit it to an arbitrator and the arbitrator will render a decision within 24 hours, if that is the truth about emergency services.

Yet the ostensible reason for us being here, what the Minister of Health has said and what has been written in government news releases, is that this government doesn't feel they can rely on the nurses and the other health care workers to keep their word. That is shameful. That is also a little shocking coming out of the folks on that side of the House who made 260 election promises, and despite what the Premier likes to say is on the road to meeting approximately 20 per cent of them. I know the Premier likes to use a higher number, but the

[Page 4880]

truth is that for every five promises the folks on that side of the House made, they have broken, or are in the process of breaking four of them.

Mr. Speaker, a 20 per cent batting average might keep somebody in the major league baseball rotation, but it is not very good if it is about keeping promises. Then the folks on that side of the House, in particular the Minister of Health, have the audacity to question the commitment and the willingness, to keep their promises, of the dedicated health professionals who keep our health service going. It seems to me that that subject alone would leave us plenty to talk about over the next six months. It would leave any member on that side of the House plenty to talk about in the time that I am willing to give up this evening to let them speak. I know that their masters in the Cabinet, their masters in the Premier's office don't want them to speak. They have laid down the law and said, you shall not speak on this bill.

I am giving you the opportunity. Here is a free opportunity, I will give up my spot in the rotation tonight for any member on that side of the House who lets me know, after the vote tonight, that they want to speak. The idea that a government would put on the table a piece of legislation like this and then cross their arms and watch the clock and just wait for the clock to run out, it is shameful. There is no other word for it, it is shameful.

Let me talk about something else that is true. Something else that is true is that this government is going much further than it has to. There are plenty of alternatives that it has available to it, but instead in Bill No. 68 they have used the most draconian measure that they could possibly find. I am sure, like many of the backbenchers on that side, I have done the research, I have gone across the country looking to see what other governments have done in back-to-work legislation. I will say that I found only one example that comes anywhere close to doing what this government is doing, and that, of course, is the Conservative Government in our neighbouring Province of New Brunswick that earlier this year did much the same thing in much the same kind of language.

The word "draconian" is a word that is getting thrown around a lot these days, not just by me, but by the nurses and by the other health care workers; I have certainly seen in the newspaper. Plenty of organizations and I am not just talking trade unions that have come out today condemning this bill, many of them are using the word draconian. The word draconian goes back to a Greek legislator, I don't know if he had a Legislature or if he engaged in debate, but at any rate he was a lawmaker and a law codifier - Draco was his name, hence the word draconian. What Draco did, and unfortunately what he will go down in history for, is his law code in which he imposed the death penalty for very small crimes. Draco has gone down in history and he lived in the 7th Century B.C., so 2,800 years later we are still talking about him.

People still talk about Draco, just because he did what the gang on the other side of this House are doing, that is going much further than they have to. There are alternatives. My

[Page 4881]

colleague, the member for Halifax Chebucto, talked about commissions of inquiry, industrial inquiries. There is a long and honourable history in this province of industrial inquiries. Maybe the gang on that side of the House are lacking in a little bit of industrial history in this province. This is not the worst climate of labour relations this province has ever had, far from it. In the late 1960's and early 1970's, 1968, 1969, 1970, this province was in crisis because of long-lasting and very widespread strikes. It was resolved ultimately, among other things, by commissions of inquiry, industrial inquiry commissions.

That is exactly what a six months' hoist would allow. It would allow us to remember our history, to remember where labour relations have come from in this province, and appoint a commission of inquiry. It doesn't need to take any longer than six months. My colleague, the member for Halifax Chebucto, has talked about that. I don't need to talk about that anymore.

Mr. Speaker, not to suggest that I am in any way in favour of the legislation the government has brought forward but even the gang on that side of the House has done this before, and they didn't do it this way, with the paramedics. We had back-to-work legislation for the paramedics. Thank goodness it didn't go through in time, and a settlement was reached partly because they were still able to strike, which is just about the most essential part of collective bargaining that there is, the right to strike.

Even this gang, who have never demonstrated themselves to be particularly favourable to unions or the trade union movement, even that gang, when they were legislating the paramedics back to work, or may I say more precisely trying and failing to legislate the paramedics back to work, they at least used the mechanism of binding arbitration. Back-to-work legislation is never a palatable option, but if you are going to do back-to-work legislation, binding arbitration is one way to go, because at least you have an independent third party. At least you have someone not connected to either side in the dispute casting their eye over the proposals, making suggestions, bringing the sides together, in fact, much the way that Bruce Outhouse managed to bring the two sides together in a tentative deal for the health care workers bargaining unit.

Mr. Speaker, there is no guarantee that that deal will be ratified, but it was amazing, it was incredible how quickly Mr. Outhouse was able to bring the sides together and reach a tentative agreement. That is what happens when you let the collective bargaining process work. There is another alternative. Of course, the third alternative was not to bring forward back-to-work legislation at all. But that takes courage, and it takes a thing, another "l" word, that I am allowed to say in this Legislature - the other "l" word I can't say - but what it would take for this government to back off, to withdraw this legislation is another "l" word that I am allowed to say and that is leadership.

That word is a big word, it is right on the front of the Conservative campaign platform from 1999. I have always said that that platform was really just the result of polling.

[Page 4882]

Their polling said that was what they had to promise. Their polling said that what the people of Nova Scotia wanted was strong leadership and a government with a clear course. That is what their polling told them, and in a cynical, electoral ploy those are the words they put on the front of their platform. But they clearly didn't mean it, because they have been backing away from those words ever since, from those promises.

To let the collective bargaining process work, to let it really work, to let the workers keep their right to strike because that is after all the lifeblood of the collective bargaining process, that is what keeps the body breathing, the right to strike. The opposite side of the coin, on the employer's side, the right to lock out. That is the breath that keeps the body going, of collective bargaining. To let it go, to withdraw this bill from this House, to let collective bargaining go ahead, that takes leadership. That is something that has been in very short supply from that side of the House ever since they were elected.

Mr. Speaker, the government has options, they have alternatives, and instead they have chosen the most draconian measure they possibly could, taking away the right to strike, imposing a collective agreement by Order of the Cabinet, and then taking away any right of recourse to the courts. How much more draconian could one be? I can't imagine. I can't even think of how they could be more draconian if they wanted to be. I can't even think of it. Those are the three essential elements of this legislation. They have alternatives, and that is the truth.

Mr. Speaker, the third thing that I want to tell the truth about, because the government seems so unwilling to do it, is about wages, and about what they are saying in their ads about wages. I had the pleasure and the privilege earlier this afternoon of speaking to three nurses, who took their time, Heavens knows they work hard enough as it is, and they have families, as I said at the beginning they all have families, but they have taken time away on the hottest summer day of the year. I am sure the members on this side of the House will not find it hard to believe that today set a new temperature record for this day. The previous high for this day was 32 degrees, and when I was home earlier this afternoon it was 36 degrees, a new temperature. I am sure that it is just a little bit hotter than that in this Chamber.

But, on the hottest day of the year, the hottest June 15th in Nova Scotia's history, Nova Scotia's recorded history, these nurses came down because they want to look in the eyes of the members of that side, and I had the privilege of talking to them. I want to recognize - I am not sure if they are in the gallery, I can't quite see up there - I think they are still up there so I would like to, if I may, treat this as an introduction, before I go on to talk about what they in fact told me.

I had the privilege of talking to Carolin Read, who works in the QE II in neurosurgery, a highly-specialized branch of nursing. Carolin has been a nurse for 15 years. I had the privilege of talking to Carol Allen, who also works at the QE II, and she is a nurse

[Page 4883]

in cardiology, another highly-specialized area. Carol, believe it or not, has devoted her life to public service in this province, to the health care system for 32 years. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, that certainly deserves applause. And there was one more person I spoke to, Donna Langille, who works at Seven Lane, at the Abbie J. Lane. Donna has been a nurse for 16 years. If they are in the gallery, and just from my vantage point here I can't quite see them, I would like to ask them to rise and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, there they are, all three of them in the east gallery on the hottest day of the year, because they wanted to let me know and they wanted me to tell the gang on that side of the House a few facts, a few facts that have been in scarce supply so far. What they gave me was a map of Canada with wage rates from across the country. Here is a map of Canada, and I would be pleased to table that in due course, if any of the members on that side of the House would care to peruse this information. I have a couple of extra copies here, and if any member on that side of the House would like to review this information, just raise your hands. Just raise your hand now. Does anybody want to look at it? I am kind of disappointed, not a single member on that side of the House even seems to be interested in the real facts,

because six months would give us plenty of opportunity to review the numbers.

[7:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, here is the truth, the government in the ads - you know what, one of the most distressing things about those ads, apart from the fact that they are highly misleading, is that they are paid for by all the taxpayers. It wasn't paid for by the Conservative Party, it was paid for by all of us. You know what is the hardest thing, I am sure, is that those ads were paid for partly by Carolin and Carol and Donna and everybody they work with and every nurse who has been down to this House and every nurse who will be at this House, they paid for those ads. Insult to injury. Insult to injury, because what those ads say is that this beneficent government on the other side of the House has made an offer to the nurses that would make them the highest paid nurses in Atlantic Canada. That's what the ads say.

It is worth pointing out, as the nurses have and I will again, that are not competing with New Brunswick, we are not competing with Prince Edward Island for nurses, we are not competing with Newfoundland. We are competing with Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and the United States.

That strikes home for me because there is a nurse in my family, my immediate family, my sister is a nurse. My sister has been a nurse for 17 years. But, is she a nurse in Canada, is she a nurse in Nova Scotia? No, my sister, the nurse, is in the United States. She is working as a nurse in the United States and except for the first two years of her career she has spent her entire nursing career in the United States. There is nothing that this government can do, there is nothing any government can do to bring her back to Canada, and that is a shame. Not only has my family been broken up so that I don't get to see my sister or her

[Page 4884]

children, my nephew and niece, nearly as often as I would like to, it is a shame because Canada could use the services of my sister. She is a highly-trained nurse, her particular speciality was the emergency room. She was an emergency room nurse and she was also trained and worked for a number of years in palliative care; another very difficult area of nursing. That is what she is trained to do and that is what she is doing but she is not doing it here, she is doing it in North Carolina.

Getting back to Canada, what the government conveniently left out of their ads that all the nurses paid for was that, indeed, the offer of the government, if they accepted, would under very limited circumstances make some nurses in Nova Scotia the highest paid in Atlantic Canada, but only by 38 cents per hour. If you took 38 cents and you paid every member on that side of the House 38 cents for every hour this Legislature has been sitting today or will sit before we are finished at midnight, do you know how much they would have? They would have less than $10. A 24 hour sitting at 38 cents per hour and you come in at under $10.

Mr. Speaker, you have a 38 per cent advantage over other provinces, but here is more, stuff they left out of the ads, that's only for a few months because what the government knows but didn't say in their ads is that Newfoundland is up for negotiation in - I am sorry, I said a few months, in two weeks the Newfoundland collective agreement expires and if an agreement is reached the Newfoundland nurses will, in the normal course of things, once again become the highest paid in Atlantic Canada.

So, the government ads that have been trying to influence us with, I might add in passing, extremely misleading grafts - that is an issue for another day - they are talking about 38 cents for two weeks for a few nurses who are at the top of the pay scale but somehow they managed to leave that out of the ads. Now why did they do that? Is it because they are genuinely interested in telling the true story of this legislation? I will leave that for others to judge. I have an opinion about what the government did in those ads but it is that "l" word again that I am not allowed to use. It is a tremendous frustration for me that that gang over on that side could do that thing and that is parliamentary but I can't actually say that they have just done it. The "l" word that I am thinking of, about those ads, is not leadership, it is the other one that I can't say, it is not leadership.

Mr. Speaker, if you look across the country and you look at the top wage rate, I just want to go over this a little bit and maybe educate the folks on that side of the House since none of them volunteered to actually get a copy of this material that I have tabled. In B.C., the top rate is $26.50 but in case anybody on that side of the House didn't notice, there are some issues there around collective agreements and no doubt, by the time it is settled, it will be significantly higher than $26.50. In Alberta, it is $32; in Saskatchewan it is $24.92; in Manitoba, it is $24.11; in Ontario it is $30.24. You get the idea. Then you get into Atlantic Canada. That is what we are competing with.

[Page 4885]

It is not Newfoundland that is enticing our nurses away. Nurses aren't leaving Nova Scotia in droves to go to Prince Edward Island. It is those other places and we have to do something about this, Mr. Speaker. I will tell you one thing, Bill No. 68 isn't it. It seems to me that the members on that side of the House need six months to really study what is going on across Canada, to really look at what is happening, because even if they don't believe me, and I know they tend to slough off the Opposition and say, oh, there they go, just talking again. Well, if it is all we have under the Rules of the House, we will use it, but if they won't listen to me, maybe they will listen to the nurses.

I have a two page, handwritten note that I got from one of the nurses I spoke to today. I don't believe she is in the gallery. I think she has gone home. I am not going to read the whole thing and if any of the members on that side of the House want to read it, I will table it. They can read it for themselves. They can read the whole thing. I want to talk a little bit about competition, about who it is we are competing with. Here is what Linda Allen Mills told me. She works in the operating room, highly specialized area, of the QE II. I am going to read one sentence here. Mr. Speaker, I believe I am allowed to read one sentence from the letter.

MR. SPEAKER: Possibly I would advise the honourable member that yes, he can read the letter, but would he perhaps ask the Page to make photocopies, if that is the original, and table them. It is customary to table documents that are read in the House.

MR. STEELE: What I will do, Mr. Speaker, is I will read this one sentence and then I will give it to the Page for photocopying because I am sure the members on that side of the House are just dying to read the whole letter. Here is what Linda told me earlier today. She said, "Two years ago I was present at a Recruitment booth at a national conference - whereby they were hoping to lure nurses to N.S. - specifically the QE II, where I currently work as an OR nurse. They weren't even offering full time positions, no benefits, security etc. I am amazed . . .", says Linda, ". . . at the attempt to recruit with nothing to retain."

Mr. Speaker, I will now table that letter because what Linda is trying to tell us is that we are competing nationally, we are competing on a continental basis. If we go to national recruitment fairs and we can't even offer nurses full-time jobs, is there anybody on that side of the House who has any illusions left about why we have a nursing crisis, why it is that we have a hard time recruiting nurses and retaining nurses and why it is we owe it to the nurses who are here? We should be so thankful to them that despite the conditions, despite what is going on, they are here. They are here and they are continuing to serve the public in the health care system. Is it any wonder?

So these kind of wages that the government is talking about are just not going to cut it. They are just not going to cut it, Mr. Speaker. That is why we need six months to study this issue, to do a national survey, an international survey, so that we know what we are competing with.

[Page 4886]

There is one other part of the ad, Mr. Speaker, that I want to talk about because I have already talked about how far from actually being the truth those government ads were, those ads that Linda paid for and that all the other nurses paid for themselves. Can you imagine how insulted they must feel to think that they actually paid to place those ads in the paper?

There is another part of this true story that the gang on that side don't want the public to know; that is that the wage offer doesn't apply to everybody in the bargaining unit. The 8.5 per cent only applies to some people in the bargaining unit. Other people in the bargaining units were offered 2 per cent, 2 per cent and 1 per cent which, if I have my math right, Mr. Speaker, is 5 per cent over three years. I wonder if the members on that side of the House know - I am sure the Minister of Finance knows, but I wonder if the other members on that side of the House know - that the latest Consumer Price Index figures came out today, and the inflation rate for Canada, year over year, has now topped 3 per cent. The inflation rate for Nova Scotia, year over year, is now over 2 per cent. Those are new figures out today. That is the best, most recent, up-to-date information that anybody has.

If I have this right, Mr. Speaker, 2 per cent, 2 per cent and 1 per cent means that the nurses and other health care workers who got that offer are actually losing ground because I am sure anybody on that side of the House who took economics knows the difference between nominal wage increases and real wage increases. The nominal increase is the 2 per cent, 2 per cent and 1 per cent. That is the raw number, but the real increase is that number minus the rate of inflation. So if we offer our nurses and other health care workers 2 per cent this year and inflation is over 2 per cent, then by my math they are actually into negative country; they are actually losing ground. I don't remember seeing that in the ads. I don't remember seeing that anywhere. Does the member for Dartmouth North remember seeing that anywhere?

MR. JERRY PYE: I certainly don't.

MR. STEELE: He says he certainly doesn't remember seeing that anywhere, Mr. Speaker. If somebody with the eagle eyes of the member for Dartmouth North didn't see it, then I just don't think it was there.

Mr. Speaker, as if that is not bad enough, that many members of the bargaining unit were being offered 2 per cent, 2 per cent and 1 per cent, which wouldn't even keep up with inflation, there were 250 members of the bargaining unit who were being offered nothing. I didn't see that in the ad. Member for Dartmouth North, did you see it there?

MR. JERRY PYE: I never saw it in the ad.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, if the member for Dartmouth North didn't see it, well by golly, it wasn't there. I don't remember the government advertising anywhere that there were 250 people, 250 of our friends, neighbours and family, who were being offered nothing.

[Page 4887]

That is nominal wages everybody, nominal wages. So, if you subtract inflation from that, they are actually falling behind every single year by the rate of inflation. Their money has to go that much further, because in case anybody on that side of the House didn't notice, I am going to tell you something that maybe some of you over there didn't notice, the price of milk isn't going down, and neither is the price of bread. It is not going down - anybody over there - it is going up.

MR. JERRY PYE: Nor is the price of shelter.

[7:15 p.m.]

MR. STEELE: The member for Dartmouth North helpfully points out something which is also true, which is that last time I looked rents aren't going down, the price of a house isn't going down, and the price of a car isn't going down. But let's not talk about those big-ticket items, milk is not going down, and bread is not going down and, Mr. Speaker, one that hits close to home for me, the cost of diapers isn't going down; every time I turn around, that is going up too. The cost of juice and fruit and vegetables, everything that people need to live a healthy life, a safe life, a productive life, it's all going up. The government on that side of the House doesn't seem to be aware of that because 250 people in the bargaining unit were offered nothing, zero. Many more members in the bargaining unit were offered two, two, and one. It is only some who were being offered the full wage package that the government is talking about. I don't remember seeing that in the ads anywhere. What the ads said, using highly misleading grafts, if this offer is fair because the nurses in Nova Scotia will be the highest paid in Atlantic Canada if the offer is accepted.

Mr. Speaker, I have pointed out that they would be the highest paid by $0.38 per hour, $0.38 x 24 hours isn't even $10. I have pointed out that it is only for the next two weeks until Newfoundland's collective agreement is renegotiated. I have pointed out that that offer doesn't even apply to all the nurses and other health care workers who are in the affected bargaining units. I have pointed out that in any event we are not competing with Atlantic Canada, we are competing with the rest of the country and the United States, especially.

I wonder why the government isn't placing those ads? If the government were to put in an ad that told the truth the way I just laid it out, I will help to pay for that ad. I will throw my money on the table today, I will do it right now. I will do it right now if the government would agree to put an ad in every daily newspaper that they put their misleading ad in, and tell the truth about what is really going on here.

I will pony up the money. Do you know what, Mr. Speaker, I am willing to bet that the nurses and the other health care workers in the gallery, the nurses and the other health care workers who aren't able to be here today because they are working, and the nurses and other health care people who aren't able to be here because they are home with their families

[Page 4888]

and contributing to their communities and my communit, and your communities, I bet that they would be willing to pony up the money for that ad and pay their fair share if only the government would tell the truth.

Mr. Speaker, this bill, if it's about anything, and the reason why we need six months, at least six months to study the implication of this bill, the last thing this bill is about is to continue health care services in Nova Scotia. The last thing that it is about is recognizing 10 years of disrespect to nurses, to health care professionals and really the entire Public Service.

I was there, I was a civil servant. I paid the price. My wages were rolled back, my wages were frozen.

MR. PYE: So were mine.

MR. STEELE: The member for Dartmouth North said it was the same for him. I am not an OR nurse. For Heaven's sake, I am a lawyer, I would never hold anybody's life or death in my hands. I never have somebody sick in my office to deal with. I don't have to deal with emergencies. I am never in an operating room, I am not a neurosurgery nurse, but they are. All these nurses and health care workers, not to mention the X-ray technicians, the lab technologists and technicians, for Heaven's sake the custodians who keep the place clean. This bill is not about the 10 years of disrespect that those people have had. What it is about is politics and money, a deadly combination if there ever was one.

Just to give an example, Mr. Speaker, of what I am talking about, about why this bill is about politics and not about respect, if you look at the provision, and citing this example only by way of illustration, is that strikes are outlawed not for six months, or three months, or until a collective agreement is freely bargained, or for a year. Strikes are outlawed for three years until 2004. Why would they do that if this bill was about respect? Why would they do that? Well, it can't be to settle the immediate crisis which is why we are supposed to be here. It can't be about that because if that's what it was about, they would only need to outlaw strikes for, I don't know, a month, three months, until a collective agreement is reached. That's all they need to do.

Do you know what, Mr. Speaker, that is what the Government of Saskatchewan did because it lasted only until a collective agreement was freely reached. I am not saying that was the right way to go, at least it is an option, but it is not what this crowd did. They outlawed strikes, but here is another thing that I think that everybody needs to know and I am just wondering if the members on that side of the House really know it. If they do know it, they have been pretty quiet about it. Something that I think six months would be a good opportunity to tell the people of Nova Scotia and that is this bill doesn't even deal with only the three bargaining units, that were in a countdown to a strike.

[Page 4889]

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 68 deals with every bargaining unit in health care in Nova Scotia. So if this is about a crisis, what in Heaven's name is that provision doing in this bill? I have a suggestion. It can't be about solving the immediate crisis because if that is what this bill was about, that provision wouldn't be there. What this bill is about is politics pure and simple, dirty partisan politics, because what happens in 2004, and if there is anybody listening who has any question about what exactly it is that happens in 2004, that is just after the next election. That is what it is, when the next election is due. Well, in the normal course of events it would take place in 2003 and this bill, looking to my colleagues here to help me with the date, this bill outlaws strikes until April 1, 2004, which by coincidence is just about exactly the time that this government's five year constitutional mandate runs out. Now, it is very rare in this province, or any province, for a government to actually go five years.

So what it is safe to say, Mr. Speaker, is that by picking the date of April 1, 2004, what they have done is they have made sure that there will be no strike and, therefore, no serious collective bargaining in any part of the health care system until after the next election. That is what this bill says and they told us, they told Nova Scotians that we were here because of an immediate crisis in the Capital Health District. Well, they are lying.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would have to ask the honourable member to please withdraw that comment in reference to lying. The honourable member, being a new member, may not know that the terminology is unparliamentary.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, it is always a source of amazement to me that they can do it, but I can't say it. I withdraw that remark, somewhat unapologetically, but I withdraw it.

Mr. Speaker, where I grew up, when you know the truth and you say something different, then there is a word for that which I am not allowed to say in this House because what Bill No. 68 says for anybody on that side of the House who hasn't had the respect for the nurses to actually read it is that it outlaws strikes in any health care bargaining unit until April 1, 2004. Now, does that sound like dealing with an immediate crisis to you? I don't think so. So I hope that all the members on that side of the House will look in the eyes of the people in the gallery, will look in the eyes of the members of these bargaining units who live in their constituencies, and tell them that this bill is to deal with an immediate crisis in the Capital Health District because I hope that they can do that and try and keep a straight face. I hope they can do that.

What they are doing, Mr. Speaker, is outlawing strikes until after the next election. That is what the bill says and that is what they are doing. They have brought us here on an emergency basis and they are sitting us around the clock, 24 hours a day, unheard of since the Buchanan era, in order to deal with an immediate crisis and here is the truth, it is right there in the words, they want to outlaw any strikes anywhere in Nova Scotia until after the next election. That is what it says. That is the truth.

[Page 4890]

Mr. Speaker, let me tell you something else that this bill is about because it is not about continuing health care services and it is not about respect for the nurses. I will tell you something else it is about, it is about money. Money, of course, is an important consideration for any government, but as I have said in this House before, and I will say it again because I believe it to be true, this government's entire agenda, whether it is in health care or education, or social services, or housing, or the environment, or whatever subject matter you choose, this government's entire agenda is being driven by their desire to offer a 10 per cent tax cut to Nova Scotians just before the next election because if that promise weren't on the table, there would be enough money to pay these nurses what they deserve.

So I want every nurse and every health care professional out there to know that you are being held hostage to a political promise made two years ago, that they are going to be making two years from now, and I want everybody out there to know that when a member from that side of the House comes to your doorstep looking for your vote and says tax cut, tax cut, I hope you laugh in their face, Mr. Speaker, and say to them that what we really wanted was to be treated with respect. What we really wanted, every one of us, was to be treated with respect.

As I have talked about in this House before, even a 10 per cent tax cut isn't really true because it is only 10 per cent of Nova Scotia taxes. By my calculation that is only a 3.6 per cent tax cut. So suddenly it doesn't sound quite so good. Then they conveniently leave out the fact that literally hundreds of thousands of Nova Scotians, the poorest among us, the poorest in our communities, don't pay any Nova Scotia tax anyway. They don't pay any Nova Scotia tax anyway because they are so poor. So the offer of a 3.6 per cent tax cut doesn't really go very far with them and some of those people live in my constituency and some of those people live in your constituency, Mr. Speaker. So how far exactly is this tax going to get you? How far is the tax going to get you because two years from now you are hoping that everybody in the gallery forgets what happened today. You expect everybody in the gallery to forget 10 years of disrespect. You expect everybody in the gallery to forget that you were not willing to value them in the way that those people ought to be valued in this province, in this community.

Mr. Speaker, you know, the truth is that what this bill is about is not health care, it is not about continuing health care services. As I have shown, this is not about dealing with an immediate crisis, it is about politics, and pure and simple, it is about money. But it is about more than that, it is about a lot more than that.

[7:30 p.m.]

What this bill is about is my sister, who lives in North Carolina, working as a nurse. She is a highly-trained and experienced nurse, but she is not here. It is about my family and the fact that I don't get to see my family because they live in North Carolina. This bill is about every one of us in this House because we have people in our families who work in the

[Page 4891]

health care sector, we have neighbours who work in the health care sector, we have friends who work in the health care sector, and none of us does. None of us work in the health care sector, we work here. We work here in the Legislature, in this home of responsible government, this place that is supposed to be the home of debate.

This bill is about every one of us, and it is about every one of our families; it is about our friends; it is about our neighbours; it is about our community, and it is about how much we value those people. At the end of the day, this bill and this debate and what is going on in the province today ought to be about respect. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Seeing no further interventions on the hoist, is the House ready for the question on the hoist?

A recorded vote is being called for.

Ring the bells. Call in the members. The bells can ring up until 8:32 p.m.

[7:32 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The motion before the House is that Bill No. 68, the Healthcare Services Continuation (2001) Act be not now read a second time but that it be a second time this day six months hence.

A recorded vote has been called for. I would ask the Clerk to call roll.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[8:33 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Dexter Mr. Christie

Mr. Downe Mr. Baker

Mr. Gaudet Mr. Russell

Dr. Smith Miss Purves

Mr. Pye Mr. Fage

Mr. Steele Mr. Balser

Ms. McGrath

Mr. Ronald Chisholm

Mr. Olive

Mr. MacIsaac

[Page 4892]

Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. Dooks

Mr. Langille

Mr. Chataway

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

THE CLERK: For 6. Against, 21.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is defeated.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. It seems to me this House has been through this before. It is now the turn of a member of the Liberal Party to speak, it not the turn of a member of the government to speak. In the normal course of events, the member for Dartmouth East, who was standing in his place, ought to be recognized. In case anybody has forgotten, it was only a few weeks ago that this House dealt with the very same issue, and the Speaker, on consideration, ruled that it was, in fact, the turn of a member of the Liberal Party to speak next.

MR. SPEAKER: I don't think it is a question, honourable member, of whose turn it was to speak. I was waiting for an honourable member, regarding any Party, to get to their feet. If the honourable member for Dartmouth East was on his feet, I will recognize the honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak on second reading of Bill No. 68. The bill that has been rushed by this government and brought forward yesterday, through the Red Room introduction, to the House of Assembly, even though there weren't enough copies ready, everything was so rushed.

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity earlier this morning to speak to the six months' hoist motion that was just voted upon. I had the opportunity to address my concerns, and I will try not to be repetitive but I know there is a little more leeway on second reading of Bill No. 68. I pointed out this morning, and I will again, that I think this government has embarked on a very dangerous course relative to the relationship, not only with health care

[Page 4893]

workers, who have been very stressed and very under the gun within the health care system, but that this impacts on the whole collective bargaining system.

Clause 8 and Clause 13 together are a poisoned pill that I don't believe this government wants to swallow. If it, in its wisdom and lack of wisdom, decides to maintain this route, and it looks like they probably will, by virtue of trying to bring closure, as the honourable House Leader just did, then so be it. We will do what we can to hold this government accountable for its actions in bringing forward legislation such as Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is inherently offensive. It removes any requirement of the government to negotiate with unions, and not only to rule against strikes but also gives the power to the Cabinet to write its own ticket, as to what nurses in this province, LPNs, technologists, technicians, physiotherapists, and all those others represented by these two unions, that anything relative to that agreement, a collective agreement previously or one that would come forward now, can be, in fact, if deemed appropriate by Cabinet, which would be their own decision, that they can write their own ticket in health care.

This government, led by the Premier, has drawn the first blood of the campaign, if you will, by taking out very expensive, maybe $5,000, ads in the newspapers, chastising nurses, trying to make scapegoats out of nurses, really, that they are the cause of hospital beds closing, they will be deserting their patients. That is just not so; that is not true; that is not happening in actuality or in fact. Any beds that are being closed and any services that are being limited, it is done through the orders of this government and acted on by the district health authorities.

Mr. Speaker, we have had a chance to look at some of the proposed contingency plans. It is interesting what you will find on the side, looking at some of them relative to the Dartmouth General Hospital, and seeing the bed closures, routinely, as they call the summer vacation time, that used to be a couple of weeks or so, now starting on June 30th and going into September. That was part of the routine. That was happening long before any contingency plan or any closures were deemed to be necessary by the district health authorities under the encouragement of the government. We can see the hands of the government very clearly. They are the ones who control the purse strings. It is the Cabinet who will decide and this legislation will give them not only power, it will give them ultimate power.

The contingency plans that we have seen, we have a Minister of Health, and when asked a few days ago, he didn't know what was in the contingency plan; either hadn't seen them, hadn't asked to see them, hadn't been briefed or whatever. Now we find, Mr. Speaker, there were plans within those contingency plans, there were a couple of minor disagreements, probably not major issues that could have been resolved, but also had involved a referral with a dispute. In the event of a dispute and a disagreement, an adjudicator who would really have

[Page 4894]

decision-making powers to tell both sides, both the employer and the employees what, in fact, they could do.

So, Mr. Speaker, that is misrepresentation. It is an attempt to get public opinion swayed against the nurses in this province. We had some calls today from people asking us to support government. I think they tend to be senior people, older people, perhaps. They tend to be more concerned about what might happen. They, in some misguided way, still trust this government, that the government is doing the right thing, and I think that is a shame. It is clear that they are setting out, led by the Premier, to scapegoat the nurses in this province. I don't think that will take place. I think Nova Scotians are fair. They are slow to anger but they will notice and they will realize exactly what is going on.

Mr. Speaker, so this bill removes the rights of those designated under the bill to strike, or to have recourse for negotiation; either Cabinet would overrule and that is not fair and just, still the recourse to the courts.

It is very interesting. I met somebody outside this evening who said there is a relative of the Minister of Finance who was one of the Associate Professors of Law at Dalhousie who was commenting on the question of the constitutionality of the legislation of a member of her family. When the people on that side of the House get home later this evening or tomorrow maybe they will be hearing a few things around the family table as to the fairness of what they are doing.

Mr. Speaker, this bill has been rushed. It is about money and power and control. It is not about health and safety on the part of the government. It is about power and control. The question now, I guess, that concerns us and should concern all Nova Scotians is how can you expect the union negotiating team, supported by their membership, the nurses and the LPNs and the technologists and all the other groups who are represented by the unions, to put their shoulder to the wheel and co-operate within negotiating. I think it puts a strain there and I think it was deliberate on the part of the government. This was the strategy they have embarked upon and decided to pursue.

So this bill is really an admission. We were looking for the legislation to at least provide for mandatory arbitration. We were very surprised, as we reviewed the legislation, to find that that was not there. In other words, Mr. Speaker, this government is admitting that what they are offering the nurses is not fair, because if they believed it was fair, what would be the problem with going to mandatory arbitration? This is an admission by the government, this type of strong hammer is admitting that their deal is not fair. They know it and that is why, when they had the choices of what type of legislation to bring in, that they chose to go this route with Clause 6 and Clause 13 in that bill.

They would have provided for arbitration rather than the ability to have Cabinet make all the rules. This could and, in fact, does, until the year 2004, represent the demise of

[Page 4895]

collective bargaining in the health care system. The government has been turning back the clock. It is very interesting that June 15th, as some members this morning noted, the Magna Carta we all learned of in our history books, I think it was 1214 or 1215, was signed or proclaimed, whatever, I think it was proclaimed on June 15th, it was a celebration. That is a sad comment that we have this type of legislation really that not only puts us back 100 years in collective bargaining but it probably puts us back to 1214. That would be 800 years my colleague from Lunenburg West says. Well, count it as you will, but it is turning back the clock, it is union busting and it is shotgun bargaining.

[8:45 p.m.]

Normally when there is a legislated solution to strike, if the group is deemed to be an essential service, then they are usually offered binding arbitration as an alternative to striking. This contains so much of a trade-off. The effect is that the government or the employer is taking no risk in this process. So, the government is trying to distance itself from the role of the employer, but they are the employer and they control the purse strings. They will try to blame it on the district health authorities in some way but it is clear that the nurses in fact work for Cabinet. If you follow that through, that is the process. I spoke earlier this morning about General Motors and the way that that would not get through. Can you imagine this type of offer being controlled by the Board of General Motors and what do you think their unions would have to say about that? So, they are turning back the clock.

When the lawyer who was assisting the minister and the deputy in the Red Room yesterday, was asked whether in fact the bill was constitutional, after a brief pause the lawyer answered on behalf of the government, that it is in the bill. That was hollow - I suppose the only answer that in all fairness as a legal person that she could do in a professional sense, but I think that it spoke volumes as to what is in this bill. It is a small bill, it is five pages, but it is lethal, it is nitroglycerine, it is dynamite.

Mr. Speaker, we want to speak about a few other things. Contrary to what is happening in the Tory propaganda machine, the nurses are not leaving Nova Scotia to go to New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and that is what is being told. That is why this graph that was purchased by taxpayers money, taxpayers money is driving the ad campaign against the nurses to put them at a disadvantage. Here is the graph of the maximum salary going right up off the sheet, pointing skyward like a shooting star, and that is not fair. That doesn't tell the story, that doesn't tell the frustration of the feeling of being undervalued and being abused and being made a scapegoat that this government is introducing. That is being done with taxpayers' money and that is not fair and it is not right.

Someone outside this evening mentioned that she had received - this is a person who works at the Nova Scotia Hospital - an e-mail from out of province and the person was apologizing for Nova Scotia acting that way and that they would be valued but the fact is that they were not valued in Nova Scotia and they were apologizing on behalf of the province.

[Page 4896]

So it is sad, it is another black eye for Nova Scotia and that is a sad day. The nurses can go to Boston and make $64,000 a year, they work less hours and most importantly they are respected by their employer. They are valued by their employer and they are not used as scapegoats as we are seeing here. They value their nurses, there is a professional courtesy and a value.

I am concerned about the way this government has approached this whole negotiation with the splitting, the trying to work perhaps one group against the other, the support workers and some of the groups moving toward mediation. I think that was very positive, but how that will fly in the long run and how that will be maintained and what the vote might be on that remains to be seen. There is no question that the Nova Scotia public does feel that the nurses are overworked, they agree with the nurses. They are poorly treated relative to other health care professionals. I asked the minister this morning, would he be treating doctors like this? Has he got the guts to take on the doctors and treat them like he is treating the nurses and the lab techs and the technologists and the LPNs? Would they do that or is he setting up a pecking order? I would like to hear from the medical profession because people still look to them for their opinion and guidance. I would ask the physicians in this province to speak up to save the health care system before it is too late.

So they are playing political games, Mr. Speaker, and I think they will do it with groups within the health care team. They are beating up on the nurses while they are saying shame on you for ruining the health care system, while they are doing it themselves. As the member for Richmond said, the other ad that was in the paper regarding the possible closure, all these things that would happen if the nurses stand up for their rights: emergency room closures, early patient discharges, bed closures, increased waiting lists, restricted to the services of life and limb.

Mr. Speaker, some communities say, what is the difference, we have it now. For the last six months the emergency department has not been serviced by a doctor in the Strait-Richmond Hospital. So the member for Richmond said, what's the difference? We have been dealing with that for six months. Where is the minister there? Where is his physician recruitment program and where is his commitment to the health care team in that community.

So, Mr. Speaker, (Interruption) I appreciate the service but he is stealing papers off my desk but I know he means well. I know he is a long way from home. He thought he would be home in Vancouver probably now.

MR. SPEAKER: Order. It is unparliamentary to use the term stealing. (Laughter)

DR. SMITH: He is not that kind of a person. He knows I am jesting.

Mr. Speaker, this whole story from the government that we have been hearing these last few hours, repeated phrases, that we are doing this for the health and safety for Nova

[Page 4897]

Scotians, that is nothing but a red herring. There is no evidence that the public is at risk. The only reason they are at risk is because of the mismanagement of the health care system by this government. They are churning out, as I mentioned earlier, $5,000 ads saying beds are closing as a result of a potential strike. I would argue that the beds are closing anyway, as I mentioned, in Dartmouth shutting down pods 32 and 33 I think it is, June 30th through to September.

They are already closing and it is a self-fulfilling prophecy for the government and trying to have Nova Scotians believe that the nurses are causing this and the technologists and the LPNs because nurses, they are too overworked and stressed and there are not enough of them. Bed closures has nothing to do with a potential strike. It is this government's inability to properly manage the health care system and manage human resources. Heaven forbid that they would provide a package that would encourage nurses to come to Nova Scotia.

If you look at recruitment, Mr. Speaker, today there was a two day nursing job fair in downtown Toronto where 3,500 nurses are said to be leaving or looking for nurses to accept the offer to move to jobs across Canada, the United States and the U.K. That is what we are up against in this province and we don't need any more black eyes to impact on recruiting in a negative way when we have that sort of competition from places like Ontario. It is a global market.

I mentioned the emergency room closures. It is all about the government extracting a wage agreement on favourable terms for the government and nothing else and if they can't do it one way through intimidation, they will do it another with draconian legislation. The public is at risk now and when they go to the hospital, they are being cared for by overworked and underpaid nurses. This legislation does nothing to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians. It is not about health and safety of Nova Scotians but it is all about money. This government is using nurses to hide all of their own failures in the health care system. So let's blame the nurses for the incompetency and blame the devastating results on the patients. That is the scenario they are trying to set up and I say shame and shame on them. (Applause) The backbenchers, when they go should be the most embarrassed.

I know something of the type of conversations that would have been held in Cabinet when they met Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week, before they brought in this type of legislation. They had choices to make. They could have brought in some legislation that would have protected the health and safety and essential services of Nova Scotians, and they could have had some binding arbitration; that would have been quite enough. It is early anyway, they have a couple of weeks before they are going to be faced with this, but no, they wanted to be tough. They are going to show the oil industry; they are going to show Sempra; and now they are going to show the nurses just how tough they can be.

[Page 4898]

Mr. Speaker, it is not going to work. Nova Scotians are fair and they are not going to put up with that kind of behaviour. I mentioned certain ridings particularly, how they are going to explain to their people and the numbers of nurses and health care support workers in their communities. This bill is about the government's bottom line, that is all. If this government was committed to the health and safety of Nova Scotians it would have passed some other legislation to protect the safety.

Mr. Speaker, it is shameful; it is not right; and it is not believable, it will not wash. It will not wash with the nurses and the LPNs and the technologists, the physiotherapists and all the others. It will not work in this Legislature. It will not wash here and it will not wash with Nova Scotians at the end of the day. They will have time to watch and they will judge. Nova Scotians are fair. All Nova Scotians will have a chance to speak to this government.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is about closure of negotiations. It is about closure of legislation that is fair, but it is not one of support or protection or value of the health care workers, or even Nova Scotians for that matter. This bill is about disrespect. Never before has a government shown such little respect for an individual group of health professional. Nurses and health care workers alike should be very proud of how they have conducted themselves. They have done it with dignity, and they have done it with caring, trying to balance between their commitment to their professional life and to their patients and to themselves and to their families.

The nurses and all the other health care professionals never have, and never will abandon their patients, even when things are coming down to the wire. This government blinked first and then acted in haste. They have acted in too much haste, with complete disregard for the health care professionals that this bill impacts on. Then came the ultimate slap in the face for all those health care professionals, the fact that they blame the health care professionals for the government's own incompetency.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member permit an introduction by a colleague of his?

DR. SMITH: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, through you, to members of the House, it is my pleasure to introduce in the west gallery a former member representing Cape Breton North, a former Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia, Russell MacLellan. I would ask members of the House to please give a warm welcome to our former Premier Russell MacLellan, who is with us this evening. (Applause)

[Page 4899]

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, indeed, welcome to the well-renowned, venerable, and esteemed former member and Premier of Nova Scotia.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, maybe with unanimous consent we could have a gentleman of that calibre come down here to the floor and explain to them what the real legislation is that would support nurses in this province. He had to make decisions and he made the right ones. It is not this kind of stuff. (Interruptions) We saved jobs in this province when we inherited a mess in 1993 from you people, and some of you people are still here, who did that, who passed us a $1.8 billion deficit in one year, plus $7 million to $8 million that they spent trying to keep everybody happy. The people of Nova Scotia spoke then in 1993, and they will speak again.

[9:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this government has tried to get out in front with ads funded by taxpayers' money to make scapegoats out of the people who need their attention and their consideration and fairness. This legislation, this bill is nothing more than a campaign of intimidation and manipulation at its finest, public relations at its finest, propping the Premier up to look like a strong leader, to get out in front and lead the charge.

Mr. Speaker, that Cabinet over there had choices to make and they were given options, I am sure. The fact that they came forward with this legislation really speaks about their true colours, it really shows their true colours, how abusive they are and the arrogance of this government, that they would do this on the backs of the health care professionals, people who have not had it easy over the last several decades. No question, this didn't happen overnight. I have had the opportunity to be Minister of Health in this province, and I tried to be accountable, and I tried to do as well as I could. We had some very difficult times, including from our own federal government cutbacks.

But times are better now, money is coming in, revenues are up, $615 million in this province. The economy is better, particularly in the metro area. Times are better. There is money there. They have a slush fund of over $50 million. Why don't they tap into that? Why don't they give a fair wage to the nurses and the LPNs and the technologists in this province? Why are they afraid, if their deal is so good? Why are they afraid to have these negotiations go before binding arbitration? Does the minister of landscaping on Highway No. 101 think this is fair? I don't think he does. He is a fair person, and he takes that chiding quite well. That is another way that maybe you could look at health services. If they are so concerned about the health and safety of Nova Scotians, maybe they could keep their promise on Highway No. 101, that would help a little bit to keep some people out of the hospital.

As a caucus, we will, on behalf of the health care workers and nurses, challenge this government on false issues. We will continue to challenge a government who thinks that the best way to fix the health care system is to take out ads that blame the health care

[Page 4900]

professionals for the government's own incompetency. This is a government more concerned about polls and public opinion than ordering their campaign commitments to the sick. This is a government that is more concerned about pitting one group of society against another than fixing acceptable solutions that would truly fix the health care system. This is a government that has gone to great lengths to disappoint many Nova Scotians, primarily because they have no shame.

This government has great difficulty with the notions of justice and truth. This government has failed to act in good faith. They have failed to negotiate in good faith, and they have failed to be honest with Nova Scotians. This bill is the ultimate in abdication of responsibility and the ultimate admission of defeat. They had choices in that Cabinet; they met every day this past week, and they had choices, they were given options. Why did they take the option that was so hard core, with such a heavy hammer that would come down so hard on health care professionals to the year 2004? Do they want the nurses and the LPNs and others to break and go on a wildcat strike, so they can embarrass them, perhaps, in some way or another? Is that what they are trying to set up?

Mr. Speaker, they had better be careful because they might get their own wish, and they may not like it. They have embarked on a very dangerous course. As I said this morning to the Minister of Natural Resources, if you think that tackling an eastern cougar is tough, swinging him around by the tail as he is hunting for those eastern cougars, well, he hasn't seen anything until he gets home and he tries to wrestle this bill to the ground, the people of his riding and all the ridings over there. Maybe they are going to stay in the city over the weekend, and maybe that might be best for them.

These are the government's darkest days; they are dark days. They are rollbacks to the old days. They have started down the road on a very dangerous journey. I am not sure the caucus was fully informed as to what the implications and the long-term results of this might be. This is not going to go away. They have started on this course, and now they must follow it through, or at least they are committed to that.

We will see. We have to go through. We are now in second reading. There may be another reasoned amendment or some type of amendment, and there will be the Law Amendments Committee, unless some sort of closure can be figured out to cease that, where Nova Scotians come in and speak about their feelings about this type of legislation. Then we are back here for Committee of the Whole House on Bills, where members will have another opportunity to debate and bring forward amendments to this bill.

I don't know if there is any hope for this bill, or if you can save it. If you took out Clause 6 and Clause 13, the Minister of Justice will probably have that proposed to him in the Law Amendments Committee, a committee he chairs, at least it would leave something there to work on. As it is, as long as they remain, there is no hope for this legislation. Why

[Page 4901]

did the Cabinet opt for this draconian measure, this type of really almost sadistic legislation that has to go before this Legislature?

We are here, and we will take responsibility for our actions as we have in the past and we will try to hold this government accountable. Let them get up and speak. Maybe they want to wait until Monday, after they get home and consult with their constituents, perhaps. Then they can come back and let us know what they heard at home. It is going to be very interesting. I know the member from Queens will go up to where I grew up in Queens County, in Port Mouton, those areas, and see what they have to say. With any luck I might get up myself, and I can let him know what his constituents think of this.

Mr. Speaker, I will try to be fair. That member is an honourable person. Does he understand what he has agreed to here? Or, has he agreed to it? Have all the Cabinet Ministers agreed? Was it unanimous, do you think? Were there any dissenting votes? It would be nice to be a little microphone over in the corner, or a receiver, to hear what some of the conversations were. Who were the drivers; who recommended this legislation to the government? I think this would be very interesting to know. It might be good to have some briefing notes; don't keep your briefing notes locked up for 50 years. Why don't you tell us how you plan to stick it to the health care professionals? Whose idea was it? Surely, it wasn't the Premier, even though he was quick out of the blocks. He must have been pretty well briefed, I think.

Anyway, the Cabinet had choices and they chose to go this route. There are other ways they could have dealt with it. The Minister of Health could have been better informed than he was. He could have known there was a mechanism out there within the contingency plan's development that there could be an adjudicator who would rule on what was fair and what was right. I think with that recommendation coming from an adjudicator, the health care professionals would have adhered to that. But no, they weren't happy with that, they had to take out big ads in newspapers and get the public opinion in Nova Scotia against the nurses and the LPNs and the technologists and the physiotherapists.

I think that is going to be difficult to do. These people have watched, first-hand, these people working in their own communities, in their own facilities, either in home care or hospitals or the ORs. I think they are appreciative and I don't think they are going to stand for that. This government will hear that. These are dark days with this type of legislation. All governments have to face these choices, and they have gone down a very dangerous road.

Nova Scotians stand behind the nurses and the health care workers. Who can condemn these professionals? Name me one Nova Scotian other than perhaps someone in government who will condemn an individual whose only fight is that they improve the lives of others? Name me one Nova Scotian who will condemn a worker whose only plea is one asking for respect and asking to be valued as a health care professional within this health care system. As rocky as it is sometimes, it should be getting better, rather than the infrastructure

[Page 4902]

crumbling and then the government turning around, for its own mismanagement, and blaming some other health care professionals by bringing in this type of legislation, Bill No. 68.

This government is condemning nurses and health care professionals by somehow trying to separate the values of caring, compassion and commitment from these professionals, and the public will know the difference. They will see the big lie and they will not buy into it. This government has viewed this game as a contest. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please, honourable members. To our guests in the gallery, probably I should advise you, if you haven't already been told, there is a long-held rule in this Legislature that our guests are not permitted applause, clapping in the gallery. If you haven't already been told I do apologize.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East has the floor.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, is it proper for me to make an introduction. It's my time, I guess, isn't it, so I could use it.

MR. SPEAKER: Sure, go ahead.

DR. SMITH: I have been handed a few, I haven't had a chance to get organized here, but I have a few people in the gallery I would like to introduce. I guess with their permission that I could read, David Landry, Robert Chisholm, whoops, no . . . a registered nurse, not the guy I know. (Laugher) Robert, sorry about that mistaken identity. Gloria Shields who I know is from Dartmouth East and Tracey Best. Does anybody have any objection to me reading this, what you have written here? I hope it is for public consumption. No. It is okay? Okay.

David Landry, Registered Nurse, Local 97, nursing years of service - 10 years. "I am prepared educationally at the Masters level of Nursing . . .", that is pretty good achievement, ". . . where I am qualified to practice as a Speciality Nurse Practioner." That is a type of nurse practitioner or one of the specialities within nurse practitioning. "Unfortunately with recent government action, I will be searching out employment opportunities out of province where I feel my expertise & knowledge will be valued." That word again about being valued. I will table that to be a permanent record.

Robert Chisholm, Registered Nurse, Local 97 nursing, 10 years experience, "work in the intensive care unit (medical, surgical, neurosurgical)." A very demanding job. "I am also a partnership coordinator at the QE II Hospital where, I am helping nursing units create a more positive work environment. It is legislation such as Bill 68 that is going to make my job in creating these environments almost impossible." Here it is, an intensive care unit, medical, surgical and neurosurgical, just think what that is on a busy schedule. I would table that for the record.

[Page 4903]

Gloria Shields writes, RTNM, Nuclear Medicine Technologist, Nova Scotia Government Employees Union is her bargaining unit. Gloria has had 19 years experience. "I wish to state that I am very upset with the government believing my word should be doubted. Never would I allow a patient to suffer and I find it incredible that my word is doubted after 19 years of faithful service." I apologize to Gloria for this government's behaviour.

Tracey Best, Counsellor Assistant, Bargaining Unit 66. Those are group homes, Mr. Speaker. You see the variety of people we have here tonight who are affected by this legislation. Seven years of service. "I am here to support Health Care Workers & Nurses. Also to take a look at the Government who plans to destroy Nova Scotia's Healthcare system with this Bill."

I rest my case and I ask maybe for copies of those to table as well. That is just a sampling of some of the mood of the people here who are acting responsibly. They are concerned, they are concerned that their word is doubted and that they are being made scapegoats and trying to have the people turn against the health care professionals in this province. That is what the government is trying to do with these expensive ads and the type of words that have come out of the Premier, particularly, even before, when the mediator was still working, that type of accusation, accusing the nurses of deserting their patients. There was no need for that and that is very embarrassing.

This is neither a game nor a contest, this is all about health care for Nova Scotians. This is an issue of respect, it is an issue of faith and trust, trust between an employer and an employee. The employees, such as the nurses and the other health care professionals, have kept up their end of the bargaining but sadly the employer has not. The employer is that government, they probably want to blame the community health boards. They don't have any budget, $1 million between them, but the district health boards as they tried to blame the clinical footprint on all of them, and anything that has happened in the last two years in this House.

The Minister of Health has stood here and blamed the regional health boards which they disbanded in the middle of the night without telling the volunteer boards, the people who were donating their time. They have transitioned into nine district health authorities and now I am surprised that they are not blaming them. They are at least out there trying to work out some semblance of a contingency plan in the event of a strike that would be fair and recognize the health and safety issues both of the patient and the health care professionals. The minister didn't seem to care or even know anything about that or even be briefed on it. So that shows the disinterest and the lack of interest of this government.

[Page 4904]

[9:15 p.m.]

The government, Mr. Speaker, has broken faith. It has broken faith with the health care professionals and it has broken faith with the people of Nova Scotia. Never again should nurses burn themselves out trying to protect the image of this government. They have done it too long and it is not right and it is not fair. From this day forward health care professionals, lab technicians, LPNs, nurses and all the other health care professionals who are impacted by Bill No. 68 should care for their patients, their families and for themselves. Never again should these professionals follow the dictates of a government that will not and doesn't seem to be able to negotiate in any good faith whatsoever. Nor should they follow a Minister of Health who is bankrupt on ideas and a Premier who has no idea, he has no concept and no moral authority when it comes to health care, and those are the strongest words I want to use here, without being ruled out of order.

We will stand up for the health care workers, Mr. Speaker, as well as we can here. We will stand because we respect them and we care what happens to them. We will stand for them and with them because we know the true story. They have held this government's health care system together and they have been the backbone of the system. They have held it together and now they are being made scapegoats. They are the heart and the soul of this health care system. They deserve to be valued, respected and treated with fairness and Bill No. 68 strips all of that plus any dignity within the whole process of collective bargaining away.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is just not an average run-of-the-mill bill; it is back-to-work legislation. It's bad enough that this bill takes away the right to strike, but it also gives the government unprecedented powers by allowing Cabinet to impose a wage settlement without negotiation. We debated on what we call the Barrington bill, Bill No. 54. We were told we were being silly. It was not meant to be there. One of the ministers said at the press conference, well, it is there but it is really for the discretion of Cabinet to use. Would anybody trust this Cabinet at this juncture, any Cabinet that would agree to bring in this type of legislation, Bill No. 68? Would you leave Clause 6 there and trust the government, trust the Cabinet - and I say government, but I meant Cabinet, an even smaller group, a Cabinet - that they would determine without negotiation what the settlement would be and then in due course those affected by it could not have recourse to the courts, Clause 13?

Mr. Speaker, it is really quite amazing that this government would bring this type of legislation forward. The precedent being set here is dangerous. It will poison the worker/employee relations for years to come. It is written into year 2004 already, but the negative impact, the poison will spill over much longer than that time. In the case of the health care workers, this means that the quality of care and their own working circumstances will suffer. It will have to suffer. After this type of legislation it can no longer be business as usual. They are saying here tonight they have had enough, they are fed up and they are not prepared to take it anymore and that is what the message to this government must be.

[Page 4905]

They should have maybe heard a little. They should have been listening a little better when they had those Cabinet sessions and they had choices over this week, every day of the week, and they must have stubbornly sat there and said no, let's give it to them, let's nail them, let's bring in legislation with an iron fist, Mr. Speaker, because that's what they end up doing. It means that already overworked and underpaid workers will know that their employer has no respect for the years of training; the years we have seen here tonight with the short pieces that I read. The years of dedicated service, that is not unusual. That's another issue. There are many people who will opt to retire as soon as they can, Mr. Speaker, to get out of that kind of environment. They have put up a lot to remain here. You pay a price to live in Nova Scotia, there is no question, as a health care professional. I made that choice in 1964 as a physician. I had gone to school and university in British Columbia and I made that choice because I love Nova Scotia. I grew up on the South Shore, I wanted to be here, I have been happy and I have never regretted that at all.

Probably people would question why I ever went into politics, but that is another issue. You could question other things, perhaps even sanity, but no, Mr. Speaker, in all fairness I have enjoyed that as well because it is different than what it often seems. This is the parliamentary system and there is debate and there is a lot of working between various Parties here, we are three Parties here and there is a lot of back and forth. There is a lot of working together at committees to do what is best and a lot of legislation goes through with unanimous consent, but this bill will not go through with unanimous consent. There is no one in their right mind who would support this legislation here and I am surprised that when the vote is called, whether all the backbenchers will be here because maybe they didn't have a decision. At least you can make an excuse for them, but we know that Cabinet made this decision. Did they tell the real truth to the backbenchers, of really what type of journey this government was embarking on?

Mr. Speaker, many of the nurses, LPNs and all the health care workers have made conscious decisions? They have had offers; they had job offers. It is posted all over the place, all over the Internet, recruiters, even the signing bonuses are very attractive for many people. This is not coming from Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, this is coming from all over the continent and we know that. I don't want to go through that because other speakers have mentioned it many times. They have put down roots into their communities and they have raised their children here and the families have lived in this beautiful province, but for some of them that may not be enough. How many has this legislation pushed over the line?

There is a lot of soul-searching going on over this weekend and I am sure there is going to be a lot. Remember the other year when the Premier said everything was in hand, just go out and have a barbeque and we will come back in the fall and have a little get-together in the Legislature? Well I don't think it is going to be that way. Would anybody believe the Premier now? Oh, we will take care of it, we will just take care of Bill No. 68. Oh sure, the Cabinet has some powers, you know we don't have to negotiate with you. We

[Page 4906]

will just bring in a settlement for you, but trust us, go have a barbeque, go out to the beach, take a hike in the woods out to the lighthouse and back, you know we will take care of you.

No, that is not going to wash, Mr. Speaker. Nobody in Nova Scotia is naive and certainly not the health care workers who have borne the brunt of this government's mismanagement. We are already seeing very much of a shrunken, scaled-down human resources contingent within the health care profession and it getting more stressed and more stressed; it is being squeezed further and further. They know that and this government knows that, but people still have choices and they can walk. They can vote with their feet and by the time the next election comes they won't be here to vote against this government because they will be long gone, but those who are here will remember what this government has done.

Sure, there are a lot of tough decisions in health care, and sure there is not unanimous agreement on that, Mr. Speaker, but there is a limit to where you push people and this legislation goes well beyond the reasonable. It is not fair, it is not right, and it is disrespectful. As I mentioned, many will be able to retire in a few years. We know that the workforce, many have been in service for a long time, a long and faithful service, but it is not right, this legislation is not right and it is downright mean. What the Health Minister and the Premier and the entire Tory caucus do not realize however is that those few nurses who are graduating, that is the group to watch, they will not put up with that disrespect. They will be speaking to their seniors and their mentors and the scorn that has been heaped on them, the recent graduates will realize that and I think the statistics will show that.

That is why the Minister of Health won't tell us how many new permanent placed nurses there are in this province, Mr. Speaker. He promised; he got out of his estimates, we let him off the hook on his estimates with the promise that he would tell us exactly. We haven't heard back, that was months ago. I think either he doesn't know, he doesn't care, or he doesn't want to share the truth. But these nurses know that they can go to Boston.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member permit another introduction?

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: I really do apologize to my colleague, the member for Dartmouth East, but I did want to introduce somebody who is just about to leave and the reason that this person has to leave is, of course, that they are going home because they have to work a 12 hour shift tomorrow.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce Marleen Spencer. Marleen is a staff nurse with NSGEU Local 97. Marleen has post-graduate critical care nursing. She is a staff nurse in the cardiac critical care at the QE II and a nurse educator in cardiac monitoring, very high qualifications, I am sure you will agree. Marleen says that she, like others who she works

[Page 4907]

with, will be looking for a new home in a democratic country. Marleen, I would ask you to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, prior to the introduction, the nurses particularly know that they can go to Boston for $64,000 a year for their services and they know that many hospitals in that area will pay between $3,000 and $10,000 in signing bonuses alone. They know if they go to the United States they can work two 12 hour shifts and know they can't be called back for a third without the overtime pay. The concerns that we have had has been the mandatory callback and those stories are from a legion of persons who are not able to plan their own time, whether it be family or own personal time. That has been one.

The other area, Mr. Speaker, has been the specialty pay areas and that is another issue. I don't know the status of any of those but we know that they were issues within the negotiating process. They know, and I am talking here particularly about the younger people. I spoke earlier of those, people who have roots down and are not prepared to leave and would find it very difficult. Even some of those will make that difficult trek as they move along.

Mr. Speaker, the recent graduates do have choices. In fact, many of them are encouraged to move to another province or another country. It is quite exciting for young people. That is the group. So we are going to lose that new group that will be coming in.

Mr. Speaker, also I have some introductions here I would like to make. Brenda Stevenson, Yvonne Richard and Jill Cumby. If they are in the gallery, would they stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

Yvonne Richard is a registered nurse, bargaining unit is the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, years of service, 25. "Worked in N. B., Quebec, Alberta and now Nova Scotia. Disconcerting and unacceptable that in the 21st Century - Nurses are being placed in this demeaning position. Nurses are valuable, necessary, indispensable health care providers - how can government reassure the public that their health care needs will be met when they are pushing them out of province to relocate where respect and progressive contracts are the norm." This is a person who has worked in three different provinces and now in Nova Scotia with 25 years service as a registered nurse.

Jill Cumby is a registered nurse. Years of service, one year. Graduated last year, Mr. Speaker. She has been working casual and short-term assignments in mental health, which is her area of choice, and I congratulate her on accepting that very difficult area of nursing while classmates obtained permanent positions in other provinces. How long will she be prepared to stay for that type? Where are all the jobs that the Minister of Health has advised this House? Mr. Speaker, the final one, I don't have any details, but Brenda has 31 years of service here in Nova Scotia as a registered nurse. So I want to thank those people and I will table, as I should, as having read from them.

[Page 4908]

[9:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I am drawing near the close of my comments. I thank you for the opportunity, the second time today. I hope I haven't been too repetitive, but I want to share some of my experiences of having been in Cabinet. Who spoke up for the nurses at Cabinet? Maybe some day over a social evening we will find out who stood up for the nurses and who pushed this type of legislation? Who stood up? Will they stand up tonight and speak to them? There is a group here tonight. Stand up and tell them why you supported this legislation, Mr. Minister, whoever you are who drove this legislation and maybe someday, I know it wouldn't be proper for that minister who opposed it, and I would hope there would be some, but maybe you could explain how you felt about that so that the people here tonight and the people throughout the province will know at least there is some glimmer of a faint heartbeat. It might be a ventricular defibrillation, but at least it's there and it may be on life supports, but at least it's there.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to conclude my comments by moving that the bill be amended by deleting all the words after the word, that, and substituting the following therefore. "Bill No. 68 - An Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia be not now read a second time, but that the Order be discharged, the Bill withdrawn and the subject matter thereof referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources." I have copies of that resolution for the House of Assembly. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to see the amendment.

Order, please. The amendment to Bill No. 68 is "Bill No. 68 - An Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia be not now read a second time but that the Order be discharged, the Bill withdrawn and the subject matter thereof referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources."

The amendment is in order.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am not disputing your ruling, but it would appear to me that the amendment is out of order in that it is not referred to the correct committee.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The point is not a point of order. Are there honourable members to speak to the amendment?

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

[Page 4909]

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to start this evening, if I might be permitted to yield the floor to the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, the Leader of the Opposition, in order to make some introductions.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition on an introduction.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I have a series of introductions I would like to make, for the edification of the House, to explain who some of the people in the gallery are today. I would first like to introduce Daniele Jodouin - I believe is the correct pronunciation, have I got it wrong? - who is an LPN with the NSGEU, who has had nine years of service and is joining us here tonight because she believes that "The Hamm government is threatening my freedom of speech & human rights of the people of Nova Scotia." I would ask Daniele to stand up and be recognized. (Applause) I hope I got the pronunciation of your name correct.

Peter McLardie, an educator, School of Ultrasound, whom I spoke with, I believe, earlier; Local 42, NSGEU, with eight years of service, he makes the point that "Highly technical personnel will leave the province for better wages." If Peter would just indicate where he is so that he may receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

Karen Seguin is a registered nurse, Local 97, with 28 years of service, Mr. Speaker and she feels "very disturbed that this government has put little or no value on the nurses of this province!" Perhaps if Karen could stand. (Applause)

Carolyn Corkum, a staff nurse at the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at the Halifax Infirmary, Local 97, 12 years. "Bargaining member for Local 97 wishing for a fair and equitable chance to negotiate a collective agreement." If Carolyn would stand. (Applause)

Kathleen Nelson, staff nurse with PACU, with 17 years of service, Mr. Speaker. I wonder if Kathleen would stand. (Applause)

Kendra McKinley, an RN, Bargaining Unit 97, 16 years of service, and she is "Concerned re the mass exodus of nurses from this province." If Kendra McKinley could stand and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

Finally, Mr. Speaker, Catherine Mackasey, a registered nurse, staff nurse, Post Anaesthetic Care Unit, 27 years of service. "Since we are the lowest paid nurses in Canada, something has to be done to encourage new nurses to stay here in N.S." That is her sentiment and that is why she is here to watch the proceedings tonight. If Catherine would stand and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

[Page 4910]

Thank you very much to the member for Halifax Fairview. I don't know if there are additional introductions.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Are there further introductions?

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I believe in our west gallery is Noreen Smith, who is an X-ray technologist at the Queen Elizabeth II and a member of the No. 42 Bargaining Unit of the NSGEU. Obviously, she is here as well because of her concerns with this draconian legislation. She wants an opportunity to hear the debate and to be able to look the government in the eye with regard to what they are doing to health care professionals in this province. Maybe Noreen could stand. (Applause)

I believe maybe this is in the west gallery as well. Jolie Avery, who is a nuclear medicine technologist. She is here as well for the same reason with the same concerns. She is here to listen to the debate and we welcome her. If she could stand as well. (Applause)

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

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, not on an introduction, a number of introductions. I want to say that the number of individuals I introduce, I would hope will keep their seats until such time as after the introductions are over and then rise for the warm welcome of this House, but I also want the Legislative Assembly to know that they are here witnessing the outrageous abuse of legislative power by a government in the Province of Nova Scotia and I think that that is significant and it is important.

Mr. Speaker, the first introduction is Lynn Stanton, a staff nurse of Medical Surgical ICU, nursing, 15 years of service. "With the government's intention to withdraw our right to full bargaining privileges, does this government intend to offer something equivalent to the Public Service Award in compensation for losing our full bargaining rights as the case with Civil Servants?"

Karen Aucoin writes, Mr. Speaker, and her position is a nuclear medicine technologist with the NSGEU health care workers, 19 years of service, and she says "We want binding arbitration" if the government is going to act this way.

Stephanie Coulthard, an RN, Local 97, 20 years of service, she tells us to "Continue to talk this talk and I'll walk the walk!"

Mr. Speaker, S.E. Walling, a staff nurse, 34 years of service. "Since we have a shortage of nurses, attractive salaries and benefits would help to solve the problem."

[Page 4911]

Joan Tingley, an X-ray technologist, Local 42, another 30 years of service. "This is a sad day for health care with this bill about to be passed. Our wages are not far different from 1985. We feel a discrimination against health care workers. Atlantic Canada will become a place no health care worker will come."

Kendrick Trask, an ultrasound technologist, Local 42, 10 years of service. "22 yrs. experience. Must maintain continuing medical education credits to keep my registration. Also assist in the education of students in the field of expertise."

Heather Small, an X-ray technologist, QE II, NSGEU, 23 years of service. "No to Bill 68 - it is totally undemocratic. We have worked through staff shortages, wage freezes, wage roll backs and for what - it's time for fairness and respect to be shown to all health care professionals. We are tired of being offered nothing (next to) for our efforts!"

Mr. Speaker, I would hope that the House would acknowledge those individuals as they stand to receive the warm welcome of this House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West on an introduction.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, through you to the members of the House, I have the opportunity and the pleasure to introduce three people in the gallery, Vicki DeGazio, a nurse for 20 years in the cardiac operating room at the QE II Health Sciences Centre. She goes on to make statements, "I'd like someone to address the issues of the right of the government to interfere with our collective bargaining rights. We are at present time bargaining in good faith. Respect our democratic rights. I love my work, and I will not allow this government to destroy the health care system in Nova Scotia by allowing our nurses to leave this province for other provinces or the U.S. I'm willing to fight to the finish."

Jacalyn States-Hamelin. She goes on to state that she is a nuclear medicine technologist. "In this age of technology, every person in N.S. relies on services provided in diagnostic imaging and lab technologies. Without these services no patient in N.S. could effectively be treated. With an aging population, these services will be more in demand. All this bill does is force more healthcare people to leave the province and make sure that no one comes to work into this province. So you are promoting yourselves as N.S. healthcare saviour, what you are doing is only putting the nails in the Healthcare of N.S. coffin."

The third person I would like to introduce is Martha Brown, staff nurse, 26 years at the QE II. "Give us the respect we deserve and treat us with dignity. Value our contribution to the health care of Nova Scotians."

I would ask these three to stand and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

[Page 4912]

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you for the introductions, honourable members. Indeed, welcome to our guests in the gallery. I should, perhaps, for the information of the House point out that the amendment that was advanced by the honourable member for Dartmouth East is in order, but for clarification I would like to point out that amendments at second reading, according to proceedings on Public Bills, there are three types of amendments that may be proposed at the second reading stage of the bill. These are: the hoist, the reasoned amendment, the referral of the subject matter to a committee. In this case, the honourable member for Dartmouth East has referred the content subject matter to the Standing Committee on Human Resources.

Since some time has lapsed, I would advise the honourable member for Halifax Fairview that it was 9:33 p.m., so the honourable member has approximately 48 minutes, or thereabouts, remaining in his dissertation.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I am little surprised that the Speaker would rule that those introductions took up the time that I am allowed as a member of the House, but I will accept that, because I am pleased and I am proud that some of my time could be taken up to introduce the people in the gallery of this Legislature who do the work day in, day out of our health care system, who serve the public every single day. If I have to give up some of my time so that their names can be heard, so that their faces can be seen and so that their stories can be told, Mr. Speaker, I am happy to do that.

[9:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, not very long ago when I had the opportunity to speak to the hoist amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, this Bill No. 68 is about us. It's not about somebody else, and you just point somewhere else and say it's about them. It's about our families; it's about our friends; it's about our neighbours who work in the health care system every day. They are dedicated and they are committed and we owe a great deal of thanks to them.

The thanks they have gotten from this government is Bill No. 68. A more draconian piece of legislation is hard to imagine. As I noted before, the essential elements of this bill are taking away the right to strike, having the Cabinet impose the terms of a settlement and then taking away any right of recourse to the courts. It is hard to imagine how this government could have put together a bill more draconian than that; but they did it.

In my earlier time this evening I said that I would gladly yield the floor to any member on the government side who was willing to stand up and speak, actually speak on the record about how they feel about this bill. It is particularly interesting, the backbenchers, of course, who get so little opportunity to actually speak in this House because they are not allowed, apparently, to speak. Although I was under the distinct impression that that was what they were elected for, nevertheless, they don't seem to be allowed to do it. In the

[Page 4913]

meantime at least a couple of hours have passed and I am sorry to say that not a single member on that side of the House has taken me up on my offer to yield the floor to them so they could speak to their constituents and to my constituents about why they are doing what they are doing; not a single member on that side of the House.

On behalf of this Legislature, I want to offer an apology to all the people who are in here in the gallery, to all the people who are at home with their families, to all the people who are working in the health care system. I want to offer you an apology that when you come to this place that it's supposed to be a forum for debate, it's supposed to be where your views are heard, where the government's ideas are tested and debated and maybe improved, that you have not heard one shred of anything that any reasonable person would call debate.

The way that this government operates is to introduce draconian legislation, and this is not the first one, I am sorry to say, it is not the first time this gang over here has done this, and then they just sit. They just sit and they don't say a word. Every word that I am speaking right now is recorded and transcribed. Anybody who wants to turn on their television and watch the legislative channel can see what I am saying. I am accountable to every one of my constituents for what I say in this House. I am happy to do that, and if they like what I say or if they don't like what I say I am accountable to the people who voted for me.

I am sorry to say that this institution has degenerated to the point where not one single member on that side of the House will stand up and speak on the record. Oh, they like to heckle from time to time, from the safety of the sitting position in their chairs. Not a single one of them will stand up and speak on the record and be accountable to their constituents for what they have brought before this Legislature. They ought to be ashamed of that.

So, what this Legislature has been reduced to is a place where the members of the Opposition, operating under very strict rules, try to delay legislation, try to get the government to see some sense, try to give members of the public, such as are in the gallery today, the opportunity to meet their members and talk to them face to face, eyeball to eyeball about why Bill No. 68 is the wrong thing to do.

Mr. Speaker, that is what people expect from this House, but it is not what they get. The Opposition stands up and speaks, and under the Rules of the House we can speak for an hour, then under the Rules of the House we are forced to sit down. The government knows that we can only delay this for so long; the government knows that they have more votes than we do, so if they want to pass this they can pass it. I would think that somewhere in the deepest, darkest corner of their hearts they may be just a little bit embarrassed about this.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member is referencing orders of the House and rules and regulations. Would the honourable please speak to the amendment. (Interruptions)

[Page 4914]

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the member for Dartmouth North has supplied my very next thought which was where I was going with this is that since the people of Nova Scotia and the people who work in our health care system can't expect any kind of debate or discussion or openness in this Legislature, well then, by golly, a good place for it would be the Human Resources Committee. That is why I support, and I know that my caucus colleagues will be supporting this amendment, to refer the subject matter of Bill No. 68 to the Human Resources Committee.

Now it so happens that I am a member of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, and so if this amendment were to pass I would be fortunate enough to be one of the members, one of the nine members, who were able to deal with the subject matter of this bill in a constructive, open way. Frankly, the way the Human Resources Committee stands now, it would be hard to imagine a more useless committee. It would be nice to give it some weight, a little bit of oomph, because of the way the mandate of the Human Resources Committee has gone over the past number of years, not just under this government but under the last government as well.

Mr. Speaker, the Human Resources Committee really does have jurisdiction over a broad range of issues, like Health and Education, but do you think the Human Resources Committee actually has any hearings on this stuff? Well, no, it doesn't. Why is that? Well, it is because the government has a majority of members on the committee and controls the agenda of the committee. So the government carefully controls what is able to come before the Human Resources Committee.

This is an opportunity for the backbenchers back there, over on that side, to say that they are not satisfied with that, that that is not a good way of doing business. This is a way for this Legislature to give a mandate to the Human Resources Committee that it hasn't had up to now. Frankly, all the Human Resources Committee really does now is act as a rubber stamp for the government's patronage appointments. That is a bit of shame.

Things started out reasonably well in the early 1990's, when the Savage Liberal Government came to power and John Savage personally was, I believe he was, committed to ending practices of patronage. So, for a very brief window, the Human Resources Committee was no longer just a rubber stamp for patronage, but it didn't really last very long. It lasted less than year, really. The other members of Premier Savage's Party couldn't stand the fact that they weren't being allowed to have their patronage.

The Human Resources Committee became a rubber stamp, and if the members don't take my word for it, well, it was one of the government members of the day, the Honourable Ed Lorraine, who called it a rubber stamp and it was his government. He said he was fed up with the way the Human Resources Committee was working. Well, then we had an election, and for once the Human Resources Committee started having a meaningful mandate because we had a minority government. Suddenly, the government didn't control a majority of the

[Page 4915]

seats on the Human Resources Committee. So, suddenly, the Human Resources Committee had meaning, it had purpose and it was no longer a rubber stamp for the government's patronage. I think it is safe to say that during that brief 16 months, the Human Resources Committee actually performed the role that it should perform.

Then we had another election, and this crowd got a majority, and it has gone back to the same old thing, the same old rubber stamping of patronage appointments. I know a lot of members are pretty darn fed up about that, and I know that I am one of them. It is not much fun being a member of a committee that is just a rubber stamp controlled by the government. I suspect that there are other people on that committee who sit on that side of the House who aren't very happy either. I believe that to be true, but I guess we will have to wait for the coming weeks and months to see whether anything happens in that regard to demonstrate the truth of what I am saying.

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the Human Resources Committee, I welcome the opportunity to actually participate in a meaningful mandate, because there is plenty that the Human Resources Committee could do. One of the first things that the Human Resources Committee could do, if this amendment passes, is listen to Pam Briand, who is not only a registered nurse, but has her Bachelor of Nursing as well. Pam wrote a letter today - and I am not going to read the letter, of course, because that is not generally allowed under the Rules of the House, but I do want to hit the highlights of what Pam had to say. It is dated today, and it opens with this line, that today is the day that I have become ashamed to be a Nova Scotian.

Pam goes on to explain how insulted and disrespected she feels by the fact that her rights as a unionized employee are being taken away. She also mentions that she has worked elsewhere in Canada; she mentions that she worked for a number of years in Calgary. What Pam wants the members of this Legislature to know - and the Human Resources Committee if it comes to that - is that today in 2001 she currently takes home the same amount in her paycheque that she did 18 years ago when she worked in Calgary; 18 years ago, and she is making the same amount today.

Do you think the government is validating what Pam is saying? Do you think they are offering her the respect that she deserves with Bill No. 68? No, I don't think they are. This is how Pam closes her letter, and maybe Pam needs to appear before the Human Resources Committee so that she can look in the eyes of the five government members on that committee and tell them this face to face, I do not want to go on strike. I want the government to give us a fair deal. I want to continue as a dedicated employee of the Capital Health District and be able to support my family. I want to be a proud Nova Scotian who can live in her home province. She says she is one of those people who returned home to Halifax all those years ago, still believing that this is a good place to raise a family. It is time to make that a true statement for health care workers. If she has to move from Nova Scotia to earn a fair wage, she will.

[Page 4916]

Mr. Speaker, that letter is from Pam Briand of Halifax, Nova Scotia. I think the Human Resources Committee could really benefit from hearing from Pam and others like her. The Human Resources Committee could benefit from looking into some of the issues that I raised earlier. Not to go over them again, but just to hit the highlights, the Human Resources Committee could really do us all a lot of good if they looked into the question of whether the government is telling the truth about emergency services; about whether the government is using the pretext of a pending crisis when it knows that it has almost a complete deal on the provision of emergency services; and for anything on which there is no agreement they have a 24 hour arbitration clause.

The Human Resources Committee could certainly take a look at what alternative the government had compared to this draconian piece of legislation that they have before them and we talked about it earlier. There are industrial commissions of inquiry and there is binding arbitration. There are other ways to go than what they have done in this piece of legislation and I think the Human Resources Committee could be a big help in helping them figure out what some of their options are. I think we need somebody to look into the question of the truthfulness of those ads that the government has been running. I don't think that I can say this anywhere nearly powerfully enough or in a way to make that crowd over there listen, but those ads are untrue.

[10:00 p.m.]

Those ads which start with the misleading visuals say that if the nurses accept this deal they will be the highest paid nurses in Atlantic Canada. I think the Human Resources Committee should look into the fact that that is true by 38 cents an hour, and it is true for the very highest paid workers among the nurses, and it is true only for the next two weeks until the collective agreement in Newfoundland is renegotiated.

Mr. Speaker, I think the Human Resources Committee could do us all a lot of good if they looked into the issues about the truthfulness of those taxpayer-paid ads. As I said earlier, one of the most disrespectful things the government has done in a week of infamy, a week of disrespect is that they have paid for those ads with taxpayers' money, so every single health care worker has made their contribution to publishing those untrue ads. Every single one of us and every single one of those health care workers has paid for those ads that do not tell the truth.

Those ads do not explain that the government's top offer of 8.53 per cent applies only to certain members of the bargaining unit. Those ads don't say that many members of the bargaining unit are being offered two, two, and one which won't even help them keep up with inflation. Those ads don't say that there are 250 bargaining unit members who have been offered nothing, zero. So, with inflation, they will fall even further behind. Those ads don't say that, and I think someone ought to look into that.

[Page 4917]

Mr. Speaker, I think a good candidate for that is the Human Resources Committee of this Legislature, because, by golly, if we can't get them to stand up in their places and speak here, at least they can hear the truth as witnesses come before them in the Human Resources Committee. I think the Human Resources Committee needs to look at the effect of Bill No. 68 on collective bargaining in Nova Scotia. I don't think this crowd knows what they are doing. I don't think they know what they are doing and the devastating effect this will have on collective bargaining not just in the health care sector but in every sector in Nova Scotia.

Let's make no mistake about it, this bill is without precedent. It is without precedent in Nova Scotia; it is without precedent anywhere in Canada. I would have thought that the crowd on that side would have been interested in a little bit of investigation before they did that. I think the Human Resources Committee could do that investigation. In case the members on that side haven't noticed, in case they have been sleeping, some of them have, in case some of them have been in here all day and some of them have, in case the members on that side haven't been paying attention, I have some news for you. I have some news for the members on that side of the House, and that is that the trade union movement in Nova Scotia is unanimous that this is devastating and it's wrong. Not only the trade union movement, the Medical Society of Nova Scotia has come out today and said this is the wrong thing to do. This is not going to, as the government says, continue health care services in Nova Scotia, this is going to hurt health care services in Nova Scotia. I hope there is no one on that side of the House who is under any illusion about that. If they are, I would suggest they might want to sit for a little while on the Human Resources Committee as we travel the province hearing the truth.

Mr. Speaker, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union came out today and said this is the wrong thing to do. It will have a devastating effect on collective bargaining throughout Nova Scotia, not just in the education sector, not just in the health care sector but in every sector.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is a bit of chit-chat in the room that is causing difficulty in hearing. I was hoping that any private conversations could be taken outside so that we can all pay attention. The honourable member for Halifax Fairview has the floor.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I just want the members on that side of the House to make note of the fact that the chit-chat is not coming from the galleries because the people up in the galleries are listening. The chit-chat is not coming from this side of the House except for (Interruption) Well, I don't think I am even allowed to name names about where the chit-chat is coming. Let me just say that the chit-chat is not coming from anybody who normally sits on this side of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I actually thought I would probably get the place to calm down a little maybe while we continue the debate. In essence, I think I have had the opposite effect, but anyway, will the member permit an introduction?

[Page 4918]

MR. STEELE: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services on an introduction.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce some guests in the gallery this evening. In your east gallery is Mr. Jim Bradford. He is here with his wife, Virginia. She is an RN, having practised and served 25 years in this province. They are here tonight to observe the proceedings and they are taking great interest in Bill No. 68. I would ask the House to extend a warm welcome to them. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome to all our guests. The member for Halifax Fairview has the floor. He has approximately 26 minutes left.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to welcome all of our guests in the gallery tonight and in case they weren't here earlier, I would like to once again to all members of the gallery and, indeed, anybody watching on Legislative TV at home, I would like to extend my sincere apology that you would come to this House, or that you are watching this House, and that you are not seeing anything that any reasonable person would call debate. I am sorry about that and as a Nova Scotian and as a legislator, I apologize for that, but the way this House works, or at least works under this government, is that they introduce draconian legislation and then they don't say a word. I really apologize that that is what this House has been reduced to under this government.

Mr. Speaker, I was talking about the organizations that have today condemned the government for introducing Bill No. 68 and there is another item that I have not been able to confirm, but I would like to mention to the members of the House today, I did see it on the Canadian Press News wire, so I believe it to be the case, but as a result of Bill No. 68, the Canadian Union of Public Employees has announced a work-to-rule campaign in their workplaces. So Bill No. 68, instead of bringing on labour peace, is starting to bring on labour unrest and labour turmoil and that gang on that side of the House should have known that when they drafted Bill No. 68 and they introduced it in this Legislature. They should have known that, that nobody in Nova Scotia who values democracy, that nobody in Nova Scotia who values collective bargaining, is going to take this lying down. I think the gang on that side of the House needs to be aware of that.

Mr. Speaker, I suspect rather unlike most of the members on that side of the House, I have tried to do a bit of research into what has happened elsewhere in Canada. I have tried to give this a little context and I certainly have been able to ascertain that a bill of this nature is completely unprecedented anywhere in Canada, but there has been back-to-work legislation elsewhere, of course, although nobody has tried to do it quite this way except the neighbouring Tories in New Brunswick earlier this year. I guess we know where this government looks to for its lessons.

[Page 4919]

Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland in 1999 ordered striking health care workers back to work. Of course, Nova Scotia did it with the paramedics back in 1999, but then they did it through the mechanism of binding arbitration. That was rather a spectacular failure, of course, because the strike started before the bill could go through. We haven't heard any member on the government side, certainly not the Minister of Health, explain why that was good enough in 1999 and it is not good enough any more; why, instead of binding arbitration, they have to order them back to work, dictate the terms of their collective agreement, and then eliminate any recourse to the courts. I would love to hear anybody on that side stand up and explain that, Mr. Speaker.

New Brunswick earlier this year, as I mentioned, ordered their health care workers back to work and so did Quebec in 1999, Mr. Speaker, and of course so did Saskatchewan in 1999. I want to talk a little bit about the Saskatchewan situation because it is instructive; it is instructive indeed. Back in 1999 the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses, or SUN, commenced a walkout. The government of the day, the NDP Government of the day, legislated them back to work, but there are two particular things that I want to make note of. I am not here to apologize for the NDP Government of Saskatchewan, although I do note that when the members on that side of the House like to toss around Saskatchewan they conveniently forget the most literally criminal provincial government this country has ever seen was the Progressive Conservative Government of Saskatchewan that preceded the NDP Government. I forget how many of them were actually convicted of defrauding the taxpayer. I believe that about 20 were charged.

The Leader of the Opposition is helpfully telling me that 13 of them were convicted of defrauding the people of Saskatchewan, as well as leaving an absolute mountain of debt behind, Mr. Speaker, for the Roy Romanow Government of the NDP. So if that crowd over there wants to talk about Saskatchewan, I wonder if they want to talk about the criminal Progressive Conservative Government of Saskatchewan. But, as I said, I am not here to be the apologist for the NDP Government of Saskatchewan, they did what they did and, believe me, it was unpopular at the time.

I want to do two things, Mr. Speaker. I want to make note of some differences between their legislation and this gang's legislation, then I want to talk about the apology that the Government of Saskatchewan gave to the nurses and health care workers of Saskatchewan.

The first notable difference between the Saskatchewan legislation and Bill No. 68 is that the terms on which they were being ordered back to work are right there in the legislation. They are written right into the legislation so they could be debated in the House. This gang over here in Nova Scotia isn't willing to do that. What they are willing to do is say that they can, just by Order in Council, just by the stroke of a pen of a few Cabinet Ministers, they can dictate the terms of the collective agreement. They are not even brave enough, Mr. Speaker, to put their proposal in front of this House, even in a piece of legislation that is sure

[Page 4920]

to pass. They are not even brave enough to put it on the table, so as well as lacking leadership, as I mentioned earlier, they are also lacking courage.

Another noticeable difference, Mr. Speaker, between the Saskatchewan bill and our bill, of course there is no privative clause - which I will talk about a little bit later - no denying recourse to the courts, but what it says is that the Act is repealed whenever the employer and the employees reach a collective agreement, so it doesn't just sort of hang out there, hanging over people's head forever. One of the parts of Bill No. 68 that has pretty much slipped under the radar until now is the fact that Bill No. 68 doesn't deal with the immediate crisis in the Capital District Health Authority because it extends to the year 2004 and it applies to every health care bargaining unit in Nova Scotia and I bet a lot of people don't realize that.

There are three bargaining units that are close to being in a position to strike, Mr. Speaker, but does this bill deal with only those three bargaining units? No, it does not. It says that the government can outlaw any strike anywhere in Nova Scotia in any health care bargaining unit until after the next election. They should be just a little bit embarrassed about that and I am sure we will be doing our part to make sure the public is aware that that provision is in this bill. This is not about a crisis, this is not about an emergency, this is about a government trying to take control and trying to make sure it gets by until after the next election; that is what it is all about.

[10:15 p.m.]

Now I would like to get to the apology and my most earnest wish is that we don't have to go through what Saskatchewan went through. I don't think anybody in Nova Scotia wants the nurses and other health care workers to go on strike, I certainly don't, Mr. Speaker. In Saskatchewan they did go on strike and it was a very bitter strike. What I would like, my dearest wish is that in Nova Scotia we can learn by what happened in Saskatchewan, just put this on fast forward and go straight from here to the apology, which is what happened in Saskatchewan. The only problem is a lot of very bad stuff happened in between.

In order to help the government because after all, that is what we are here for in the Opposition benches, we are here to help you - I know you find that hard to believe sometimes, but it is true, that is what we are here for. I am going to give you some indication on how you may want to word the apology. The apology, that sooner or later you are going to have to give and my earnest hope is that tonight you would withdraw this legislation and give this apology but it you can't do it now, maybe next week because if this goes very far, you are going to have to give this apology, you are going to have to do it, it is just a matter of when. So here are the words I would suggest and this is what the Minister of Health of the Government of Saskatchewan, wrote to the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses in 1999. It says, "The government that I am a part of must share a part of the blame. When we took office in 1991, we faced tremendous challenges. Simply put, Saskatchewan was on the verge of

[Page 4921]

bankruptcy. As a government, our attention was focussed on dealing with this crisis. However, while we were dealing with these vital issues, we made some mistakes." And this is the important bit, Mr. Speaker, so if they listen to anything I say tonight, maybe it would be this bit, maybe I could ask them to stop the chit-chat for maybe 30 seconds.

The Saskatchewan Minister of Health went on to say, "One mistake was being too busy to really listen, to really hear, all of the legitimate concerns facing nurses and other health care workers. Some problems that should have been dealt with promptly were allowed to fester. For this, I apologize." So that is one constructive suggestion coming from the Opposition today and that suggestion is that you get your apology ready now and you get ready to say that apology in something like the words that the Saskatchewan Government apologized to their nurses union after they legislated them back to work.

Mr. Speaker, I hope they are getting their apology ready because at least the NDP Government of Saskatchewan, which maybe did a bad thing by legislating their nurses back to work, at least they were big enough to apologize, to say they were sorry for not listening. Let me tell you that this very much rings true in Nova Scotia. Some problems that should have been dealt with promptly were allowed to fester.

Earlier this evening I spoke about the fact that when I was on the doorsteps of Halifax Fairview only a few months ago, one of the things that struck me most particularly was the anger of every single nurse and health care worker I spoke to. If I ever needed a wake-up call, that was it; they are angry. They are not angry because they want a 3 per cent wage increase instead of 2 per cent, they are angry because they have been treated with disrespect for 10 years. Their complaints about shortages of nurses and medical technologists have gone unheeded. The last government didn't listen and this government is not listening. Their complaints about the working conditions under which they have to operate have gone unheeded.

Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting that if any member on that side of the House is feeling sorry for themselves because they are tired, hot and maybe a little hungry, there are some nurse I spoke to today who say, you are only beginning to understand the kinds of working conditions that we work under. At the end of a 12 hour shift in the operating room, one nurse told me, as they are running - they are not walking, they are running - to get the things that are needed, with blood flowing on the floor of the operating room and they are at the end of their shift and they are running, they know that when they go home that weekend that they will be on call all weekend until the minute that their next scheduled shift starts. Those are the real working conditions of Nova Scotian nurses and it didn't just happen yesterday, there has been a slow deterioration for 10 years.

The nurses and the other health care workers are saying to you today, listen to what we are saying. In Saskatchewan the government didn't listen and they admitted it and they said they were sorry. You have the opportunity now to skip those ugly days in Saskatchewan

[Page 4922]

when they had a nurse and health care worker strike, we can skip all that and go straight to the apology and go back to the bargaining table, which is where you belong. That is how to deal with the issues the nurses and health care workers are raising, at the bargaining table. It is not in the Legislature in its so-called emergency sitting, sitting 24 hours a day, those are not the ways to deal with the concerns nurses have raised.

Mr. Speaker, as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out in his usual thoughtful way, you can't legislate good morale, you can't legislate good working conditions, you can't legislate job satisfaction, you can't legislate people from leaving Nova Scotia - like my sister who left Canada to nurse elsewhere - you can't legislate these things. You are not dealing with the issue, you are not listening.

Mr. Speaker, I would think my job would be done if I made only one helpful suggestion, but I have another. As a free bonus for the members on that side of the House, I have a second helpful suggestion, gleaned from the Saskatchewan experience from which we can all learn. Here is something else that happened in Saskatchewan that you folks on that side of the House might want to try. The letter of apology from the Saskatchewan Minister of Health goes on to say this, "One beneficial effect of the events of the past few months is that we've heard you. We have heard nurses. We heard you when Premier Romanow and I met with you and Ms. Crossman for 11 hours last week. At that meeting, we genuinely believed and still believe - that we have put forward proposals that addressed many legitimate concerns of nurses."

When the times were the toughest in Saskatchewan, before anybody went on strike in Saskatchewan, the Premier of Saskatchewan and the Minister of Health sat down eyeball to eyeball with the leaders of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses and they talked for 11 hours to try to reach an agreement at the highest levels. This was before anybody went on strike; this was before any legislation was introduced in the Saskatchewan Legislature. The Premier of the province sat down for 11 hours and tried to hammer out an agreement.

Mr. Speaker, my second helpful suggestion is that our Premier do the same, that our Minister of Health go along with the Premier and that he do the same thing. I know that I and I am sure my colleagues in the NDP and I am sure our friends in the Liberal Party would readily agree to adjourn the House for as long as is necessary for that meeting to take place. We will agree not to come back to this place until that meeting is held. We will agree to that. We haven't caucused it, but I am sure that I would be able to persuade my caucus colleagues to do that. (Interruptions) My caucus colleagues who are here are in immediate agreement with that proposal, because it is a good idea.

Mr. Speaker, remember what that Nobel prizewinner Linus Pauling said, the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas. It is not just to listen to the voices in your own heads and think that you have all the answers; it is to learn from experience elsewhere like Saskatchewan and say, what can we do differently, so that we don't have a nurses' strike and

[Page 4923]

a strike of health care professionals in Nova Scotia. These are all things that the Human Resources Committee of the Legislature could inquire into. I think a meeting like that would do a great deal of good. At the end of the day, the Government of Saskatchewan realized that they had not listened. They should have and they didn't.

Mr. Speaker, now, I also have in front of me and would be pleased to share with the members on that side of the House similar comments about legislation from Quebec, which I would be pleased to share with them in both official languages, legislation in New Brunswick, legislation in Newfoundland, and the other provinces that have done it, to show you that there is a better way. You don't have to do what you have done here.

Mr. Speaker, I only have a few minutes left, and perhaps more eloquently than I could ever speak, more eloquently than reading any legislation or account of facts from other provinces is just to let you know what the facts are here in Nova Scotia. I am very pleased that Natalie Shearer, a registered nurse from the QE II Health Sciences Centre, Unit 8.2, saw fit to send down to me earlier this evening a fact that I think we should all find a little bit shocking. What Natalie told me, and I think the members on that side of the House would do well to listen to this, is that of the 79 graduates from the registered nurse program at Dalhousie in the year 2000, guess how many stayed in Nova Scotia? Natalie told me, I wonder if anybody on that side of the House knows. There were 79 graduates, how many do you think stayed in Nova Scotia? I wonder if the member for Dartmouth North cares to hazard a guess.

MR. JERRY PYE: Seven.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Twelve.

MR. STEELE: Seven, 12. You are both wrong. You are both too high. The Minister of Economic Development hazarded the guess 12, which would be shameful enough. The member for Dartmouth North, who as usual has a bit more of a grip on the real facts, said seven, but in fact the number was six. Six graduates out of 79. As I have said before and as I will say again until the crowd on that side of the House is tired of hearing it, those 71 people who left Nova Scotia are our families, our friends, our neighbours, they are the people who would have built our health care system, they are the people who would have built our communities, but they are not here. They are not here anymore because the working conditions and the pay and the respect that they get in Nova Scotia is not enough to keep them here.

Mr. Speaker, 6 out of 79, and I don't think that the people in this House should rest until those numbers are reversed, until we get something more like only 6 out of 79 leave and if they leave it is for family or other reasons. Wouldn't that be something to brag about?

[Page 4924]

[10:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, there is plenty for the Human Resources Committee to examine. There is so much that they could look at; there are so many people they could hear from if only this government is willing to listen. I have made a couple of suggestions tonight that I want the government to take seriously and that is to prepare and deliver that apology before it is too late, and the other thing is for the Premier of this province and the Minister of Health to sit down with the leaders of the public service unions that are involved in this situation and, in order for the government to act on those proposals, in order to give them an opportunity to let this House adjourn until they have acted on those suggestions, I move that the House do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: There is a motion to adjourn the House.

Is it agreed?

A recorded vote is being called for.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, the debate is still underway and we have already had a vote on a motion to adjourn. I would suggest that if there was another member who wishes to speak, that person may do so. The actual motion is out of order.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, Government House Leader, but my understanding of the rules is that where there has been an intervening proceeding, and in this case that would have been the vote on the hoist, then (Interruptions) I have already discussed this with the Clerk, the Minister of Justice should know.

Order, please.

I am just consulting with the Clerk and we need a couple of minutes, so can we recess the House for five minutes to review the rule with regard to this.

[10:34 p.m. The House recessed.]

[10:36 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: The House will reconvene. I was consulting with the Clerk with regard to the issue of a motion to adjourn. That is why I asked the member for Halifax Fairview if this was a motion to adjourn the House. I am just going to refer to the rules. Section 27(2) of the rules states, "When a question is under debate, no motion shall be made except as provided elsewhere in these Rules, other than an amendment to that question or a

[Page 4925]

motion for the adjournment of the debate; and the question on a motion for adjournment of the debate shall be put without debate."

Now, my reading of that is that if there is another section in the rules that allows for another type of motion, then that is one of the exceptions. Section 42 of the rules states, "A motion to adjourn shall always be in order but no second motion to the same effect shall be made until after some intermediate proceedings have been had.", which goes back, I believe, to the original point of order from the Government House Leader. There is no definition of intermediate proceedings. If you look in Beauchesne for reference, it says an intermediate proceeding, under Section 385(2) includes a vote.

Since there has been a vote since the last time there was a motion to adjourn the House, that would be the vote on the hoist, the motion is in order. There is a request for a recorded vote. Therefore, I will ask for the division bells to ring.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I respect the decision that you have made, however, I would ask that this matter be reconsidered by the Speaker when he returns to the House, and the two Clerks, so that a decision is not made which is binding on this House in future as a precedent, because, quite frankly, I believe that the precedent in this House has always been that a vote is not an intervening proceeding.

MR. SPEAKER: So, you are not opposing the decision, you are saying take it (Interruptions)

The motion is in order.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[10:39 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?

The honourable Government House Leader, before we put the question.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the hours for Monday will be, the House will convene at one minute after midnight, that is 12:01 a.m. Monday, and sit until midnight, 12:00 p.m. on Monday, 11:59 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, I don't think you want to say 12:00 p.m., I think what you . . .

[Page 4926]

MR. RUSSELL: We will be sitting 24 hours commencing at midnight on Sunday, but we will convene at one minute past midnight. The order of business will be Public Bills for Second Reading and we will be proceeding with Bill No. 68, the Healthcare Services Continuation (2001) Act.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is all day Monday, right?

MR. RUSSELL: That is all day Monday.

MR. SPEAKER: Just so I am clear, that is from 12:01 a.m. Monday until 11:59 p.m. Monday.

MR. RUSSELL: Right.

MR. SPEAKER: Just so we are clear for purposes of the record - that is just because we are in the middle of putting the question on the motion - that's with the consent of all members of the House to allow the member to put that.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

So the motion is to adjourn the House. The Government House Leader with the unanimous consent of the House has said the hours for Monday will be 12:01 a.m. until 11:59 p.m. on Monday. I will ask the Clerk to call the roll.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[11:38 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Christie Dr. Smith

Mr. Baker Mr. Samson

Mr. Russell

Mr. LeBlanc

Miss Purves

Mr. Fage

Mr. Balser

Ms. McGrath

Mr. Ronald Chisholm

Mr. Olive

Mr. MacIsaac

[Page 4927]

Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. Dooks

Mr. Langille

Mr. Chataway

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

Mr. Dexter

Mr. Pye

Mr. Steele

THE CLERK: For, 25. Against, 2.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The House is adjourned until 12:01 a.m. on Monday.

[The House rose at 11:40 p.m.]