The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

June 18, 2001 continued

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.

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

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

[Page 4978]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this is the second opportunity I have had to speak to this bill, Bill No. 68, and I can assure you that it won't be the last because we expect that this bill is going to be before this House for some time well into next week and with sufficient time, hopefully, to encourage as many Nova Scotians as possible to take a close look at what is happening here.

This bill should not be before this House of Assembly, Mr. Speaker. This bill is a betrayal of the health care workers and nurses of this province. It should not be here and we should not be standing in our places in this House debating such a bill.

[1:30 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this bill is nothing more than a new system of government evolving here in Nova Scotia, which is government by Cabinet decree, in other words, the powers of the Legislature are certainly going to be diminished in the future in favour of Cabinet decisions being made on just about everything from collective bargaining to the dishing out of patronage dollars to their friends in this province.

Mr. Speaker, our motion to refer this particular bill to the Human Resources Committee, perhaps, might be a way out for this government, because I am sure that as of last Friday, and over the weekend, that some of their members were home in their constituencies and no doubt have heard from health care professionals, nurses. I can tell you that I had the opportunity on the weekend to address approximately 300 nurses from the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union at a meeting in Sydney on Saturday evening. I outlined to that group the procedure in this House, and what we will be doing over the next few days to try to make Nova Scotians aware and make the nurses aware, the health care professionals aware, of what our responsibility is as Opposition members of this House.

Mr. Speaker, I was very frank with them. I told them that we would fight this bill to the end, but I also told them that this Tory Government is a majority government in Nova Scotia and unless the court of public opinion kicks in and some of these backbenchers in this government realize that they have made a mistake in acting like lemmings, just following the Cabinet decree that is before this House, then this bill will eventually go through, unfortunately, for health care workers in this province.

Mr. Speaker, noticeably absent at that meeting Saturday evening with the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union were the Tory members from Cabinet. Neither one of them were there. That meeting took place Saturday evening. There is a reason why the member for Cape Breton North wasn't there, because they couldn't find him. The nurses were looking for him all weekend, they couldn't find him. They left messages everywhere for him. They wanted him to come before that group and explain to that group why he supports this Cabinet decision on Bill No. 68, but they couldn't find him. No trouble finding him if there is a cheque to be given out down there, a federal cheque, that he can stand next to a federal member and

[Page 4979]

present a cheque. When it comes to a problem in that constituency or in Nova Scotia, he was nowhere to be found.

Mr. Speaker, the nurses from the Inverness area were also there. They were there to tell me how disappointed they were that they couldn't find their member, and he wasn't there Saturday evening. He wasn't there either. These nurses deserve better treatment than that. They deserve to have their government members there telling them why they are supporting this bill. I am going to tell you, they can't hide forever. They can't hide forever. In talking to nurses the other day - and that is why I think if we had this bill referred to the Human Resources Committee, they could go out and talk to the various stakeholders and have representations around this province on this particular bill. Perhaps common sense would then prevail, and this committee could report back to the House and say that Nova Scotians are not on side with this bill, and we should rethink the entire process, we should get to collective bargaining with these groups.

Mr. Speaker, here at the House the other day, I had the opportunity to talk to a couple of nurses. They told me that they were so upset with this particular bill, so upset with it that they didn't know what their options were going to be. They felt betrayed by this government; they felt worthless, because the Premier and the Minister of Health and the front bench and, yes, some MLAs have said, we couldn't trust these nurses to look after the people of Nova Scotia in a strike situation. That is a terrible indictment of the nurses and the health care workers of this province. A terrible indictment.

These people are caring individuals who would never let the health and safety of Nova Scotians be in any kind of jeopardy because of a labour dispute. They said that. The government chose not to listen to them. The reason the government chose not to listen to them is because they are not the main item on the agenda, they are being used in what this government intends to go down what they call a new direction in how to govern in Nova Scotia, government in the bunker by the Cabinet. They will decide in the future what raises are going to be given in this province; they will decide who is going to be able to have collective bargaining and for how long; they will decide the rules of the game.

This Legislature will be nothing more than a rubber stamp for the Lieutenant Governor to trot in here every once in a while and sign some bills, and we will all go to a reception and go home, because there will be no more decision-making in this Chamber here, the House of the people. Those decisions will be made in the Cabinet bunker, government by decree. The divine right to rule from this Tory Government.

As I have said here on many occasions, there were a number of different faces in those seats in the last seven or eight years, and I have been here to see them come and go. Some of them weren't even here long enough to warm the seats. I suggest to you that if those backbenchers keep following the direction of the front bench of that government, they will not be around after the next election.

[Page 4980]

Mr. Speaker, I spoke to another nurse the other day, who told me that in the constituency of Halifax-Bedford Basin there are over 600 nurses living in that particular area, all of whom are going to make sure that the member for Halifax-Bedford Basin, one of the people I am talking about, who will not be back here after the next election. If anybody wants to bet me money on that, I will take the bet. I will go through constituency-by-constituency and I will tell you which ones won't be back here after the next election, because we are now hearing from those people who are not, by the way, hearing from their MLAs.

Mr. Speaker, I said that many backbenchers returned home last weekend, but some didn't, some were hiding out, some couldn't be reached, but I will guarantee you, in the case of the two from Cape Breton that I had the opportunity to talk to some of their constituents about, they were telling me that the only time you see them is when they are trying to score some points. If there is any controversy, they are nowhere to be found. I think it is tragic that a wannabe Cabinet Minister could not go before that group Saturday evening and explain the position of his government and, worse than that, the Minister of Tourism didn't even do it. He couldn't be found either, Saturday evening.

Mr. Speaker, those members have a responsibility to explain to those people who they serve in this place why they are supporting Bill No. 68. The Human Resources Committee, if this bill should go that route and we sincerely hope it does, would allow the government to be open and accountable. It would give the government the opportunity, through that committee, to receive representation from Nova Scotians right across this province; to receive the kind of representation and the ideas and the discussion and the dialogue that could then come back in a committee report with some recommendations by both government members and Opposition members who would be on that committee.

Mr. Speaker, I think the committee should be empowered to travel the province. I say that because, what is the hurry? Why is the government trying to ram this bill through, meeting 24 hours a day to get this bill through the House? What is the hurry? Most people thought that if the government was concerned about a strike here in Nova Scotia, they would have suggested to the bargaining units, let's talk about binding arbitration, third party intervention, approved and supported by both Parties. That would have been an option. Maybe it wasn't an option that the union would accept, I don't know. But that option wasn't given to them. The option that is given to them now is no option. There is no more collective bargaining in this province with this group after this bill goes through. It is all over. Good night. Turn the lights out. It is all over.

The Cabinet will decide the worth of health care professionals in this province, nobody else but the Cabinet, out of the sight and the scrutiny of this Legislature, the House of the people of Nova Scotia, which is fast becoming redundant because of Bill No. 20, because of the Barrington bill, because of Bill No. 30 and now because of Bill No. 68. What bill is coming in next that is going to take the rights of Nova Scotians away from the visibility and the accountability of this House of Assembly? What bill is coming in the fall? More

[Page 4981]

draconian legislation? I believe that if we could afford the opportunity for interest groups on this particular bill to have their say in a public forum across the province, it would certainly relieve some of the anxiety that these groups are facing.

Mr. Speaker, in talking to the group that I talked to the other evening, before the meeting started, my colleague for Cape Breton The Lakes and I had a chance to talk to some of the nurses informally from the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union and they were telling me that the working conditions and the problems they are facing in the workplace were bad enough before this bill came along and now they find themselves getting up in the morning wondering why they are doing this work on behalf of their fellow citizens when the government doesn't have any interest in them or doesn't have any faith that they can do the job or, indeed, with a labour interruption, they would look after the people they were sworn to serve.

They don't understand why the government is taking this attitude, Mr. Speaker. They don't understand that because they thought they were doing a good job and Nova Scotians think they are doing a good job. So why is the government doing this? The government is using this group as pawns in a larger game here and the backbenchers of that Party haven't caught on to it yet. They haven't caught on to it. This is a full-scale assault on the collective bargaining process in the Public Service of this province. That is what is going on here, but they took on the wrong group when they took on the health care workers and the nurses of this province.

Some of their advisors probably told them, Mr. Speaker, let's take this group on and get the job done, go down that road by using this group because they are the most non-militant group that we know. That is what the government said. So let's take them out of the picture first and then we will set the precedent legislation and then we will go after bigger fish. But they made a mistake here. I believe that they under-estimated public opinion here as to the worth and the sincerity of the health care professionals in this province.

I believe, Mr. Speaker, that this government should now, before it is too late, withdraw Bill No. 68 and send it to a committee because I think that is the only way they can truly gauge public opinion. I know what the public opinion is. I was home on the weekend. I was available to people who wanted to talk to me and they told me, they gave me an earful about what is going on in this Legislature. They told me they didn't like this legislation and I told them that we wish this bill could go to a committee so it could receive the kind of airing it deserves. It deserves to be talked about, it deserves to be vetted right across this province because it is an important bill that I believe if it is not going to be pulled entirely by the government - and that is what should happen to it - that at least the government should send a committee across the province to gauge public opinion on this very important issue.

[Page 4982]

[1:45 a.m.]

But they are not going to do that unless there is a tremendous change of heart in the next couple of days, which I don't anticipate. I told the people that I was speaking with on the weekend that we can keep this debate going until we run the clock out, by legislative rules. The government is determined to do that by sitting 24 hours a day, trying to ram the bill through. We will send it off to Law Amendments sometime later this week or early next week and probably invoke closure there to get it back in here. Once it is back in here, we are down to 40 hours, no matter how we cut it. That will be the time at the Committee of the Whole House on this bill where we will be making a number of amendments to the bill that, should they be passed, would dramatically alter the intent of the bill and perhaps even make the bill not necessary.

I don't think the bill is necessary. My colleagues and our Party don't think the bill is necessary. The NDP don't think the bill is necessary. The Public Service doesn't think the bill is necessary, the editorial writers for the major papers in this province don't think the bill is necessary. The journalists I have spoken with and the electronic media that I have heard, don't think the bill is necessary. The Nova Scotians I have spoken with and other members in our Party have polled and talked to, they don't think the bill is necessary. Who thinks the bill is necessary? Prince John, the sheriff and his buddy over there, they think it is necessary. Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham, who have done nothing since they have come in here but taxed everything but the telephone poles and called them user pay services, instead of taxation. They think it is necessary.

They are tired of the Legislature. They don't want to have to come here and talk to Nova Scotians about bills or about the direction where government is going. They want to do it downstairs out of sight. By OIC - Order in Council. By Cabinet decree. We will be reduced to coming here once a year for a tea party and then sent home to tell our constituents that the Cabinet is running this province and not the members of this Legislature.

Nova Scotians aren't being fooled by this Premier or this Finance Minister who has already boldly proclaimed that this province is going to have larger debt payments in the future even though they have got a war chest full of money for the next election, a windfall that was given to them by the federal government. They are not going to spend that windfall on the public sector people, on the nurses, on the health care professionals. They are putting it away for the next election, that is what they are doing with it and letting the debt go up while they are doing it because they are socking some of that money away as well.

So, what does that tell you? It tells you they have nothing but contempt for the professionals who are working in this province. The other day, I stood in my place here and I asked the very first question the day after that bill was introduced. The Premier had the time out in the foyer to tell the press the reason that bill was here, only one day after a mediator was appointed, but didn't tell the members on this side of the House during Question Period

[Page 4983]

because he wasn't here. The Premier of this province was not even in the House to explain . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. The honourable member for Cape Breton South knows full well that he is not to indicate the presence or the absence in this House of a member and I would ask him to refrain from that, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton South has the floor.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, you are absolutely right. I will not mention anymore that the Premier wasn't in his place the other day.

Let me go back to the Human Resources Committee. We supported the NDP on the first motion that came through the House to hoist this bill and it got nowhere, but we ran the clock out on that and now we are on the motion to refer to committee and we had hoped by now that the Government House Leader might have come and talked to us and said look, you know there is a hope that we may be able to get a settlement here, so we don't see the reason to hurry this bill along. I think your idea of a Human Resources Committee is a good one and perhaps we should set up this committee and ask Nova Scotians what they think of this new direction in deciding what public servants are going to make, or the working conditions of those public servants.

We think it is a good idea to gauge public opinion on that, but you know what, Mr. Speaker? The government is not going to do that for the same reason they wouldn't do anything on the Barrington bill, because of pride. They introduced a bill, and Heaven forbid that the Liberal Party or the NDP would have anything useful to say in this place, or any suggestions to make that might be saleable to the government or to Nova Scotians because this Cabinet knows everything that is good for Nova Scotians. They don't need anybody in this Legislature telling them which direction we should be going in because they want to govern by decree.

Mr. Speaker, this is a government that seems to be heading down the road to its own self-destruction and, as far I am concerned about that, the sooner the better because this government has no shame; they have great difficulty with the notion of justice and truth. We have had other examples of that in the past few weeks in the last session of the Legislature. They fail to act in good faith. They broke faith with the health professionals of this province last Wednesday. They held three Cabinet meetings last week at the same precise time that they were appointing a mediator and giving Nova Scotians, concerned about this issue, false hope that a mediator was going to perhaps resolve this entire issue. What did they do, Mr. Speaker, the very next day? They called this House of Assembly back in session and introduced Bill No. 68, the most regressive piece of legislation to ever hit the floor of this House of Assembly.

[Page 4984]

The Finance Minister states that I have a short memory, the Sheriff of Nottingham over there. He tells me that, when he was part of the government that bankrupted this province in the 15 years that he sat in the Cabinet of John Buchanan. He, and the Government House Leader, those two, of all people, should not sit in their places in this House and talk about fiscal responsibility or what is good for public servants.

Mr. Speaker, I believe this bill is the ultimate abdication and an admission of defeat of this government. Much has been said about the past and the minister referred to it, that I have a short memory. I want to tell you that we, when we sat in government in this province, had difficult negotiations with public sector workers, but we settled those negotiations at the bargaining table. Sure they were long in some cases, and sure there was great difficulty in settling them, but we did not come to this House of Assembly with a bill that is going to wipe out public sector negotiations. That is what this crowd is doing, its a great deal different than what has happened before in this province. I must tell you, even the previous Tory Government in this province would never resort to this kind of action here.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask you to ask Nova Scotians, any Nova Scotian other than this government: Who would condemn individuals whose only fight is to care for other Nova Scotians? These people who are working in the health care system, who we are dealing with right now are not militant people. They are concerned professionals who want to get up and go to work on the long shifts that they do and look after people. They don't want to have to go to work every day and talk about this foolishness that we are going through here. They have a job to do and they want to get on with it and do it, but they would like to know that this government appreciates what they are doing and is not trying to design legislation and implement legislation that effectively takes away all their rights and puts it in the hands of self-serving Cabinet Ministers, whose only goal is to get their government re-elected by whatever means that they can put at their disposal.

I think, Mr. Speaker, that they really feel that the harder the line they take with the Public Service, the more Nova Scotians are going to thank them for it. Well, I have got news for them. I think that whoever told them that, the backroom boys in that Party that told them that, should be fired because, obviously, their political strategy leaves a lot to be desired. I am going to tell you, when you take on the health care workers, the nurses of this province, the caring professionals who look after their fellow citizens, then you have taken on the wrong group. If this government felt that by getting this bill through the House, that they are using these people as a stepping stone to more regressive legislation with other groups in this province, then they have picked on the wrong group.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is nothing more than a campaign of intimidation and manipulation and I have talked about that manipulation. If we had this bill on a road show across this province with a legislative committee, I think you would get very interesting dialogue from various sectors in Nova Scotia as to where they feel this bill should be going. I would suggest to you that most of them would say that this bill is not necessary. The

[Page 4985]

collective bargaining process in this province has never failed to succeed in the long run. If both sides could work at it, the collective bargaining process can work in this province, if both sides want it to work.

Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure that this committee, if it was travelling, would hear this. They would hear that what is happening with this bill is that when the Cabinet of the day decides that they have had enough negotiation with this group or any other group, they will simply go down into the bunker and decree what the result is going to be of those negotiations. They will suspend the negotiations, make a decision and that is it. Game over. Now, you have to realize that the Cabinet is the employer here. They are going to make a unilateral decision and they are the employer. So guess what side of the contest the decision is going to be made in favour of?

Do you honestly think, Mr. Speaker, that this Cabinet is going to make a decision in favour of the very people they are negotiating against? Not likely. So in effect, there is no more collective bargaining - none at all, that is it. You might as well just pack it in and throw yourselves at the mercy of the Cabinet. You know, that can't be allowed to happen. As I said Saturday evening in Sydney to the group that was there, we hope to be able to get a legislative committee to sit down with you, at some point in the future, and talk about this bill. I don't know if that is going to happen, but we are going to talk about this amendment and we are going to talk about it and talk about it until we can no longer talk about it because of legislative restrictions or the government decides to rule in favour of a committee to travel the province.

[2:00 a.m.]

Now I believe, Mr. Speaker, that what this committee would be told is that if this bill proceeds, we are going to set public sector government relations back a long, long time. I believe the morale in the health care field, as bad as it is now, will be much worse in the future. That is not a good working environment for those people and it is not a healthy environment for the people who must use that service. I believe, because of the strains, that the quality of health care will continue to suffer greatly in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think you would argue, or anybody would argue, the worth of the health care professionals in this province. We all have a connection to the health care system. We all have people who are either employed in the system or we have relatives who use the system. As I said here the other day, in my own case, I have a daughter who is a nurse, who is now practising in Nova Scotia, who was away for a few years working in a very stressful environment with a Medevac team in the north and came home to what she thought was going to be a somewhat less stressful job here in Nova Scotia. Now she tells me she wishes she was back up north, flying around the frozen north with patients. She considers that a piece of cake now to the work that is down here and the stress and the strain in Nova Scotia.

[Page 4986]

So I believe that committee, if it went around the province, would hear from groups who will talk about the stress and the strain of that particular vocation. Twelve hour days are not uncommon. Lost weekends, not uncommon. Can't get vacations, not uncommon. A shortage of help is not uncommon in this province. So where is the grand plan that the government has to protect the health care professionals in Nova Scotia, other than taking their bargaining rights away from them? Who in the name of heaven is going to come to Nova Scotia on any recruitment program to work and help relieve the strain that our present- day health care professionals are under? Who is going to come to Nova Scotia with Bill No. 68 in place? Who is going to come to Nova Scotia when their only court of appeal on anything is the Cabinet?

My heavens, Mr. Speaker, they even put in the bill that there was no redress to the courts, that the Cabinet has the final say. They are the lord and master over this bill, not the courts. There is no redress to anybody. They have the final decision. What kind of democracy is that? It is not even the Legislature that has the final authority, the House of the people. The 52 MLAs in this House are not going to have the decisions on these bills in the future and on labour negotiations and on seeing the democratic process take its due course. This crowd has decided that they are going to do it by government by decree, by the divine right to rule. The front bench knows what is best for Nova Scotians. The health care professionals don't, the members of the Legislature don't, the people who use the health care services don't, but the Cabinet does.

This bunch of politicians has only one goal, and I said it before in this House, to get themselves re-elected so they can look after all their rich and powerful friends in this province that they missed in the last 15 years that they were in government. We see signs of that every day. All you have to do is look around this province and see what is going on with their friends, privatizations coming, public servants being jettisoned in favour of part-time workers, give-aways to large corporations. You are seeing that happen, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I would think that this government would realize that they were, perhaps, getting away with some of it until they tried this draconian legislation on the House. If I was a Cabinet Minister in that government and some strategist suggested to me that this was the way to get re-elected, by bringing Bill No. 68 before this House and ramming it through, then the first thing I would do is fire that strategist because he obviously doesn't know what he is talking about, because he is grossly underestimating the opinions of Nova Scotians, as it affects their health care workers and their nurses and everybody who works in the health care system in this province.

Mr. Speaker, what kind of insanity would allow a government to come with a bill that takes all bargaining rights away from this group, with no redress even to the courts of this province? It can't be just because they are worrying about a strike here, because the health care people, the professionals, have told this government they would ensure that the people of this province would be protected in any kind of a work stoppage situation. But the

[Page 4987]

government said they didn't believe them; the government said they couldn't be trusted. Can you imagine, people who work 12 hours a day, work weekends, working in terrible conditions, can't get vacations, but yet are giving quality care, they cannot be trusted.

Mr. Speaker, the people who can't be trusted are the people on the front benches, across this floor. I am going to tell you that this government has made what I consider to be their biggest mistake since coming into office. They have taken on the one sector of our society, I believe, that enjoys universal acceptance by all Nova Scotians. As I said before, there are a lot of one-termers in this House, and as I look over there, there will be empty seats, there will be new people in those seats after the next election, but they won't be over there, they will be over here, but there will be empty seats. Some of the smugness on the faces of those people while we are debating this very serious bill, that smugness will go away very soon, when they get the reverberations from their constituents as to what is happening in this House and the role that they have played in it.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier has said, often, that he would favour having his MLAs vote their conscience on a number of issues. Well, here is an issue, when this vote comes eventually, in a couple of weeks' time, when this vote comes, I want to see where those members stand. Are they going to stand up for health care? Are they going to stand up for the nurses? Are they going to stand up for health care workers and professionals in this province? Or, are they going to follow the lead of the front bench? No one expects any Cabinet Minister to change his mind on this bill, because that means instant expulsion from the Cabinet if they do that. But, there are backbenchers here who have an opportunity to do something.

It is bad enough that this bill takes away the right to strike, but a wage settlement without negotiations - Mr. Speaker, I might ask, if the Finance Minister wants to get on his feet when I am finished and take part in this debate, I would welcome that. In the meantime, I would hope he would afford me the opportunity to complete my remarks without having to compete with him. Get up on his feet when I am finished. Let him get up and tell Nova Scotians, when I am finished, why he supports Bill No. 68. Get on the record. When I sit down, let him get up and speak.

Not too many of them want to get on the record, including the Justice Minister, who thinks this is nothing more than a joke. That is what he thinks, nothing more than a joke. (Interruptions) That is all he thinks it is, nothing more than a joke.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Again, just to remind the members in the gallery, I would ask you to respect the rules and regulations of this House, that you not respond to what is happening on the floor of the House, please. Thank you.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

[Page 4988]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: They may not be able to speak, but I can. When I look over there and see that smug face and what has been going on his department, I take exception to what this government is doing and how they are treating this bill, treating it as some kind of minor piece of legislation, and that we are occupying useless time in here debating it. They think that because they feel they have a divine right to rule that all of this is for naught, that we shouldn't have to listen to the Opposition in this House, they should just ram the bill through and go home for the summer, and then just legislate everything they want with these workers in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to tell you that this group, this so-called Tory Government here, has made a tremendous mistake. I think they didn't think this through, but they still have an opportunity to do the right thing here. They still have an opportunity to withdraw this bill and let the collective bargaining process finish. I know from what I speak, because there are tough bargaining sessions in the public sector, there have been but they have all been successful in the end, they have all been settled. We didn't stand here and start battling about taking the right to bargain away from people. That is a basic right, the right to dictate working conditions, the right to bargain their rights of hours to work, their rights to a decent wage.

All of that is going out the window with this bill, and there is no redress. Once the Cabinet makes a decree, that's it, there is no redress to the courts. Did you ever hear of anything where the courts cannot even be brought in to play in this to help resolve something that may arise as a disagreement?

Here we are, we have the employer going to make the decision unilaterally. The Health Minister will stand in his place here and he will wax eloquently about how we are not the employer, the health boards are. Well, who gives the health boards the money? The Cabinet; the taxpayers of Nova Scotia through the Cabinet are the employer here. Unfortunately, the Cabinet can do what they want with the money once they get elected. Do you think they are going to reward these workers? They are going to reward themselves. They are going to call the game in the future, and they are going to call it the way they want to call it.

They are going to end up destroying the health boards, as well, and they are going to end up operating the entire Department of Health from the deputy minister's office and, by the way, the dozen or so people who are paid more than $125,000 to $130,000 a year in that department. That is who is going to run the show in the Health Department, as it is going to be in the Education Department and every other department of government. This government doesn't believe in any participatory democracy here, or anybody else making any decisions by consensus. This government believes in making decisions by divine rule of the Cabinet.

When you have that situation allowed to happen, you don't need a Legislature. You don't need a Legislature here. The rest of us might as well go home because the 12 or 13 Cabinet Ministers are going to run this province, and they are using the backbenchers who,

[Page 4989]

by the way, are not members of the government, some might think they are but they are not. They are no different than we, except they happen to sit in the government caucus. They are sent here to represent the wishes of the people who elected them. Those people, hopefully, will send a clear message to those backbenchers when the vote comes on this. When the vote comes on this bill I want to be here to see each and every one of them stand up and support this draconian legislation that will alter the collective bargaining process forever in this province.

I want to see the looks on each and every one of their faces when they get up and toe the government line. Some of the Cabinet hopefuls are going to do it, but there are members over there who have no chance of ever getting in the Cabinet, so they have an opportunity to do the right thing, and they are not restricted. They are not restricted by Cabinet solidarity. There are backbenchers who can do the right thing here, for once. They haven't done it on bills so far, but they have an opportunity to do it. The Premier has said that he wouldn't chastise anybody who did that in his caucus. He thinks it's a very free and open Party. Well, we will see when the bill comes here, we will see how open and accountable this government is.

[2:15 a.m.]

I go back to the amendment that our Party made on the Human Resources Committee. I believe that an all-Party committee should take sufficient time to canvass this whole bill throughout the province. Don't get me wrong,- my preference is to toss the bill right now and go back to the collective bargaining process that was employed in this province for the last 100 years, and it has always worked. That is my preference, but if this government is not going to do that, then this government should allow the three Parties of this House to go across this province and find out what Nova Scotians think about this bill; not five minutes each in Law Amendments, but go community to community on a bill of this importance. Find out what Nova Scotians think about this bill.

I am surprised that some of these health care professionals have put up with this to date. This problem that they are experiencing now is something that has been building for the last year or so, or probably longer than that, and it hasn't really been addressed. If you want good health care professionals to stay in this province, you have to pay them; you have to give them good working conditions; and you have to tell them that they do have the right to bargain.

They do have the right to go into negotiations for better working conditions and for better wages. But this government is circumventing that by saying there will be no more of that in the future, because we don't think you are responsible. We are going to tell you when to work, how long to work, and your working conditions, because we don't think you are responsible enough to do that. We are going to tell you that we are going to cut out the right to strike for you because we don't think you would act responsibly in a strike. That is what

[Page 4990]

they are telling these people, we don't trust you. The Premier said that the other day. He is going to have to say it to us, Mr. Speaker, this week. We will have Question Period Tuesday and we will be asking some questions that will be on the record as to why this bill is here. The Health Minister doesn't know why it is here, he just shakes his head.

He is not running this show. There are three people over there running the show and he is not one of them; by the way, neither is the Premier. But I am going to tell you that the agenda of this government is not an agenda that was born yesterday. It is a typical Tory agenda, conquer and divide; knock the Public Service down; build up our powerful friends in high places; make sure that they are looked after. You watch over the next few months what is going to happen with some of our provincial establishments. They are going to end up with some of the high-powered friends of this government. We know that; Bill No. 20 will tell you that, and Bill No. 30 told you that. Those are bills that are already through this House, but Bill No. 68 is not through this House yet.

I want to quote the Tory blue book regarding this particular issue. In the Tory blue book, the Tories promised that they would work "with the nursing profession to make sure that the work-environment offers a rewarding and positive experience where nurses know they can properly care for their patients, where they know they are valued and where they are empowered to have input into influencing of clinical practice outcomes." Those aren't my words. They are the government's Tory blue book promises; the Premier's promises, "where they know they are valued" - and this is the clause that I want to talk about again here - "where they are empowered to have input into influencing clinical practice outcomes." Well, translated, they are going to take all the rights away with this bill, a direct contradiction of a promise they made to Nova Scotians when they got elected, to get them elected.

Mr. Speaker, you have to say - there is no other way of saying it - when you look at this and look at Bill No. 68, the government lied to the people of Nova Scotia to get elected.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton South knows full well that to use the word lie in this House is unparliamentary and I would ask him to retract that, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, I wasn't referring to an individual, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The word is out of order and I ask him to retract it, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I will retract the word, lie, and perhaps insert, misled, instead. Is that okay? Misled is okay, is it? A rose by any other name, I guess. Anyway, Mr. Speaker, can you tell me how much time I have? (Interruption)

[Page 4991]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has about nine minutes.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: The good member for Preston over there, every once in a while, gives a helpful interjection. It doesn't mean very much, but he is a good timekeeper, anyway. Mr. Speaker, I am concerned about my time here because I have so much more to say about this particular amendment that we have put but I know that I'll be back again, at least three more times and perhaps will have the opportunity to say some more things about this draconian legislation that is before the House.

Mr. Speaker, I quoted directly from the Tory blue book, which turned out to be another Tory promise they had no intentions of keeping. Now given that Bill No. 68 does absolutely nothing to honour the blue book promise, perhaps the Human Resources Committee, which is an all-Party committee of this House, it is not controlled by the Cabinet, it is not controlled by the three wise men over there who are sitting alongside each other there and who think they are running this show, it is not controlled by them, and I use the word wise very advisedly. I don't want to take that out of context, but the three persons over there who are operating this government.

It takes it out of the power of those gentlemen. It takes it out of the power of the lady and gentlemen who are on the front benches. It takes it out of that power and gives the power to this House, Mr. Speaker, all members of this House, except the Cabinet. The Human Resources Committee is a committee of MLAs, a standing committee of this House. I believe that if the government would pull this bill back and let it go to this committee, that we would be able to gauge public opinion and have a full dialogue over the summer and into the fall, before the fall session of this House, as to whether it is advisable by virtue of public opinion and by virtue of the kind of input that Nova Scotians would then have on this bill, whether or not it is advisable to bring it back to the House at all or whether it is advisable to bring it back in an amended state.

I talked about militancy a little while ago and the lack of it in this particular group. I think this group of health care professionals in this province have not been heard of very much in the past because, Mr. Speaker, they don't want to be heard. They want to be listened to in terms of their work. They are not trouble makers. The ones I have talked to just want to get on with doing their job on behalf of their fellow citizens. I believe they should have the opportunity for their fellow citizens to tell them that. The Human Resources Committee would give that opportunity to Nova Scotians to come before this committee and tell this committee of the worth and the value of the work that is being done by these professionals in Nova Scotia.

We shouldn't be trying to chase these people away. We should be bringing more here to relieve some of the burden on the ones already working in the system. But the ones who are working in the system, Mr. Speaker, have to be looked after, have to be rewarded beyond the rewards they have been given to date.

[Page 4992]

As a matter of fact, I believe the problem has been that not only are they not being rewarded, but it is going the other way. The pendulum is swinging away from the kind of health care system that we have become accustomed to, because of the professionalism of these people, because of the stress and the strain that they are presently under. Now it is not bad enough that we have this bill coming before the House, but you see other measures creeping into the picture, measures of absenteeism where health administrators employed by the government are now keeping tabs on the employees about absenteeism. It is not bad enough that they are stressed to death, but now they are going to keep a record on them every day so if they are stressed too much, they have the evidence to get rid of them.

It is not bad enough that they are taking their bargaining rights away, but now they are going to take their working rights away because of the fact that they are stressed out, they are missing more time and now the administrators have served notice that they are going to document those statistics on a daily or weekly basis and when you reach the magic number, you are gone. What will our protection be then? There are no bargaining rights left. There is no agreement procedure left. So who do they go to for redress? They go to the Cabinet, their bosses. They write a letter to the Minister of Health, would you please ask the Cabinet to deal with my position because I have been wrongly dealt with. Now if there is anything more laughable than that, in terms of meting out justice in this province, it is this bill and it is this way of doing business.

Mr. Speaker, we would be derelict in our duty as Opposition members of this House if we sat back and let this bill go through without doing everything humanly possible to stop this bill. The only people I feel I can get to on that side of the House are the backbenchers, some of whom, I hope, have a conscience here, a conscience enough to see this bill for what it is - a manipulative piece of a bill that is only here for one reason. They picked on this group to set a new standard in this province. This crowd is determined to destroy relations between bargaining units, public sector units and the Cabinet, because the Cabinet feels that there should be no discussion in this province of anybody's rights except the rights of the Cabinet decree and that is what we have here.

Democracy is out the window. You tell me in that bill where there is one hint of democracy, where there is one hint of any kind of a situation in that bill that would give anybody any comfort except the Cabinet. The clause in the bill . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Hamm's hammer.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Hamm's hammer, that is right. The clause of the bill, Mr. Speaker, that deals with redress to the courts. Now I never thought I would stand in place and see a bill come before this place that the courts would ultimately not have a say, would never have a say in determining any litigation, that the Cabinet is now above the courts in this province. The Cabinet knows what is best, not the courts. We had similar situations of this before where Cabinet Ministers blamed the courts for not imposing fines

[Page 4993]

in another bill; blamed the courts. They said, it is not our fault. The courts weren't doing their jobs. So now the court is not going to be able to do their job on this bill because they are not going to be allowed to. This group of professionals has nobody to go to if this bill goes through, absolutely nobody. They are at the mercy of this Cabinet now and forever when this bill goes through.

What is interesting, Mr. Speaker, is they put a time frame on it. They said there will be no strike action allowed and this will be in effect until 2004, I believe. That happens to coincide with the next provincial election and that is why that date was put in there.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Your time has just expired.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: My time has expired. I will back. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in my place tonight and speak to the motion that Bill No. 68 should be referred to the Human Resources Committee of this House. This House is the birthplace of responsible government in our country. This historic Legislature is the crucible in which some of the most fundamental elements of our democratic system have been debated and ultimately resolved.

[2:30 a.m.]

I would argue that in each instance, despite the divergent views that we hear expressed, it has been for the good of all the people that have been served to the end of the day. I want to remind my good friends across the aisle of that. It is for the good of all the people, every single Nova Scotian that must be served here this evening. It is difficult to balance between individual rights, minority interests and the greater collective good that must be achieved as the result of our work and the end of the process.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the comments of the member for Glace Bay. He stood in this place well after midnight last Thursday evening and shared some very poignant words with the members of the House. The member for Glace Bay told of his mother, who was a nurse, a widow and the mother of a large family. Her dedication to her children was equalled by her dedication to caring for her community. Mr. Wilson honoured his mother on Thursday night and I believe she would be very proud of her son's words. I want the member for Glace Bay to know that my wife and I are fortunate to be blessed with two children and I also want Mr. Wilson to know that my sons' mother is, as his was, a nurse.

[Page 4994]

There are many members on this side of the House who understand the difficulties and duties that are part of the everyday life of health care workers. We know, not because of an ad in a paper, not because of a protester or a letter written to us, we know because we share these challenges every day because members of our families are helping carry what we all accept is a very heavy burden. I speak for everyone on this side of the House when I say we realize that health care workers are a dedicated and caring group who put the patients' needs first. This has never been questioned.

But, Mr. Speaker, our health care system only functions because of the structures and the processes that are put in place to ensure that patients can access the care they need when they need it. There is no doubt that while health care professionals will continue to do their best in the event of a strike, the structure and the processes that are designed to make the system work will be fractured and that will impact patient care. We can argue until the cows come home over whether or not there is a plan or not, but that is not the issue. The issue is that any reduction in health care services will bring a risk to life and limb to Nova Scotians.

That is not acceptable, Mr. Speaker. This government is not willing to risk the health and safety of Nova Scotians. The truth is that any reduction of service will in fact do just that, place health and safety at risk. We believe that Nova Scotians have a right to quality health care and they have a right to quality health care 100 per cent of the time, not part of the time. A system that is cut in half is not an acceptable level of treatment for Nova Scotians. We believe they have a right to expect the system to operate at 100 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, we have tried to recognize the importance of health care professionals. We have put $53 million on the table for nurses and health care workers and we have done that in the context of being $91 million in the hole. There has and will be a lot of debate over this bill, but let me make this commitment - our offer stands. This bill is meant to ensure that Nova Scotians will be provided with the health care services they need. It will not be used to rescind or diminish any offer that has been negotiated and is on the table.

Before we introduced this bill, the government was committed to ensuring that Nova Scotia nurses were the highest paid in Atlantic Canada, paid on par with Manitoba and Saskatchewan, two provinces that are in much better fiscal shape than we are. Our commitment is that once this bill passes, they will be in a position of being the highest paid in Atlantic Canada, paid on par with Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee, I would like to make some comments on how the process going on in this House is likely to impact the public. Let's be honest, what we have witnessed over the past two days is a concerted effort to stall passage of this bill. I accept that this process is part of the balance of holding government accountable, an important process that was first brought into fruition in this House. I have and was proud to participate in that process as a member of the Opposition. While such tactics, filibusters, are a recognized and valid part of the process, I believe we need to

[Page 4995]

carefully examine whether or not they are being appropriately used now. By that I mean, are the best interests of all Nova Scotians being served; is the collective good seen as the key priority?

Mr. Speaker, let's look back for a moment to the debate on the infamous harmonization of the goods and services tax with the provincial sales tax, the BST. That action by the government was debated as long and as hard as the rules and our endurance as Opposition members at the time would allow. Eventually, it did pass and, I would note, there were some time limitations imposed on those who attended the Law Amendments Committee at the time. Even recently, on Bill No. 20, the Opposition made use of the rules to ensure that government was held accountable for a bill that was designed to create greater accountability for the spending of taxpayers' dollars.

Mr. Speaker, that was fine with us. That is the system of government which we have developed over almost two centuries, and it has proven itself the best option, by standing the test of time. But I want to consider one very important distinction between those bills I have mentioned and the one before us today in the House. In neither case did the deliberate tactics of delay hold the potential of endangering the health and safety of Nova Scotians or of jeopardizing the democratic rights of the public to express their opinion to the government. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, this is not the case this time, because both of those rights, the right to health care and the right to speak to government, are potentially going to be muted. Why is that the case? It is because the government has a deadline of 12:01 a.m. on June 27th in order to avoid the effects of a stroke, a strike rather. Well, perhaps, a stroke is better as far as the health care system is concerned. I quote the President of Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, Ms. Joan Jessome, ". . . a strike that would devastate the health care system."

This government intends to do all it can to beat that deadline, because if we don't, health care workers will be in a legal position to strike. Nova Scotians in the metro area and those critically ill who come to Halifax for treatment will face the prospect of a health care system running at half its maximum capacity. This is unacceptable to the government, and I believe it is unacceptable to all Nova Scotians. We have calculated the time needed to pass the bill. We waited until the last possible moment to act, in order to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, we waited in hopes that the collective bargaining process would resolve the issue. Unfortunately, it did not. As Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee, I intend to do everything within my ability to ensure that we meet the deadline, that we protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians, that we recognize the right of Nova Scotians to receive 100 per cent of the health care system, not half of a system or 30 per cent of a system,

[Page 4996]

but 100 per cent of our health care system. I also want to provide as much opportunity to the public to speak to this bill as possible, while still meeting this deadline.

Mr. Speaker, that is now in the hands of the Opposition. Each hour my colleagues in the Legislature speak, and I think it is fair to say that very little in terms of original thought is being said at this point, each hour they speak is eating the time away from the Law Amendments Committee. At this rate, the debate on second reading will last until midnight on Tuesday. I invite my friends to do the math. In order to avoid a legal strike, the Law Amendments Committee will need to be limited to a single day.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Can I ask the Minister of Justice if he is implying that because each and every member speaks on this bill that is before this House now that it is going to take away from the rights of individuals' time to present themselves before the Law Amendments Committee. I want to hear the minister openly say that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member rose on a point of order and that is certainly not a point of order, but it is a question. If the honourable Minister of Justice would like to answer? The honourable Minister of Justice.

MR. BAKER: I want to make it very clear to the honourable member. He is absolutely right. Every moment that he and the members opposite delay the passage of this bill from second reading is limiting the amount of time that the members of the public have to speak.

I will ask that the day be as long as possible so that as many people as reasonable can speak before Law Amendments, but I will not risk public health and safety by extending those hearings to the point where health care workers are in a position to strike. If there is any member in this House who wishes to stand in his place and tell Nova Scotians that he or she is willing to allow the withdrawal of health care services, even for a day, then I suggest they do so. Make the case for deliberately denying Nova Scotians the right to health care. Make the case for providing less than 100 per cent of our health care system to Nova Scotians. I can't and I don't, stop the Opposition from exercising their right to stand here and settle for less than 100 per cent of a health care system, but I would ask them to judge themselves and to do so for the benefit of the public.

Is what is being said here this evening of greater weight than Nova Scotians who wish to attend Law Amendments Committee? I ask you, are your words more important than a nurse or a lab technician who is waiting for a chance to express their views? If they are, then I invite you to continue and we will do our best to listen. If not, then I ask you to refer this bill to the Law Amendments Committee at the earliest possible time. Let Nova Scotians who are not privileged to sit in this Chamber have their say as well. When the time comes, the

[Page 4997]

members of our caucus will be there to listen for as much time as the Opposition permits within the time necessary to protect Nova Scotians.

Regardless of how the Opposition proceeds, the health and public safety of Nova Scotians must be protected and it will be protected. That means that the government must meet its deadline. That it is paramount to protect Nova Scotians. That is our responsibility and I sincerely hope that members Opposite take this opportunity to refer the bill to the Law Amendments Committee. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: The last speaker, the one thing he has done, he has changed my focus on this speech. I couldn't believe the unmitigated gall for him to come up and threaten the members of this House that if you don't do what I say, I am going to invoke closure across the way. This is the same government that locked the citizens out on the street until you took your place tonight, Mr. Speaker. Then you have the unmitigated gall to say to us that we are usurping time from them because you don't like the timeline. This is the government that wasn't factual enough, wasn't straight-laced enough, was two-faced and wouldn't stand in its place and negotiate with the unions when the unions were in mediation. This government knew that mediation had a deadline of midnight. While those people were trying to find a resolve to this problem, what did your bully government do? It called the House back to bring in Bill No. 68, Mr. Justice Minister. That is what you did. You are the guys that are causing the panic. It is nobody else.

If you listen to what you just said, it is clear. Bill No. 68 - you should probably take away the sunset provision of Bill No. 68 because what you have said when you stood up is, health care workers in this province do not have the right to strike. That is what you said because you said that their contingency plan didn't work, contingency plans that were in collective agreements, but you will find that that doesn't work. You have unilaterally decided that that doesn't work.

[2:45 a.m.]

You tell us that we will take time away from health care providers, every minute we speak in here. That is what he says. Well, where is he coming from? He is taking valuable time away from Nova Scotians by playing the silly bugger game in introducing this piece of legislation. If he was serious about health care in this province, he would allow the negotiation process to take place. Do you think that this weekend's rejection, by health care workers in the Capital District, in large part was the reaction of thumbing their noses at this government for its heavy-handedness? This government doesn't get it.

Outside this House tonight, the Premier says that the rejection is proof that you needed Bill No. 68. Well, I would put forward that the reality is that Bill No. 68 caused the rejection

[Page 4998]

of that tentative settlement. This government is meddling; this government is willing to get involved with something that it had no business getting involved with in the way that it did. Yet, the minister will stand in his place tonight and blame Opposition politicians because they are trying to say, look, we don't want Nova Scotia to be a banana republic.

Mr. Speaker, you look around this Chamber tonight, and I suspect these circa 1940's fans serve well here, because that is what it looks like. It looks like some Ecuadorean third world dictatorship. This is what this government wants. This government wants to take away the rights of workers. I think it finally admitted to it tonight, that this is not a one-shot deal, that this legislation, and if this group was ever to stay in power long enough, beyond 2004, you would see the complete wiping out of collective bargaining in the health care sector. That is what you are facing with this government. That is what that minister admitted to today, when he said that no contingency plan can work.

Mr. Speaker, if he is worried about having 50 per cent of the workers in and around the hospitals, all he has to do is go ahead with this silliness, and what you are going to have is 50 per cent of them, at least, resigning and leaving this province. That is what you are going to have. It is not our fault. The gall of him blaming it on this side of the floor. It is unbelievable for him to get up there and piously state that the reason we are in this mess is because the Opposition took what means it had to slow this process down. What this government should be doing, instead of pushing these things, is helping them find a collective agreement.

Mr. Speaker, in standing in his place - and he has every right to do that - and unlike that side of the floor I agree with the ability to get up and say it. I don't have to agree with it but I agree with him getting up and saying it, but then for him to say, well, look, I have had my say, now you guys better be quiet and go home or we can't hear from anybody else. They have invented a timeline that was imposed because of their inability. We have seen this crowd's inability to handle workplace stoppages before. We saw that in the fall of 1999, with the paramedics, and the overreaction.

Mr. Speaker, what was interesting was when push came to shove on those options, it was binding arbitration. I haven't discussed this with any of the members of the bargaining units, but I know it has not been explored with any members of binding arbitration for these folks. It is a Cabinet-imposed settlement. Now, how on earth can this minister and that Cabinet know what is best for the working conditions in and around hospitals and hospital workers? They don't. Certainly, one could screen from one end of this province to the other about forming the district health authorities. The very people that they put together - the district health authorities - any little power they did have, they are taking away from them. Let's look at it. They want to take away the power from the workers, they want to take away the powers from the DHAs, now they want to take the little power Opposition members have. They want to consolidate it downstairs here in the Cabinet Room and say, no, this is not the way government works. Government works with us around this table and that is it.

[Page 4999]

The member for Cape Breton South, when he was up speaking on this bill and referring it back to the Committee on Human Resources, said that very same thing, that the role of this group - and I didn't believe him when he said it - was that they were going to consolidate power truly within Cabinet. But now they are by threatening us here tonight and there is no other way to put it. They have threatened every member on the Opposition benches tonight by saying you either sit in your seats, don't say another word and we will quietly push this off to the Law Amendments Committee. If you don't agree with us, if you don't agree with my threats, then anything that happens within the health care system will be on your head. That is what the minister is saying.

And, he is wrong. We aren't the ones imposing anything. It is his government that is imposing. They are the ones that want to take away - and I would assert by his comments that they want to take away the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike from these workers in the health care field for good. Hansard will show what he said about 20 per cent, 30 per cent, 50 per cent, Mr. Speaker, that if they are left, if they are gone, then we don't a health care system in its totality.

Funny that nobody, none of the hospitals was offended when you talked about a contingency or an emergency plan, if you will. What would be interesting is, I wonder what the minister's feeling is when from time to time hospitals have bed closures. I would make the assertion that if this bill is passed, there will never be a bed closure again in this province, there will be no layoffs or anything in the health care system if you take what the minister has just said because everybody in that system is needed and will never be displaced. Because that is in essence what he said.

We know that there will be layoffs. We know there will be bed closures. Where will the great hero of the health care system be then? Where will he be to protect the good women and men who work in the health care system?

This is fundamentally the taking away of rights. When I heard that speech, it was devastating, you think that there are motives behind certain actions, and you think, well, no, I am misreading the situation, that they are not really motivated this way. They have, by virtue of where they sit, more information about this situation than I. So you tend to want to give them the benefit of the doubt, you don't think that their motives are pushed just by a false financial statement.

This is what is happening here. This is not about health care. This is not about the health and safety of Nova Scotians. This is about the ability for this government, that front bench to go and say that we have secured our finances in such a way that we are going to be able to produce a surplus in our last year and make us look good. It is not about protecting

health care, that is the furthest thing from this.

[Page 5000]

We are talking here about not only what happens with this collective agreement, but the ripples after you have it. Mr. Speaker, does this government honestly believe that when this legislation is passed, and if it is passed unamended and it has given the rights to Cabinet to do what they will, if that is a right that is given to that group, do you think that those workers are going to be a happy and productive workforce? Do you think that they feel respected and needed by their employer? I will submit to you that that won't be the case, and I think you will see a rash of those who can leave this province, will.

I heard the Premier talk on Friday and say people want to stay here in Nova Scotia. Well, certainly they do. That is motherhood, Mr. Speaker, but they don't want to stay in a second-class health care system. They are getting tired of working excessive hours. I don't know how many times we have to read letters into the record about people who are overworked and stressed and just had enough of it. Now we hear about employees having their sick time being monitored. That is, again, something out of the 1920 style of labour management. I know the employers have rights - I think more than they should - over innocent absenteeism and I think that is unfair, but nonetheless it is there and that is a hammer that the government is willing to use and the employer, being DHAs, from time to time, will use.

Mr. Speaker, we have to get the debate back to what it is about here. It is a basic, fundamental right. There are very few rights that workers have in this province. One of the most fundamental rights is free and unfettered collective bargaining. That shouldn't be a notion so foreign as it is to some on the benches across the way, but it is. For some reason they find it extremely offensive. This group - we are not talking about a group that is looking at just putting down their tools and walking out and not telling anybody - what they are is a group of workers that I would say do care about Nova Scotia. I think they care a lot more about Nova Scotia than some on that front bench I would tell you, and probably more than most in this House, not just to pick on the government side.

Mr. Speaker, you probably have seen what they do up close in your former life, and you probably were called upon in situations that weren't very nice in emergency medical situations and you saw the professionalism and I am sure you appreciated it. I think of just recently, Saturday night, at a wedding in Cape Breton where a family member of the bride died at the wedding reception. She took an attack and fell on the floor. Can you imagine the events from the family and the EMTs, and then they take them down to the hospital to try to revive the person. You know, you have been in those emergency situations, how complex they are. You know how tense they can be and you know that the job of the medical team when they get to the emergency room is not just that they put their focus on the patient, but you know that kind of fans out. You know that their job is just not to do the best they can for the patient, but to be cognizant of the loved ones who are out there and the response they have for them. They have to be extremely professional, is the point I am making.

[Page 5001]

[3:00 a.m.]

This government doesn't seem to realize that that is the type of job these people do. They are that caring. These people aren't going to walk out and leave us high and dry. I know there are more health care workers than just nurses involved here, Mr. Speaker, but we will go back to the 1975 strike. Nurses provided care in each and every ward. I know at the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital, I would categorize it as a full service hospital back then, it had obstetrics, it had pediatrics, it had surgical, it had medical and so on. Those health care professionals did go on strike and there was some tough bargaining, but they provided care on every one of those floors and I will tell you something more, they provided care free of charge because that is the type of people they are. But this government doesn't want to respect that. This government thinks we can't trust them. So I have to make the assertion the other way and say, why should the workers trust this government?

In the midst of mediation, the government gets ready to call the House back to introduce this bill we are debating, Bill No. 68. Mr. Speaker, had the government waited, they would have found out and I am sure it would have had a different outcome on Saturday's vote than what we saw. I would say that they hold a large part of the responsibility because they stuck their nose in a place where it didn't belong and they found out two things, that these people had enough and part two of that is they weren't going to take it any more from these guys.

Had this government stayed away from it and allowed the bargaining process to take place, when one of the finest mediators in all this country - he brought parties together, Mr. Speaker, such as the Air Canada situation, which was just a mess, to say the least, and they were much further apart than the health care workers here in the Capital District Region. So I have to contend that it was a concerted effort by this government to derail the collective bargaining process to bring us to this. I think they are playing a game of brinkmanship, which does not do anything to help the process. Now they can blame us all they want for standing here and debating and we will continue to debate. I will put the government on notice that we are not going to back down our debate over an assertion by the Minister of Justice and by virtue of that, Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee, that we will fight this bill.

He can try to invoke closure over at the Law Amendments Committee and he can try to tell people that you have this many hours and that is it. Well, the one thing we know about being on this earth is that everything is measured by time and nobody knows the finiteness of that more than probably governments. I am telling you, Mr. Speaker, this government, if it shuts down the Law Amendments Committee in the prescribed period of time that the minister said, then I will say that this government's days will be numbered because he may have made a blustery speech about being on the right side, but he is wrong. Again, this bill is not about public safety, it is about financial measures that they have to own up to.

[Page 5002]

Mr. Speaker, I want to get back and speak a bit about why this bill should go back to the Human Resources Committee. It's what this minister is saying, and I think he is bringing our point forward for us in a kind of different sort of way than we would, but it is the ability for the public to have a say on this. There is nothing stopping that minister or the Government House Leader to enter into debate and say, look, we agree. We will send this off to the Human Resources Committee and strike them and get them. We will carve out a mandate. If we can stay here for 24 hours, we certainly can get together and carve out a mandate for that committee and start travelling across this province and find out what is going on. If that is what the minister wants, if the minister is tired of hearing the Opposition people cluck on about this, then strike this committee. Go out and do it. Then maybe he can work in parallel with the HR committees out there and the Law Amendments Committee. We are hearing from Nova Scotians then.

Certainly, that is what he was doing. He was couching his words, in that as long as the great unwashed over here in the Opposition are talking about this bill it prevents health care workers from having their say. Well, Mr. Speaker, it may prevent them for a short time in having their say at the Law Amendments Committee but I will tell you something, it won't stop them from having their say from one end of this province to the other when it comes time for the next general election. The member for Cape Breton South kind of laid out the fact that there probably won't be some people returning, and I think that is something that the backbenchers have to really worry about.

What are they going to do? How are the backbenchers going to support this bill? Is this bill really and ultimately a bill to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians? I think if some of those backbenchers could be put on the Human Resources Committee, they would hear from Nova Scotians. They would hear first-hand. They wouldn't hear from the MLAs on the Opposition side. No, Mr. Speaker, they would hear directly from Nova Scotians. I wonder if that then would have an impact? That would be a real bonus, having this bill go to the Human Resources Committee.

I think it would be interesting to have this bill go to the Human Resources Committee because then this government can hear about - they beat their chest about being the highest paid workers in Atlantic Canada, Mr. Speaker, they know darn well that that doesn't mean anything. That doesn't mean anything because they are losing the majority of their workers to Ontario, B.C., Alberta and the United States. That is the market. As I said in an earlier speech, they want us to live in a global economy but they want to pay them back-home rates. Well, that doesn't work. You can't have it both ways.

In another aspect of the health care industry, there is another crisis, a crisis facing pharmacists in the health care industry, Mr. Speaker. The same thing applies, there is a shortage of pharmacists across this country and in the United States. What happens is that the drain is made worse because areas like Nova Scotia can't compete or won't compete with

[Page 5003]

other parts of Canada and the United States; the United States is draining some of our brightest and our best.

Mr. Speaker, these are real problems facing us. The minister talked about the future, and I will tell him the future is leaving us; 53 graduates from this year's class at St. F. X. University, in nursing, are leaving this province. The average age for a nurse is 47 years old. What kind of future? If the government wants to freeze wages again or roll them back, we don't know. It's hard for me to take the minister at his word when he says we are not going to go below or not.

Is the minister now speaking as the Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee; was he speaking for the Premier? Maybe there is a group within Cabinet that really runs Cabinet and the Premier and the Minister of Health have nothing to say. (Interruptions) I wouldn't even know if it is five. Maybe there is a group that does policy and that's it; that they have such clout within Cabinet that there are two tiers of Cabinet, if you will. Is that what that minister is saying today, that he can stand in his place without the assurance of the Minister of Health or his Premier and say we will not go back here.

Mr. Speaker, the workers can't take that to (Interruptions) Yes, that is the line from Bill No. 20. The workers can't take that to the bank, I am sure. If this was truly a bill about the health and safety of Nova Scotians do you think the Minister of Justice, with his political clout within Cabinet, would have had a resolve to the homecare workers' strike in Queens? I see the member for Queens over there. I would advise him then that if this minister has that much drag that he should go over and talk to him and he will resolve it for you, because he is worried about that. He is worried about home care.

We are now at the beginning stages of single entry. We all know what single entry is in the health care system, and a vital part, in order for single entry to work, a vital part, is home care. Yet, we have seen a home care strike drag on needlessly while this government twiddles its thumbs, while the member for Queens sits there and, I would say, has gotten little or no response from his own government.

How can a member of that government's Executive Council get up and say the health and welfare and safety of Nova Scotians is paramount? It is misleading at best. If a patient is important in the structure of a hospital, a patient surely must be just as important in the structure of their home, because it's all part of what is supposed to be a comprehensive medical care system within this province. Yet, this minister, in his own backyard, wants to see that strike drag on as if it has no consequences, as if there is nobody suffering.

When pressed on it, they will say, that's not us. Ultimately, it is them, because all the health care dollars roll back and it comes from the government, we all know that. They don't take that same approach when it comes to health care workers who work in hospitals. They are taking a very intrusive way. Maybe if we took the HR Committee across the province and

[Page 5004]

got input and found out what the differences were. In order for the new system of health care delivery to work, the very vital component is home care, yet this government allows that to go on.

[3:15 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it was the same thing this past week where members of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union rejected the last offer from another group involved with home care. This government is so riddled with inconsistencies when it comes to the health care of Nova Scotians, if it wasn't so serious, so tragic, it would be laughable. Where are we going to go? Where does this government plan to take us? When the sun sets, they go down in the bunker and put together a collective agreement. Who is going to be there? Who is going to be there advising them? Is it going to be the Minister of Health, or the deputy?

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, if this government is allowed to enact Bill No. 68 without any amendments, what is going to happen is interesting, you are going to have someone like the Deputy Minister of Health, the highest-paid bureaucrat in this province, deciding what they are going to make. Well, I would also ask the Cabinet to be cognizant of another thing, that if he is making recommendations, I hope you will give them - the workers who leave this province because of this awful collective agreement, not a collective agreement, this awful agreement you are going to stuff down their throats - the same remuneration package for travelling out of province as you gave to the Deputy Minister of Health, that very well-funded relocation program you gave to him. Maybe you can offer the same thing to the health care workers as they leave this province because of this heavy-handedness of this government.

Maybe that is something this government could do. Maybe by going through the Human Resources Committee, there are some other things we could find out. Maybe we could find out, really, what kind of remuneration the Deputy Minister of Health received from this government. We are also dealing with an unknown quantity here, and maybe by holding this bill up a little bit and going to the Human Resources Committee we would finally get how much and what the budgets of the DHAs are. Nobody knows. Maybe the minister knows and maybe a few people in Cabinet, maybe that little inner circle who spoke tonight. I would suspect the sub-Cabinet, we will call them, the Minister of Justice spoke for them tonight. Maybe he could come in and enlighten us on some of those things. Maybe he has that information. We have health authorities trying to negotiate and bargain in good faith without knowing what their budgets are. Maybe that is something we should be looking at.

Mr. Speaker, whatever happens; whatever the outcome, whatever the Cabinet imposes here, you have to ask yourself, how does this help the health and safety of the province? I can't see - I certainly would be happy if someone could come and tell me - where I am wrong on this. I couldn't believe that the health care workers were going to go back and be in a better frame of mind, they are going to say, look, wow, the stress I have been working under

[Page 5005]

for five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten years now has been lifted, that they are going to hire new people. No, it is going to be more of the same with less. You are going to have really stressed-out people working longer hours and, indeed, doesn't that pose a health threat in itself.

What happens to that health care professional who doesn't operate the MRI machine properly because they are on the 19th hour of their shift, or, a nurse who may have misread meds because she is on the 23rd hour of her shift? Who will bear the ultimate responsibility there? Maybe if we went around with the Human Resources Committee we could find those things out.

By imposing an agreement on these workers, that is all you are doing - you are delaying the inevitable. I have noticed quite a few young people from my home town that have left nursing and have left. Is this bill going to bring them back to work in Nova Scotia? No. How does that help the health and safety of Nova Scotians? Maybe if the HR Committee on the road, gave some time, what you would see is these people probably come before the committee and explain why they will not come back to Nova Scotia. It is 2001 now, if you let this collective agreement run to its end, three more years, 2004, what you are going to end up with is the average age of a nurse is 50 years old. Let's assume that they went into nursing right after high school and they graduate by the time they are 22 - let's say 23 - they have now been 27 in that profession. I would say they would be facing considerable burn out. After years of rollbacks, freezes, now an imposed settlement. What does that tell you? If you were working in that situation, would you say, jumpings, my work is valued.

I think there comes a time when they say, look, I have to get out of here. I talked with nurses the other day and the spectrum is great. I talked about the St. F.X. graduating class, but I am talking about nurses that are senior, who say, this is it. I am leaving, my husband and I are going to Saudi Arabia. We can go over there, we can work six months, build up a nest egg, fire some money back to the kids to help finish university. The idea of working long hours, no benefits because - one nurse I know in particular who worked in the profession, left for a while to help raise her family, came back into the profession and has worked basically full-time, but it is full-time casual, no benefits and she may be the first to be called in for relief shift.

You probably know your way around that a bit, Mr. Speaker. You know that these shifts aren't the best shifts usually. You work all the holidays, you work all the midnight shifts and so on and you don't have any benefits. You don't have dental coverage, optical, vision wear, Pharmacare coverage, all of these things. So, what entices you to stay, except your sense of duty?

There is a double whammy with what is going on here for the Cape Breton perspective. The Cape Breton Health Care Complex, which includes hospitals in various areas of industrial Cape Breton, is now the largest employer in Cape Breton. The health care facilities

[Page 5006]

in New Waterford, Glace Bay, Sydney, North Sydney and Sydney Mines are now the largest employers in Cape Breton. Provincial and federal governments have put the nails in the coffins of steel and coal, so what do we have now as the largest employer? What you have is most of the people within that industry are now the sole breadwinners, if you will. This is going to add more stress to an otherwise very stressful situation as it is.

You have to look at it in that context, but this government fails to do that. This government looks at it in a fiscal context only and under the guise of a health and safety one. Again, if we were to take it to the Human Resources Committee and took it to Cape Breton, we would probably find that. We would find horror stories, the reality of what goes on in the night shifts, we could find out. We are not just upset because we got called back.

MR. JERRY PYE: That's our job.

MR. CORBETT: Yes, as the member for Dartmouth North says, it is part of our job. Sometimes legislators are called back for what I would consider very legitimate reasons, from time to time, to deal with the problems of an emergency nature.

This problem, I think, has been exacerbated by this government; it hasn't been helped by this government. This government stuck its nose in it. It is almost like the "many faces of Eve" with this government, because you don't know which one you are talking to. One time you are talking to them and they are saying, when it comes to dirty classrooms, filthy classrooms, the Minister of Education would say, oh no, no, that is the school boards' responsibility. Now, the government, when there is not even a strike, at this point in two of the three situations conciliation hadn't even finished, this government is bringing in this huge hammer to beat these workers down in the guise of Bill No. 68 and there is no reason for it.

The government, for some reason, has gone out and picked this fight, they have picked this fight with these people and decided this is the proverbial hill we are going to die on. Well if that is the case, I would advise them to make some funeral arrangements, because I believe they are going to die on this hill. They have taken on a group that has the public support. A member of an agency that the Premier himself is a member of, or was a member of, the Medical Society, have denounced this legislation; most right-thinking people have denounced this legislation as being over the top.

Mr. Speaker, why is it? What would the argument be today, we will say, if this government, instead of putting in I believe it is, Clause 6, the wording around it, Cabinet will invoke a collective agreement, or an agreement - it is not collective - when all else fails? Why wouldn't it simply say we will take it all to binding arbitration? Quite honestly, because it knows its position is unreasonable. I have said here that I know when the contracts were going on with NSNU that the Department of Health sent their minion over. He was over there, and accounts from both sides told me that he almost put the process off the rails,

[Page 5007]

sticking his nose in, because he didn't know what was going on. They had been working late hours and trying to bang out an agreement.

Maybe somewhat in his support, it can be kind of confusing when you come in the middle of something like that, but instead of sitting back and trying to absorb the situation, how it was proceeding and how it was going on, he started meddling and was kind of causing some problems for both sides. Yet they got past that and got a tentative agreement, but it was rejected, but nobody from the inner Cabinet there to find out what was going on, why that was rejected. They would rather invoke this Bill No. 68 on them rather than sit down and talk to the parties and see if this is tweaking, do we have to put a bit more money in it? What is the root of the problem?

[3:30 a.m.]

I believe the NSNU situation - it was 75 per cent rejection. That usually tells you a couple of things. One of them is usually that there is a huge item on the table that the negotiators thought would fly and it didn't. It didn't fly for both parties so they have to go back and say, we went from bargaining team to bargaining team and told them what was going on and here is what we heard back and this is probably why they rejected it. So, let's sit down and see what we can do, see if we can - as they say - tweak this or get rid of it or whatever because this is our stumbling block. But, the government didn't do that. This week that group was due to get back to the table with a conciliator again. This government wouldn't wait for that. If this government was honest, they would tell us, as bad as it is, we are going to cut a piece of legislation to deal with just the ones at the capital district that are due to go on strike June 27th. Is that what this bill says? Oh no. This bill goes after the ones that are in that group, the NSGEU nurses, the NSNU nurses, the employees that are represented by CAW, the employees that are in bargaining, that are represented by CUPE, SEIU, all these other groups.

For the minister to stand here and say that this threat is looming over us is hogwash. It is sheer and utter nonsense, but yet he wants to try to blame us. For some reason, they want to pick a fight that they can't win. Whether there are some internal conflicts going on within Cabinet and this is why this is going on, I don't know. It makes absolutely no sense because if you follow line by line what the minister said when he got up, it was so inaccurate as to be laughable. One side, we agree with free and collective bargaining. The other side, two health care workers out, we can't have, so we can't allow any of that. So what he is telling me is that he wants to at some point get rid of the ability for workers to strike in the health care system. He wants that taken away altogether.

Why doesn't he say that? Why does the minister say that there is an emergency here. We have until midnight on June 27th. Why wouldn't this legislation solely deal with that group? Why would he take this broad brush? Because they are not being open and honest with Nova Scotians.

[Page 5008]

That is not what is happening here at all. What is happening here is government trying to be tough. It is a government born from day one on their election campaign to election victory for them and on through living in awe of the Harris Regime in Ontario.

MR. JERRY PYE: What are they saying at the Northside General?

MR. CORBETT: I just heard my friend, the member for Dartmouth North, ask the member for Cape Breton North what they're saying at the Northside General. He took much acclaim for himself when he said he recruited the emergency room doctor. Well, I am sure they could use his abilities here to settle this agreement. If he could come in and do things better than John Malcom, the CEO of that health district, or the Chief of Staff, Dr. Naqvi, if he is better than those guys, why not put his abilities in here? Obviously, he is a learned man around the medical industry and he should do that. Yet, he will sit there in silence.

AN HON. MEMBER: I believe he is writing a note right now, as we speak.

MR. CORBETT: It's a prescription for disaster. Mr. Speaker, what we have seen here tonight, when the minister rose in his place, was a threat, was a threat to democracy, was a threat to workers, was a threat to the well-being of all Nova Scotians.

AN HON. MEMBER: Told us to shut up and sit down.

MR. CORBETT: One of my colleagues in the back said he told us to shut up and sit down. Well, sometimes you don't have to say that, you can infer that, and I think that was clearly inferred, that the whole idea is that our summer is being displaced and we can't be bothered by these workers who are exercising their democratic rights. We have to take that democratic right from them. It will be interesting in a week's time or so, whenever that is, to see the backbenchers get up and say, we agree. We agree for three years. These people do not have the right to free and fair collective bargaining. It is our contention that these people are second-class citizens in Nova Scotia. That these Nova Scotians who work under some of the worst conditions imaginable are going to be legislated in such a way that they will probably have 85 per cent less rights than most unionized workers in this province.

Why would you do that? Why would you, as a backbencher, sit there and say yes, it's more important to balance a book than to worry about the health care. I guess a simple way of putting this is, who would you rather have looking after a loved one? Would you rather have someone who had the ability to vote on and work towards a fairly bargained collective agreement or would you rather have someone who has been marshalled back by a group of overbearing Cabinet Ministers who think they know what is best for all of Nova Scotia? Who have proven over and over again that this bill has a whole lot less to do with what is best for Nova Scotians and what they want to do is what is best for the bunch of loot they have hidden so they can make themselves look good in the final fiscal year.

[Page 5009]

That would come true if this bill was put on hold and taken to the Human Resources Committee and taken from Yarmouth to Glace Bay and allow people to come in and speak to it. Let's not limit the debate to health care workers. We should talk to the patients and we should talk to people who use the system. Let's find out if home care is working. Let's find out when these people who are being taken out of the hospital - I had a call to my office last week from a gentleman who said he has been hearing complaints about home care workers who are so tightly scheduled that people will say, look, I usually take my meds at 11:00, can you come after 11:00 after I take my meds? And they say, no, sorry, we would love to do it but our schedule says we have to be here at 11:00 and out of here by 11:15 and that's it.

We could use that opportunity to find out if single entry can work. I think it can. I think funded properly, and with the right amount of employees put in the system, home care will be a cost-effective way for health care to work, but not the way this government is going. This government is very heavy-handed in what it does. How can you take what they say as having any value? I keep harkening back to the Minister of Health when he told us the infamous "doctors are refusing to treat people who smoke," and then he came in and admitted it was an urban legend. He said the people in Whitney Pier want to stay there when 65 out of 68 homes, people living in those homes said they wanted to be moved.

We have to wonder where the minister is getting his information. We have to wonder when the minister said there was no contingency plan and we have clearly shown and tabled documents from the union saying there was a contingency plan. There has been a contingency plan both in the collective agreement and the ones that couldn't be agreed on would go to expedited arbitration with the 24 hour period, but you really find out what this group is all about when the Minister of Justice stands up and says it doesn't matter, I don't care if you had a contingency plan that keeps 98 per cent of the workers on, we don't like it. That is what he said here tonight. He said we are not taking any reduction.

So that is the problem, you cannot trust these folks. They are going to go behind closed doors and decide on an agreement. They are cooking a recipe for disaster. If they, in their wisdom and, like I said, I don't whether there is an internal palace coup within Cabinet that is trying to do the Premier in, if it is them or whether it is the Premier who is misguided, I don't know, but I am telling you they picked the wrong hill to die on here, folks, because they are going to die on it. They should realize what they have done, put this bill in abeyance, take it out to the Human Resources Committee, allow people from all walks of life, even the business guys here in Halifax who run this government, allow them their chance to say it.

Mr. Speaker, this government is way off base in trying to force this down the throats of Nova Scotians. Thank you.

[Page 5010]

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this particular referral to a committee, Bill No. 68. I do so with a little bit of consternation because of some of the comments that were made by the honourable Minister of Justice in his dissertation a little earlier in the evening - or I should say a little earlier in the morning - it was quite apparent from his comments that he wasn't fully alert as to what the democratic process is all about, as we know it here in Nova Scotia. For the Minister of Justice to stand in his place and suggest that it is the Opposition's fault if the government can't succeed in having Bill No. 68 approved in a timely fashion is utterly ridiculous and absolutely irresponsible.

This is the same minister who stood in his place on several occasions in the spring sitting of the Legislature, who had ample opportunity with his Cabinet colleagues to prepare any number of measures to bring before the spring sitting, and could have very easily included such a draconian measure as Bill No. 68 represents, encompassed under Bill No. 20. Then, for him to turn around after a little bit of criticism from one of my colleagues on the haphazard manner in which the government has presented this bill and try to blame the Opposition for preventing the nurses from coming before the Law Amendments Committee is absolutely ridiculous and irresponsible.

[3:45 a.m.]

Then again, we wouldn't expect anything more from a Rambo-style Justice Minister who seems to be more concerned with his extreme right-wing agenda than he is in representing the views of all Nova Scotians. For that reason, I believe that the record should be set straight as to what the Law Amendments Committee process is for. It is not a lottery, as the Minister of Justice has suggested. It is not a lottery to determine which nurses will have an opportunity to come and speak in a 24 hour period. It is a democratic right for every Nova Scotian to come before the Law Amendments Committee and make his or her voice heard, as has been proclaimed under the principles of responsible government, long before that member came before this House, long before he was born, and long before his father and his grandfather were born.

It would serve the honourable Minister of Justice very well to understand what the mosaic of the democratic principles of responsible government are here in Nova Scotia. Yes, if that requires him to go back to the year 1215 when the Magna Carta was signed by King John, so be it. Maybe that is what he needs, to go back and learn about the history of Nova Scotia. Let's not get side-tracked. There are a couple of important points I would like to make on supporting this particular referral to the committee. I was going to leave it until later in my presentation, but the Minister of Justice has aroused my excitement to rise in defence of the nurses in Nova Scotia, the teachers in Nova Scotia, the medical profession in Nova Scotia, all three major organizations which have come out, clearly, in opposition to this bill,

[Page 5011]

and many other Nova Scotians who are incensed, absolutely incensed at what this government is trying to do.

Let's look at the measure of the mindset that comes from within that Cabinet Table; let's go back and look at Bill No. 53, on October 29, 1998, when the good member for Lunenburg introduced Bill No. 53, an Amendment to the Trade Union Act. What does that amendment do? Let's read it, because it goes right to the heart and soul of what the government is trying to do in Bill No. 68, and why we would support such a deferral. Yes, in essence, it is a bill to amend the Trade Union Act, and I will quote, Clause 2, "Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, no police constable or officer or member of a police bargaining unit has the right to strike." That is what the member for Lunenburg advocates. He advocates eliminating the democratic rights and principles for all collective bargaining units in this province. It is not just the nurses, it will be the nurses today and this week and next week, but that is the thin edge of the wedge. That is really the mindset that exists, and this is when he was in Opposition. God forbid, what we are going to be faced with over the next number of months and years ahead.

The good Minister of Justice didn't seem to mind when the House of Assembly, this hallowed hall of justice, as one of his colleagues has referred to it, is completely surrounded by police officers because they feel the need for it, but yet, lo and behold, don't give them any rights. It is all about principle; it is all about fairness, it is all about justice. Yes, and let's reflect on what some of the members in the government have said on these very issues, their own speeches in the House of Assembly completely defy the principles of Bill No. 68. Yes, they haven't learned from the mistakes of previous governments and, yes, Liberal Governments who have made equally as many mistakes, which is why - yes, the Minister of Justice laughs, he is such a cavalier, chauvinistic entity into the political process, it is amazing. He is like a reincarnation of a previous autocratic style minister who sat in the previous government, sitting where the Minister of Economic Development is, and I will leave that to the imagination (Interruption) That's correct, and he will go the way of the dodo bird, like the last one.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, he may think it is funny to mock and laugh at the nurses, because it is not just the nurses, it is all about the basic rights of fairness and justice and the ability to stand up for what you believe in. I could certainly appreciate in the absence of any collective bargaining process, I could appreciate in the absence of the binding arbitration, which the Minister of Justice in his previous life supported in his Private Member's Bill, but now he doesn't seem to see fit that that would be even a consideration. He would rather support Clause 13 that takes all those rights away. They're not even allowed to go to court.

When in the history of Canadian Government, particularly in Nova Scotia, which is the oldest seat of responsible government, did we start to initiate and implement laws that prevented people from having a recourse to justice? What special power, what special mindset, what was he injected with that gave him that super mind power that put him above

[Page 5012]

all the rest of Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker, two weeks after they just closed the House of Assembly? I daresay it is nothing but a haphazard, dysfunctional government that is trying to find a way to whip up in a frenzy-like fashion some Machiavellian-style government to rally the people of Nova Scotia against one interest group because that would be the thin edge of the wedge.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, we saw what the Minister of Education did with the teachers last year. That didn't go anywhere. Puff, up in a powder of smoke. She had to backpeddle and they had to dip into the Minister of Finance's slush fund, which seems to be doing very well, much better than they are doing in New Brunswick. At least in New Brunswick you have to give them credit, they came out and said they are putting $100 million in the slush fund.

Here they are trying to slowly siphon it off and put it away, but not tell anybody, see, and you've got to give the previous government of John Savage credit for one thing, as wrong-headed as it may have been in some of the initiatives, and I have always said it is a question of attitude and process, but at least I will say one thing for that government, Mr. Speaker, they told the people what they were going to do. They weren't sneaky and underhanded in the fashion of this particular piece of legislation. That is very unfair to the people. The intelligence of the people of Nova Scotia deserve much more than that. Why do you think the medical profession came out on Friday past? They knew it was patently unfair. They knew it was underhanded. As they said, it is the wrong legislation at the wrong time and for the wrong reason. That is what is wrong with Bill No. 68.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, you wonder why we would be suspect. Let's just look at some of the comments that have been made that would precipitate such an outcry of opposition and a request for deferral to a committee and perhaps maybe a wide-scope examination of exactly what the government has accomplished in health care since it came to power. The Premier, himself said in the election - yes, in his blue book, in his election commitment - they would correct all the problems in health care for $47 million. My gosh, it is $0.25 billion later the first year and another $200 million the second year. That is almost $0.5 billion more than they said they were going to spend. What happened? And now they are going to blame the nurses who are overworked and in some cases well underpaid for the amount of stress and the strain.

I hear some members moan and groan about being forced to come to the House, members of the government, work around the clock, isn't it terrible. They have an opportunity to come in and sleep in their chairs, well, well, well, I am so brokenhearted for them. Well, listen, we have nurses, we have health care workers (Interruption) There goes the cavalier Rambo Justice Minister once again, typical of the arrogance of that government. Yes, Mr. Speaker, that is the arrogance that we would expect and none less given the tone of the dissertation that was provided by the Rambo Justice Minister. These individuals, while we are in the comfort of our homes knowing that family members, loved ones and friends who might be in a hospital, or some type of a health care facility, or on a home support

[Page 5013]

program, we know that these individuals, whether there is a strike or a no strike situation, they will protect the critical health needs of all Nova Scotians. Yes, they have even offered that in writing, but yet at the eleventh hour, for whatever reason, the government through its hospital organizations, through its regional health authorities, has refused to sign it.

Why, why in the absence of anything but good logic, would the government in a veiled attempt to whip up public frenzy against a particular organization, do such a thing? Are they that desperate for public support? Is it clear that they are on the wrong course? Yes. You know, Mr. Speaker, what is developing here is a government so far removed from the people it is scary. It is the worst.

MR. SPEAKER: I just want to remind the honourable member for Cape Breton West that there is an amendment before the House at this time that the subject matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources and I don't know if once since he stood up, he has even mentioned that. So I would ask the honourable member if he would bring his comments around to the motion that is before the House and his support or non-support for that motion, please.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, actually if we check Hansard, you will find that on three separate occasions I made reference to that deferral. Perhaps I used the wrong terminology. If you want to use the word committee, I will use committee, but deferral to that committee I thought was one and the same. Now, that having been said and I do appreciate your guidance, but you wonder why we would want a deferral.

Let's look at the individual members and that is what I am absolutely astounded at, you know, aside from - well, I don't know, let's be kind - the silly comments from the Rambo Justice Minister, silly, that's about all. It didn't engender anything in terms of why he didn't think we should have a deferral. It didn't engender anything in terms of even focusing on the principle of the bill because his comments only addressed half measure one of the two points that the Premier was discussing in one of his media scrums on Friday past which contradicted the Minister of Health, which contradicted the Minister of Environment and Labour who I sometimes refer to as Dr. Seuss, whether that is appropriate or not, I will leave that for the open mind, but given the distorted, dysfunctional approach that the government has towards labour management issues in the province, one can only be somewhat drawn to some satirical tones on the attitude and the tone of this government.

Let's look at the good member for Dartmouth South. Well, we know, Mr. Speaker, from media reports the contempt that he has for the nursing profession. The media reports of August 26, 2000, and I will quote The Halifax Daily News, Mr. Olive obviously does not understand the skill level needed to work in different areas of health care. That pretty well summarizes a rather difficult situation that he found himself in in Dartmouth with the LPNs a little less than a year ago. Then if you look at his maiden Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, he is chastising the previous administration for not listening to the people.

[Page 5014]

The audacity of that member to chastise the previous administration, congratulate all the people in his riding for putting him here because he was going to listen to them and then the first available opportunity he gets, he chastises them. That is not the type of government that I think the people involved with Bill No. 68 are really looking for.

[4:00 p.m.]

Let's look at the good member for the Eastern Shore. You wonder why we would want this deferral? Because the silence of the Hamms over there is just spellbinding because there is quite a list of members over there. There are dozens of them over there so you would expect at least 2 or 3, maybe 5 or 10 per cent of them at least would stand up and defend Bill No. 68. As I read through all their speeches and replies to the Speech from the Throne when they first came to this House, now I understand why they don't. Why they can't defend, not only the bill, but the deferral or the actions of the Minister of Justice. The good member for the Eastern Shore congratulates the people for their confidence in sending him here because he will represent their interests. He congratulates the Conservative Government for having the foresight to invest in the offshore gas for which Nova Scotia is now reaping benefits. Now, what is the correlation there? The key phrase there is the foresight to invest.

If they had the foresight to invest in the offshore, they should have the foresight to invest in the nurses of Nova Scotia. In health care workers. We believe the deferral is important because the government has not lived up to its billing. It has not lived up to its commitment, it has not lived up to its expectation on the fact that it was going to clean all the problems out of the health care system with an investment of $47 million. Now, almost $0.5 billion later, they are blaming the health care workers. They are going to take away their rights. Ironically, when there was a collective bargaining impasse back in 1998, the government of the day didn't resort to back-to-work legislation. Not at all. They sat down and they listened, with the appointment of a mediator, and people who were willing to listen to some of the key arguments that were made. Not just on the nurses' side, but on the government side. Because of its obligation to the taxpayers but also to the hospital organizations and, yes, to the citizens of Nova Scotia.

We can see again the good member for the Eastern Shore and Dartmouth South, poof, up in smoke. That is why they won't stand and defend this bill. Or, support the deferral - or oppose the deferral for that matter - they are absolutely dumbfounded on this issue.

Let's look at the good member for Kings North. Let's look at what the good member for Kings North said, on Page 80 on October 8, 1999, I want to assure each and every person in Kings North that I will serve them to the best of my ability. Well, why isn't he standing in his place making some observation on this rather complicated, historic piece of legislation? What happened to the individual who believes in expression of free speech, speaking from the heart and the soul? What happened? What went awry that forced that honourable member to be so silent and not support this deferral?

[Page 5015]

Mr. Speaker, I could go on about some of the other comments he made about health care but it is absolutely mind-boggling about what he said then and what he is not saying today, as opposed to what he should be saying.

AN HON. MEMBER: Shame on him. Shame on Mark Parent.

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, shame on that member. As a member representing his constituents, not just the nursing profession, not just the LPNs or the doctors or the teachers, but his constituents.

Let's look at the good member for Sackville-Beaver Bank and why he is not supporting this deferral when he should be; I will always strive to uphold the best interest of the constituents I represent. Well, Mr. Speaker, what happened? Are there no nurses in his constituency? Are there no health care workers? Are there no doctors? Are there no LPNs? Are there no custodians who work in some of these health care facilities, nursing homes? There must be because he describes some of these health care facilities in his speech. What happened? Did he swallow a muzzle pill? Shame on that member. What a dichotomy of action and behaviour as opposed to when he was a member of the Halifax Regional Council. Yes, shame on that member.

Let's look at the good member for Kings West. What was he going to do? Well, I will just paraphrase the fact that he was so honoured to have been supported by so many citizens of Kings West and he goes on and on about how he will represent their interests and that he won't get caught up in a lot of the frivolous debate here in the Legislature that seems to add so little to the process but his constituents will be number one. What happened that they slipped in the polling? They are not number one anymore. What happened? Why is the Tory Party number one and the constituents number two? Again, another book of dismal failure.

Let's look at the good member for Preston who is sometimes referred to as the Wal-Mart greeter from Preston. Mr. Speaker, this is the one that I find extremely interesting and if anyone should support a deferral, it should be the member for Preston. As a backbencher on the government side, I quote the member for Preston: We cannot reply to any inquiries or accusations made during Question Period, nor do we have a fair opportunity to report or retort any accounts that may be portrayed to us in the media. The members of this House do not and will not get a fair chance to defend themselves if need be. Why not? Why can't he simply rise in his place and defend the rights of his constituents? What happened? You hear the catcalls from over in the corner. Is he now saying that the Premier has put a muzzle on him or senior members of the government? Is he saying now that he has been relegated to the backbench, next to the door, to be an apologist for the Tory Party over the people of his constituency? Is that what he is saying?

[Page 5016]

I go on to say, I quote the member for Preston as he says: Our rights and privileges of free speech have been reduced to nothing more than more mere edited and at most distorted sound bites.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: That's the truth.

MR. MACKINNON: The good member for Preston says that's the truth but yet he won't stand in his place and defend his constituents. He would rather be an apologist for the Tory Party under that guise of being open and accountable and responsive and responsible for his constituents. Now, you have a better chance of getting an Easter egg on an Easter hunt than you do of finding some of these Tory members on the weekend when the nurses are trying to call and express their concerns. Thank heavens for telephone recording machines. At least that way they can leave a message. Now whether they listen to it or not is another thing.

What happened to the member for Preston? If anyone should stand in his place and support this deferral, it should be the member for Preston because he, himself, in his own speech, Mr. Speaker, is complaining that he doesn't have the right to speak in the House of Assembly. He is now saying, in essence, his own government will not allow him to speak; his own government is against free speech.

Well, that is not what the Premier said when he ran for election. That is not what he said when he was on a local talk-back show in Sydney several years ago. To paraphrase what he said, I will allow members to vote according to their conscience, vote according to their own free will. Well, what happened? It is the first time I ever saw as many as 30 individuals come in here and all of a sudden have an equal mindset on everything and vote the same way on everything. They will vote against this deferral and support Bill No. 68, taking away basic democratic rights. Have we gone that far back? Have we begun the process of regression in democracy that much that they cannot understand that what they say is what they should do? Have they become mere puppets and apologists for a political entity. It doesn't matter whether it is the Tory Party, the Liberal Party or the NDP or banana republic, this is a much bigger issue, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, it is absolutely shameful when the Minister of Justice would stand in his place and blame others because his government is now going to refuse people the democratic right to express their opinion in a fair, open and accountable forum, something that we took over 250 years to put in place. It is not just shameful, it is downright disgusting. I am sure Joseph Howe must have rolled over in his grave three or four times in the last week since Bill No. 68 was introduced, Mr. Speaker.

To quote the honourable Joseph Howe, as he once said, "I know the value of education by the lack of it." I daresay that they are words that perhaps this government would take heed to. He may have been a feisty, little, crusty orator from down in the wonderful Colchester-

[Page 5017]

Musquodoboit Valley area but like the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley of today, they believe in representing their constituents. You have to give credit where credit is due. That honourable member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley will, at every available opportunity, given the restraints of that regime across the floor here, do his level best to represent his constituents. Unlike the silence of those other members who have sworn an oath to come and represent their constituents. And they are not doing it. Why not? Why will they not support such a deferral?

[4:15 a.m.]

What is the value of having all these individuals over there? Are they so enthralled, are they so enamoured, are they so pleased with the speeches that the Opposition is making? Not at all. Some things they will agree with, some things they will not agree with. Some are good speeches, some are not good speeches. Some are designed to offer substantive value, some are designed to be downright filibustering, with no sense of purpose other than to make things miserable for the government; doesn't matter what government it is. Anyone who has been in the House long enough will know that Bill No. 68 is not good. It would be well advised for the Premier and his Cabinet colleagues to stop listening to Mike Harris, stop listening to Ralph Klein and Peter Lougheed and start listening to the people of Nova Scotia; start listening to the people of Nova Scotia and that is what they are not doing.

The member for Halifax Bedford Basin. What did she say when she came to the House of Assembly. I am not going to go to great lengths quoting what she said and what she was going to do for her people. Suffice it to say, her silence is a complete contradiction of what she swore an oath to do. And that is what I find shameful. If anyone should support a deferral on this bill, if anyone should even oppose this bill, for some of the reasons that I stated and perhaps for some that I haven't stated, it should be that honourable member; not just to cater to one particular interest group or another, but for the very oath that she took when she came before the House of Assembly; for that reason and no other reason.

Again, let's look at the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury. What happened to him? One thing that is a common thread for all these members when they stood up to speak was that they are so grateful to the people who sent them here. They were so grateful and they thanked them and they were going to do all these wonderful things. Why the Dear John letter today? What happened? Are they only there for one term? Maybe they don't want to run again. Maybe they don't care what the people have to say in their ridings. But this is a government, through its own document, "Strong leadership . . . . a clear course." The underlying principle in this whole document is that they would listen, they would consult, they would have input from the stakeholders of the province; not haphazard, loosely worded legislation designed only to remove accountability from the people.

[Page 5018]

At the rate things are going, deferral or no deferral on Bill No. 68, this government will have absolutely little or no need for anyone in the House of Assembly other than the ones who are sitting at the Cabinet table.

Look at the amendments to the Education Act; look at the amendments to the Health Act, of previous sittings; look at the amendments to the Financial Measures (2001) Act, that now puts the Minister of Finance with his two Cabinet colleagues in the position to take over school boards and essentially drive all the major policy and funding operations within the Departments of Health and Education from the central politburo, for the lack of a better phrase, because that is the type of politics we are getting, that centralistic, authoritarian-style government. That is what we are getting. Look at Bill No. 20. Well, that is licence-to-kill democracy if we have ever seen it.

The Premier, on Friday past, said, it is an issue of safety, it is about safety for the people of Nova Scotia. Well, let's look at that. Notwithstanding the fact that the nurses from the various organizations have offered to sign a document entitled Patient Care Services Continuation Plan, which was a contract, a legal, binding contract between the Nurses' Union and the various hospital organizations, to guarantee that type of service, much as they have done in other provincial jurisdictions, in at least five, perhaps, six other provincial jurisdictions. There is a significant difference in what even essential services legislation provides for in Bill No. 68, which is something entirely different. It is something entirely different.

It goes too far. It is not about protecting the health care system of Nova Scotia, or the health care needs of Nova Scotia. It is much more than that, Bill No. 68, because if the government was just concerned about that one issue alone, there would be very little difficulty for them to adopt similar-type legislation that is in other provincial jurisdictions. That is not what is in Bill No. 68. It is not. Let's not be fooled by the propaganda put out by the Premier or the Minister of Health stating that. It is not true. I don't care what any of them say.

Read the legislation. Go to the Legislative Library if you can't talk to some professionals in the system, and find out for yourselves. You will find that Bill No. 68 is not essential services legislation. It is draconian, autocratic, heavy-handed politics designed to beat up on one particular interest group because it serves as a first step in what this government stands for in its relationship between labour-management relations, as it comes on the issue of organized labour.

They don't have the intestinal fortitude to bring in a new Trade Union Act, and deal with some of the substantive matters that were put forth in various commissions and reports that were commissioned by that Conservative Government on a previous day. Members of that government, a Conservative Government, they won't even adhere to their own recommendations. I would suspect the reason for this deferral is an opportunity for perhaps

[Page 5019]

members of that government and the backbenchers to at least go down to the Department of Environment and Labour's legislative library, and find out for themselves how wrong the government is in what it is doing.

I would be willing to bet - and I know we are not allowed to bet literally, but figuratively . . .

MR. JERRY PYE: I'll take it, what's the bet?

MR. MACKINNON: A cup of coffee for the member for Dartmouth South - or North.

MR. PYE: North, please!

MR. MACKINNON: Maybe a cup of coffee for the member for Dartmouth South would help bring him to his senses, bring him to his feet. They seem to be asleep at the wheel in what they are doing to the people here.

Mr. Speaker, I would venture to say there hasn't been more than one government member, maybe two - I will give the benefit of the doubt because the Government House Leader, he was a Minister of Labour on a previous day, he would know what I am talking about, he would know exactly what I am talking about, about those reports and recommendations to deal with labour-management issues. Bill No. 68 skirts all of that. Under the guise of essential services legislation, this government purports to do much more.

The Minister of Environment and Labour, well, I am almost embarrassed to read what he said when he came to the House of Assembly to represent the good constituents from down in Kings County. I really am, I am embarrassed, because what he says and what he does here on Bill No. 68 is a total, total contradiction to everything he said and stood for. I don't know if sitting at the Cabinet table has insulated him from the real world; I don't know if it is a buy-in to some secret pact.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I have been listening with great intent to the honourable member opposite talking about the member for Queens and what he said. I want to quote the honourable member opposite who supported a wage roll-back for health care workers back in 1993. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, you can realize that the money simply is not there. People like the Minister of Finance are going to need our full support and understanding and co-operation in terms of working through these very difficult times.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that before he starts quoting the member for Queens that he look at his own record and what they did to health care workers back in those times. We are giving them a raise. They rolled their wages back. (Interruptions)

[Page 5020]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order. (Interruptions) No, it is not. (Interruptions)

Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable Minister of Finance for bringing that up, because I am very proud of those comments that I made at that time, not because I was proud of what we had to do but, see, he was part of a government that bankrupted the province. He bankrupted the province so much so that the creditors, the bonding agencies from the United States were about to put this province in receivership. Do you know why? Because he and his government were more concerned about supplying lobster dinners to butter them up. Yes, put the whole thing in context; put the whole speech in context. Is that the best that he can do on my 10 years of dissertation in this House? Is that the best he can do?

I am trying to help a government bring this province back from bankruptcy, and that is why we had money back in 1998, to negotiate, not legislate, not like this heavy-handed, autocratic government and the Rambo Justice Minister who is only here for a couple of years, and all of sudden is an expert at everything. Well, I will tell you that type of logic, you would have to be as thick as a two-by-four to buy into that. Why would those honourable members stand up and try to defend it? That honourable member knows when the good government of which he was a part brought in a deficit for that year, that dying year, of $584 million, but, yet, when it was recalculated under the same terms of reference that he is using in today's accounting principles, it was over $1 billion.

Never mind his voodoo economics and his silly rabbit tracks. I will debate the Minister of Finance on that stuff any day. He stands up and says, oh, we had a $500 million deficit, not a $1 million surplus, but yet he will stand in his place on another day and say, oh, well, about $230 million was set aside for Sysco; well, that really wasn't dollars, that was just paper talk, so it really wasn't a $500 million deficit. Never mind that foolish diatribe from the minister . . .

[4:30 a.m.]

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, if the member wants to talk numbers, we will talk numbers because the number that he talks about, the deficit that was at that time, it was over $500 million in write-offs of Sysco and also of NSRL at that time. So if you want to talk numbers, let's talk real numbers, but in your speech you also said there was a $7 billion deficit in this province . . .

MR. MACKINNON: Debt.

[Page 5021]

MR. LEBLANC: Debt, and that is why we had to deal with it. Well, Mr. Speaker, we have an $11.5 billion debt and the problems aren't there. We're giving a raise and you cut them back and you froze the wages. So don't stand here and tell us that we're not treating them fairly.

MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, but certainly a disagreement on the facts between two members.

MR. MACKINNON: We are getting a little closer to the bone, Mr. Speaker, and do you know why? Because it is starting to hurt that all his voodoo economics and the . . .

MR. LEBLANC: Facts.

MR. MACKINNON: And the facts, yes, let's go with the facts and what the Auditor General says. It doesn't matter if they have a balanced budget, the debt will still continue to grow for generations. Why? Because of what that government did from 1978 to 1993, of which he was a part. He was part and parcel of bankrupting this province and he expects us to believe him?

Hogwash, Mr. Speaker, that's all that honourable Minister of Finance is putting before this House. He and the Minister of Transportation and Public Works are a licence for the destruction of government in Nova Scotia because they don't like democracy. They don't like accountability. They don't like people coming and voicing their opinion. They would rather have a police state, put the barricades up; how dare those people come and express themselves. Shame on those two ministers and those sleepers, those blind sheep that follow, who gave an oath to the people of Nova Scotia and, in particular, to their constituents that they would come and uphold the principles of responsible government.

Yes, and where was the good member for Cape Breton North this weekend when 300 nurses called him for an accountability session? Where was he to be had? He never returned his phone calls, not according to the 300 nurses. What happened? Is it DOA - dead on arrival - is that what the message is from this government? Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance should be ashamed of himself because he knows much of the money that is going for what raise is being offered to the nurses, or to any other sector in this province, is because of the increased transfer payments from the federal government but, oh, he forgot to say that, oh, no. You see, that is the way he operates, just like the Minister of Community Services when he made the $66 million announcement on this new home income support program. But what he forgot to tell the people of Nova Scotia is, it was all federal money. (Interruption)

Well, the Wal-Mart greeter is back from Preston and he wants to know what that has to do with Bill No. 68. Mr. Speaker, I would invite that honourable member to stand up for what he said when he came to the House of Assembly, that he was going to represent his constituents. Stand up. Don't be bullied by the Government House Leader. Don't be bullied

[Page 5022]

by the rather somewhat heavy-handed Minister of Finance, the prima donna of the Hammites, who sees himself as the visionary for the resolve of all the problems in Nova Scotia when he, himself, is one of the chief architects who inflicted this on the people of Nova Scotia. (Interruptions) Oh, yes, Mr. Speaker, I will take a question from Dr. Seuss.

HON. DAVID MORSE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As long as we have the former Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee there and we're talking about financial matters, perhaps he could tell us the story about how he proposed that we would solve the deficit problem by borrowing the money. Could he explain that to the House and the people of Nova Scotia?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order. It is merely a suggestion to the honourable member for Cape Breton West and he is under no obligation, but he certainly could respond to the question if he so desired.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I will take that as a question because the honourable minister doesn't seem to know the Rules of the House. So we will guide him a little, okay. If he would read Hansard, it was a proposition based on the logic of the Minister of Finance himself which the Deputy Minister of Finance, who appeared before the Public Accounts Committee, agreed. He didn't agree. His corporate assistant who came before the Public Accounts Committee - and if you will read the transcript very closely, as I noted, your colleague is shaking his head yes and you are shaking your head no. See, that's what (Interruption) Not at all.

Their proposal was they had to borrow all this money to be able to meet their financial obligations. In other words, they could go to the bonding market, they could increase the debt based on the logic that was presented that day, but yet they could have had a balanced budget, no deficit, but an increased debt. That was the logic and the Minister of Environment and Labour, well, that's absolutely silly; look what he proposed with his logic when he brought the topic of Horton High before the Public Accounts Committee. That was probably one of the most asinine suggestions that was ever brought because in the final analysis he ended up praising the government for the P3 process.

I mean that's how silly and dysfunctional this government is, Mr. Speaker. They grab onto any teensy-weensy bitsy thread and distort it to make it look like everybody else doesn't know what they're talking about, just as they can go on in their autocratic-style, non-accountable government process. Well, I am sorry, it doesn't work that way, guys and ladies, sorry for your troubles. (Interruptions)

Yes, Mr. Speaker, we know what happens with government members when they speak out. Look what happened with the good member for Kings North, the Chairman of the Human Resources Committee. He got axed for telling the truth. They don't like that. Look on February 28, 2001, you wonder why we would appreciate a deferral to a committee when

[Page 5023]

the financial statements were recalculated, restated by the Minister of Finance's own officials. He sat on this for months, suppressing this from the Opposition and from the people of Nova Scotia. That is the type of politics that we get from that member. We don't put a lot of stock in the frivolous diatribe that comes from the Minister of Finance because it just doesn't add anything to the value of what Bill No. 68 is trying to do to the democratic rights of people in Nova Scotia.

That's right, Mr. Speaker, democratic rights, because the Auditor General and the bonding agencies stated that they were going to put the province in receivership. I don't know how slow or how long it is going to take for the Minister of Finance to absorb that; maybe that little hiatus from 1993 to 1998 didn't do him any good. (Interruptions) In a lot of ways he did and if you ask the Auditor General (Interruptions) At least we got their attention.

Do you know what, Mr. Speaker, another half hour, they will be awake. They will be coming up like the roosters. They will be up. They will start to crow. They are not saying a lot, but they are starting to crow. (Interruption). The Wal-Mart greeter from Preston, he will be quite happy. In another month's time the flowers will be blooming, and he can go back to sleep, out in the courtyard.

The people of Nova Scotia, the nurses, the health care workers, they don't appreciate the government - you know, rather than deal with substantive issues, at every available waking opportunity they've got their researchers in the library trying to find any thread, any little measly morsel that we can use against those honourable members to throw them off the beaten trail, because that will help us get our job done, we will do what we want to do, but it doesn't work.

The good Minister of Environment and Labour won't even talk to the people in Annapolis County while his waters down there are being polluted; 20 per cent of all the boil orders in the province are in the Annapolis County, in Kings County, by his own documents. What does that have to do with the deferral? A lot because it is about accountability and how we allot our financial resources. We will be spending more money cleaning up the mess that he will leave behind because he doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to go and meet with the people as he sells out the member for Annapolis and the people down there. He doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to live up to the obligations of his oath as a Minister of the Crown. He would rather beat up on the health care workers because they are so dysfunctional, so irresponsible in the way they manage affairs. They are going to rob Peter to pay Paul, that is what it is all about. Absolutely shameful.

The same minister stands in his place and says he doesn't answer questions from members in the House of Assembly. Yes, the Minister of Environment and Labour doesn't feel that he has a legal obligation to answer questions from the Opposition or any other member for that matter. That is quite apparent, but I will tell you, you can go in the Cabinet

[Page 5024]

door, but you can come out pretty darn quick. It is a privilege, not a right. (Interruptions) The Rambo Justice Minister says, just like you.

Do you know what? I was proud for what I did as a minister. I didn't roll back the occupational health and safety laws. I didn't bring in regressive legislation to prevent the policemen of Nova Scotia the right to vote like the Minister of Justice did. He doesn't want our good peace officers to have the right to speak out on behalf of their membership. (Interruption) Well, that is not what is stated here. It says Michael Baker, Lunenburg. That is not what is stated in his remarks. So, really, it represents the mindset of the government. They are against police officers, let's put it that way, and the right to represent their interests.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is very disappointing that the government would grapple at such thin threads to weave an argument against the member for Cape Breton West. They know that we make some excellent points. We will just leave it to the people of Nova Scotia to decide.

As things were going along on this collective bargaining process, there was the appointment of a mediator, which makes good sense. I am sure the Minister of Environment and Labour got good advice on that, but he got terrible advice to support a piece of legislation, cutting the legs from under the mediator the day after - tell me that is a good, sound, business initiative. It is like hiring a manager to run your trucking operation and then the next day telling him he is only allowed to polish the chrome on your truck. Doesn't make sense, does it? All that talent, all that trust. As I said on a previous day, this Bill No. 68 says a lot, with lot being more literally defined as lack of trust. That is what it is all about and that is why we would support the deferral.

[4:45 a.m.]

Yes, the frivolous arguments about the debt and the deficit and how the Opposition portrays things. They tried to spin that out to the public and even the public were too smart for them. Yes, and they always are. In the final analysis, that is where this government will go down, because they always underestimate the intelligence of the general public. They underestimate the resolve of the nurses and the health care workers in Nova Scotia and I dare say this is not just about essential services legislation. This is far worse.

For any government to think that any individual or group of individuals does not have the right to appeal to a court - whether it be at the local county court level, provincial, Supreme Court of Nova Scotia or the Supreme Court of Canada - for that lot over there to say that they can't appeal to a court of the land, how many of them are qualified to make those decisions? Not too many. More like the cast from Taxi - a lovable bunch of losers when it comes to representing the interests of Nova Scotians.

[Page 5025]

I am very disappointed, but not surprised. We see that every member on the government bench who stood up to represent his or her constituency when they came before the House has failed on that. We have demonstrated quite clearly that they have fallen on the job. Now they are too scared to stand up because they are not allowed. See, there is a very quiet hush. How many government backbenchers, how many Conservative backbenchers have stood up? Not one.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I think maybe the Speaker was asleep at the switch. The honourable member's time has expired and then some. On a point of order?

MR. MACKINNON: No, Mr. Speaker. I know that you were so captivated by the speech that you just allowed me the extra 10 minutes and I appreciate that. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: It would be four minutes. The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Does that detract from my hour of speaking?

MR. SPEAKER: No. The honourable member will get 60 minutes.

MR. PYE: I rise to speak on the amendment that is before us and I don't think there has actually been a clarity on what the amendment really says. The amendment really states that this bill be withdrawn and that the subject matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. That is what I am going to speak about, that this subject matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources.

I believe that this is such an outrageous abuse of legislative power by a government that I have seen in my period of time sitting in this Legislative Assembly. What I will say to you is that I stood before this Legislative Assembly before and we have debated bills and we have debated some very serious bills by this government. Bill No. 62, which is a bill which was very near and dear to my heart, we stood in this Legislative Assembly and debated and we referred that bill to a six months' hoist. We referred that bill, I believe, to the Standing Committee on Community Services and also to Law Amendments. Again, Bill No. 20, we stood in this Legislative Assembly and went through the same process: a six months' hoist, a referral to the Standing Committee on Human Resources and the Law Amendments; then only to have it enacted and passed as legislation by this government.

We are standing here again today and make no doubt about it that the government has the numbers to count in Bill No. 68. The government will - by one, by one, by one - count in on that recorded vote, and you can be rest assured that they will count in in support of Bill No. 68.

[Page 5026]

The point that is really gone to the arrogance of this is that the Government House Leader has decided that this bill - not that it is such an important bill and that this bill ought to be done in a normal time-frame so that many Nova Scotians who are directly or indirectly affected by this bill, can come before this Legislative Assembly and stand in the public gallery and watch the proceedings take place in this Legislature. The government has decided to ram this through the Legislature by forcing a 24 hour period of debate every single day until this bill gets through. That is what the government has done. The government has no compassion or understanding. It has violated its blue book, Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course, which it said that it would be open, transparent and accountable.

There are many people who can't be here to see this process for one reason or another, but had it been done in a timely fashion, then you can be assured that there would have been a number of Nova Scotians present here to listen to this debate, but I must say that I am pleasantly surprised at the number of people who actually come here in the late evenings and the early mornings and listen to this debate as it goes across the Legislature floor, albeit a one-sided debate.

Then the Minister of Justice stands before this House and takes the opportunity to speak on Bill No. 68 and, Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if the Minister of Justice was speaking for the government or not, but I do know that it was a prepared text and if it was a prepared text, then he obviously had the authority to speak before this Legislative Assembly on that. What was most galling and what was most arrogant was that the Minister of Justice challenged or even threatened the members of this Legislative Assembly, who are the Official Opposition and the Opposition of this House, to sit down and shut up or else you know what will happen, if we don't sit down and shut up and if we continue to drag this bill out, or filibuster the bill which is a part of our process in this Legislative Assembly, that he is going to take away the rights of Nova Scotians who want to have representation before the Law Amendments Committee.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice, of all people in this province, should retract that kind of a statement. What kind of a message does that send out to those Nova Scotians who will possibly read that tomorrow in the newspaper, or probably have seen this on the Legislative TV tonight? What kind of a statement does the Minister of Justice tell Nova Scotians with respect to that? I don't even know whether this bill should go to the Standing Committee on Human Resources anymore because the Minister of Justice has just said, look, I push the threat of closure on this, I will close representation in the Law Amendments Committee. I will invoke closure is what he is saying because if it doesn't meet a finite period of time, then the Minister of Justice will just simply impose how many people will speak before the Law Amendments Committee.

Mr. Speaker, I would say to you and I would say to Nova Scotians, I stand here to be accountable and because the Minister of Justice puts a threat over my head that, in fact, I will be denying people the right to speak before the Law Amendments Committee, I will not back

[Page 5027]

down. I will not back down, nor will members of this Opposition Party or members of the Opposition back down, because we have a right in this Legislative Assembly to cause debate so that the government will know that its actions are wrong and that the government will recognize that through this debate there are avenues which we can pursue.

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that this very government decided that it would not entertain a six months' hoist. As a matter of fact, you were in the Chair when I spoke on that six months' hoist and I can tell you that, in fact, we had hoped that the government would go for a six months' hoist because that would have given everyone the opportunity for sober second thought. It would have given the government side, it would have given the Opposition side, an opportunity to see just exactly the contents of this legislation, Bill No. 68. It would have also given us the opportunity to probably reach a compromise if, in fact, the government had felt that those people who are working in the health care services would not provide a continuum of health care.

Mr. Speaker, I will tell you that I am appalled at this government that it does not have the faith and trust in all those individuals who work in the health care system and provide health care services, that they are going to jeopardize the health and well-being of Nova Scotians. They are truly professional individuals and individuals who, in fact, will guarantee and who have actually said that they would guarantee, and I do know that I cited from the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union back during the hoist that the essential services agreement was out there and that, in fact, the essential services agreement told government what government could expect. They told those regional health authorities what they could expect from the unions with respect to providing a continuum of care while there was an interruption in the workplace.

Now, Mr. Speaker, make no bones about it, a part of the collective bargaining right is for a person to withdraw the rights of service. That is an essential component of the collective bargaining Act, the Trade Union Act as well, but particularly the collective bargaining Act because it allows people the right to withdraw their services in the event that they feel they are not being treated as the human resource and with the value that they ought to be and with respect to benefits and wages.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that when those individuals know full well that is the kind of level of service that they have to provide, then they are not going to contravene the Trade Union Act. They are going to provide that service even though there may be disruption in the service, you can't ignore that.

For the Minister of Justice to insinuate that we in the Opposition do not care about the effects that may happen to Nova Scotians out there in the event of a strike and someone happens not to get the kind of essential services needed and they die as a result of not having 100 per cent of the health care service, that somehow we are the fault of that, Mr. Speaker, is totally wrong. It is irresponsible of the Minister of Justice to imply that anyone who has

[Page 5028]

been elected to this Legislative Assembly should actually conduct themselves in such a manner. Certainly the minister ought to apologize to every Nova Scotian, in fact, for making that kind of a statement to the members of the Opposition in this Legislative Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, on the weekend, I know that I spent approximately 12 hours here on Friday night. I came in here at about 11:00 o'clock and I think that I left about 11:40 p.m., on Friday evening. I think the House adjourned for the weekend, or at least until Monday morning, 12:01 a.m., and during that period of time I received a number of faxes, I have listened to a number of individuals in the health care service talk to me, and they told me about how they felt that the government had undervalued them, how the government didn't appreciate the professionalism of their services, that for some apparent reason the government felt that they weren't valued in relation to British Columbia, in relation to Alberta, in relation to Ontario, and in relation to the United States with respect to wages and benefits.

In fact, when I think about it, this is a government that talks about a global community and that we are living and working within a global community and that, in fact, it is a true fact that we will lose nurses. As a matter of fact, the honourable member for Halifax Fairview, the honourable Graham Steele, indicated that in the year 2000 there were 79 nurses graduate and out of the 79 nurses who had graduated, only six of them stayed in the Province of Nova Scotia. That demonstrates the kind of global community, Mr. Speaker, that we are in. What we have to do is be competitive with wages.

[5:00 a.m.]

For this government to simply say that it cannot provide the kind of wages and benefits that the health care professionals are looking at, I would say it is a matter of priorities. The members on this particular side of the floor, as the Official Opposition, recognize that there are some financial difficulties with this province. We are not in a position to put this province into debt any more than what it is. That debt was created by the Tories and the Liberals before.

Mr. Speaker, we understand, though, that the priorities of Nova Scotians are that they value a health care system, and they value a competent, complete health care system, one that they can be assured of when they wake up in the morning that they are going to get health care. That is essential and it is important. It is not only essential and important in Nova Scotia, but it is the basic foundation of all of Canada, that people receive quality health care. The nursing profession provides that quality health care.

Mr. Speaker, another reason why the government wants to rush this bill through is, this bill isn't about - as far as I am concerned - collective bargaining rights. This bill is all about money; this bill is all about a Tory agenda. It is all about an agenda that is three years down

[Page 5029]

the road, approximately two years down the road now, in the year 2003, when this government promised every single Nova Scotian a 10 per cent tax cut.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians that I have talked to, and according to the Corporate Research poll, indicate that only 9 per cent of all Nova Scotians value a 10 per cent tax cut over a quality health care system and a quality education system. That should tell the government that its priorities are wrong, skewed, that, in fact, the government's priorities are off the agenda of what Nova Scotians elected this government for.

This government, as a matter of fact, promised Nova Scotians, in its blue book - and I won't go back to that at the present time - that it would provide a quality health care service to Nova Scotians. It criticized the Liberal Government for the $640 million health care investment, that it was going to provide to Nova Scotians. That government said it could do it better and there was some talk around $47 million. I don't think the talk was around the $47 million, in my opinion it was that this government said it would provide a better health care service for less than the cost of the previous Liberal Government that was in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I recognize when I was standing here speaking last Friday that the Liberal Government is, in a sense, partly responsible for the reduced wages that people in the health care profession receive to this day, simply because after 1992 under Donald Cameron and receiving a wage freeze, in 1993 that was not good enough. The government of the day, the Liberal Government, the John Savage Government, which is now ousted, decided that it would cut 3 per cent of the wages.

I know you must have been affected by that 3 per cent wage cut as well as I, and many thousands of Nova Scotians, particularly Nova Scotians who were employed in the Public Service sector. Not only those who were employed in the Public Service sector, but also those individuals who were directly or indirectly receiving funds from the Province of Nova Scotia at that particular time, as well, received a 3 per cent cut in their wages providing their incomes were $25,000 a year or more.

That affects those salary ranges today. That also affected their benefits and their future pension plans. The Liberal Government cannot and should not get off the hook for that. By the same token, that is nothing compared to the draconian legislation that has been brought in here by this particular Tory Government. Where else can you possibly go in the world where the Cabinet can circumvent the collective bargaining process, and turn around and tell people, look, we are going to impose a settlement? We don't care if you negotiate, there is no need to negotiate anyway because now the collective bargaining process has been thrown out the door. As a matter of fact, if you want to, you can take it to court but it will do you no good because the courts can't address the issue.

[Page 5030]

Mr. Speaker, where in the world do you get that kind of legislation? I have been told that the only place in Canada that resembles or comes anywhere close to that is in New Brunswick, however, this is Nova Scotia, and Nova Scotians have already spoken out, and Nova Scotians have told this government what they believe is important to them with respect to the delivery of health care.

When we look at the nursing profession and the number of years that it takes, approximately four years to receive a Bachelor of Nursing degree, the cost is some $40,000 to $60,000. Then you wonder why nurses don't stay in the Province of Nova Scotia. It takes approximately 10 to 15 years to pay off that debt that has been incurred. Mr. Speaker, if it is $40,000 to $50,000 for that cost, over a 10 year period, that is approximately $500 a month, not including interest and the like. It is a tremendous cost that is coming out of their wages.

That is the kind of thing that the government has to recognize. The government has to recognize that there is a specialized field out there today; there are highly-trained, highly-skilled nurses who are graduating here in the Province of Nova Scotia. If, in fact, they can compete in the open market, like the United States, British Columbia, Alberta or Ontario, then they have a right to compete in that marketplace. We also have a right as a province to make sure that we ante up and we are able to be competitive by providing them decent salaries and benefits to stay in this province. After all, every time we walk into a health institution, a hospital, we see the importance of having nursing and health care professionals there.

When I visit the intensive care unit of the IWK Health Centre, I know the kind of stress that goes on in bringing those young children into this world of ours and making sure that they have the kind of health care services that are needed and the specialized treatment that is needed, particularly to those children who are born premature or some with particular diseases and disabilities. Many of those children cause a tremendous amount of stress on nurses who are in the workplace. That, in itself, ought to measure for something.

Our seniors, many of us have known loved ones who end up in hospitals and who need special care and treatment, particularly seniors in acute care centres, in hospitals with acute care beds. They are looked after. Some of those individuals are in there for three years or more. All of those individuals are well taken care of by a specialized group of nursing staff and health care workers within those hospitals.

Mr. Speaker, we talk about not being able to provide or have the financial wherewithal or the financial resources to pay the nursing profession the kind of dollars that they are asking for. All that happens through a negotiated process. If, in fact, the Minister of Health were to sit himself at the negotiating table - which is highly unlikely because he will allow the individual health authorities to deal with that, but if the minister were to do that himself -

[Page 5031]

I just wonder what kind of a negotiated settlement the Minister of Health would make with those within the nursing profession.

Mr. Speaker, we know that this province is on the cusp of some wealth. We know that if the Minister of Economic Development is diligent in his field that he will make sure that there is growth in the IT sector in this province; he will make sure that industry is going to stabilize and locate in this province; the industry that is already here will stabilize and stay in the province, and it will attract new industry to this province. He also knows that if, in fact, he puts his efforts into the offshore development and the potential wealth of that offshore that many Nova Scotians will benefit from that and there will be revenue in there to provide the kind of salaries that are needed for the nursing profession, not only the nursing professions, but should also enhance the economic wealth of many Nova Scotians and all Nova Scotians I would like to think, but that is not the case. That is not the case here.

The Minister of Economic Development is the same as the rest of this government. They have a one-track mind with respect to how they are going to address the issues of Nova Scotia and that's to get rid of the deficit and the debt. There is nothing wrong with getting rid of the deficit and the debt, but one has to remember that the debt had been created over a 20 to 25 year period and a good $7 billion of that debt had been created by the former Tory Government under John Buchanan.

Mr. Speaker, there are members of the John Buchanan Cabinet who are here this very day in the Legislative Assembly. As a matter of fact, I believe the Government House Leader, who is supporting this bill and ramrodding this bill through, was a member of the John Buchanan Government and he knew how they spent money. So that money had been spent and it was spent foolishly. I recall electronic toilet seats as a matter of fact. There was a huge purchase of electronic toilet seats. I will bet you none of those are in a health care centre. I bet you there's not a single one of those electronic toilet seats in a health care facility across this province, but I will bet you there has been some good bidding on them and that there has been some good money and some of those are probably located as items of historic value in some people's homes.

Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that was a colossal waste of money. There has been a colossal waste of money on Mercator I, some of those kind of ventures. I don't know if people still remember or recall those kinds of ventures that happened by government, but that was a tremendous waste of money and we know what governments have created that. It is a matter of both of these governments, both the Liberal and Tory Governments, being responsible for that kind of economic loss to the Province of Nova Scotia and the kind of debt that we are faced with now. If we didn't have that kind of a debt, surely the government wouldn't be in the position where it is today, but even with that kind of a debt, the government does have the financial resources to at least negotiate a reasonable wage package for those people in the health care services.

[Page 5032]

Mr. Speaker, I sometimes wonder if, in fact, this Bill No. 68 wasn't actually dreamed up - you know, there is a fishing cottage on a river in Guysborough County that the Premier and his buddies sit down and meet and they have a talk. I believe it might have been with the Sobeys. Can you imagine, the Sobeys' boys, and the Premier sits down and drinks his little glass of milk while others may have a little stronger sip from time to time, but I can assure you that that would be the ideal location for dreaming up some kind of a bill like this. Bill No. 68 sounds like it ought to be right there with the rest of the fishing stories and I can tell you that the seriousness of this bill could have come from nowhere else but those individuals.

I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that some of those individuals, who in fact had a very significant role to play in Bill No. 20, are the same individuals who sat down and helped write this Bill No. 68 and those are the business people in downtown here and some of those individuals who visit the bunker because they get the special invitation to visit the bunker down there and speak with the minister and have the minister's ear. As a matter of fact, they probably have the ear of the entire Cabinet, but some of those people probably have gone down there and did that little fishing and talked about how we are going to take away the right to collective bargaining from nurses in this province.

Nova Scotians don't believe for a minute, Mr. Speaker, that the nursing profession or the health care professionals are incompetent. They believe that the health care professionals will provide that continued level of services they have said under the essential services agreement. It is this government that is fear-mongering Nova Scotians by implying to the seniors and to those people who may need health care tomorrow that somehow they won't get it if there is a withdrawal of services by health care workers. That is the problem. It is this government because it is this government's agenda that we have seen since they took power in 1999.

Mr. Speaker, in reference to the Human Resources Committee, I want to read an e-mail that was sent off to me and to all MLAs, as a matter of fact. I think the reason why I will say this is because it will tell me exactly why these people should go to the Human Resources Committee and why these people should have the opportunity to speak before the Human Resources Committee.

Mr. Speaker, for the record so that it goes in, and I will table it as well. It is from the Colchester Regional Hospital and it comes here on Sunday, June 17th. I don't know if anyone has had the chance to read it or to see it, Mr. Speaker, but you certainly would know where Colchester Regional Hospital is and a number of your colleagues would as well. It says:

"To All MLA's: DICTATORSHIP: autocratic rule, control or leadership; a form of government in which absolute power is concentrated in a dictator or a small clique; a government organization or group in which absolute power is so concentrated.

[Page 5033]

DEMOCRACY: a government by the people, a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly through a system of representation involving periodically held free elections.

We, as nurses, have chosen to work and live in our respective communities, to take care of those who need the medical attention we have been educated to provide in a professional and caring manner. We are proud of our profession and feel we deserve fair compensation for the work we do. We also have personal lives, families, responsibilities which sometimes get lost in the shuffle when we are mandated to work overtime after already putting in a full shift or work week.

TORY PLATFORM JOHN HAMM SAID health care workers 'WILL NOT STAY UNLESS THEY HAVE A REWARDING PROFESSIONAL ENVIRONMENT'

This is becoming more prevalent everyday. Why would nurses' choose to work in Nova Scotia as there is no incentive now and none in the proposed contract. RN's are leaving to go other places where they are treated fairly and with respect.

We would like to know which way you plan to vote on BILL 68 and the rational behind your decision.

Nurses' did have a contingency plan in place that management agreed with where we would provide essential care in the event of a strike.

Please remember nurses' are a strong body in the province and you yourself will need votes someday! Please make the right decision and support nurses' right to negotiate a fair and equitable contract so we may do our job proudly and competently."

Mr. Speaker, as I go back it says, "We would like to know which way you plan to vote on BILL 68 and your rational behind this decision." That is very well and good because if, in fact, this bill is referred, or the subject matter I should say, not the bill, because stated in the amendment, the bill is stated to be withdrawn and the subject matter referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. If that is the case then these individuals would, in fact, have the opportunity to go before the Standing Committee on Human Resources and present themselves before the Human Resources Committee and present their concerns and would be able to get a hearing.

[Page 5034]

I want to tell you that that is Barbara Lewis, an RN; Janet Hutchinson, who is an RN; and Gloria Falle, who is an RN. Mr. Speaker, they are all from the Colchester Regional Hospital. It just goes to show that there has been some talk, not only in the metropolitan area with respect to the way contract negotiations are going, but all across this province. Those individuals are quite concerned with respect to how the government is addressing this particular issue.

Now, I don't know, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, if you have had any calls, any e-mails, or any faxes on behalf of members of your constituency, but I do know that the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley must have nurses who are quite concerned about what is taking place. Surely, they can expect a call in return from their MLA who represents them.

Mr. Speaker, the same can be said for everyone who sits in the Legislative Assembly on that side of government. One would hope that that side of government would take the opportunity to stand there and speak on behalf of their constituents and let them know that their voice is going to be heard in this Legislative Assembly. Despite the decision, that this government has their lips sealed, one would think that they would have the opportunity for a free voice on this, as Premier John Hamm had indicated during the 1999 election campaign when he handed out the book, Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course.

When I look across that legislative floor and see a number of people who have the opportunity to speak on behalf of their constituents and they choose not to speak on behalf of their constituents, then I know why I am here. I am here because they call me, and because they need to have a voice in this Legislative Assembly because their elected representatives will not speak. There is this attitude that says, you know, if you sit there and you say nothing, two years from now that will be blown over. I remember that kind of talk when I spoke with the MLAs of the Liberal Government of 1993. They just went on their merry way, doing whatever they felt, and they turned around and imposed the 3 per cent wage cut. Then, a year and a half prior to election they imposed municipal amalgamation. It never went to any Human Resources Committee; it never went through any committee, they just simply imposed it.

What happened? In 1998, it just happened to be a Liberal minority that hit this province. Then Nova Scotians did the final blow and the final thrust in 1999. Now the Tory Government comes into this Legislative Assembly with exactly the same arrogance. It has exactly the same arrogance. It has turned around and stood in this Legislative Assembly and it read the budget books, much the same as we did in Opposition, they read those budget books, they knew exactly how much debt this Province of Nova Scotia was in, and if they did not know how much debt this Province of Nova Scotia was in, then the Finance Minister, who wants to be a real Finance Minister someday, ought to recognize that now is the time for him to be a real Finance Minister. It should have been the time when, in fact, he was out there on the election campaign, because that minister certainly has a handle on economics and I am sure that he has been introduced to economics 101. You don't have to go much

[Page 5035]

farther than that to know, after reading budget books, just exactly how much debt the Province of Nova Scotia has.

Mr. Speaker, just to come in 1999 and to imply that they didn't know the financial position of this province, and that this province was in deeper financial difficulties than what they thought - I do agree that even we did not believe that, in fact, there was a $1 million surplus . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I just want to bring to the member's attention that he said we did the same thing the Liberal Government did before, and I want to point out that I did know the situation of the province was serious. We, as a government, have put negotiated contracts which have increments. People are getting raises in this province. Would the member not agree that for the health care workers who are in the gallery and the health care workers who are home that this government, though we have a deficit problem, have still put increments on the table for those health care workers far and above what we have offered other workers in this province, which has basically been two, two, and two? Would the member not agree and say that that is different than what the previous administration did, which was a roll-back and actually, unpaid leave? Those are two completely different things.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member has stated exactly what he had felt about the position and the financial position that the Liberal Government of the day in 1993 had taken. The honourable member also indicated that at one time during the debate, I believe on Friday, I indicated that that was one of the very reasons why I entered politics, simply to make some sane changes in this province's way of delivering politics to Nova Scotians, and that, in fact, I did not support the 3 per cent wage cut that was imposed by the Liberal Government at that time.

Mr. Speaker, what I am saying here is that this Minister of Finance and his government knew very well what the books were in the 1999 election campaign, and said nothing, absolutely nothing about making tax cuts, creating tax cuts - excuse me, not giving tax cuts - but said absolutely nothing about the financial status of this province with respect to where they were going. They simply made it very clear that they were going to introduce a 10 per cent tax cut in this province, and they did not imply that they were going to do that on the backs of Nova Scotians by, in fact, introducing user fees to the point of $118 million a year. Each and every year from here on, those user fees will be in place.

[Page 5036]

That Minister of Finance is very much aware. Those are the kinds of costs that Nova Scotians are now subject to. They are not only subject to user fees, but they are also subject to a reduction in the level of government they are receiving, as well. That is significantly important. I think the Minister of Finance needs to tell Nova Scotians that, in fact, the health care workers need to have a wage that is competitive across this country. They are competing in a global market, as I said earlier, and the wage and the salary benefits have to be competitive. If not, we are not able to compete in that marketplace. Mr. Speaker, what I am saying here is that they have to be competitive.

We know that the people who are negotiating these collective agreements know the financial status of this province. They are not demanding that it be exactly the same as Alberta; they know that. What they are saying is that they want to be recognized with a decent wage package. That is what they are saying. That is absolutely what they are saying. The government says that they will be the highest paid in Atlantic Canada. As I understand it, that is only for a short period of time while Newfoundland's collective agreement is under negotiation. Then, there is the opportunity for the Nova Scotia people in health care services will fall further behind.

When I look at this, and I look at the way the government has put the gun to the heads of the health care workers in Nova Scotia, it is no wonder, it is absolutely no wonder there is no room for negotiations here. The government holds the gun and it holds the bag of money. It says I will dispense the amount of money that I am going to introduce into the health care service, and it holds the gun and it says this is the amount of money you will take. That is the way the government is doing business here.

Mr. Speaker, I knew, when we stood here in this Legislative Assembly and we debated Bill No. 20, that Bill No. 20's mirror would be reflecting across this legislative floor. Bill No. 20's mirror is reflecting across this legislative floor through Bill No. 68. Government now has the ultimate power to turn around and strip people of the collective bargaining rights within the health care services. Absolutely no need for negotiations. If there were, they would have waited until at least the negotiating process had been completed. First of all, they went into negotiations, then they hired a mediator, then they hired a conciliator, and then if talks broke off they could impose binding arbitration.

They chose not to do any of that. They chose instead to continue to take the gun and have their bag of money, and say this is how much money you are going to get, and we are going to do that through no other means but through Cabinet because now we have the power to do that. We don't care how hard you negotiate, we have already determined what kind of an increase you are going to receive.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice almost implied that there was absolutely no need for negotiating a wage package here, by the health care profession. He automatically implied that it was already set out, that there was no room for movement, and that if you didn't agree

[Page 5037]

to this settlement what we will do is we will legislate you back to work. It is as simple as that. We will legislate you back to work without even imposing binding arbitration, that we will impose the kind of salary package that we think is of benefit to you.

[5:30 a.m.]

The problem with that, Mr. Speaker, is that it goes far beyond the health care workers in this province. It goes far beyond the health care workers. This is just a step. The health care workers are the first people. There are other people within the public sector who could be directly affected by this as well. All those collective agreements that come up by the year 2003, when this government's mandate is up, can very well feel the strong arm of government because government will say there is no money and this Bill No. 68 will just be a duplicate of what comes across the Legislature floor for each and every bargaining unit that is represented by this government.

Mr. Speaker, it is a sad day for collective bargaining in the Province of Nova Scotia because this government has chosen not to allow the collective bargaining process to take its course. We recognize that this is an essential service, but yet people do have the right to negotiate a collective agreement. They do have the right to negotiate a fair collective agreement and they do have the right to continue that process through what is called the collective bargaining Act of the Province of Nova Scotia. They do have that right.

Mr. Speaker, one thing about this being referred to the Human Resources Committee as a subject matter, is that not only will, in fact, the nursing profession, or the health care professionals be the people who will be coming before the Human Resources Committee to speak on this bill, but there will be people from all professions across this province, maybe even very well across this country, who will be speaking on this kind of legislation that takes away the rights of workers that have been truly fought for in this province. It takes away the rights of workers and not only that, these workers have absolutely no recourse with respect to the courts.

So, Mr. Speaker, I am just wondering what kind of action is left to the individuals other than to accept a collective agreement that is imposed upon them by government. Government can very well say that we have decided that this will be the last time you really negotiate a collective agreement because from now on we will be setting the wages, we will be setting the benefits, and it will be based on a decision of those individuals down there in the bunker, those special members of Cabinet who, in fact, have the power and the authority to do that. I am just wondering how many members of that Opposition will actually get up and speak on government's imposed power to do that.

Mr. Speaker, I do know the member for Pictou East is, in fact, a former member of the NSGEU, who is a retired member of the NSGEU, and hopefully that member will get up and speak on this bill and he will give his impression of just what kind of power and authority

[Page 5038]

the government has taken with respect to this bill. That member will do justice to the organization of which he was a former member, he will do justice to those individuals who now find themselves part of Bill No. 68 and the implications of Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, we have witnessed the government's propaganda with respect to putting out ads in the paper implying that Nova Scotia nurses would be the highest paid nurses in the country. We recognize that the government has placed those ads. There are many levels of classifications within the nursing profession. Not every one of those nurses will receive that salary level that the government is implying. The minister is very much aware of that. So the ad was misleading in itself. It gave the impression to Nova Scotians that all nurses will receive that $26 an hour, I believe it is I am not sure, I don't have the chart in front of me right now - which will make them the highest paid in Atlantic Canada - but the government didn't say that that would be only for a short period of time until negotiations with the Newfoundland professionals in health care become negotiated very soon.

The government also fear-mongered and implied that many Nova Scotians would be without the essential health care service. On the weekend I had the opportunity to speak to many Nova Scotians and many Nova Scotians said to me that they would believe the nursing profession, a highly professional group of individuals, before they would believe government, but that is just simply the cynical attitude that many people have about governments and politicians. They don't believe them anymore.

They campaign on one issue and once elected, they organize themselves in another manner. Mr. Speaker, I would say to you that that is one of the reasons why, in Nova Scotia in the 1999 election, we actually saw voter turnout less than 70 per cent in this province, because people gave up on the cynicism of politics and the cynicism of government promises and commitments to them as voters. I want you to know that when we were out there asking the voters for our support, we had genuinely told Nova Scotians they could count on us when we got to the Legislative Assembly. Now, when I stand in this Legislature and I speak, I speak on behalf of those individuals who have elected me into this Legislative Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, I would hope that the members on the government side would speak on behalf of the members who have elected them to this Legislative Assembly. So far, we haven't heard a single word except from the Minister of Justice who, in fact, implied and threatened the Opposition that if they didn't adhere to what government was dictating to them across the floor, to sit down and shut up, if not, people would not be able to make representation or citizens of Nova Scotia would not be able to make representation to the Law Amendments Committee. Shame on them, it is absolutely shame on them and shame on that Minister of Justice, who is to see that justice is fair and just in the Province of Nova Scotia. Shame on that Minister of Justice to imply that if we stand in this Legislative Assembly and use up, or filibuster so that we can make sure that a draconian bill does not pass this Legislature that, in fact, we are going to impinge upon the time other Nova Scotians will have to make representation before the Law Amendments Committee.

[Page 5039]

How dare that minister stand here and talk like that, Mr. Speaker, how dare that minister. It just demonstrates the total arrogance of that Tory Party. That Tory Party has absolutely lost all sense of direction with respect to what its mandate is from Nova Scotians. I just want to say that this blue book on which they campaigned, A Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course, had 243 promises from that government across the floor, 243 promises. One of the most single major promises, and I believe it actually started on Page 3, health care, which is the initial page, the very first page, health care; that was a priority with this government - the delivery of health care services in this government.

Well, Mr. Speaker, allow me to tell you something. There is a very serious issue with respect to home care. Do you know that the Minister of Health is very much aware that there is an acute shortage of caregivers within the home care services and they contract out that service to four contract providers in the Province of Nova Scotia and there is a shortage of caregivers within the health services of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, the reason for that is because they are competing in a marketplace, as well, and many of them are taking $10 an hour jobs at call centres and the like and the government has chosen not to up the ante for those individuals who need the care services by those providers.

Mr. Speaker, allow me to tell you there are people out there who, in fact, are being released from hospital as we speak, who have to wait approximately two weeks after they leave the hospital, two weeks, in order to be assured of a caregiver to come. Sometimes the wait is even longer, sometimes it is a month. I can tell you this is consistent right across this province. I have received a number of calls, and I do know the member for Dartmouth South has received a number of calls on this very important issue of home-care providers. I don't know how many times I have called and I have seen individuals who are 70-some years of age, 80-some years of age, and even one person who was 93 years of age, who had to wait two weeks after they got out to have home-care service delivered to them. One, who, even a month after they had gotten out had still not had home-care services.

I would hope that the government would recognize that issue as a health care issue, and maybe when this goes to the Human Resources Committee that, in fact, this will be addressed as well. That will be one of the components of health care, as well as providing the benefits and increments to those individuals who are in the health care service; that we will look at the holistic part of health care; that we will look at it in its entirety; that we will look at making sure that when it goes to the Human Resources Committee there is not one single component of health care that is not looked at and addressed.

Mr. Speaker, I do know that the member for Kings North happens to be the Chairman of the Human Resources Committee. I do know, hopefully, the member for Kings North, who has actually not said one single word on this issue with respect to Bill No. 68, and what that member believes or possibly believes, if this bill is as draconian as we, on this side of

[Page 5040]

the floor think it is, then that the member will speak out, and that member will speak out about this bill. That member, on that side of the floor, knows full well the likelihood of Bill No. 68 ever getting to the Human Resources Committee is very slim. We would have to catch the government off guard with not enough members in the House in order to pass such a motion. I don't think that is likely to happen. That member for Kings North knows full well that that bill is not likely to get to the Human Resources Committee.

But, Mr. Speaker, that does not stop that member for Kings North from standing here and speaking in this House about his thoughts on this Bill No. 68. That member can stand here and that member can speak to this Legislative Assembly on how he feels or the impression that he thinks this Bill No. 68 sends out to Nova Scotians. That member can do it here in this Legislative Assembly now, or that member can turn around and he can make representation before the Law Amendments Committee. I am sure that as a member of government making representation before that Law Amendments Committee, he would get the opportunity to speak at the Law Amendments Committee with respect to this bill.

Mr. Speaker, that goes for every member on the government side. They don't have to wait for this to go to the Human Resources Committee, those members can speak now. If they choose not to speak now, they can also line up - and I am sure the Minister of Justice will have something to say about that - and put themselves forward as representation before the Law Amendments Committee, each and every one of those members. Colchester Regional Hospital is not the only hospital, and if this subject matter were referred to the Human Resources Committee, we have approximately nine district health authorities across this province and we could send that standing committee across this province to those nine district health authorities.

They could speak to the health care professionals at Fishermens Memorial Hospital, the South Shore Regional Hospital, the Queens General Hospital in the District Health Authority 1; they could speak in the district health authority to those individuals who are affected by this legislation at Roseway Hospital, Yarmouth Regional Hospital, and the Digby General Hospital in District Health Authority 3, Annapolis County Health, the Soldier's Memorial, Western Kings, Valley Regional, they could all speak about this.

[5:45 a.m.]

I have already said about the district health authority, which in fact Colchester is a part of. But that goes for all district health authorities across this province. As a matter of fact, I know the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre implied they could even go to Cape Breton, where there is a very serious health issue, and certainly look at the delivery of health care services and the compensation that ought to be paid to health care providers and professionals in those hospitals that are in the Cape Breton region, as well.

[Page 5041]

There are nine district health authorities, and each one of these could be represented by simply not having the Standing Committee on Human Resources stay here in the metropolitan area, but have that Standing Committee on Human Resources cross this province, each and every district health authority would then have the opportunity to make representation to them.

Mr. Speaker, I want to see the government just simply carry out and take that kind of a commitment that we have offered to them, to refer this subject matter to the Standing Committee on Human Resources.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, good morning.

MR. SPEAKER: Good morning, honourable member.

MR. BOUDREAU: It is certainly a great day for many of us to be in Nova Scotia, except of course if we are a health care worker. It is certainly satisfying to me most of the time, when I rise in this House because I feel very privileged to be part of this House, especially as a member of this House. It usually is a pleasure for me to rise on occasion to speak within the boundaries of these doors. However, today, it is a little disappointing, to say the least, to have to stand here and debate this type of legislation that is before this House.

Mr. Speaker, it is bad enough that this bill takes away the right to strike for the nurses, but it also gives the government powers by allowing Cabinet to impose a wage settlement without negotiation. That is scary, it really is. In a democratic society, in which we have had many of our citizens who came before us fighting wars for the democratic cause, to give all our citizens equal rights, to stand here today and debate a bill like this is very scary for myself. I know that this particular legislation scares a lot of people in a lot of different sections of our society, because this bill is wrong.

A lot about this bill is about money. This bill also means that the already overworked and underpaid workers will know that their employer has no respect for them or for their years of training and their years of dedicated service to health care in this province. That is not a very good message to send, I would suggest. It is not right; it is not fair; it is downright mean. It is mean; it is nasty; it is just direction from a government that is obviously out of control.

Mr. Speaker, I have been in the House all evening this evening, I have been fortunate enough to be here to listen to the debate. I saw the good Finance Minister stand on his feet and rise to the occasion and brag that the nursing profession and the health care workers are getting a raise.

[Page 5042]

That minister has no room to speak, at least in my opinion. This bill is all about attacking the integrity of nurses and other health care workers. It is as simple as that. By doing bills like this, this government is going to drive our nurses and our health care providers out of Nova Scotia and they will seek somewhere where they are at least appreciated.

In the Tory blue book, the John Hamm Government will, one of the things he indicated very clearly, "Stop spending taxpayers money on politically-motivated advertising;"Mr. Speaker, all weekend and in every newspaper in the province there are ads being paid for by this government and one price, in one of the Halifax papers late last weekend, or early on Friday actually, the price of an ad was approximately $5,000. That hardly sounds like a government in need of finances that can go out and buy $5,000 ads on a daily basis plus pay for very expensive radio advertisements, particularly when we listen to the message that this government is trying to tell Nova Scotians who don't work within the health care field in this province. They are trying to preach the fact that they do not trust nurses. That is what the messages are about. In fact, both the Minister of Health and the Premier of this province are on record as indicating publicly that they do not trust nurses. Mr. Speaker, that is shameful to say the least.

I have been in conversation with several of the backbenchers and even the Cabinet Ministers, and during the night I had a Cabinet Minister indicate to me that he met with nurses over the weekend within his community and they indicated their support for this bill. I am very much in doubt because I have yet to run across a health care provider in this province who supports this legislation and I would challenge that good minister to table some names of nurses, wherever they live in this province, so I could at least contact them and ask them if they are in support of this bill. I can certainly tell you that the people - and not necessarily health care providers - the residents that I represent totally, in no uncertain terms, have made it very clear to me through various telephone calls, e-mails and conversations that I have had in my constituency office, on the street and even in my yard. At my residence this morning, before I returned to Halifax, I had probably the busiest driveway in Cape Breton because I had residents who took issue with the fact that this government was placing such an assault upon the nursing profession, in particular, in this province.

My memory is not that bad, Mr. Speaker, and just a short couple of months ago, in March during the by-election in Cape Breton North, we had a Minister of Health and a candidate who did win that by-election victory and I recognize that, but these two individuals went about Cape Breton North and boosted about the strong support that they were providing and were willing to provide in the future the health care, in particular, on the Northside and, in fact, throughout Nova Scotia.

Well, Mr. Speaker, the good member for Cape Breton North, a lot of eyes are watching that individual, particularly the people in that community want to see how he is going to vote on this bill because he is the one who is on record as saying he was going to huff and puff

[Page 5043]

and blow all the houses down in Halifax if need be, don't think about John Hamm during the election campaign, think about me, the candidate, because if I go to Halifax and things get out of hand, well, I will straighten those people out and I will huff and I will puff and I will tell John Hamm.

Well, Mr. Speaker, everybody is waiting for that individual member now to rise to the occasion and tell John Hamm just exactly how he is treating health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia. This bill is all about limiting the salaries of nurses, nurses in the Northside General Hospital, for instance, who are underpaid, and overworked. In fact, there are nurses at times in that facility who are working two floors on one shift. I had a conversation with one of those nurses just a short time ago and there is no time for them to ride the elevators. There is no time. They rush up and down the stairs and the fire exits because they don't have the amount of time that it requires to push a button and wait for the elevator to come. They can be up the stairs or down the stairs by the time the elevator gets there.

This is what kind of working environment we have created for our health care workers in this province and it is shameful, Mr. Speaker, shameful, just for the environment, for the stress that is being created in this workplace by a government that claims to be responsible and caring for the people who they represent.

Mr. Speaker, I recall as a municipal councillor, many of the backbenchers on that side of the House, when they were former municipal colleagues of mine, when they boasted at UNSM meetings and at various meetings throughout the province when I had the occasion to run into them at these meetings, they boasted that they were the government closest to the people, the individuals who know the issues that affected Nova Scotians most and, more importantly, were committed to ensure that those issues were debated in a public forum to ensure that our society would not be served with any injustice, but yet today those same individuals are sitting in the back rows of this government, a majority government, an iron-fist majority government, and they won't open their mouths. They will not bring the issues to the floor of this House.

It is disappointing, Mr. Speaker, I may add, for myself to be here and to see my former colleagues sit like mice and say very little and allow the front row gang, who are being coached by John Buchanan graduates, a direction taken with the same mean, nasty leadership that we were accustomed to from 1978 to 1993 in this province. It is disappointing I would suggest not only for myself, but for my other former colleagues who are watching. I am sure it is very frustrating and disappointing for the people who they represent today because it is obvious that they had some success in the municipal world, or I would suggest they wouldn't even be here today. They rolled that success into becoming members of this House. However, that very activity that provided them an opportunity to serve in this great House has now left them, it has left them and they sit silent. They sit silent, they do nothing but look at each other and wonder if Cabinet is telling them the truth.

[Page 5044]

[6:00 a.m.]

If I was a backbencher over there I would want to know from those ministers, the nurses who are supporting this bill because I would want to talk to those nurses to ensure the government is going in the proper direction with this bill. I know how the political process works and every time one of us stands on this side of the House, there is baffle back and forth and whatever. You can fool some of the people some of the time but you can't fool all of the people all of the time. This government is fooling nobody, no one. It is a very dangerous precedent, that this government is setting and it is beginning a trend of destruction. It is not self-destruction entirely, it is destruction of the very backbone of our society - the health care system in this province.

Without a strong and vibrant health care system in this province then we cannot attract business to locate here and provide opportunities for Nova Scotians in high unemployment areas, such as Cape Breton and other parts of the province where jobs are desperately needed by our residents. We need a strong health care system in order to attract the best teachers to teach our children. Think about it, Mr. Speaker, without a strong health care system, who would bring their children into this province.

One of the first things many of the specialists we try to attract to this province look at is the health care system and the second thing they look at is education. Without those two strong identities then we are not going to attract the people we require for our province to move forward.

Mr. Speaker, this kind of activity, of course, does attract a certain amount of people, such as the deputy minister, who the good minister imported from British Columbia. The last time I checked out British Columbia, health care was in shambles in that province. In fact, people are very concerned, the general public holds almost regular marches in the streets and public meetings to encourage their political leaders to solidify the health care system in that province. Yet we, as a province and this government, go to British Columbia and hire one of the highest-paid individuals the Department of Health has ever seen.

There is no money for nurses, very little, minimal. We are going to give you this little piece here and if you don't take it the alternative is jail, basically. What a way to work in this province. It is amazing that these former municipal colleagues of mine are standing back and

allowing this to take place, it is scary. It is scary to think we are going to direct our health care workers, many of them the best at what they do in that field, many who are well-trained and educated in health care on a daily basis, operating nurses vital to the well-being of our communities each and every day. We are going to dictate to those individuals that they are going to get a minimum amount of money for a raise and you are going to work because if you don't, we are going to fine your union and your union leaders each and every day. I guess the alternative to that is jail, if you can't pay the fine. Now $50,000 a day is a fair amount of

[Page 5045]

change to have walking around in your pocket, I would suggest. I don't know too many individuals who carry that kind of change on a regular basis.

There is no money for nurses but let's look at other employees this government has hired since it came into power. A Deputy Minister of Health, $188,000 a year; Associate Deputy Minister of Health, $100,000 a year; Assistant Deputy Minister, $100,000 a year; Chief Information Officer, and we are not sure yet why that title is on this individual, however, he does earn $100,000 a year. The CEO of the Capital Health District earns $350,000 per year, and this government has no money for nurses. Then the Vice-President of Human Resources, Capital Health District, $145,000 a year; Vice-President of Administration, Capital Health District, $165,000 a year.

There are three pages full of salaries and the lowest on there is $80,500. To date the Minister of Health has spent over $300 million in that department since he took over, less than two years. He has a bigger mess created today than he did last month. It seems that he is out to destroy the very system we rely on in such large detail. There is nothing but chaos within health care in this province. Doctors are leaving. The nurses are leaving. Out of 79 graduates, when you get six to stay in this province, then honourable gentlemen on that side of the House, I would suggest there is a message here, there is something wrong. Why are these nurses leaving? Why are the doctors leaving? Where is the recruitment for new doctors and where is the support system you promised nurses before you were elected?

You don't have the money? It is no wonder you don't have the money. The Finance Minister should hang his head in shame when he stands up in this House and says, we offered the nurses a fair settlement - I don't know, 2 per cent or whatever it is. And paying the likes of somebody that another province discarded, $188,000 per year.

We have hospitals, and one is the Strait-Richmond. As I indicated the other day when I was on my feet, Richmond is the sister constituency to Inverness, of the Minister of Tourism and Culture. Many of his residents actually are served by that hospital, the Strait-

Richmond Hospital, yet, the emergency department remains closed. Why? There is no effort whatsoever in recruiting a doctor for that area. And that is a Cabinet Minister, for his own people. He hasn't even got the spunk in him to put the pressure on the Department of Health and the Minister of Health to get a doctor for the residents he represents.

Mr. Speaker, they didn't take long putting a doctor in the Northside General Hospital when that doctor crisis came up, because it was this caucus that reminded the Minister of Health and the newly-elected member for Cape Breton North of the comments and the commitments that were made to the people of Cape Breton North just a few short weeks ago. Didn't take long for them to get some action then. In fact, on that very day, after the department in that hospital was closed four or five days, immediately following Question Period, that minister was on his feet and right out to the phone. Within two to three hours, we had a replacement; pretty odd.

[Page 5046]

The Finance Minister says this is about money. It is about money. That is coming from a Minister of Finance who has successfully increased the debt in this province by $3.5 million a day since he became Minister of Finance, at a cost that we now pay the banks $70 million more per year in interest. What an amount of money we could have to spend in health care, if that debt was not accumulated. Imagine if the Minister of Health had $70 million that he could sit down and negotiate fairly with the nurses. The nurses are not big, bad wolves. The nurses work in the health care field because they care about people, and they want to care for them. They don't deserve to be treated like this. All they need is to sit down on their fair terms, fair negotiating rights, and they are very reasonable people, very reasonable.

Mr. Speaker, we need fewer spin doctors and more nurses. There is no recruitment going on, none even planned, there is no activity whatsoever in the recruitment of nurses for our health care system in this province. We don't see any activity whatsoever, other than what they say they are doing. It is invisible, it is an invisible effort, just like the Minister of Tourism and Culture fails to recognize that his residents deserve the same type of attention from that Minister of Health as the people in Cape Breton North receive from a newly-elected MLA.

[6:15 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated before, I don't believe he has the spunk or the courage to stand up to the Minister of Health. As a result, the very people he represents are hurting on a daily basis. We don't need any spin doctors; we do need more nurses. We have to, I would suggest, support the nurses we have, at least, now. Those nurses who are doing, in some instances, the work of two individuals, on a shift. They work very hard for the people they care for; they work very hard for the communities in Nova Scotia. They deserve better than this bill. They have earned the respect of people in our communities and they don't deserve this type of slang being slung at them.

Mr. Speaker, I am not optimistic because it is the same old story, the front bench is just telling the backbench, well, the nurses support this. This is what I was told during the night by one particular minister, the nurses in my area support this. Table their names so I can call them, I want to talk to those nurses because I haven't talked to a nurse yet, in this province, who is in support of this bill. In fact, in District 8 in the Cape Breton district, there was a meeting called, which I attended on Saturday evening. My colleague, the member for Cape Breton South was in attendance, also.

There was hundreds of nurses, hundreds of nurses at this meeting. Not one took the opportunity to indicate that they support this bill. That is why I am challenging the government members, over there, any one of them, particularly the Cabinet Ministers, to table the names of the nurses who support this bill so we can talk to them. At least I would welcome the opportunity to talk to them. There are people in my constituency who are calling me who are not associated with health care other than when they need to use it, when it is a

[Page 5047]

requirement. They don't have a daughter who is a nurse; they don't have a son who is a nurse; there is nobody in their immediate families who works in the health field, but they still support nurses. They still support the nurses because they recognize the efforts they put into their profession.

That is what that government over there, that gang over there refuses to recognize. They refuse to recognize the efforts of the nursing profession. They tried to be the best that they can possibly be for the people they serve. That is why we in this House will rise to the occasion and speak; at least I will take every opportunity I can to speak against this bill. I know the colleagues in my caucus feel the same way, because we respect nurses. We recognize the hard efforts they put into their daily responsibilities, just like the good member for Cape Breton North. Our statements are no different than what that honourable indicated to the health care workers in the Northside General Hospital during the by-election. That is what he indicated to them personally, the same as what I am saying today.

What happened to that theory? What happened to the huffing and puffing? He was going to blow all the houses down, when this government went berserk or wayward. I can still hear him telling one crowd, don't look at John Hamm, don't think of John Hamm, think of Cecil Clarke. That is exactly what they did, because they trusted that member, just like they trusted the rest of the backbenchers. They trusted those backbenchers, my former colleagues. I can understand why they did that, particularly since I have seen some of their efforts over my years as a municipal representative.

Mr. Speaker, now, what they fail to recognize is that the people they represent will now be able to judge them on their performance over there. I would say it won't be a Tory day, it will be a sorry day. Sooner or later, like all members of this House, it will be knock-knock time, back on the same doorsteps that you were able to con the people in 1999, with garbage-like statements. I can list many of the statements that the Premier indicated not only in his blue book of promises but in various speeches, publicly, commitments that he made and is not fulfilling. It is becoming pretty much of a burden to the people of Nova Scotia, to have that government running the affairs of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Health care workers deserve respect. They have earned that right, through their hard efforts, through very difficult times, I may add. For the Premier, of all individuals, to stand in front of a camera and tell all of Canada that nurses in this province cannot be trusted is a disgrace. It is a provincial disgrace; it is a national disgrace. A doctor at that; a medical doctor at that. He, above many members of this House, has seen first-hand the efforts of those health care providers. The gall of that Premier. He is an insult. Nothing short. Can you imagine what people in Quebec, in Manitoba and, yes, even our friends in Newfoundland, what they believe, the very foundation of our health care system is in this province after hearing comments like that from a doctor-turned-Premier?

[Page 5048]

Mr. Speaker, I know and am fully aware, as are all Nova Scotians, that the Health Minister made the same comments, but he can be excused, a little bit, in my opinion at least, because he has no knowledge of the health care system. I base that opinion on the direction the health care system has taken in the last two years, $300 million spent in that system, with no improvement, not one improvement to boast of, doctors leaving, seniors having to pay $50 a day while they are waiting for a nursing home, $300 million is half of the Liberal health care plan that they proposed to the people of Nova Scotia.

This minister, if he continues with the trend to spend money, and I believe the figure at $300 million is approximately $12.5 million per day in his department, but if he continues on this trend he will have spent well in excess of $900 million over four years. Doctors are leaving; nurses feel like they are not wanted, and that nobody cares about them. Is this what my former colleagues wish for the people they represent, for all of Canada to look down on our health care providers and say, well, they are no good anyway, that is why the government is treating them this way. The Premier himself said it. They are not to be trusted. These nurses can't be trusted.

Mr. Speaker, the problem with that government over there, in my opinion, is there are too many John Buchanan graduates making the decisions and the rest of them are just the followers. Then they go about and they provide misinformation, not only to the backbenchers, because I was provided that misinformation last night, when a minister indicated to me that nurses in his community supported this bill.

[6:30 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I would have to question that statement, particularly from the message I am getting from the residents I represent. The comments I get are that the people don't have confidence, the community members do not have confidence, but it is not in the nurses, it is in that government over there. There is no confidence in that minister or that Premier. For a doctor-turned-Premier to stand on his feet in front of national TV and tell everybody that he does not trust nurses. I don't know what to say, I really don't, I really don't know what to say but I can tell you one thing, I am proud of the fact that I am on this side of this House because I would never participate in such an operation. It is activity you would see in foreign countries where people have no choices, different societies than we are accustomed to. It is policies like this, bills and directions like this that has seen this world go to war during the 1940's. This is dangerous. This is an assault against the very society that we know, that our forefathers have fought vigorously for for years and years.

Mr. Speaker, $300 million, think about it. I would just hope that I would have the opportunity some day to have $300 million to give to the nurses and ask them to go out and correct health care. I can assure you, I know that, at least, the people who I represent certainly have much more confidence in the ability of the nurses to repair health care than that minister because he is obviously out of control. Anybody to come in and bring and pay the

[Page 5049]

administrative salaries that he is in his department; the highest paid EA of all the ministers, $77,000 per year. Yet all he does is create confrontation. They fight with the doctors, the Northside General Hospital issue with the emergency ward, with the doctor, that is what it was about, bickering with local doctors down there who are overloaded with work. The overload of work on those doctors is creating stress they can't handle and it is heavier for the nurses.

Now he is creating this fiasco with the very foundation of health care, nurses and health care providers, the very foundation on which our health care system is based upon. This government is acting more like a government from another country where we don't have as many rights as we enjoy in this country. What a message we are sending to our young children and to the students who are in our universities when you tell them, well, when you graduate, you know, there are going to be no collective bargaining units. We are going to tell you how much you are going to earn. The nurses are only the beginning, I would suggest that it will spread rapidly, especially with that majority gang over there.

Imagine the message to the university students. They probably can't wait to get out of Nova Scotia now. Who would want to invest a large amount of money in their education in this province, whether it be training at the university or at the college level, or at the community college level for that matter, who would want to invest not only through their efforts and their learning abilities, but financial, and then leave the facility to be governed by the likes of this?

Mr. Speaker, it is issues like this, as I indicated before, in my opinion, that in the 1940's, you know that World War II, the last war that we had, it didn't start overnight. It started with stuff like this for years prior and that is why we are fortunate in this province perhaps that we only have at least two to three years left to put up with that gang over there. It is quite obvious that the front-liners over there, who are being led by the John Buchanan graduates, they are not going to budge on this. The only hope we have is that former municipal politicians over there are going to stand up, if not publicly - I am not suggesting that they embarrass anybody or any of their ministers - but they have to stand firm. They have to remember where they came from. They have to remember who they represent and they don't represent a doctor turned Premier who is obviously out of touch with the very system in which he worked within this province.

A doctor, think about it. I had many doctors call me over the weekend, Mr. Speaker. In fact, I met one on the street who indicated very clearly to me that they support the nurses and they do not agree with the comments of that Premier. Nurses in this province can be trusted. They are trustworthy and all you have to do, if you don't believe the comments in this House is go out - and don't go to the health care centres - go to your residents who recently left the health care facility and ask them about the nursing profession in this province. Let them tell you. Let those people who benefit from the service that the nurses provide, let them tell you how they feel about nurses and I will guarantee that you won't find

[Page 5050]

any individual out there who would agree with that Premier. No one who has ever been affected by the health care system in this province will ever agree with that Premier or that minister, never.

That government is out of control, Mr. Speaker, it is out of control big time. Imagine a Finance Minister who is adding $3.5 million on the debt, $70 million more a year we pay in interest because of the activity going on in that department. That's $70 million more in interest this year, $3.5 million a day. He doesn't know about bracket creep. He didn't know what that meant until just recently when my colleague, the member for Lunenburg West, educated him. He didn't know that the debt would increase on a yearly basis to the year 2007, and I base that on the fact that the Premier didn't know because he didn't know to tell him.

Mr. Speaker, that's who you have making decisions that affect all Nova Scotians everyday and I guess the creature from the red ink lagoon. (Interruption)

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I just want to ask the member to expand on this because he is saying that we are increasing the debt and we're reprehensible by the fact that we are doing so and I agree that the debt has increased because when we took over office, there was a deficit of $500 million. We brought that down to $91 million. Can you explain to the House and perhaps to the gallery as to where these cuts would have been made so that we wouldn't have been adding onto the debt? Would it have been, in fact, the same sectors of these nurses who are in the gallery today or listening to this debate? Is that where you wanted us to cut the money because I think you should explain that because we have put provisions in this budget for wage increases and we have made an offer to them. Why don't you tell them where the money would have come from or where you would have cut it because I think you should.

MR. BOUDREAU: The problem is you guys don't have the answer. That is the problem. The money would have come quite simply from the health care plan the Liberal Party had put in place in the last provincial election. That gang over there spent one-half of it already. That gang over there would have spent $900 million which will be $300 million more than the Liberal plan which would have hired nurses and not only hired them, Mr. Speaker, they would have provided retraining. They would have made sure they would have provided the support that they deserve and it wouldn't be something like this minister is doing.

He has got money, $188,000 a year to pay an import from British Columbia. I would suggest he should pay his own first. Pay the people who work in this province and create the very foundation our system is built upon. The minister is quick to jump on his feet and talk about financial issues. That question was directed toward me, but I already indicated to him one day if he wants to ask financial questions back and forth, my Finance Critic, the member for Lunenburg West, would be more than pleased to debate him any time he wishes inside or outside the House.

[Page 5051]

If he wants, Mr. Speaker, to rise on his feet and ask me about Municipal Affairs, which I am the critic for, then get up and ask me the questions, but I don't have to worry about that because he doesn't know anything about municipal affairs.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. As my colleague, the Minister of Education, has said, far be it for me to pick a fight with the honourable member opposite, but I do want to say I asked the question because you spoke about the financial affairs of this province and you spoke about the budget. You spoke that there should be more money paid. At the same time you were saying that the debt of this province was rising and because of that there are consequences. That is the truth.

That is why this is a serious problem and why we have limited fiscal capacity to pay the wages that some would like us to pay. At the same time, we have put an offer of 10.5 per cent on the table and if you want to compare that to your Party, what did you do? You rolled back wages 3 per cent and you also forced them to take unpaid leave. We have put an offer on the table that is fair and reasonable. It doesn't meet every ask of the people who work in that sector, but at the same time it is an increment and an increase.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the honourable minister seems to be quite upset with the truth. He doesn't like to hear the truth. He has increased the debt. He has increased the bank payments on a monthly basis. It is $70 million per year and he knows that. He is trying to create a smokescreen so Nova Scotians don't understand between the debt and the deficit. There are two different issues and he doesn't even know that and he is the Finance Minister. He knows nothing about anything in my opinion and anybody who would do this, or even suggest to do the likes of this to the nurses of this province, is an insult to be in government, he is an insult to be a backbencher, let alone a minister of a gang over there, I don't know what to call it and neither do Nova Scotians.

[6:45 a.m.]

For him to stand here and say he has to put an amount of money in that budget for the nurses is unacceptable because the last time I checked the nurses voted twice and were not accepting that amount of money, but they are trying to dictate the amount of money that nurses must take. They have to take it or else and if you don't take it, we're going to fine all your union officials and if that doesn't work, we are going to fine you, a nurse, $500 a day. If that doesn't work, we will take you and put you in jail. Is that the way those backbenchers want nurses treated in this province? The minister is out of touch. He is out of control and do you know what else, Mr. Speaker, in two years he will be out of government. Thank you.

[Page 5052]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, good morning. I think if anyone in the Chamber wasn't awake a moment ago, they are probably wide awake and alert at the moment. It is nice to see you, Mr. Speaker, looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed; well, at least looking awake.

I think what we're learning here, at least as a first step, is what shift work is all about. It is a salutary lesson for all of us in this Chamber and something that is very familiar as a working condition for the health care workers who we are discussing today. It is a strain. We all know it is a strain to go through that, to go through long hours. What they have in an advantage over us is that in general, of course, they're working as a team. Here it is far from clear that that's the case. What we're working towards is not so clear, especially when we consider what it is that this legislation seems to be about.

At the moment what we are considering is an amendment to the legislation that would, in effect, take the whole of the bill and refer it to one of the Standing Committees of the House. This referral motion would take Bill No. 68 in its entirety and essentially send it to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. Well, normally, of course, this kind of amendment is the sort of amendment that we would be tempted to support. I suppose we will have to make a decision about that in due course because I am just a little curious as to whether this is the right committee that the bill ought to be directed to. I suppose the spirit is essentially one that says the bill needs further study. That is really I think the spirit in which the motion has been made and I understand that. I understand that the mover of the motion really had that intent.

Yet when I consider what it is that the Rules of the House actually say and I have looked at the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly just to see what it is that the Standing Committee on Human Resources has as its mandate. It is not at all clear that really it is within the defined mandate of the committee as it stands at the moment. So we have to consider whether that, in fact, is the case. I will just remind members of what it is that the mandate is. The document, the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly, says: "the Human Resources Committee is established for the purpose of" I see you are reading along, Mr. Speaker, (i) considering matters normally assigned to or within the purview of the Departments and Ministers of Education and Culture and of Labour,"

I will just pause at that and say clearly we are not dealing with something that is within the purview of the Minister of Education or the Department of Education, or the Department of Culture, or the Department of Labour although to a certain extent there is a labour relations matter here, but it was the Minister of Health who introduced this bill and clearly, although it is labour relations, it has to do with the health care sector. I will get back to that in a moment.

[Page 5053]

Subsection (ii) continues with part of the purpose of the Committee on Human Resources. Its purpose is for "reviewing and approving or not approving candidates for appointment to agencies, boards or commissions where the Governor in Council has, pursuant to an enactment, the sole discretion to make the appointment or where the Governor in Council makes the appointment by choosing from a list of nominees provided to the Governor in Council pursuant to an enactment." At that point there are a couple of other purposes laid out in the document, the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House, that define what it is that that particular committee does in the normal course of events. None of it really is exactly what the spirit of this amendment seems to have to do with, the spirit being, of course, to put over a bill for further study.

The tradition of that committee, its emphasis has really been to look at appointments to agencies, boards, and commissions. I think we are all familiar with the process in which nominees come forward, their names and CV's are put in front of the committee along with certain information that the booklet, Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly specifies as being necessary, and then the committee deliberates. It hasn't necessarily been an entirely satisfactory procedure, I know that people who have had dealings with that committee have had criticisms about it. I think even the chairman of the committee has had some criticisms of that committee and, of course, that is a government member who chairs that committee, but that is fair criticism. If there is a problem with how it is that appointments are handled through that committee, so it should come.

The motion that has come to us is to take a bill which is clearly a bill about bargaining in the health care sector and refer it to that committee, well, I find this a little problematic. I find it perhaps not the correct committee to refer it to and I think there is an alternative. We know that there is at least one other possibility, which is to set up a select committee. Now, this is something the House does from time to time when there is a question to be looked at.

I will just read into the record, if I may, as well, an abstract from the member's manual that we all have, that describes what a select committee does. "Select Committees are committees appointed by the House to inquire into specific matters. The resolutions by which they are appointed set forth in detail their terms of reference. After their assigned tasks are completed, these Committees report back to the House, through their Chairpersons, and their reports are tabled in the House."

That rather sounds to me, like what at least the spirit of the amendment probably should have been about. It might have been that a select committee is really what it is, that is appropriate as the place to look for a further examination of Bill No. 68 because that is really what the thrust of such an amendment must surely be designed to do. It must be designed to allow an opportunity for further and detailed examination of the bill that is in front of us.

[Page 5054]

It is obvious the government intends that this bill go through in the most expeditious fashion possible. So I can well understand that the government is not going to be enthusiastic about referring Bill No. 68 to any kind of committee, be it the Committee on Human Resources, or be it a select committee in fact, a few hours ago we had in no uncertain terms, from the Minister of Justice, that he wasn't all that keen on seeing this bill spend very much time in front of the Law Amendments Committee.

I have to say this was a very disappointing intervention by a member of the Cabinet of the Government that introduced Bill No. 68. What the minister said was that every moment used by members of this Assembly in debating the bill on motions, on second reading, ringing the bells, calling for recorded votes, whatever, every moment that is used, said the Minister of Justice, would just diminish the amount of time his government was prepared to allow for hearings at the Law Amendments Committee.

The Law Amendments Committee, of course, if one of those wonderful opportunities for the public to come and make submissions about the bill. That is exactly what the motion is all about that we are debating at the moment, the motion to allow the Committee of Human Resources to have hearings; I think that is really the implication of the amendment. So one has to wonder why it is the government is so reluctant to allow any kind of detailed public input, public examination.

I know they think they are under a tight timetable and, indeed, the honourable Minister of Justice said that was the prime consideration. He said it was the consideration in terms of the date Bill No. 68 was introduced, he said that it was the prime consideration when he looks at the total amount of time the House is sitting, of course, we are sitting 24 hours a day and the government can take control of it.

Clearly this is designed to get the matter through as quickly as possible. The countdown, I suppose, the government has in mind is the countdown toward the possibility of a strike. Yet, how premature this seems to have invented a timetable like that. I know the minister referred to the 27th of this month as being a date for a strike. Yet, that is a date that is a possibility for a strike by one group of health care workers, not necessarily the nurses, by any means. It is also not necessarily the case that even where a date comes and it's a date by which workers may legally strike, it doesn't always happen that that is the date they choose to strike. It is up to them or it is up to the employers to lock them out.

I am assuming that a lockout is just not on. Perhaps we could hear, explicitly, from the government that they are going to tell the regional health authorities that a lockout is not on. I am sure that is logical because the government has said, regularly, that it doesn't wish to tolerate, it is not prepared to tolerate and it brings in a bill that sanctions to say it won't tolerate any cessation of services in the health care sector. Clearly, a tool that is sometimes available to management, in the same circumstances a strike is available to labour, that of a lockout, won't be used. But, I have to say it would be entirely appropriate for the

[Page 5055]

government to specify that. That it is probably a safe assumption, there will be no lockout. So if there will be no lockout come June 27th, then, of course, the government is wondering, will there be a strike. Well, there might be a strike or it might be delayed. Again, that is only by some health care workers. It is right, that the hospitals are doing some preparation and planning for the eventuality.

The important point, especially with respect to the nurses, is that they are still in bargaining. There has been no conciliation, let alone any mediation, let alone any extraordinary efforts made to reach a settlement; that is yet to come. So the timetable that the honourable Minister of Justice outlined to us is a very theoretical timetable. I am not saying there is no possibility that it might come to pass. What I am saying is that there is no necessity to panic.

I believe there is time to look into what it is the public has to say to us and it would be the well-informed public, I expect, who would come. It would probably be health care workers; it would probably be their representatives; it would probably be them as individuals. We could well expect they would come along and talk to us in a lot of detail about their concerns about this bill and about how it is that they think that work in their sector might be improved. I will get to that in a moment.

[7:00 a.m.]

My initial point is just that we have tothink carefully about exactly what mechanism it is that we are going to use in order to invite commentary by the public. It might be the Committee on Human Resources is an appropriate tool; it might be a select committee, but in any event even if we don't chose as a whole in this House to go with either of those options, we have the regular Law Amendments Committee. It is there. It is built into the process. It is going to happen.

What the minister suggested, so far as I can figure out, is that there is likely to be only enough time for one 24 hour sitting of the Law Amendments Committee. I think what the minister said, and I am having a look at the unedited copy from Hansard, but, really, here is what it says, "Each hour my colleagues in the Legislature speak" - then there was a gratuitous comment from the minister - "and I think it is fair to say that very little terms of original thought is being said at this point." Not a kind (Interruptions) This was not a kind observation. In any event, in my case I reject this entirely. "But each hour they speak" - the minister continued - "is eating the time away from the Law Amendments Committee. At this rate the debate on second reading will last until midnight on Tuesday. I invite my friends to do the math" - of course, he meant the arithmetic - "in order to avoid a legal strike, the Law Amendments Committee will need to be limited to a single day."

[Page 5056]

A single day, clearly what the minister contemplates, and he is the Chairman of that committee, is probably a 24 hour sitting, just as he and his colleagues have imposed on all of us here, making us very familiar with shift work. I suppose, since the health care workers are already pretty familiar with shift work, they will turn out anyway. I am sure they will.

MR. ESTABROOKS: They'll have to keep the member awake though, to ask questions.

MR. EPSTEIN: Well, that might be a problem. What is being suggested by the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, my colleague, that the problem may be keeping the members of the committee awake while that is going on.

This isn't productive; this isn't a good way to go about doing our business. There it is; that is the suggestion; that is what it is we are hearing from the Minister of Justice as Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee. Clearly, speed is the order of the day. Clearly, the government is not interested in exploring other ways of hearing from the public. Well, I heard from the public this weekend and I want to tell the minister and his colleagues a little bit about how I spent some of my weekend, because all of us had a couple of days off, in this case literally 48 hours, no more.

I got around my constituency quite a bit; I got around the city quite a bit. I will just give you a brief outline of where I was. I went to three big grocery stores over the weekend. I do this, I was just doing a kind of normal rounds. It is a nice, convenient way to meet people, say hello, see what is going on, buy a few items, stimulate the economy. I went to three large grocery stores, two in my district, and one in the district of the honourable member for Halifax Needham. I went to the Halifax Farmers' Market, and in my district there is a very large annual event of a three or four street yard sale that takes place, this is the Duncan, Lawrence Allan and Harvard Street yard sale. This is a nice event in the middle of my district, three or four streets all get together and everyone in the community who wants to has their goods for sale in front of their homes and in their driveways. It is a yard sale. A wonderful event, well-advertised, well-attended. You have to use your elbows to fight your way through the crowds. People from all over metro turn out to it.

So, I went to that, and the last thing I went to was a family wedding last night. There were not only people there from Halifax, but from Montreal and Ottawa, South Africa as it happens, the United States, a large gathering. That is where I spent my weekend. Those were the social parts of the weekend. I got out and I got around my district. I had the opportunity to talk with a lot of people. I am sure that unless they were hiding out somewhere, all the members of this Chamber had the opportunity to be out and about in their constituencies.

Well, let me tell you what I heard. In each and every place, at the Farmers' Market on Saturday morning where I spent about two and a half hours, going around, also sitting on a bench, people pass by. Everyone who stopped and talked to me or pulled me aside and

[Page 5057]

wanted to chat wanted to talk about Bill No. 68. Let me tell you, they all knew about it. Universally, this is what they said, that they had a huge amount of respect for health care workers; universally, they said that they had scorn for what the government was doing in Bill No. 68. They could not think of any rational reason for the government proceeding the way it is proceeding now with Bill No. 68. I talked with probably a couple of dozen people at the Farmers' Market about this.

Now in the three large grocery stores that I went to, the story was exactly the same. Not only did people I ran into want to discuss Bill No. 68, one of them even wanted to discuss Bill No. 20. They made the linkage between Bill No. 20 and Bill No. 68. Here is the point that that resident made to me. He said, well, wait a minute, Bill No. 20 seemed to be about centralizing power in the hands of the Cabinet, and now we see Bill No. 68 doing exactly the same thing and worse. What is going on, I was asked. What is the government trying to accomplish here? What do they think they are up to?

Well, I could offer no good explanation. Clearly, the government didn't run on this platform. They didn't run on a platform of centralizing government in power in the hands of a few, of interference in free collective bargaining. I don't remember that being part of the platform, yet here it is. That is exactly what it is that a member of the public said to me. They pay attention, they watch. There are probably people sitting at home watching now. We certainly know that they are reading it in the papers, they are following this, and that the many thousands of people who are health care workers, who are directly affected by the bill that is going through this House at the moment, are following it in a lot of detail.

I can guarantee that in addition to those thousands, there are many thousands of public sector workers outside the health care field who are watching what is going on in a lot of detail. I would expect that every organized and even unorganized workers in this province are following what is going on, and thinking and worrying, and not liking what they are seeing. I expect that this is exactly the kind of message that the government would hear if they referred this bill to some form of committee.

If the amendment that we are considering now, to take this bill and just pause long enough to allow the Committee on Human Resources to hold hearings, this is exactly the message that they would hear. Do you know what? It is important that this message be heard by the government, because if they are out of touch, it is an opportunity to get back in touch. I probably shouldn't have said if, quite clearly they are out of touch.

I have news for the government, about the extent to which concern over this bill has spread. It is not just in my district; it is not just on Duncan, Lawrence and Allan Streets; it is not just in the grocery stores I frequent or at the Farmers' Market; it is not just in the Halifax peninsula that there is such concern; it is not just in metro. Don't forget, I attended a family wedding last night where people came from Ottawa and Montreal, from elsewhere in Canada, Vancouver, and they all knew about it. They all read about it in the newspapers

[Page 5058]

when they came here, a couple of them were health care workers themselves so they had been aware of it before. It has been on the national news, so they knew about it. They knew. This bill is national news. This bill has been covered in the national press because it is so extraordinary and they were concerned. Family members, friends, people came up to me at this wedding and wanted to talk about it. People from Ottawa, people from Montreal, they were aware of it.

In fact, interestingly enough, Mr. Speaker, one of my cousins, a physician, who is a classmate of the Premier's brought this up last night at the wedding. He was a classmate of the Premier's and he brought it up. I can't say he sends his greetings but he brought it up as a matter of concern. There were other family members who worked in health care or had worked in health care and are now retired, who were very much aware of this going on because, you know, it is such an extraordinary measure. That is why it bears examination. It bears careful thought. It bears giving the opportunity to the public to come forward through the mechanism of some form of committee to tell us what they think, to tell us what they know, to tell us what their experience has been because the government is going to get an earful. The government is really going to learn and so the government should learn.

Now we really have to ask ourselves, just what exactly is it that this bill is about and why is it that we sometimes run into this kind of measure that is brought forward. I want to just refer to some transformations that are going on in the health care sector and how it is that we are trying to deal with them. You can't take labour relations in any workplace at all and concentrate on that without an understanding of what it is that is actually going on in the workplace. If this were the aircraft industry or cars or mining, you would have to understand it. You couldn't just look at the industrial relations and say, oh well, it has nothing to do with what they do. If it is mining industrial relations, you have to think about mining and changes that are going on there or if it is trucking, you have to kind of understand labour relations within the context of that particular activity and so it is with health care. We have to ask ourselves what it is that is going on.

I see we have some Pages. Perhaps I will just table something, if I may, Mr. Speaker, and ask one of the Pages to assist me here.

AN HON. MEMBER: They are all running to you.

MR. EPSTEIN: Well, they are alert. I am glad to see that they are alert, as well.

What I have just tabled is a couple of pages, an extract from an article that deals very directly with this whole question of industrial relations in health care. That is its title, Industrial Relations in Health Care. It is subtitled, Regulation, Conflict and Transition to the 'Wellness Model'. This is an article published a couple of years ago by Professor Larry Haiven. It is interesting about Professor Haiven. You may have noticed that he was quoted in the local press a couple of days ago and he was described as an expert in industrial

[Page 5059]

relations in the health care sector and he is. Do you know what? He lives here now. At the time he wrote this article, he was a professor at the University of Saskatchewan but he is now a professor at Saint Mary's University where he teaches industrial relations. He has moved here and we have right here in our community one of Canada's experts on industrial relations in the health care sector.

I just want to read a couple of extracts from his article because I think it will help us understand the context within which we are working and why it is that this question bears a more detailed examination than I think we have seen so far and why referring it to some committee would make sense.

[7:15 a.m.]

So here is the section that struck me, really, in Professor Haiven's article, The nursing profession has been subject to major transformations over the past decade and a half that have created substantial friction. To name only a few; changes in technology resulting in greater nursing specialization and alienation from the bedside, increasing patient loads and increasing acuity, concerns about hazardous conditions and increasing ambiguity about the role of the nurse and division of labour, about responsibility and authority within the health care team and about control of the nursing labour process. All of these were intensified in the 1980's by the particular combination of fiscal crisis and a nursing shortage. That is the end of the passage.

Although the main focus of that passage that I just read was on nursing conflict and transformation during the 1980's, this article was written in the mid-1990's or late 1990's and it was still true then and in our province it is true now. It is particularly striking, that last passage about conditions of fiscal crisis and a nursing shortage. Well, nursing shortage certainly hasn't gone away has it, Mr. Speaker? We know that that is the case and it is a national problem, in fact a North America-wide problem that we have to deal with. In terms of fiscal crisis, I don't know if crisis is the right word to describe what we have here but we don't have as much money as we would like to have. That is certainly the case and government has been talking about that a great deal. When you look at this list that Professor Haiven gives us, all of it really describes the nature of transformation in the nursing workplace, its transformation in the health care workplace, although his main focus here is on nursing.

I suggest that what the government has to bear in mind is that that is the context within which they have approached - in this very high-handed, very aggressive, and as I said the other day, very disrespectful way - their current small problem in labour relations. Unfortunately, what is happening is what can only be characterized as taking a small problem and making it worse. Professor Haiven has a lot of wisdom that he could offer us in person through his experience and study if, indeed, we choose to refer this bill to hearings. Because I am a little apprehensive that that might not occur, I am going to just read a couple of other

[Page 5060]

short extracts from his article because if the referral to committee does not take place, we won't get the chance to hear in more detail from Professor Haiven. So what I am going to give you are some small samples that tend toward the essence of his thinking but I certainly can't purport to give you the full range of his experience which no doubt has deepened and matured since he wrote this article.

The next extract I want to read discusses the role of government in the health care sector, particularly when it has to do with bargaining and labour relations. It is the words at the end of this paragraph that I particularly suggest that members ought to pay attention to. So let me just quote one other paragraph from Professor Haiven. He says, "Governments play a number of potentially contradictory roles in health care collective bargaining. First, if they are not the direct employer, they are assuredly an inescapable 'ghost at the bargaining table'. Second, as legislators, governments also make the rules by which the game of collective bargaining and dispute settlement will be played. If the parties reach an impasse, governments play a third role, that of peacemaker, through their offices of mediation. And governments also play the role of enforcer and punisher if the parties (and especially labour) break the rules of the game. The more closely government is involved in the role of employer, the less credibility it will have in these other, very important, roles."

It is that last sentence that is particularly important. The closer the government gets to the bargaining table, the more hands-on the government, Professor Haiven is telling us. The more it chooses to interfere with what should otherwise be the free collective bargaining system, the less credibility it will have as the rule maker, as the peacemaker. In the end there is no way the government can escape from these multiple roles. Government has to play them. Potentially contradictory roles are what Professor Haiven calls them. The objective should surely be to minimize the contradictions. The objectives should surely be for the government to be as hands-off as possible just as the industrial inquiry commissioner, William Kydd, told the predecessor PC Government a decade ago when it asked him to report on bargaining in the health care sector and I tabled the other day the extracts from Bill Kydd's report.

Well, I don't know if we will get to hear from Professor Haiven if we don't refer this matter to a special committee and we certainly should hear from Professor Haiven because he is the expert on this subject. He has in his article a very useful table that tells us how it is that essential services, the matter that the government has said it is so worried about, is dealt with in other provinces across this country. It is a wonderful table because it makes it clear what the mechanisms are in each province for dealing with essential services.

In some circumstances, of course, if strikes are not allowed, if they are outlawed completely and that's part of the basic bargaining mechanism, then the question of essential services doesn't arise, but for the most part Canadian Provinces have chosen to allow the possibility of normal labour relations, including strikes, in the health care sector but, of course, everyone recognizes that in the health care sector you can't suddenly go out of

[Page 5061]

business. Everyone recognizes that you have to make some kind of provision for what happens if you move to shut down or partially shut down some of your services in the course of a labour dispute.

So what do you do about essential services? Well, in some provinces there is a board that has jurisdiction to decide over essential services. Sometimes it is the Labour Relations Board. They have the power in some provinces, for example in British Columbia, to actually decide, if there is an impasse, as to how to set up an essential services regime. In Quebec there is a special council known as the Essential Services Council and it operates in that province subject to predefined statutory minimum numbers of people who have to be on duty and if the Essential Services Council makes a ruling, it can only increase the numbers of people, not decrease the numbers of people, to be on duty. Well, there is another model. In other provinces, like ours, it is just left to the parties to work out on their own and, indeed, as we pointed out the other day, the parties have moved to work it out on their own. There are provisions in place.

I think it is more detail like this that we need to hear, that especially the government needs to hear before they proceed with this bill because I am reminded that this is not the first time the government has brought in legislation to deal with their fear of withdrawal of services in the health care sector because, of course, they did it a year and a half ago with respect to the paramedics. Now, they did it with a different model at that time. The model they used at that time was the model of binding arbitration. The essential difference between what was an objectionable piece of legislation with Bill No. 9 and the paramedics and this even more objectionable piece of legislation, Bill No. 68, with respect to nurses and other health care workers, is that in Bill No. 68, this bill, the government is giving to itself the power to set the terms and conditions of employment. That means the money, it means the non-monetary terms, it means that there will be no independent party determining the differences, making a ruling on the differences between the government and the unions. It means that the model of binding arbitration has now been rejected by the government.

A bad idea from start to finish but, you know, you have to ask yourself just how far is it that the government is prepared to go with this kind of legislation and is it really all about risk. Every time we hear an attempt at justification of this bill, or read an ad in the newspaper, it's framed in terms of risk; it's framed in terms of risk to the public safety; it's framed in terms of protecting lives; it's framed in terms of a level of zero tolerance. We keep being told the health care system is already stretched, we can't afford to lose one person.I suppose that means next we will be hearing that nurses and health care workers can't have vacations, can't reduce them, but surely there have to be some limits to what they are doing here.

But, you know, a person has to be skeptical when they hear talk about risk, especially in face of the agreement that the nurses and the NSGEU have entered into with the hospitals. They have already agreed to cover this off. If the government wants more, let them say more.

[Page 5062]

Let them say what they want. Let them come up with some details but, do you know what, dancing in and out of this is another layer of concern that seems to be much more fundamental and seems to be really the prime mover and that's money.

It was interesting to see the honourable Premier go off-message the other day. The basic message is that it is all about public safety. The Premier clearly let the cat out of the bag. Here is what he said, it is about money. We can't afford it. We just can't afford to pay any more. That's what it is about. That's what this bill is about. This bill is about money. This bill says our final offer is on the table, if you don't like it, we are going to lump it for you. We are going to make you take it. That's why the Minister of Finance is jumping up and down at every available opportunity choking about money, talking to members in the form of purported interventions on rules of order, points of order, asking if he can ask a question, it is all about money he is saying. We can't afford it.

Well, they went off-message. They forgot to say and keep saying it is all about public safety. They put their foot in it. They lifted the curtain. There it is. It's not about public safety and now everyone knows it. If they didn't know it before, they sure know it now because the Premier and the Minister of Finance have laid it out in no uncertain terms that this bill is about money. This bill is about keeping on track with the one and only overriding policy objective that that government has which is to balance the books and to do it in the harshest way possible. That's their plan. That's it. Nothing else really counts. Balance the books, that's it. They're not about to mess around and listen to an arbitrator. They're not about to go to an arbitrator and make their case about what is fair or make their case about their ability to pay because, of course, ability to pay is one of those factors that arbitrators look at.

[7:30 a.m.]

I think that this is exactly why it is we need to go to a public hearing process so that people can come and talk about the myth of risk and the reality of fiscal constraint. That is exactly what it is that we ought to hear and when I asked earlier how far will they go, I have to say what employer would not like to be in this position? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable members, the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto does have the floor and it seems as if he is in competition with other honourable members.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I was just asking, will this mechanism apply to other employers? Now, I and several other members of this House used to be in municipal government. I can well imagine how happy the Halifax Regional Municipal Council would be in their negotiations with their firefighters if they could be in a position like this government to say, well, we have negotiated with you, we are kind of fed up now, that's enough, we've had enough, we are now just going to impose the settlement. Firefighters are pretty important. We don't want them to go out on strike. Will we see the government bring

[Page 5063]

in bills that give the power to HRM Council to step in and say you can be high-handed just like us, you can do it. You don't have to negotiate and if you are fed up negotiating, you don't have to go to binding arbitration either. You can just impose the settlement.

I can just see HRM Council lining up now. Well, heck, there are three former HRM councillors over there as part of the government. Maybe they will be the conduit for that kind of a request or a suggestion and if the government is going to do that with respect to health care workers, are there other kinds of sectors that they're thinking that they might want to do it for? I mean if it is finance that is at the heart of this, will they do it there as well? Will they evade the normal route, normal if you are going to interfere with collective bargaining, to go to binding arbitration? Are they going to continue to evade that.

Well, you know, this in fact now looks to be a pattern because I pointed out that the government has done this twice with respect to health care workers. They did it with the paramedics and now they're doing it with all health care workers. A person could look at this and say, well, the government has just made two big mistakes. That is one way of thinking about it. They made a mistake about the paramedics and, heaven knows, that they got an earful when they went to open sessions with the paramedics.

I am sure you remember, Mr. Speaker, the vivid stories that the paramedics brought. They came and they won the hearts of Nova Scotians if, indeed, Nova Scotians weren't already on their side. They came with their detailed stories of what life was like for them on the firing line delivering the emergency health care services for so little pay and that was vivid. That happened at the Law Amendments Committee. That happened in a public process so it is no wonder the government doesn't want to refer this to committee and it is no wonder that I suppose in the end, even though it might not be the right committee, this is a sensible kind of amendment to have seen come forward.

So it was clearly a mistake to bring in Bill No. 9 a year and one-half ago and I suppose we could also characterize it given how extreme the criticism has been to bring in Bill No. 68 but, do you know what, there is a pattern and it is not just two mistakes. The essential pattern is the ratcheting up of the degree to which the government is prepared to take away bargaining rights of workers. So first they start out by saying we are going to take away your right to strike because we don't like it and in the first instance binding arbitration is the dispute resolution mechanism, and of course binding arbitration worked very well for the paramedics because they deserved it. They got 20 per cent because, of course, they had been underpaid for years. They were underpaid and they were able to make their case and an independent party heard submissions from the employer, that is the government, and from the unions, and they awarded a decent catch-up.

The government looks at this and they are saying no way, we are not prepared to pay that much money, we don't even want to take the risk. So the essential difference is the ratcheting up. Now, from my perspective, it is great that the government is making two such

[Page 5064]

horrendous mistakes, but it would be inappropriate for anyone observing this process to think that the government is just bumbling around. This is a deliberate process of ratcheting up how aggressive the government is prepared to be about bargaining in the public sector and when they are doing that they are sending a signal to all employers. They are sending a signal first to the public sector and after that to all employers, because it is precisely this government and its predecessors that have been prepared to interfere time and again with normal collective bargaining regimes. It is the predecessor to this government that gave us the amendments to the Trade Union Act known as the Michelin Bill. It is this government that is prepared to interfere with collective bargaining in such an objectionable way.

We've heard hints that they are prepared to be generous to the employees here, to the nurses. Well, do you know what? I have had a note from a nurse who asks the question, if they're prepared to pay the nurses the best in Atlantic Canada, will they write that clause into the collective agreement because it has been suggested and pointed out that other provinces in the Atlantic Region are going to be ahead of our nurses here very shortly? If they want the nurses in Nova Scotia to be the best paid in the Atlantic Provinces, will they write that clause into the collective agreement? I don't hear the Minister of Finance, or the Minister of Justice, or the Premier saying that, let alone the Minister of Health.

What they say is there are going to be 24-hour-a-day hearings at the Law Amendments Committee. We have a financial problem. We are not prepared to give any more than this, and by the way we are being very generous and so you should be thankful for it. Well, I am getting a note from nurses saying if they want Nova Scotia nurses to be the best paid in the Atlantic Provinces, be the equivalent of Saskatchewan and Manitoba - as I think we were told a little earlier this morning in the debate by a government representative - how about them writing that into the collective agreement, that the salaries of all nurses here will always be the best, or during the life of this collective agreement always be the best in Atlantic Canada?

I don't hear them volunteering that, but it is the kind of argument that could be made in front of a labour arbitrator, an arbitrator who had powers to deal with this, and if that is the position of the government they might have to pay a little bit more than they are saying they are prepared to do, and this is exactly the kind of thing that might get worked out in a little more detail in public hearings if this matter were referred to a committee. Again, I have to kind of ask a question that I am sure the public is asking itself, and would ask the government if they got the chance to make a submission, and it is this model of unilaterally imposing a solution. Is that a model that the government can use or chose to use in another context? Arbitration exists for a reason. It exists because it is effective; it exists because the people who do it have a lot of expertise and it exists because it is seen to be fair. And unilateral imposition by one side or another of its side as the result in a dispute is inherently unfair.

[Page 5065]

Nova Scotia, and this government, happens to have a dispute right now with the Province of Newfoundland over a boundary. Well, we didn't send ships out to pick a fight with Newfoundland and they didn't send ships out to pick a fight with us. It is going to arbitration, that is how the matter is being resolved; that is how it is being dealt with.

Now you might think that well, this is international - not quite international law but inter-provincial law and there is another legal entity there and so, of course, we have no choice and we couldn't throw our muscle around. Well, you know what? This government has another dispute going on right now that is within its jurisdiction. That is the dispute with the franchisee for gas distribution in our province - Sempra - they are having a fight with Sempra. Sempra is thinking well, conditions have changed, we don't think we can meet the terms of what we agreed to previously. The government says no, we want you to hold to those terms, we are not sure we want to make changes.

Now technically, the government could impose a solution, if they want to pass the laws again, but they are not doing that. In the commercial sector they are not standing up to Sempra and saying, this is the way it is going to be. Do you know where it goes? If there is a dispute, it will go to the Utility and Review Board. That is the normal model if there is a dispute - you go to some entity that is seen as independent, at arm's length, that has expertise, that can listen in detail, that can hold hearings, that can consider all the factors, not a question of unilateral imposition of some kind of bottom line that one Party wants. It is the virtue of this kind of dispute resolution mechanism that the government would hear about if they were prepared to go to hearings through the Human Resources Committee or any other standing committee, or if they were prepared to hold long sessions for the Law Amendments Committee. By long I mean you listen until people have finished coming to talk to you. That is what Law Amendments Committee is all about.

In fact, my colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect and myself sit on that committee. We are happy to hear from people; we are prepared to listen and I suppose it is an alternative to what it is that is proposed by the Third Party in their amendment to Bill No. 68. Well, it makes sense.

If the government is not quite prepared to go through that process, then at least we might put on record a couple of comments right here and now, today, in the hopes that it will give them a sample of what it is that they might beneficially hear if this matter were referred to committee.

Mr. Speaker, may I read into the record a letter I received from a physician in Halifax. Now, I said I received it, in fact it is directed to the Minister of Health, with copies to other members of the Legislature. This is a letter from Dr. Michael Buss, of Halifax. Here is what Dr. Buss has to say: "I agree with Mr. Muir that protecting the health of Nova Scotians is the primary duty of this government during the current crisis. I question, however, whether alienating the nursing profession is the best way to carry out your responsibility. Legislating

[Page 5066]

away the right to strike and imposing an inadequate settlement will only drive away even more nurses from the province. We cannot afford to lose more nurses than we already have over the past two years. This will change an acute crisis with achievable solutions into a protracted crisis of nursing shortages with no simple solutions. This protracted crisis will endanger Nova Scotians' health for years. Please reconsider your approach to this situation." Signed, Dr. Michael Buss.

Mr. Speaker, this is but a sample of the kind of support that our health care workers have and it is but a sample of the kind of public input that would no doubt come if the amendment that is now made to refer this matter to a public hearing, to a committee hearing, were to go through.

So, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your attention, I thank the honourable members for their attention and I will conclude my remarks at the moment. Thank you very much.

[7:45 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I stand here again today. I think we are into almost 32 hours of debate on this bill, but still this government hears nothing. Still this government listens to no one and hears nobody, whether they are nurses or health care workers or members in this Legislative Assembly, they are deafened. You have heard the expression, hardening of the heart - their hearts are hard, they are cold, well, their ears and their minds are becoming the same way because they do not want to listen to the logic and to the expression of frustration that nurses and health care workers in this province are saying across one end of this province to the other.

On the weekend, when I was home, I had a chance to talk to nurses and health care workers and I had a chance to talk to constituents in my riding. They are mad, they are frustrated and they are wondering why would this government do what it is doing. The government is saying they are doing it to be proactive or to be on the side of safety.

You would think these are the only negotiations that ever went on with health care workers in the history of the Province of Nova Scotia. You would think that never before has there been negotiations with nurses and health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia. You would think that there was never a time where a process allowing nurses or health care workers to sit down and hammer out a fair deal ever happened before in the province.

You ask, why have they taken away the rights of the workers to negotiate a fair contract? I fail to understand the fact that they have lost faith in democracy; this government has lost faith in a democratic process of a fair, negotiated deal. We have said they have lost

[Page 5067]

their nerve. I think what they have done is lost their ability to understand the rights of individuals in the collective bargaining process, in negotiations.

Some people across the way say this is all about the safety of Nova Scotians. Their worry, whether it was in the Cabinet Room or the caucus room, was that somebody might get hurt, and that by bringing in this legislation they are going to protect Nova Scotians. I think that is a failed veil they are putting across the eyes of Nova Scotians, as they speak because the process was still ongoing. So, they were surmising, that no matter what they are going to say, this is a deal, this is what we are offering and we are not going to bargain in good faith. They had no intention of bargaining in good faith.

What they are saying to the nurses and the health care workers is that they do not trust them. I have had nurses say to me that in the emergency back-up plan, they had agreed publicly and to the people, that if somebody came in who was sick, they would look after them; they would leave the picket line to go into the hospital to look after those who needed help. These are the nurses and health care workers - some members over there laugh at this. If they want to laugh in this House, shame on them; if they want to laugh about what is happening to Nova Scotia, shame on them. This is not a laughing matter; maybe it is to some people on that side of the government. It isn't to the nurses in Nova Scotia and it isn't to the health care workers and it sure as heck isn't to Nova Scotians who are concerned about health care delivery, long term, and yet they want to laugh about what is going on. They have no shame.

Maybe the people who are laughing hadn't gone home to hear what Nova Scotians and what their constituents are saying. Maybe they never went home to hear what their health care workers were saying, the nurses were saying, because I am sure if they did, they would have heard a message and if they haven't heard it on the weekend, they are going to be hearing it this week.

If they listened to this debate in here today and on Thursday night and Friday and as the days continue to flow through this week, they will hear it. They will hear it in this committee or they will hear it across over in the Red Chamber, but they will hear the message loud and clear that the nurses and the health care workers in this province are disappointed. They're mad and they're frustrated. They are frustrated and mad because this government has said they do not trust them. They do not trust that they would leave the picket line to look after Nova Scotians and, as I said the other day, on Friday, you know, being a nurse or a health care worker is not just a job, it is a way of life. These people have entered this profession because they care about what they do. They care about looking after those who need help. This is their way of life. They believe with passion that what they do is right and they gave their word.

[Page 5068]

These are the people who have been working for this government through the health care system for 5, 10 and 20 years and more. They have been good employees. There is nobody in this Chamber, I am sure, who has never had to go to a hospital or had a family member go to a hospital and while you are in the hospital, who is it that you're dealing with on a regular basis. The front-line workers are the nurses and just behind the nurses or with the nurses, but in another location, just as active, just as caring, just as compassionate, are the health care providers. Whatever technical background they have, they are in those hospitals providing that service for our family members, our loved ones and our friends.

How often have you on the other side talked to the nurses and expressed some gratitude for their compassion and their caring and their professional qualifications? How many on that side of the House have said personally to nurses and health care providers thank you very much for looking after my mother or my father or my family member or a very close friend? Thank you for going beyond the call of duty to do the extras to help make their stay more comfortable. How often have they said to nurses after a person has gone through a very grieving time, or a very stressful time, thank you for being there to help me get through this.

I remember when my mother was in a hospital. She had open heart surgery for the first time, she has had it twice, and her stitches let go right after the operation and she almost died. It was the nurses who came to us, as a family that was worried and scared, and they came into the room and they comforted us. Those are the people we are talking about here, people with a heart and compassion. They were there professionally. They knew exactly how to look after my family, but they also knew how to go one step beyond the technical and academic and trained level to have a side that cared about what we were going through.

These are the people that you on that side of the House say do not care about the patients in Nova Scotia. By bringing in this bill and saying you don't trust what they are saying when they gave their word, you are saying to them that you don't believe them. You don't trust them. How shameful you must feel when you reflect back at the time when you're in a hospital and you're dealing with them on a daily basis. This government has gone to great lengths to disappoint Nova Scotians, primarily because they have no shame. This government has great difficulty with the whole notion of justice and truth. We talk about democracy in this House and for many years in this House politicians have gotten up and talked about the freedoms and the rights we have.

Well, these are very dark days because we are not going through a democratic process of negotiation. We are going through a period of dictatorial rule. We are going through a time when we're talking about the inability for health care workers to have a voice and a say and yet only a few months ago, 20-some months ago, that was the group that was on the campaign trail saying we want you to be involved in the process. We trust your judgment. We trust your views. We believe in what you're saying. We need your input to build a stronger health care system in the future of Nova Scotia and then they turn around and they bring in Bill No. 68. They bring in Bill No. 68 that takes away the rights of our health care

[Page 5069]

workers and says no matter what you think you should have, no matter what the rest of the country is doing, no matter what is happening in the United States with a nurse shortage, or what is happening in nursing shortages throughout this country, and I mentioned on Friday that Ontario is losing 3,500 nurses every year and they are having work fairs in Ontario to bring nurses back, to keep them in Ontario to be able to provide health deliver and what do we do?

We don't have a work fair. We have Bill No. 68. We bring in legislation. Our government brings in legislation, Bill No. 68, that says to anybody in the health care system, hang on, we not here to make you feel better, we are not here to show any compassion or caring, we are here to tell you what you are going to do and how you are going to do it and by the way, if you don't conform to what we're saying, we are going to charge you. So, you know, I wonder how many nurses and health care workers in this province are seriously considering moving out. I think of the young ones who are just going into the profession, how they must feel. They might have decided to stay in Nova Scotia because their families are here. They love the province. They care about where they live, but how can they stay when their employer is saying to them before they start, we do not trust you. We are not going to allow you to have a fair deal. You don't have any rights in Nova Scotia any more.

So the Government of Ontario is saying please come to us, we will pay you more and you don't have to work as many hours, there is less stress. What are they going to do? And they are not necessarily new nurses or new professionals. I talked to a professional who has been in the business for a long time, in excess of 20 years, and she is saying she is so mad, she is so frustrated, she is so hurt by what this government has done, she is considering moving because this government has given her no reason to believe that the health care delivery system in Nova Scotia is going to work. She is considering moving because she is so disappointed in what she believed in. She is a Nova Scotian. She was born in Nova Scotia, she loves this province and she loves her profession.

I don't know if the government doesn't believe that, but they are going to see it at some point in time. All they have to do is start calling and talking to the health professionals who are in the province now. What about the fact that this government said they were going to do all they can in nurse recruitment to bring nurses to Nova Scotia. Well, what a joke. What an absolute joke. Is Bill No. 68 your enticement? Is that the carrot you're waving in front of nurses and health care workers across this country saying, here, this is our sweetener, this is our top-up, this is what we are prepared to offer you as a professional to come and work in Nova Scotia. This is what we are offering you, Bill No. 68. Isn't that enough to want nurses and health care workers to literally get here as fast as they possibly can to work in Nova Scotia?

[Page 5070]

[8:00 a.m.]

Well, I say no, absolutely not, because what you have done, this message has gone right across this country. It is on national news every day and nurses and health care workers, students who are going into those professions are hearing this every day, what this government is doing and the message they are sending across this nation. What long-term implication is that going to have for the health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia?

There are already lab technicians of 25 years who are planning on going to take a look at job opportunities in other provinces. I just got a message here. This just came down from the gallery I take it, somewhere up in the gallery. Good to see you here. They are talking about opportunities in Alberta. Look at these people. They are Nova Scotians and they are looking at moving to Alberta because of what you are doing with Bill No. 68.

So there, you don't even have to go talk to your constituents, just sit here in the House and listen. Don't laugh, but listen to what is being said and then go talk to the people up in the audience. Whether it is the east gallery or the west gallery, go upstairs and talk to them. Get off you chairs for a minute and go up and ask them the questions that we are posing on the opposite side of the House here. Ask them to tell you what they feel and what they believe. I dare you to go. There are enough in there - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 - one of you can go up at a time, there are 17. (Interruption) Yes, you can take turns. Go up and talk to the people. Go to talk to Nova Scotians. Go talk to the health providers in the Province of Nova Scotia. They are here and they will be here every day that they can possibly be here. Even when this House doesn't want them to come in, they will be here.

Last night I talked to a number who were outside the fence, nurses from Windsor to wherever in the province came last night after a shift. Some came right from their homes. They are going to be here every day because they want you to see what you are doing. They want you to see the looks in their eyes and what is in their hearts and their frustration. They want you to go and talk to them about what they are believing and feeling about Bill No. 68. It is like you have horizontal neurosis syndrome. You want to sit there, barely awake, and not do any more than just be there, just sit there and grunt. (Interruption)

We have a live wire over there. We have a laugher over there. We have a heckler and a laugher over there. We have a laugher and heckler over there, and you know it is interesting that the laugher and the heckler, the member for Pictou East, is talking about ringing a bell, wake up. Why don't you wake up, member, and go talk to the Nova Scotians who are in the galleries today.

AN HON. MEMBER: The nurses, yes.

[Page 5071]

MR. DOWNE: Go ask the nurses and the health care providers in this province what this is all about. You know all the answers to Bill No. 68. You can tell them what is in the bill. You can explain Clause 12, you can explain Clause 13, and you can explain the fact that you brought this in because you didn't trust them. Go, we won't call the vote. There are enough of you here, go upstairs and talk. (Interruption) Well, there are enough of you here anyway and if there aren't enough of you here, that is your business. You brought the bill in, ladies and gentlemen, not us. You are the only government in the history of the province dealing with health care workers in this province that brought in, I think, this legislation dealing with nurses and health care workers in this province.

AN HON. MEMBER: I don't think so.

MR. DOWNE: Is that not true? Well, we will check it out. Anyway, I take it that the members do not want to leave their chairs and that horizontal neurosis syndrome has set in. (Interruption) Go member, go upstairs and talk to the people who are here; talk about the bill that is before the House right now. If you want to talk about the history, go ahead, but talk about what is going on right now. We never brought in back-to-work legislation; you brought in legislation before the collective bargaining process even began.

The Premier realizes that this could be a fatal blow. He talks about the fact that this could very well affect his election in two years. Well, you know, quite frankly, the people who are in the gallery right now - although if they stay, they will be able to do their thing in two years, or whenever the next election will be - are mad and frustrated today.

Do you know what is going to happen? I told you when I spoke on Friday, the reality of what is going to happen is that all the rest of the people who work for government could be deemed essential services, whether they are nurses or teachers or paramedics, all of a sudden, you, in the Cabinet Room, could turn around and say, we are worried about this negotiation, we don't want to pay them what is being paid in other jurisdictions so we are going to bring in this legislation or allow this legislation now to cover these workers. I understand that is what this bill can do - whoever you deem to be essential services in Nova Scotia.

What you have done, you have said to Nova Scotians that we will not respect your rights. Do you know what is going to happen? People are going to raise it, whether it is today or tomorrow or whenever, and they are going to say to you, how dare you have so much power. If this bill was back-to-work - this bill is more than back-to-work legislation. This bill has taken away not only the rights of proper negotiation, but you can define whatever you want in this bill, any employee of government, to be what you want it to be and nobody could take legal action against you.

[Page 5072]

I think the courts will be making that decision. I am sure there will be some very bright lawyers in this country who would like to challenge what you think are your rights, as a government, to impose in Nova Scotia.

Our Leader had an article in the paper recently and Dr. John Hamm should know the value of nurses and health care workers in our province but the attitude of his government, and especially the Health Minister, proves that he doesn't give health care workers the respect they deserve. If the Premier and the minister are not showing respect, why don't you members on the backbenches go upstairs and talk to Nova Scotians about this bill? Maybe the Minister of Justice would like to go upstairs; he had something to say this morning, didn't he? He said as long as we are here standing and speaking on behalf of Nova Scotians we are going to cut in to the ability of them to speak. Another hammer, another sledgehammer - John Hamm's hammers.

The Minister of Justice is saying that we, as elected representatives, who are being told by our constituents back home to stand and fight for the rights of the health care system and the nurses and the health care providers in this province, he is now saying to us, no, we don't want you to do that because whatever time you take, it will be less time for us to debate this or hear what Nova Scotians are saying in the Chamber. That is the Minister of Justice.

I think he said, Mr. Speaker, now in the hands of the Opposition. Each hour my colleagues in the Legislature speak, and I think it is fair to say that very little in terms of original thoughts are being said at this point. Now there is an interesting one. He is saying what we are saying doesn't matter. His judgement of what we are saying is that he doesn't think it makes any sense to him. Well, knock, knock, wake up. Are you awake, minister? Each hour they speak is eating time away from the Law Amendments Committee. At this rate, the debate on second reading will last until midnight on Tuesday and I invite my friends to do the math, in a very cynical way. In order to avoid a legal strike, the Law Amendments Committee will need to be limited to a single day. So they are now going to say that they are going to limit the ability for health care workers, for family members or parents or patients or nurses to come into the House of Assembly. Nova Scotia's people, this is their House, it isn't ours. We are here to represent the people of this province. This is Nova Scotia's House. They won't be able to. They are going to be restricted in the Law Amendments Committee to come forward and be able to voice their concern.

Now why would the government want to restrict that? Are they scared that there is going to be a groundswell of frustration in this province? Are they afraid that people are actually going to leave their homes or their jobs to come to Halifax to express their frustration, their bitterness toward what this bill is all about, their concern to hear what people are saying are their democratic rights being taken away again.

[Page 5073]

Mr. Speaker, this government seems to operate on the attitude of threats to the rights of individuals, threats to Nova Scotians. I wonder, in a backbench, you know this government is putting you guys and the backbenchers through a fairly big pace right now and what are you hearing when you go home? I wonder what the member for Queens heard when he went home on the weekend? He must know this issue pretty well. I understand the member for Queens must know this issue pretty well and he must be hearing some messages when he goes home. I bet you when he goes and gets tucked in at night he has probably has heard the odd message about what this bill is all about. That member for Queens County, he didn't have anything to do with putting this bill together. He is going to be a recipient of what this bill is all about. He is an honourable member in this House and I wonder what the people in Queens County are saying to him. I bet you he had a message.

The members for Kings West has been known to be outspoken on what he believes as being right. In this House and in this Chamber, when he believes in something, he has had the strength to stand up and fight for it. Well, here is an issue where that member can do the same thing. Go home and talk to your people. Go home and talk to the nurses and health care workers in your riding. I will be anxious to hear what the member will do when this comes to a vote because I have seen him buck the system over there. He stood up for what he believed.

[8:15 a.m.]

We have Pictou West, and I wonder what they are saying in Pictou West. I wonder what they are saying to the honourable member for Pictou West. Are they saying to her that this is a great bill, we want you to support this? I wonder if the nurses and health care workers in Pictou County are going to the honourable member for Pictou West and saying, yes, drive this thing through; yes member, we want you to stand up and fight for this bill. I say not. If she hasn't heard it yet, she will be hearing it this week, what the people who elected her to this House are possibly saying to her about this bill. There isn't necessarily just health care workers and nurses, they could be teachers, they could be any government employee and they could be family members who have had their hearts touched by the nurses and health care workers in this province, and they could be people who needed hospital care who have been helped and saved by people in the audience today.

We have other members in this House. We have the honourable member for Annapolis. He has been here most of the night. I was here until 1:30 a.m. or 2:00 a.m. this morning and back early this morning, and I think he has been here about the same period of time. I wonder on the weekend, what did he hear? I wonder if people phoned him up and talked to him about what this bill is all about? We have the honourable member for Shelburne. The honourable member for Shelburne who was in this House not too long ago saying that he is worried about health care, and he brought in a Private Member's Bill that talked about municipalities now paying for doctors. He might want to put an amendment to that to pay for nurses as well, because nurses will not be around this province with this kind

[Page 5074]

of a bill that is in place and before the House of Assembly right now. He might want to amend that Private Member's Bill to allow for municipalities to start paying and top dressing or top loading the salaries of nurses and health care workers in this province

What this bill is doing is taking away the ability for us to be able to hire these workers. It is great having doctors, but if you don't have nurses and specialists to do the work, the health care system falls apart. I had one nurse express to me, and she said very strongly that this bill will cripple the health care system in the Province of Nova Scotia. I wonder what the honourable member for Shelburne, who seemed just a few weeks ago to be so compassionate and caring for the need for health delivery in his area, he seemed to be very strong in fighting for the health of his people, yet he thinks that Bill No. 68 is the answer to his problems. What an awaking he is going to have in his own riding. He must be frustrated by what is going on because he understands, he is bright enough to understand what this bill is all about.

The honourable member for Yarmouth, the poor member for Yarmouth. I don't know, he is probably wondering, why has this government forsaken him? Why have they brought in this bill that means nothing except insult and lack of respect for nurses and the health care providers in the Province of Nova Scotia? The honourable member for Kings North, I wonder how he feels about this bill; I wonder how the health care workers in his area are expressing their concerns to him? He is an honourable man; he is an honourable member. He has to tell the truth all the time because he believes in that. I wonder how he feels about that issue? I wonder what people are saying to him and how he will vote on this issue? We have the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury. That is a beautiful part of this province as well. The member is here and not that long ago that member understood the role of nurses and health care providers in his own life. I wonder how he feels about bringing in Bill No. 68 that is forcing him, no matter what they vote on, the negotiations are stopped.

We had the vote on the weekend. What did you expect that vote by 3,000 employees to be on the weekend? Now what logical vote would you think is going to - people are so mad and frustrated, that vote is a reflection of their anger towards you. It doesn't matter to them any more. They can vote whatever they want, it doesn't matter because you are going to do what you are going to do.

It is no surprise what happened on the weekend. Go talk to them in the gallery today and they will tell you why that vote went that way on the weekend, because they are mad and frustrated and hurt and embarrassed because this government has said to them, you don't care. You don't care that they have worked extra hours, they have given up lunches or coffee breaks or they have gone to university and school and they are professionals, they are experts at what they do. They go beyond the call of duty many times by providing extra services and help; you know, the holistic issue of health care.

[Page 5075]

You want people to be motivated and positive about going to work, this bill is not doing it and this bill was never intended to do it. This bill was there to do one thing, to send a message that this government has no heart for the people on the front line of the health care delivery system in the Province of Nova Scotia. All the words that were said during the election campaign and all the rhetoric and all the comments, whether it was to do with the health investment fund or where we stood, now you see. So your answer to the problem is one of a cold-hearted government that has no care.

They say, we are doing this because we care about the health of Nova Scotians. Well, let me tell you something, you know . . .

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I take exception that the member says we have no heart. The member opposite is the one who is saying that. This is the same member who was part of a government that put forward a piece of legislation that brought about Savage days, whereby they had to take vacation off and not get paid for it; it is the same member who put forward a provision that had a rollback of 3 per cent, and he has the audacity to sit here and tell us that we have no heart, when we are putting an offer on the table, though it doesn't meet all the expectations of the nurses, it does bring them a long way and is a fair and reasonable offer. For him to say that is ludicrous.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Member, your are protected by your members around you. You go up in the gallery and talk to those people, Mr. Minister, you go upstairs if you have any guts to go up and talk to the people. Go outside and talk to Nova Scotians, Mr. Minister, don't get huddled by your own little pack of supporters back there. You go out there in the real world and talk to people. You go out there and talk to the real people. (Interruptions)

MR SPEAKER: Order, please. I must ask honourable members to bring themselves to order.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West does have the floor. I would ask him to speak to the amendment, referral to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. Thank you.

MR. DOWNE: The member sits in his little group here, his little therapy group, to get that support he needs to stand up and make fun and ridicule the people who are here in the gallery. (Interruption) That is why we said it should go to . . .

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I did not make fun of the people in the gallery. For the member opposite to say that is a falsehood. I would ask for a retraction.

[Page 5076]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order, it is a dispute between two honourable members. I would ask the honourable member for Lunenburg West to please direct at least some of his commentary to the amendment before the House.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, that is why I think going to the Human Resources Committee for six months, for some period of time, so these members can go and talk and hear what Nova Scotians have to say. If they refuse to do it now - it would allow them to hear first-hand what Bill No. 68 is all about. They don't have to go very far to go upstairs and talk to health care workers and nurses in this province, right now. If you cannot get off your chair today, then allow this to go to the Human Resources Committee to hear what Nova Scotians have to say.

You are going around the province to hear about an energy policy. You are going around the province to try to figure out an economic model and so on and so forth. Why not go around the province and talk about health care which is the number one issue in this country today and go around this province and talk about Bill No. 68? Is that the direction that you want to go? Is that the priority of this government, Bill No. 68? If that is the priority of this government, Bill No. 68, well then I say you are going to have a lot of people upset in this province.

As our Leader said in a newspaper article this weekend, the irony of this legislation is it does nothing to address the underlying problem that is created by the unrest among health professionals. At the heart of the health care crisis is a shortage of nurses and health care support workers in the Province of Nova Scotia. At the heart, and I will repeat that, at the heart of the health care crisis is a shortage of nurses and health support workers in our province and yet they bring in Bill No. 68. I know that the front bench stands up because they have to show that they are prepared to stand up in this House, not with the people but in this House, because I am sure that the backbenchers in this province are hearing the message. They didn't bring in that bill. They are probably talking to the ministers up front and to the Premier saying, do you realize what we are doing here? They probably would love this bill to go to the Human Resources Committee, well actually they would probably love to have it ripped up and maybe they would like it to go to the Human Resources Committee so that they can hear what people have to say. That is why we support that move.

The ministers stand up and they try to attack us on this side of the House for expressing what Nova Scotians are telling us. They are wanting to attack us for being the voice of our constituents in this House and when nurses and health providers and family members and former patients talk to me about this bill, it is my obligation and my right to stand in this House and express to you what people are saying in my riding of Lunenburg West.

[Page 5077]

Bill No. 68 has been referred to as a draconian bill. It is a bill that is not receiving very much support for the people who are currently in the health care system and I think you are going to see that unions and other government employees across this province can see the writing on the wall.

The member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury - it is a beautiful part of this province - and maybe he has been out hunting sometime. He sees nature but anybody who has studied as basic a topic as nature knows that when people get scared or anybody gets scared, watch out. If they feel threatened, watch out. When that good member felt threatened in his own life, watch out. Well, these people up in the audience, these people in the gallery, those at home, the ones who are listening, they are mad and they are frustrated and I am saying watch out, because what you have done is you have sent a signal, a signal that says that we, as a Progressive Conservative Government, do not care about your democratic right if we feel it didn't meet our fiscal target. It means that your priorities are based on one issue only, it is laudable and it is important to be fiscally responsible but you didn't even allow this to continue through a process that maybe could have been resolved without bringing in this legislation.

[8:30 a.m.]

Nova Scotians didn't want government to bring down the hammer on nurses and health care workers. These are people who take care of our sick family members, not the greedy villains you guys are trying to portray them to be in the media. You leave the impression in the media that these individuals are wrong. That nurses and health care workers are wrong or that they are greedy or they are whatever. How do you think that makes them feel? Those who have given up and spent their lifetime career in the health care system in Nova Scotia; who have gone beyond the call of duty, beyond what the contract says they are to do; who go home at night worrying about the patients they have. What does that say to those who have taken their career to heart? Basically you have said this has been ridiculous. We don't care what you have done in the past. It is what we want to do in the future that matters.

Nova Scotia must also take steps to increase the number of technicians and technologists in this province. Now, you tell me how we are going to do that with this bill. It is estimated by the year 2015 the number of available workers will be half the current rate. The Minister of Health and the Minister of Education must therefore establish a training program and an innovative recruitment program for the requirements for the year 2015 to be met. Well, we have a problem and a crisis right now and this Bill No. 68 has not helped it. That is why we are saying it should go to committee. It should go to the Human Resources Committee to be looked at and maybe do some refinement, maybe there are changes. Or, maybe what the government should simply do is literally tear up Bill No. 68 and start all over again. Allow the process to have some integrity. Allow the negotiations to have integrity; to show respect and integrity for the workers who are here today.

[Page 5078]

In district 1 it has been indicated to me that Mr. Merkley said that there is no problem with essential services in district 1. The union and the employees have set up a program he believes can work. They say it is about safety. Well, Richmond County has not had an emergency wing in their hospital for months. They are not prepared to do anything there. They talk about bed closures. Well, I have been complaining about that for a while. It's been what, two years? They say it is because of vacation time starting in April and that is why beds are closing in April or May on the South Shore. It is vacation time. Just recently, I think it was the board had posted for eight new positions in my riding for nurses, so some people applied, only to find out later that they retracted that call. I asked the question why and the answer came back, oh, we have vacations coming up and we don't need them any more because we simply closed the beds, closed the doors and locked the door. That is their vision of health care - locking the doors. After a while you are going to have lock the front door hospitals. You can only lock so many and then you have a crisis bigger than you think you have in Bill No. 68.

In my riding health care is pretty important, as it is in every single riding in all 52 constituencies across this province. It touches the lives of each and every one of our members, and their families and friends and their constituents. You are playing a very dangerous game right now, a very dangerous game. You can hardly wait for this bill to go through this House, so your conscience doesn't have to be tugged at any more.

I can hear some of the comments: gosh, I will be glad when we get out of here and we don't have to work 24 hours or 48 hours at a stretch, or whatever it is that they put in; we don't have to hear about the compassion and the caring of nurses any more; we don't have to hear that this bill is taking away the democratic rights of the workers in the Province of Nova Scotia; I am glad we don't have to hear the Opposition members go on and on about why this bill is wrong, about Clause 12 and Clause 13 and other clauses in this bill that are wrong, that are flawed and mean-spirited; and they don't have to come back and look in the eyes of the workers who are in the galleries, whether they are in the east gallery or the west gallery, they don't have to look in their eyes any more and see their disdain and bitterness. They can go home and have a barbeque and stick their heads in the sand.

I can tell you something, when you do go home, if this bill passes, you will not be left alone. There will be people letting you know and reminding you all the time about Bill No. 68. They will not forget what this is all about.

Summer is a time of family and vacation and enjoyment. Well, you are going to have an interesting summer trying to explain this throughout the Province of Nova Scotia, unless of course you become born again to the realization of what this bill is all about and you have a choice and a chance to make it better. One way is to go to the Human Resources Committee - which we recommended - to have it debated and discussed. Another avenue you have is to say to the health care workers and the nurses in Nova Scotia that we apologize for what we are doing.

[Page 5079]

I don't know if I got anybody's attention over there on that issue, but you know no matter how you try to block it out it isn't going to go away. You have set a spark that is turning into quite a fire in the bellies and the hearts of the health care workers in this province. You have set a spark and set a fire in the bellies and the hearts of the health care providers and the nurses in Nova Scotia and that fire will not go out tomorrow or on Wednesday or on Thursday or Friday because they will carry that frustration and they will remind you.

Bill No. 68 is a mean-spirited bill, but what does it do? It takes away the right to strike by NSGEU and NSNU, the nurses and health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia. It takes away their right to be able to have what they consider is a fair package. You have taken away their right to be able to sit at the table and negotiate in good faith.

How would the members across the way like to be at a table to negotiate their issue only to know that no matter what points you make, it won't matter because someone else is going to say what the deal will be? How would you like it if you sat down to negotiate whatever, only to find out no matter who you negotiate with, no matter how much logic you come up with, how many facts you come up with, how much information you come up with that substantiates your decision, somebody else has already made the decision for you? It is like going to court and predetermining what the outcome is going to be before you even presented your case. How would you feel if you were going to court and you brought in your arguments only to find out that the jury or the judge had already made up his or her mind? You would say that is not right, you would say that is unconstitutional, you would say that the rights of the democratic free world, the Province of Nova Scotia has gone.

Well, that is exactly what you are doing to the health care workers and the nurses of the Province of Nova Scotia and the possibility in this bill to go even further to other government employees. You are taking away their rights as individuals. You are giving the power to Cabinet to not only decide what the overall deal will be, the final outcome will be, but how they want to implement it. Now let's take a look at the Cabinet, we have a Cabinet that is going to be making the decision predicated on what? Predicated on the Minister of Finance. We go after the Minister of Health and the Premier, but we should also be talking to the Minister of Finance because the Minister of Finance, it seems to me, is calling the shots over there anyway, calling a lot of them. Maybe it is the Minister of Finance who is saying to the Minister of Health, this is what your deal will be.

I wonder how many of the backbenchers who are here today, and will be here tonight, actually had input into Bill No. 68. I wonder if the honourable member for Shelburne had an opportunity to sit down with the Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance and the Premier of this province to work through line by line the bill, Bill No. 68. I wonder if the honourable member for Yarmouth, did he have a chance to build this legislation and have input into this legislation? I think not. What about the honourable member for Annapolis. Did that honourable member for Annapolis have an opportunity to put his comments to the

[Page 5080]

minister on this bill before the bill came forward to the House? I wonder if the honourable member for Queens - a caring individual over there - I wonder if he had a chance to have any input into this bill?

We have members in that back that probably never knew what this bill was all about until they got into this House, until they heard the Opposition's comments about what this bill is really meaning. I bet you that between last weekend and the next weekend and beyond they are going to know in spades exactly what this bill is all about. You know, they have a choice when we come to the vote to defeat this bill so they can go back . . .

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

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for recognizing me in my turn to speak on Bill No. 68. I wanted to begin this morning I guess in some small fashion in the exploration of the contents of this bill by responding in part to a question that was posed by the last member who spoke. The former Finance Minister was busy in his examination of this bill. He began by commenting that he didn't think ever before in the history of the Legislature that a bill such as this had come forward, that he didn't believe any government in history had brought forward this kind of legislation.

[8:45 a.m.]

I am sad to say to that member that that is not the case and, in fact, the last nurses' strike that took place in this province in 1975 was the subject of a bill that came forward from the then Liberal Government, I believe it was Bill No. 131 at that time, and it was a bill which essentially accomplished the same thing that this bill accomplishes. It was back-to-work legislation. It was legislation that took away the right to strike. It was legislation indeed that did the very same things that this legislation did.

It was called Bill No. 131, certain disputes between certain hospitals and certain of its employees, Mr. Speaker, was the bill at that time. The Minister of Health of the day was Mr. William MacEachern. Some of you here will remember him. I certainly do. He represented Inverness. He was a professor at the School of Journalism and I was a student of his, I remember him well. I believe at that time Inverness was a dual riding. I think there were two members and if I am remembering correctly, I think there was one Tory and one Liberal at the time although I could be wrong.

Mr. Speaker, there was a strike, I believe, according to my notes here, it began on Friday, June 13th. The new legislation introduced then by the Liberal Government called upon the members of the Nurses' Union to go back to work and at that time and, interestingly enough, I noticed in the notes that the Director of the Nurses' Union at the time was Tom

[Page 5081]

Patterson. I assume it would be the same Tom Patterson who works for the Nurses' Union these days and so he has obviously been through this before, but what I found interesting about the debate around Bill No. 131 and how it relates to Bill No. 68 is this.

At that time, do you know what the Premier was saying about the strike, Mr. Speaker? He was saying that the government had to bring forward this legislation because public safety and welfare were at risk, exactly the same thing that this government is saying. I found it ironic that the Minister of Finance at the time, who I believe was Mr. Nicholson, Finance Minister Nicholson indicated that one of the reasons why they had to bring forward that legislation at that time was because the government would find it very hard to bear the cost associated with a reasonable wage settlement for the nurses at the time. The Liberal Government stood there and said exactly the same things about Bill No. 131 in 1975 that the Tories are saying in the year 2001.

Mr. Speaker, the chairs have changed sides, but the arguments and the approach to the collective bargaining rights of working people in this province haven't changed one iota as a result of the switching sides of those two behemoths of the political landscape of this province. It is indeed unfortunate, and I must say, I mean I took an opportunity to look back in Hansard and to see the outrage that was put forward on behalf of the then Leader of the Opposition.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who was that?

MR. DEXTER: Mr. John Buchanan talking about how he wouldn't support this bill, how draconian. He uses the same words, the same language. He talks about how terrible it is to take away the rights of nurses. He says the government has within its capacity the ability to treat nurses fairly. Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, the Progressive Conservatives, sitting on this side, talking about the downtrodden nurses and it is replete with stories about nurses and about how hard they work and how important it is to support them and how awful it is that the Liberal Government of the time should bring in back-to-work legislation.

Mr. Speaker, they were right then. They are wrong today. They were right then. They were right to say that it is wrong to take away the collective bargaining rights of working people. I guess what I find so ironic about it is that even though, and it was an awful bill to impose, Bill No. 131, in those days, but at least in that bill they brought in binding arbitration which allowed the nurses to go to the bargaining table with an arbitrator and to state a case and to try to resolve the question of a wage settlement on the basis of argument rather than an imposed contract from the Cabinet table. So it had at least that feature that stood out for it. This bill is much different.

It is different because, Mr. Speaker, what it does - and there's a distinction here I want to draw for you - there is a difference between something that is undemocratic, which this bill is as well, it is undemocratic, but there is a difference between being undemocratic and

[Page 5082]

being anti-democratic. I mean there's a big difference between the two. You see, when something is undemocratic, it abuses the rules of democracy. What it does is it uses the majority vote of government to be able to weigh in on the interest of one side or the other. It uses the weight of democracy won through an election to be able to throw its favour against one side. It can take away the rights of a group, as this bill does. It can be used to punish a group. Those are abuses of the rules of democracy as we know them and those are undemocratic things to do.

However, Mr. Speaker, this bill is anti-democratic. It is different in its nature, it is different in its scope because what it does is it undermines the very foundation of democracy. It takes away the right to freedom of assembly; it takes away the right of freedom of speech; and it takes away recourse to the civil courts. Those are fundamentally different in nature than undemocratic legislation. This is taking away democracy that has been the toil and sweat of generations. It is taking away democracy that was won on the "Fields of Flanders" and on the "Ridge in Vimy". That is what this legislation does. That is what makes it so profoundly wrong. It is wrong in its nature; it is wrong in its scope because it undermines the very pinnings of our democracy.

Mr. Speaker, it is not for us who are sitting in these seats to attack democracy in that way, and I would say to this government that is a terrible shame, it is scandalous what they have done. They have set a precedent in this House that is so regrettable that the people of the province should sit up and take notice that their democracy has been damaged in a way I am not sure that we will be able to recover from it.

I want to recall for you, Mr. Speaker, I took a little time to look and see whether or not others had commented on these kinds of things, and indeed they have. I was pleased to see from years gone by the Greek philosopher, Democritus - there is in fact a university in Greece named after this philosopher - he lived about 460 BC and he said that words are the shadows of deeds; words are the shadows of deeds. Well, the words in this legislation foreshadow the destruction of our basic democratic rights. That is what they do. In this case the bill, Bill No. 68, without proper examination at the committee stage and profound revision that needs to take place, has the potential not only to foreshadow the destruction of our democracy but to bring it about.

Mr. Speaker, I find it difficult to believe that at this point in time in the history of this province that there could be this kind of hollowness of heart, this loss of genuine belief in the quality of our society. I find it difficult to understand how a government could bring forward this kind of legislation that undermines the very pillars of our democracy.

I felt it was necessary to begin my commentary today on the amendments by setting out those kinds of basic tenets of what this bill does and why it is necessary to have it referred to the Committee on Human Resources.

[Page 5083]

Mr. Speaker, I know that over the weekend many people in this House were at home participating in Father's Day on Sunday. Perhaps you had an opportunity to visit with your children. I am sure many of those who are here today had that opportunity or perhaps had the opportunity to visit with their own parents, talk to their own father about the celebration of that day. I know I am wearing the tie I got from my son on Sunday. It caused me to think, because on Sunday, knowing that in the very wee hours of Monday morning we were going to be back here, it caused me to think a little bit about the kind of life my parents lived and the kind of decisions they must have made over time about how they sought dispute resolution.

I know the Minister of Community Services and the Minister of Transportation and Public Works are here and I am sure they are going to be able to appreciate this. I want to tell this little story. I remember my mother telling me a story about an argument she and her husband, my father, had and how it got resolved. I think that sometimes it is useful to look at these kinds of small vignettes of life and maybe it will give you some clue of how to resolve the big problems.

My mother and father were sitting at the table, it was the early 1930's. They were married in 1933 or 1934, I forget exactly which. They were sitting at the kitchen table and some decision around the administration of the household had come forward and they disagreed. Apparently they profoundly disagreed because I am told that after they stated their positions their disagreement got louder and finally both of them got up from the table and walked away; one went into the living room and my father went out and got his scythe and went out into the field and started to mow his field. My mother went into the living room and it happened that she was sewing a blanket. A couple of hours passed and their disagreement had set the stage for the day. After a couple of hours, my father was out mowing the field, he came in and my mother reported that the door opened and a hat sailed through the air and landed on the living room floor. She took notice of it but nobody else came into the room, Mr. Speaker, nothing else happened. About 20 minutes later my father opened the door and came in and sat down and they resolved their dispute, they talked it out. My mother said, now what was the hat about? What happened? Why did this hat come sailing through the air? My father said, well, I opened the door and I threw in my hat and I figured that if the hat didn't come flying back out it was okay to come in.

Mr. Speaker, my point is that if a relationship means anything to you, if it really means anything, you have to find a way to talk. You have to find a way to make an overture. You have to find a way to communicate.

[9:00 a.m.]

That simple little story, as related to me by my mother about the way my father found a way to make his entry back into the discussion, I think, is an important kind of lesson perhaps to us all about the way that you have to go about finding ways to talk to people. You

[Page 5084]

have to understand what it is that they are going through. I would suggest to the government that this amendment creates an opportunity to refer the bill to the Human Resources Committee to find out if there isn't a way to begin the discussion, to begin to talk with one another so that the true purpose of collective bargaining can be allowed to take root. If you can't treat one another with enough respect to be able to come to a reasonable conclusion around the questions of salaries and benefits and workload issues and all of the other things that are affecting not just nurses but health care workers.

I know that health care workers are sometimes frustrated because their interests are subsumed in those of the nurses and I want to say that I recognize it isn't just the nurses. There are many health care workers out there who have rejected the offers that have been put forward by the government. I couldn't help but remember meeting outside here with Peter McLardie. He was in the gallery the other night, he is an educator at the school of ultrasound and a sonographer, I guess they are called, from the word sonar and what they do is use ultrasound to find and diagnose tumours. The doctors rely on the information that Mr. McLardie provides them in order to be able to provide the service. If he is not there, then it becomes virtually impossible for the doctor to do his job. He was telling me that he has a profound belief that highly technical personnel will leave this province for better wages if the government passes this legislation. He said that these are workers who can't be replaced here because there is such a critical shortage. You are getting this kind of advice, not just from nurses but from health care workers, who are telling you that it is time for you to withdraw this bill and to find a way to get back to the bargaining table. I would say to you and to the government that this is good advice, advice that they ought to listen to.

I couldn't help but be struck by the fact that - as far as I know - the only response from the government benches on this bill took place this morning. I know that my colleague, the member for Halifax Chebucto, spoke on it and I know that the member for Lunenburg West spoke on it and I am not going to do what they did which was reiterate the actual words that the Minster of Justice said, but instead I want to talk a little bit about the symbolism that is kind of wrapped up in what the Minister of Justice did in addressing the amendment, without actually addressing the amendment. I guess that is the first element of symbolism contained in his intervention.

What the Minister of Justice did, ironically, as the only government member to speak on this amendment, was to rise at 2:15 a.m. or 2:30 a.m. - in the middle of the night - isn't it ironic the only government member to speak on the legislation, speaks in the middle of the night? Then, what does he have to say? He accuses the other side of being incapable of original thought and then what he does is use brutal bullying tactics to try to convince the members of the Opposition that they ought to sit down and be quiet and they ought not to continue with their examination of the bill. It is ironic that it could be the Minister of Justice in some kind of Orwellian world where he stands up and speaks on a bill that is designed to take away recourse to the courts - the Minister of Justice. It has the resonances of East Bloc dictatorships when the Minister of Justice is in charge of taking justice away. Can you

[Page 5085]

imagine what the popular press of this country would be saying if this were to happen in the former Soviet Union or in China? They would say it represents what their system of government stands for.

So are we left to think in this country that the Minister of Justice, when he stands and talks about the necessity of taking away freedom of assembly and freedom of speech and taking away the right of recourse to the courts, are we supposed to say that's okay, that it is okay in a free and democratic society to reduce people's rights to the mere shadow of words?

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, it is constructive to look at the past and what people have said about the very nature of their democracy. John Adams, the American patriot, said that you must remember democracy never lasts long, it soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself; there never was a democracy that did not commit suicide. Is that what this is? Are we stuck in a death struggle over democracy in this province?

I find it hard to believe that at its most basic level the members across the aisle are not democrats. Surely they sought election, they went out and knocked on doors; they spoke with their constituents and they promised them some pretty fundamental things. They promised them they would work hard to try to make this province a better place. I am sure the member for Pictou West did that, I am sure the member for Cape Breton North, in the by-election, said that my fundamental job when I go to the Legislature will be to make your lives better. You place in me your faith, you elect me in a democratic process and what I will do is go in search of a better path for the province.

I would say surely, Mr. Speaker, when they were talking about a better path, they certainly didn't tell their constituents that. In the case of the member for Cape Breton North, I am sure that he didn't say, only those few short months ago that one of the first things I am going to do once I am elected is intervene in the collective bargaining process in such a profound way as to take away the right to access to the courts, to take away the right to free, collective bargaining, and take away the right to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, to impose upon unions the penalty should they dare advise their members, as is their right, about their options, and if they said anything more than you must return to work, I will impose a penalty on them.

I am sure they didn't say that. It would be deeply disturbing to think that a person could get elected on the basis of representations and on the basis of these kinds of statements and then come to this House and deliberately decide not to fulfill them, to decide instead to do another thing, Mr. Speaker, that being the subject matter of this legislation.

We know, Mr. Speaker, and I think everyone who has had an opportunity to be in this Legislature over the last number of days has had an opportunity to see the government members diligently at work at their desks, attentively listening to the words of the Opposition, considering this amendment to send this legislation off to the committee, it must

[Page 5086]

have been with some shock that they heard the ruminations of the Minister of Justice, because I am sure that everyone else sitting over there was taking the opportunity to weigh carefully the option that this amendment gives them.

I am sure the Speaker has had the opportunity, as he sits here and listens fully to this debate, to think in his own mind, now, what could be accomplished if we were simply to send this bill off to the Human Resources Committee so there could be a full examination of it, or there could be a report back to the Legislature about how this bill might be made better, might actually serve the interests of the people of the province. Perhaps the report of the Human Resources Committee would be that the bill should be withdrawn entirely. Can you imagine? The Human Resources Committee that is dominated by the government side has a profound look at the legislation and decides that it is just wrong, that it is not just wrong in word but is wrong in deed.

I suppose there are those on the government benches who might be nervous of an open-mined chairman who might cast a vote against the Legislative agenda of the government. I suppose that might be true. I know in his many columns and responses to the press, the Chairman of the Human Resource Committee has lamented about the lack of effectiveness of the committee and its inability to accomplish what he originally set out for it to accomplish. Which was, as I understand it, to see that the maximum benefit of the service of the committee could be realized by the people of the province. That is not exactly what he said, he talked about getting the best possible candidates for positions by the Human Resources Committee about examining subjects that were relevant under the other part of the mandate of that committee. Well, here is an opportunity to use that committee to show some leadership to the government and to do the work that is important and necessary.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that is particularly ironic about this piece of legislation is some of the other things that it does in relation to the way it treats nurses. We have said already, and I am sure that many of my colleagues have said, it is not just about the black letter of the law that is contained within the bill, certainly that is frightening enough, but it is the tone, it is the lack of respect that is shown. My colleague, the member for Halifax Fairview, Friday night, was making some very eloquent points about this. He said this isn't really about numbers on a page, employees listed in a ledger of the Department of Health, that is not what it is about. It is not about statistics, it is not about the number of patients who travel in and out of the hospitals of the province, it is not about that. It is about nurses and health care workers who we know, who are citizens of our community who are, perhaps, in our families, who are our friends and our neighbours. That is what it's about.

It is about treating those people with respect, it's about taking leadership on an important issue of the day. I think many people would say that health care and the state of health care in this province is probably the pre-eminent issue placed before the government of the day. I know that the Minister of Finance has said no, no, the pre-eminent issue is balancing the budget, the pre-eminent issue is paying down the debt. Well, I would suggest

[Page 5087]

to you that those things are important because of what they allow you to do with health care. That is why he says they are important. What we know is that the Minister of Finance has deliberately under-budgeted the revenue, has decided that what they are going to do is try and hide some of that revenue for future years. My bet is that by this time next year, what they will come out and say is, look, surprise, we are ahead of our financial projections and now we can give you that tax cut earlier. How do we achieve it? They won't answer that question. They achieved it by user fees, by hidden charges, by refusing to negotiate in good faith with nurses and health care workers. They accomplished it by subterfuge, through the back door and without being straight up with the people of the province.

[9:15 a.m.]

That is how it will be accomplished, but apparently, in the Machiavellian world of this government's politics, it does not matter how the ends are achieved, only that they are achieved. The irony will be, they will talk about a 10 per cent tax cut, but it will only be the provincial portion and that will be something like 3.6 per cent really which, as I understand it, will actually be less than if they hadn't uncoupled from the federal income tax scheme and allowed the full weight of those cuts to take their effect.

When you add on the increases in user fees, things like the $50 a day that is being charged to seniors in this province because they can't find a long-term care bed and have to stay in hospital, what will be paid out by the populous of this province into the coffers of the government will far exceed anything that they propose by way of a tax cut. So, it will be a sham. It will be a little misdirection, a little sleight of hand, a little hocus-pocus. It won't mean anything, but it will sound good. I suppose - and that has been our experience with this government - that the only thing this government wants is a convenient scapegoat and a useful slogan. That is all they want to do. They want to blame somebody and they want a catchy phrase to do it with.

That may be this government's definition of the way to administer the province, but I don't think people are fooled. I don't think people are fooled. I think Abraham Lincoln once say, you can fool some of the people all of the time and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can never fool all of the people all of the time. They are going to find out that is true. They are going to find out the next time they have to go and knock on the doors of the nurses who are sitting in the gallery. When they have to knock on the doors of the friends and families of those nurses, when they are going to be there to ask them for their vote, they are going to find out that they didn't fool anybody.

They are going to find out - the member for Annapolis is going to find out. The member for Kings South is going to find out. The member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury is going to find out just how much the people of their ridings were paying attention. I am sure the member for Queens will find out - that member already knows because he and I have gotten e-mail from the same people who are protesting and saying that

[Page 5088]

this is an undemocratic thing, that these rights should not be taken away. Do you know something? I couldn't help but notice in the one e-mail that I received from a fellow that I went to high school with back in Queens County - what he really did was express profound disappointment in the way that his member, a member of this government, is treating the health care workers of the province.

That is what we find in many places we go. I, too, was out on the weekend. I, too, was at the Farmer's Market. I, too, attended a number of public functions - I was at a piano recital with my son - everywhere I went these citizens of the province were approaching me, telling me how important it was that we return to the Legislature, even if at the government's behest, it was at 12:01 a.m. We had to come here and to convey to the members sitting on the opposite benches the profound disappointment that people have in this initiative, in this bill, in this piece of legislation. People don't only want government for the sake of government, what they want is government that listens. They want to be able to say this is a government that does something for me, rather than to me. They want the activist kind of government that is out there providing service. The old notion that government is there to be torn down has exhausted itself.

I don't espouse government simply for the sake of government, Mr. Speaker, but I wouldn't tear it down either, at the simple notion that less government is better because some day you are going to need one of those services, whether it is health care services or otherwise. When it happens to you, you will know that it is true. Those services are there, they are needed, they are required by the people of the province. It is necessary for this government to find a way to get back to the table, to listen to health care workers and to provide them with the respect they deserve.

Mr. Speaker, it wasn't the health care workers of this province who promised more acute care beds and then didn't deliver them. It wasn't the health care workers in this province who decided that wait times for surgery were going to be longer. They didn't do that, this government did. They didn't promise more long-term care beds and then not deliver them and, instead, deliver a $50 a day charge to those people who are in hospital. These health care workers didn't promise to create a positive work environment and then poison collective bargaining with this kind of legislation. They didn't do that.

Mr. Speaker, it wasn't the people who work in our health care facilities, not these hard-working Nova Scotians who respond every day to life and death situations. It wasn't them who chose not to deal with the crisis in recruitment and retention of nurses, it wasn't them; it is not them who are the threat to public safety; it is not them who are a threat to public welfare in this province; it is not them who are a danger to the delivery of the health care services of the province. I have said this before, if the government wants to see who the threat to health care really is all they have to do is get a mirror, and look at the people in the mirror because those are the people who are damaging health care by refusing to recognize the legitimate right of health care workers to negotiate freely in their own interest. It is one

[Page 5089]

of the things about collective bargaining, there are two sides to it. Both represent their own interests in one form or another. In this dispute this government has decided that they are going to sit at both sides of the table, that the Cabinet is going to have the ability to be able to scribble down the terms and conditions of employment of the nurses of this province and then they are going to deliver it to them and they are going to live with it whether they like it or not.

I suppose we could close the Legislature altogether. We could bar the doors, and the Minister of Justice, rather than bringing forward bills in this House, could simply nail the edicts up on the doors. The citizenry could come around periodically and find out what the new laws are and see how they apply to them. That is the fundamental nature of this bill, Mr. Speaker, it takes away the right to freedom of assembly, the right to freedom of speech, it takes away recourse to the courts and I have heard it said that perhaps this will be challenged in the courts; perhaps it will be, I don't know. I am not a clairvoyant, I am not a prophet or the son of a prophet, I am just here in my capacity to try to hold this government accountable for what it does do.

You can pass this bill and perhaps you will, but I don't want you for a second to be under the impression that it will be a defeat for the people on this side. It will not be because true defeat can only come to those people who are prepared to give up the struggle. Those of us on this side are not prepared to do that. Defeat will only come to those people who do not have the heart to go on and that will not happen to those of us who stand in our places here. It will not happen on this bill, it will not happen through the efforts of this government.

Those of us on this side of the House, this band of brothers and sisters, we are here to tell you that we shall stand here as long as the people who place their faith in us and who place their faith in democracy are prepared to stand with us. We shall be here for as long as those who understand that the function of government is to serve the people and that it is never the other way around. We shall place ourselves on the scales of democracy on the side of those who are seeking just treatment. We will place ourselves on the side of those who want to be treated fairly and to have their democratic rights respected. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, and it has been said before, that the struggle will continue because the cause endures. That is what it is all about here.

We are not going to simply stand aside so that this government can do what it wants to the people of the province at any expense and we are not going to listen to the Minister of Justice when he tells us that we must sit down and be quiet and to hold our place. We are not going to do that because the Minister of Justice needs to hear us. He needs to hear that the things that he is doing when he takes away basic, fundamental freedoms, are wrong. It is wrong to treat people with disrespect, it is wrong to treat health care workers in this province with the kind of cavalier attitude that has been displayed by the Minister of Justice, by the Minister of Labour and by the Minister of Health.

[Page 5090]

I started out, Mr. Speaker, talking about Bill No. 131 from a government long past, the Liberal Government of the 1970s. I couldn't help but notice that the Minister of Labour at that time was none other than Walter Fitzgerald when he introduced that legislation. I couldn't help but notice that the members of the Conservative caucus at the time were outraged at the notion that collective bargaining rights could be surreptitiously taken away. You know, the Minister of Transportation, the House Leader, throws up his hands and says, what else is an Opposition to do but to rail against the excesses of the government? Well, there are some of us in this Chamber who think it is more than just words, it is more than just playing a role, it is more than just being here and going through the exercise of opposition.

There are many of those, I daresay, in the 11 seats that make up the Official Opposition who believe that it is fundamentally about the kind of democracy you want to live in. It is about the kind of society that you want to live in. It is about the kinds of communities that you want to have because those of us in the New Democratic Party believe that the quality of your community, the quality of your society, is measured by your ability to be tolerant in many things - not just in collective bargaining - in many aspects of life and in many aspects of government.

[9:30 a.m.]

We think it is necessary for the Minister of Finance, for the Minister of Health, and the Minister of Labour to have the opportunity to garner the advice that could be gathered through the Committee on Human Resources and their ability to be able to take submissions from the public. Before I started this job, I sat on that committee. I know the debate that takes place there and I can tell you that it would be a healthy and lively one; the examination, I am sure, would be complete. They would look at every aspect of the legislation, have an opportunity to discuss it with not just health care workers, but with other affected groups: senior citizens, the people who make up parts of the health care delivery system, labour leaders, and citizens who have no stake in this, except their desire to see a reasonable resolution and their desire to see health care workers of the province treated with some respect.

The other thing it would do is it would get around much of how health care workers feel today. You have to ask yourself when you look at this bill, how do health care workers feel about being treated in this fashion? I can tell you what I found out. I can tell you what they have been telling me and I am sure it is part of what they have been telling the Minister of Economic Development down in Digby, and the member for Queens, in Liverpool or in Caledonia. Maybe the member for Shelburne has had an opportunity to head down to Port LaTour, Barrington Passage, and talk to those people and I am sure that they have told him that they feel mistreated. They feel betrayed; they feel as though they have been taken for granted; and they feel as if they are the subject of political gamesmanship. That is how the nurses feel, that is how the health care workers feel. They feel as though they have become

[Page 5091]

a pawn in a game at which the government sits at both sides of the chess board. They have the ability to dictate any outcome and that is certainly what this legislation will do.

Some of them are telling us they feel like outcasts in their own province. They feel that the relationship with government has been fundamentally altered, that any trust that they had in the government to treat them fairly has been destroyed. I must say, when you look at a situation like this one, more extreme than that which was put in place by the Cameron Conservatives, more extreme than what was done by the Savage Liberals even though they went through that whole process of wage freeze and a rollback and a loss of wages by the health care workers, it wasn't a freeze of a deal that had been freely arrived at between parties, and that was undemocratic. It was an abuse of power, but it wasn't so fundamentally flawed as this legislation is. It wasn't - as I have explained earlier - anti-democratic. It didn't undermine the very foundations of the society that we live in, unlike this piece of legislation.

There is much of this debate that could degenerate into hyperbole and degenerate into rhetorical flourishes, and I don't want that to happen. I have been trying to point out in very concrete ways why it is that this government ought to follow our lead and vote in favour of the amendment in order to allow the Human Resources Committee to properly deal with this legislation.

I wanted to point out if I could, that this bill raises two key questions that could be answered by the Human Resources Committee. The first one is, who is truly responsible for the delivery of health care in Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, the front-line workers or 12 people who sit behind the closed doors of the Cabinet Room? Who is really responsible for the delivery of health care? You know, and I said this before, but I think it bears repeating in light of this amendment, Nova Scotians won't come here, they won't come to the Legislature looking for health care. They are not going to come here to get a diagnosis or to get some assistance and over some considerable period of time now the Cabinet and the members of the government benches have proven beyond any doubt that they could not walk a mile in the shoes of a health care worker.

So why is it, Mr. Speaker, that all of the decisions, all the terms of employment should be decided by the Cabinet members? Why should those 12 people have the right, absent of any discussion with those who will be directly affected, why should they have the right to simply dictate all the terms that normally would have been negotiated at the bargaining table? What they should be doing, and if they really were committed to it, what they would do is the hard work that I had suggested earlier. They would do the hard work. They would try to come to a meeting of the minds.

You know, Mr. Speaker, that is one of the fundamental tenets of the notion of contract is that you come to a common purpose, that you have a meeting of the minds. There is offer, acceptance, consideration. Those are the mechanics of making up a contract, but the fundamental nature of contract is that you have two parties who want to engage in a common

[Page 5092]

purpose whether it is the provision of a service or product. So when you have a situation where one side is prepared and has the power to dictate the terms, then there is no agreement. There is no contract as the law knows those terms. There is just an imposition of terms of work on an unwilling population whether they are a population of health care workers or otherwise. This sends a loud message to all the other sectors that have to do bargaining with this government. It defines the extent to which this government is prepared to go in its negotiations with all of the unions, with all of the people who have contracts with the government. It shows that they know no bounds, that they will go as far as they consider is required.

So that is the first question that has to be answered by the Committee on Human Resources and the second one, I have mentioned this earlier, Mr. Speaker, is whether 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 and why are they justified? They say that their actions are justified because the members of the bargaining units took their offers, explained them to the membership and defeated them in a democratic vote and they can't live with that. They can't live with the idea that a group of people could discuss an offer and decide it is not fair, that they could have a democratic vote and decide that it didn't meet the aspirations of the collective bargaining unit.

I want to tell you something, Mr. Speaker, it has been said before and perhaps you have heard it before, but if not, I will reiterate it. Employment is not a commodity. It is not something that you put on the shelf, a kind of widget, and can't take off so many hours of employment off the shelf and then when you're through with it put it back. It is not what it is about. Employment is fundamentally different than any other product or service that is sold or bought, because employment is people's lives. They have to invest their time in the work that they do. So it means that they have to achieve different kinds of things.

They have to have job satisfaction, Mr. Speaker, that is what keeps them there. They have to have reasonable remuneration because they have families they have to support. They have to have benefits because as much as they would always want to be well, they may not be or their families may not be. So bargaining for employment is fundamentally different than bargaining to purchase a product. We must always keep that in mind.

Now, the government has an option, it has an opportunity to go back to the bargaining table. They could improve their offer. They could have just simply reflected on why is it that the members of this bargaining unit are so angry, why is it that they are feeling as if they have been betrayed.

Certainly, this would be something that the Committee on Human Resources would have the opportunity to do and then, Mr. Speaker, the committee and/or the Cabinet, or the government could spend the time answering this question. They could spend the time answering the question, what can be done to fix the health care delivery system? You have

[Page 5093]

to remember the number one priority promised by the Premier was that his government would fix health care. That was the number one promise they made to the province. Mr. Speaker, am I running out of time here?

Mr. Speaker, this is something that is going to take some courage. It is going to take some strength of character. It is going to take some moral fibre for the government to do. It is up to them. They have the opportunity to support this amendment and send this off to the Human Resources Committee. So my message to them at this hour of the morning is to seek out that courage, try and find it within yourself to listen to the voices you are hearing. Try to remember the oath that you gave to all of the people who elected you. Try to remember that you promised these people that you would try to find a new path for the province.

Mr. Speaker, I want to end with a quote that I ran across from Ernest Hemingway. Mr. Hemingway passed away back in 1961. He was well known for his strong opinions and he said, "Cowardice, as distinguished from panic, is almost always simply a lack of ability to suspend the functioning of the imagination." I would ask the government members to put aside their imaginations about apprehended emergencies and to do the right thing by the health care workers of this province. Thank you.

[9:45 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: I am happy to stand in my place today and make some comments on Bill No. 68, some comments that might strengthen the fight before us today on behalf of members of the Opposition from the Official Opposition and the members of our caucus. As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, I spent the last number of days at the Maritime Parliamentary Conference in New Brunswick, where we had an opportunity to discuss issues with many of our members of the Legislatures of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Nunavut. The common theme I heard when they made reference to what some referred to as the "rock around the clock" activities in Nova Scotia, what I heard mostly was, why is there back-to-work legislation when there is no strike, when there is no threat of a crisis developing in the health care system and when the health care workers promised they would provide emergency service? Guess what? This government doesn't trust them.

Mr. Speaker, if this government hasn't heard the message yet about how bad this legislation is, then perhaps they should do the right thing and refer this to the Human Resources Committee and ask for their input. I am sure they would help the members of the Tory caucus to really believe the effects this has on not only the health care workers but the sick and the people who need the expertise and the professionalism that we see by our health care workers in this province.

[Page 5094]

Mr. Speaker, I didn't have the opportunity to return to my constituency on the weekend, but I am sure many of the members of the government caucus had that opportunity. I know some had been in their constituency, but they were hard to find, but surely they have heard the comments on the street about this piece of legislation and the opposition to this bill that is growing stronger and stronger every day.

Maybe some of the backbenchers didn't go home on the weekend. Maybe it was not a safe place to be, but I believe if the government would at least let the Human Resources Committee do some research or some travelling around the province, or give them some time to see what the effects of this bill may be on the public of Nova Scotia, I believe the government would benefit greatly.

Mr. Speaker, the Human Resources Committee would allow this government to be seen as open and accountable; certainly that is what this government needs. If there is ever a time that this government should show they are open and accountable, now is the time, a concept that is now lost on the Cabinet and the backbenchers.

Mr. Speaker, you could even go one step further and allow this committee to use its travel budget to visit various parts of the province. What would this do? Well, it would certainly open dialogue so as to allow nurses, health care workers and their families to have a say, in Baddeck, in Neils Harbour, in Cheticamp, Halifax, and Sydney, and probably in Shelburne, too. Perhaps if this government referred this bill to the Human Resources Committee, it might take some of the pressure off the government and their back benchers. I believe that if I were sitting on the back bench right now, I would certainly welcome the opportunity to have the Human Resources Committee come to my community to hear and to respond to all of the concerns that are out there today against this bill. Perhaps beyond listening to the concerns in Bill No. 68, the Human Resources Committee could fulfill another important role.

Mr. Speaker, we have heard over and over again about the Tory blue book. That famous Tory blue book where the Tory's promised that they would do many, many things prior to the election in 1999. We could go on and we could refer to promises that were made, but there is one today that I would like to quote. The blue book says, "Working with the nursing profession to make sure that the work-environment offers a rewarding and positive experience where nurses know that they can properly care for their patients, where they know they are valued and where they are empowered to have input into influencing critical practice outcome." Given that Bill No. 68 does nothing, does absolutely nothing to honour the blue book promises that this government made to the nursing profession, perhaps the Human Resources Committee could be the eyes and the ears of the Cabinet in reference to promises made in the blue book. The Human Resources Committee would enable this government to at least partially complete this blue book promise that has been so badly shattered, that has been terribly shattered by Bill No. 68.

[Page 5095]

Mr. Speaker, it is quite obvious that this government did not consult with the nursing profession, they did not consult with anyone but probably some Tory friends. I believe that is all the input when they introduced this bill. Perhaps by having the Human Resources Committee travel around the province, nurses could have a chance to express to the government what needs to be done to make the work environment a more rewarding place, and what needs to be done to make nurses feel wanted or valued. I am sure that is the message the Human Resources Committee would get, that nurses and all health care professionals are needed and are valued and they would want to hear that they are valued. Perhaps the Human Resources Committee could begin the dialogue with nurses that has obviously not yet started with this government.

If there is one thing that this government should have learned over the weekend, it is that Bill No 68 certainly doesn't address workplace issues or places any value on what nurses do on a daily basis. We all know what nurses and other health care professionals do and the input and the value they are to all of our constituencies and our communities. The Human Resource Committee may be the one group that can try and put the shattered pieces back together again.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 68 is not your average run-of-the mill, back-to-work legislation. As I stated at the beginning of my remarks, we have heard that over and over again as I was talking to MLAs and MHAs in New Brunswick at the conference. They could not understand why the government one day after they appointed a mediator, why they felt that there was a need for back-to-work legislation when there was not strike. That to them was mind-boggling.

Mr. Speaker, it is 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 any negotiations. The precedent being set here is dangerous because it will poison worker-employer relations for years to come. That is why we move the amendment to refer Bill No. 68 to the Human Resources Committee.

In the case of health care workers, this means that the quality of care will suffer, the quality of care that Nova Scotians are so used to will be in doubt. It means that already over-worked and underpaid workers will know their employer has no respect for their years of training and dedicated service to the people of Nova Scotia. We also believe some nurses will put up with a lot to remain in their home towns and raise their children in our fine communities in Nova Scotia. For some that will be enough. Some health care workers will put up with the assault of this Tory Government, knowing that their families can grow up in the same stability and the same luxuries that they did.

[Page 5096]

Mr. Speaker, some nurses will put up with what Shakespeare called, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes because they know that in less than 10 years, they will be able to retire. In fact, many will be able to retire within five years. It is not right, it is not fair and it is downright mean.

The Health Minister, the Premier and the entire Tory caucus do not realize, however, that those few nurses who are graduating will not put up with the disrespect and scorn being heaped on them by this government. These new nurses know that they have opportunities outside of Nova Scotia. They can go to the U.S., to Boston, for instance, where they will receive $64,000 for their services and be appreciated. They know that many American hospitals will pay $3,000 to $10,000 in signing bonuses. Nurses know that if they go to the States, they can work 12 hour shifts and they know they can't be called back for a third shift without being paid overtime. They also know they can work flexible hours and spend more time with families, friends and loved ones. They also know they can take education upgrades, paid for by their employer, knowing full well that they will have time to study. They also know that if they leave Nova Scotia, they will get something they won't get here, that is respect. You know, Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what we will probably see our nurses do.

Mr. Speaker, the nurses today will probably respond to Bill No. 68 by a vote with their feet. They will leave Nova Scotia not because they want to but because their government does not care about health care in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, we ask that this bill be referred to the Human Resources Committee so all these issues can be talked about and be raised and Nova Scotians feel that at least the nurses and other health care workers are given an opportunity to react to Bill No. 68.

[10:00 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, what is this bill all about? It is about attacking the integrity of nurses and other health care workers. It is also a threat to the health and safety of Nova Scotians; not the nurses, but all Nova Scotians. By driving nurses out of this province this bill will close beds, increase wait times, and cause elective surgeries to be cancelled on a daily basis.

Mr. Speaker, this government is spending a lot of taxpayers' dollars on advertising the salaries of nurses and I have heard it the last couple of days, but before I get into that issue let's look at what the Tories promised in the last election from the famous Tory blue book. "A John Hamm government will: Stop spending taxpayers money on politically- motivated advertising;" - what happened to that promise? The advertisements in our papers are politically-motivated advertising and this is exactly what the Tories said they would not do. In typical Tory fashion they have ignored this promise. There were others, but now I want to turn to salaries for a moment.

[Page 5097]

This bill is about salaries for the most part, and not salaries for nurses, but let's look at the following employees of the Department of Health and the salaries of senior staff of our district health authorities and others: The Deputy Minister of Health, over $180,000 per year; also the Associate Deputy Minister of Health, another $100,000; the Assistant Deputy Minister, another $100,000; Chief Information Officer, $100,000; CEO of the Capital District Health Authority, $350,000; Vice President of Human Resources, Capital District Health Authority, $145,000; Vice President of System Development, Capital District Health Authority, $145,000; Vice President of Public Affairs, Capital District Health Authority, $145,000; Vice President of Administration, Capital District Health Authority, $165,000; and Vice President of Diagnostic and Support Services, Capital District Health Authority, $165,000.

Vice President of Health, Capital District Health Authority, $200,000, and what does this person do? Mr. Speaker, that is why we moved this amendment, to refer this bill to the Human Resources Committee. Maybe by doing that we will find out what this person is doing. What does he do for $200,000? Apparently we must have money to pay him, but we don't have any money for front-line workers like our health care workers, our nurses, our other front-line health care workers.

Vice President of Medicine, Capital District Health Authority, $260,000; the Director of Information Technology, Capital District Health Authority, $80,500; the Director of Finance, Capital District Health Authority, $80,500; the Director of Human Resources, Capital District Health Authority, $80,500; Director of Environmental Services, Capital District Health Authority, $80,500 again; Director of Laboratory Services, Capital District Health Authority, $80,500. Mr. Speaker, these are very comfortable salaries. Are these people more important than our front-line workers? I doubt it, but they appear to be well paid.

The Director of Pharmacy Services, Capital Health District, another $80,500 and Director of Diagnostic Imaging, Capital Health District, $80,500 again. The Director of Pharmacy Services, Capital Health District, $80,500, and Mr. Speaker, Director of Food and Nutrition Services, Capital Health District, another $80,500, and the CEO District Health Authority, too, $126,000. If any of the above employees missed work for a week, do you think health care service would suffer? Not likely. Now I am sure they are all good people and we are certainly not criticizing these people and we believe they are committed to the system but let's face the fact, the Public Affairs Vice President does not have to deal with life and death on a daily basis. That is what we are talking about here today. We need fewer spin doctors and more nurses; fewer CEOs and more physiotherapists. We could get along with fewer vice presidents and more technologists. In fact, what this government promised, they promised and we all remember that, Mr. Speaker, more front-line health care workers and fewer administrative positions. We all remember that on this side of the House.

[Page 5098]

What happened to that promise? In fact, to be specific, the Tories said in their blue book, the existing structure has focused almost exclusively on the day-to-day administration of hospitals at the expense of long-term, value-added planning. Regional health boards will be replaced with volunteer, community-driven, as opposed to bureaucratically-driven boards. That is what the blue book said, Mr. Speaker.

Now what happened to that promise? What do the community health boards have to say about this bill? Well, we suggest let's find out and let's ask the Human Resources Committee to have a look at Bill No. 68 and give them some time to make some recommendations to the government. Does it really matter that the community health boards have no real authority in dealing with the health-related issues?

Mr. Speaker, this bill is a creature of the Cabinet, or a monster, I should say. It is a politically-motivated, neo-conservative bill that takes away the collective bargaining rights of workers. Community health boards have no say in the system but who has the say? CEOs do. In fact, the CEO of the Capital Health District claims that this bill does not take away the collective bargaining rights of nurses. That is what the CEO of the Capital Health District claims. Well, it is pretty clear that the CEO has not read the bill in its entirety.

This government made many more promises. In a speech at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital on July 26, 1999, the Premier left them with this message, that is why our health care platform lays out very specific commitments, he says, with very specific time-frames, that includes caregivers, as an integral and important part of finding answers to our health care challenges. Now that is what the Premier said in Yarmouth on July 26, 1999.

How many care-givers did the Cabinet consult with when they introduced Bill No. 68? That is why this amendment is before us today and that is why we are going to take our 20 hours to talk on the amendment to Bill No. 68 to refer it to the Human Resources Committee, because we don't believe that the caregivers had any consultation with Cabinet before or even after they introduced Bill No. 68. In fact, this bill is about telling health care workers that they have no choice. It says that we the Cabinet will tell you when you will work and how much you will get paid and if you don't like, that's tough. Would the Human Resources Committee, if they travel the province, is that the message they would bring back to government? I don't think so.

Mr. Speaker, in fact they are being told that if you don't like it you can't even appeal to the courts. Also Cabinet is saying, we will take away your right to strike, your right to collective bargaining and your right as a human being to work under livable conditions. That is what the Cabinet is saying to our health care workers. What is worse is that this bill is being forced on health care workers with the full complicity of the backbenchers. That comes as a surprise because we remember during the campaign the Premier was very strong on free votes in the House. We remember him saying that. This is an opportunity for the

[Page 5099]

backbenchers to show what they are made of and to see if they will support their communities and their health care workers in their communities and vote against Bill No. 68.

Can you imagine some members from Metro Halifax. Take the honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin whose area, I am sure, has many health care workers as it covers the Clayton Park area. Can you imagine the reaction of the health care workers in the Bedford Basin area? I am sure that they would want the member to vote against this bill. You would think that the member would want to because how many health care workers would there be in the Halifax Bedford Basin riding? Would there be 1,000, would there be 2,000? There could be as many as 3,000. We believe that all members of the House, the backbenchers and the Cabinet, they owe it to the workers and to the nurses to explain why they support such draconian legislation, that is not asking too much. If they want to support it, let them tell their constituents and the health care workers why they feel they should support it.

Many Nova Scotians don't believe there is a threat to our health care system or to the service provided by the service providers. The nurses promised that they would provide emergency services when needed. I am sure that any reasonable Nova Scotian would want to believe that the nurses would provide the service that they promised. So why are the only people that don't trust them the 30 elected Tory members? If these members can't explain their position to the people of Nova Scotia on the floor of this House, they will have to explain it to the constituents on the doorsteps in the next election. Any member owes that to their constituency. They owe that to the ill, the people who need the services of our health care workers. The member for Kings South has become the self-styled conscience of the Tory caucus because he writes good columns occasionally in The Daily News. In a recent column he had talked about the power of apologies. Well, this member can apologize to nurses for forcing them to take a contract without negotiations. I would like to read that column, if the member will do it and I would think he should if he has a conscience, he will at least speak to this bill in one form or another.

[10:15 a.m.]

That member for Kings South always says that substantial debate never happens in this House. That is what he said. I think the time is now for the member to maybe break that cycle and let's hear from the member for Kings South what he thinks of this bill that is before the House today. If there were ever a time to speak in the House, it is now. Perhaps this is the most substantial piece of legislation to hit the floor of the House this year. Not because it protects the safety of Nova Scotians but because it jeopardizes the safety of all Nova Scotians. It means that there will be fewer nurses and more overworked nurses. It means delays in lab tests and it means delays in surgery and delays in every procedure.

[Page 5100]

Many of us believe that this government just can't get it - they just can't seem to get the message or can't get the message through from Nova Scotians to this government. The big message out there is that there is a shortage of nurses throughout North America. Does any member of the government understand that? I know the Tories are big fans of the marketplace and they are big supporters of the laws of supply and demand. They know all about that, at least they should. It is too bad that they don't respect the laws of the land by taking away the rights of appeal to the courts. Simple supply and demand dictates that this government is going to have to pay nurses what they are worth. Most of all, the government will have to ensure that there are better working conditions.

If we are going to maintain a level of standards for the nursing profession in this province, we are going to have to pay the nurses what they are worth. But, most of all, the government will have to ensure them of equal or better working conditions or equal to what they would get in another province or another jurisdiction. If they do not, nurses will simply go where they will get the price that supply dictates. Very simple. If you don't want me, somebody else does.

We may be able to keep our existing nurses, but no nurses will come to Nova Scotia and no new nurse will stay in this province. The government's defense is simple and we hear it almost daily. We do not have enough money. But, what about the salaries I read off a few moments ago? There was money for those salaries. Why isn't there money for the front-line workers? That is where the buck should stop. Whose fault is it that they don't have enough money? Is it the nurses'? I don't think so. Is it the taxpayer? Well, I don't believe that either. If this government is short of money, it is because they are mismanaging the funds of this province. That is why we moved this amendment to refer this bill to the Human Resources Committee for consultation.

Since the fall of 1999, this government has received $613 million in additional revenue. In fact, if you add $140 million from the sale of Nova Scotia Resources Limited, this government has received $753 million in extra revenue. If they can't balance the budget with that kind of money, I doubt they ever will. If they can't balance a budget and have money left over for health, they never will. If it is not enough, according to the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, this government will receive an additional $600 million in federal transfers. What the government is really saying is that we have to nickel and dime health care workers.

Why? So we can pay for tax cuts in year four. Why year four? Does that ring a bell? To many of us it does. It is bad enough that taxes are going up through the back door because of bracket creep. It is bad enough that the provincial portion of the federal tax cut was taken away from Nova Scotians, now they are picking the pockets of our health care workers to pay for the tax cut that they want to provide in four years' time.

[Page 5101]

As I said before, the nursing crisis is about supply and demand. This government is comparing the salaries of Nova Scotian with the other Atlantic Provinces. We are not losing nurses to New Brunswick, we are losing nurses to New England where they get paid over $60,000 a year. We are also losing nurses to Ontario where the maximum salary is $59,000. We are losing nurses to western Canada, to Alberta where salaries are $55,000 and no sales tax.

The government can bury their heads in the sand if they like, but Nova Scotia will lose nurses and other health care workers. The North American shortage of nurses - 126,000 in the U.S. alone - means that Nova Scotia will have to step up to the plate or we won't have nurses. Nurses will leave. Not only is there a shortage of nurses, but the United States also needs 46,000 pharmacists, lab technicians, X-ray technicians and physiotherapists. Hear what the Premier said about health care workers on Saturday, June 19, 1999 at the QE II Health Science Centre. This is what 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 this province. That is what he said on June 19, 1999 at the QE II.

It is a different story now. What is he saying now? So far, the Premier has not spoken about this bill in the House. We are disappointed with that and I am sure the nursing profession, the health profession is disappointed with that. In fact, the Health Minister has not stood in his place and defended his actions on Bill No. 68. Surely, they could have at least tried to present their case or why they felt that this Bill No. 68 was necessary or why it was rammed through the House in the fashion it is. Is there a real hurry? What is the rush? Summer is long, why are we sitting around the clock? Surely, the Premier or the Health Minister could at least enlighten Nova Scotians and the health care profession as to why there is such a rush to get this bill through the House, particularly only one day after appointing a mediator in the dispute. Simply put, this bill is an attack on health care workers and an attack on the health care of every Nova Scotian.

The government is saying that they need this bill to protect public safety. I wonder why the public doesn't see it that way. The public doesn't feel threatened, the public doesn't feel at risk because the nurses and the health care professionals said they would provide emergency service. That was good enough for Nova Scotians, but no it is not good enough for this Cabinet and the backbenchers. Nova Scotians believe, sincerely believe, that this bill has nothing to do with public safety.

Mr. Speaker, do you honestly think that a government that would not pass a bill to protect children by requiring them to wear helmets when on scooters or roller blades, do we really believe they care about public safety? If this government cared about public safety, it would twin Highway No. 101 with or without federal help, as the honourable member for Hants West has promised during the election campaign, we will twin it with or without federal help. If this government cared about public safety, I would think they would have

[Page 5102]

repaired the bridge in Middle River. The honourable member for Preston told me that he spoke at a meeting in Baddeck on the weekend and he did promise them there was good news coming on the Middle River bridge. So that will be a relief to the people of Middle River and will be a relief to their health and their safety if the need arises.

Mr. Speaker, if this government cared about public safety, would they have lowered the fines for tobacco smuggling and made it so easy for teenagers and younger people to get addicted to tobacco? If this government cared about public safety, would they have planned to have alcohol in pharmacies? If this government cared about public safety, would they be faster and more effective in cleaning up the tar ponds and coke oven sites in Sydney? These are all health care, these are all safety concerns that the public is concerned about. If this government cared about public safety, it would implement concrete crime prevention initiatives instead of dumb legislation as we have seen tabled here a number of times, the johns bill. If this government cared about public safety, they would devote every new tobacco tax to help fight tobacco use among our young people.

Mr. Speaker, if this government cared about public safety, they would not allow cuts to physical education programs which we see happen across our province. If this government cared about public safety, they would treat health care workers with respect and dignity as most Nova Scotians do. Many Nova Scotians appreciate the work of our front-line health care workers. If they cared about public safety, would they require nurses to work four to five 12 hour shifts in a row? Is that a concern about safety? Government requires truck drivers and bus drivers to limit their hours on the road, but nurses keep being forced to work shift after shift without overtime pay.

This bill is about government flexing its muscles, this bill is about taking away collective bargaining rights. I don't believe many Nova Scotians agree with taking away bargaining rights. This bill is about taking the right of appeal away from Nova Scotians. It is about dictating the terms of a contract with no input from health care professionals.

[10:30 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, many Nova Scotians believe this bill has nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with satisfying the ego of the Premier and his Cabinet. Many Nova Scotians don't believe today that this is the same Premier, this same kind, country doctor that they voted for in 1999. What do they think of the doctor today? What do the nurses think of the doctor? Maybe some of them may have worked with him. Do the nurses believe and the health care workers that when this good country doctor says jump, they ask just how high? I don't think so.

Mr. Speaker, health care workers aren't going to do what the Premier is asking them to do. I think that health care workers are going to stand up and be counted and we see that in every newscast. They are going to take a stand and they will continue to demand their

[Page 5103]

human rights be respected. This government may not listen but, if that is the case, they are the ones who are putting public safety at risk. We believe that very sincerely.

Mr. Speaker, we remember the paramedics strike. We all remember that. We remember the support that was out there from the public and we heard about the cases where paramedics saved lives and people remember that and they appreciate it. Bill No. 68 is about dictatorship. Bill No. 68 is not what Nova Scotians want. If there is a profession in Nova Scotia where people are respected, it is our health care workers, it is our nurses and not only the work they do in hospitals, the work they do in communities with volunteer work. We won't forget the accident that happened last week down in the Valley where the McLaughlin lady saved the life of an individual and that is the type of thing that our health care workers are respected for.

Mr. Speaker, in the small community where I live, and I am sure many other communities, where you have a nurse in your community, that individual is called on time and time again. They come willingly and they come without any hesitation or any reservation whatsoever. The health care workers are there to support Nova Scotians. I think that we should show more respect to our front-line health care workers who feel that this government is taking what rights and what respect they had left. This government has taken that from them and I think this government will one day pay the price for that. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this is my second opportunity to stand in my place and speak to Bill No. 68. I last had an opportunity to make some remarks on Friday with respect to the amendment that had been put on the floor at that time by the Leader of my Party, Darrell Dexter, the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, looking to hoist Bill No. 68 for a six month period and, unfortunately, that amendment was not passed because of the greater number of government members here in the Chamber.

We are now, as I understand, debating an amendment to Bill No. 68 that would refer this flawed piece of legislation to the Standing Committee on Human Resources. This is a committee of which I am a member and I can say that that is a committee that is very active. It is chaired by the honourable member for Kings North, who attempts to bring an air of civility to that committee. We have been bringing before that committee witnesses from the cultural industries in Nova Scotia, an important sector of our economy, to talk about their concerns and their human resource requirements and needs and how they see government in that process of trying to provide or create an environment that would make participation in cultural industries satisfactory. I can think of no other sector that would deserve the same kind of attention and I would be very pleased to participate in an examination of Bill No. 68 in the health care sector in front of the Human Resources Committee. So I certainly stand here in my place in support of this amendment.

[Page 5104]

Although I must say, when I came back here to the Legislature this morning at 6:00 a.m. to start my shift, I listened to my colleague, the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto, who raised some, I thought, very thoughtful points about whether or not we might be better served in sending Bill No. 68 to a select committee but, nevertheless, the amendment that we have would see this bill go the Human Resource Committee. I am sure that committee would give it the kind of attention that is required and treat it with the respect and the consideration it deserves.

Mr. Speaker, I thought a fair amount over the weekend about Bill No. 68 and I don't imagine that any member of this House could avoid doing so given the extent of the media coverage, the extent of the propaganda campaign that the government has embarked on with advertisements in the newspaper and on radio stations, paid for by the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, promoting their point of view with respect to this legislation. Just as the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto outlined, going through your daily routine back in your home constituency, in the grocery stores and at yard sales and various public events, it certainly was the case that I was meeting a larger number of people than normal who wanted to stop me and have very detailed discussions about Bill No. 68.

Those discussions were very interesting, Mr. Speaker, and they are the kinds of discussions that referring this bill to the Human Resource Committee could prove very useful to promote and help people understand more about what this bill is about. Perhaps even more so, help people understand what this government thinks it is doing and try to generate into this process some accountability. There seems to be two things happening with respect to the people that I am talking to in my constituency. One is that they want to know more about what the bill is about and they have a profound sense that something has gone very wrong with this government.

Even more so, I think, Mr. Speaker, people are very concerned about the manner in which this government is going about its business and they see in this, this process of forging ahead in a very rapid way with such a draconian piece of legislation. They see in this process the side of government that they find very distressing because, after all, this is our government, whether you supported the Premier in the election campaign in the summer of 1999 or not. What they are seeing is a face, is a kind of heavy-handed ham-fisted, if you will, approach that disturbs people profoundly. Because whether or not they are health care workers, they recognize that what is being done to health care workers, in this instance, can be done to another group in another instance. It is health care workers today, but it will be teachers tomorrow. It will be people in other sectors sooner or later, and that is very clear to people in the community.

It is very interesting because now people in my community are making the connection with Bill No. 20 that was passed here not so many weeks ago, that members of the Opposition talked about the concentration of power in the inner sanctuaries of a small group within the Cabinet, away from a much more democratic and open and accountable kind of

[Page 5105]

process. We wondered, Mr. Speaker, at that time, what the government's agenda actually was. Well, we see it now in Bill No. 68. Through the Law Amendments process on Bill No. 20, people came forward and they told us that their fear was that the agenda of this government was to do, in a very surreptitious kind of way, in the backrooms, what they weren't prepared publicly to do.

So this is a government that wasn't publicly prepared to freeze wages. This is a bill that wasn't publicly prepared to roll back benefits and wages, but they are prepared to do it in other ways. We saw that, certainly, with the janitors and the strike that the custodial workers and the janitors went through in the Halifax Regional School Board. The Minister of Education, consistently, on the floor in this House claimed that she had no role in provoking and promoting the circumstances under which that strike occurred and workers in those particular settings had to take to the streets and had to fight their hardest to stand in one place, to try to hold on to the gains that they have made in their workplaces to secure a fair wage in exchange for the work that they do - to ensure that they had health benefits if they or their children or husbands or wives should require medication or hospital care.

We are seeing that same kind of approach here, except we are seeing it a little more clearly, I think, and more openly. The ideology, the values, the beliefs of this government, what they truly value, what their real intent is with respect to governing in the Province of Nova Scotia and how they see their own workforce, how they see people who work in the public sector. How they understand their job, both as a government and a provider of public services, but also as an employer and whether or not they see themselves as a responsible employer.

Mr. Speaker, in the conversations I have had with people over the weekend, one of the things that has occurred to me and causes me a great deal of consternation and concern, to be clear, is the fact that there are no health care providers as elected members of this House of Assembly, as far as I know. To me, this is a tragedy at this time. It is so unfortunate that the extraordinary experiences and the knowledge, the passion, the feelings, the integrity of those members of the helping professions who work in health care services in this province have to stand outside this Chamber and try to get their message across because they don't have here, on the floor of the House of Assembly, an elected member who is a nurse, who is a physiotherapist, who is an occupational therapist, who is an LPN, who is a dietitian, who comes out of the health care profession. The situation that these people are facing every day is unknown to members of this House of Assembly. I think that is really too bad.

[10:45 a.m.]

I say that having, in the past few days, met with many people who have come down here to the Legislature to make their views known and to try to educate members of this Legislature about what it is that has caused the level of frustration and anger and hurt, Mr. Speaker, because many of these people are hurt and feel profoundly betrayed by their own

[Page 5106]

government, a government that in some cases many of these people supported. They believed the Premier when he campaigned in the election campaign of 1999, that he would respect and value them. So they feel very hurt and betrayed.

In speaking with many women and men, it has certainly been an education to learn more about the complexity of this situation and the complexity of the various health care providers who are involved. Now, Mr. Speaker, we know that nurses, LPNs and registered nurses are, numerically, the largest group of health care providers in the Province of Nova Scotia. We know that in terms of this legislation, they are the largest group, numerically, who will be impacted by this legislation in a very negative way. We have heard members of this Chamber stand up and speak with feeling and respect around the nursing situation. I will attempt to say a few things I think around the nursing situation.

Mr. Speaker, there are other groups of health care providers who, I think, from what I am hearing, are feeling they want to have respect and have their profession acknowledged and understood here in this Legislature as well. These health care providers include lab technicians, X-ray technologists, radiation and ultrasound technologists, physiotherapists, pharmacists, occupational therapists, psychologists, social workers and there are probably some other health care providers in categories of specialization that I have not referred to.

I have a particular concern about this group of workers, perhaps because I am a social worker and I come out of the health care profession, as a social worker in the Faculty of Social Work at Dalhousie and I have worked in psychiatric social work in a clinical setting in a hospital with many of these other health care providers. I can tell you that this isn't a group of people who take the work that they do lightly. They don't consider it simply a job, it is a vocation. It is an area where people have invested many years of their lives acquiring advanced educational training and for that they very often receive fairly modest remuneration in terms of wages and benefits. I have received some information, for example, that does a comparison of the salaries for clinical social workers in Nova Scotia compared to Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, if you look at this group, social workers in acute care settings have a Masters degree in social work. They have studied for three to four years for a Bachelor of Arts degree, they have studied for two to three for a Bachelor of Social Work degree, then they take probably a year to 18 months to do a Masters degree in social work, perhaps they have taken two years to do that. So they have university education, anywhere between six years and nine years of university education. The salary range in Nova Scotia today for a clinical social worker is between $36,888 and $45,010 for a person who has spent between six and nine years investing in a university education. Over and above that, that person may have taken all kinds of specialized courses; courses in bereavement counselling, courses in working with children who have terminal illnesses, perhaps in addictions, all kinds of very specialized education.

[Page 5107]

When you look at the salaries that people make they are modest salaries for that level of education. When you compare them to the other Atlantic Provinces, Nova Scotian social workers in these acute care settings make less money than social workers in any other Atlantic Provinces, including P.E.I., a province that is much smaller than ours. So, Mr. Speaker, I think that when you start to look at the fine print, when you go out and investigate the real information, the information that this government is not providing in their slick TV and newspaper ads, the misinformation, in fact.

One very senior nurse who is outside the bargaining unit at the QE II stopped me in the grocery market on the weekend and talked to me about her deep concern about the misinformation that this government is providing in their ads and the importance that members of the Legislature take it upon ourselves to go out and ferret out, if you will, the details of the reality of what is fuelling the anger and the frustration of workers in the health care system that have brought us to this space. That information is there, it is readily available and it is very shocking when you start to see the extent to which workers in Nova Scotia have been asked to continue to provide high-quality, effective health care services for love, but not for real remuneration, not for the remuneration that their counterparts in other Atlantic Provinces are receiving.

Mr. Speaker, these workers are now saying enough, we have done enough for love, we now want to be valued. After all, these health care providers cannot go to Home Depot, they can't go to Kent Building Supplies or a department store and buy a bedroom set for their kids and say well, we will give you this much but the rest - you are going to give us for the love of it. They have to be able to live in a world where the cost of living is increasingly galloping ahead, high fuel costs, high education costs, more user fees, a concern about how they are going to support themselves in their senior years at adequate levels of income. So, like any other group, they have a number of things they have to balance and look at, including their own need for fair remuneration for their work so they can participate at a living standard that reflects the hard work they do and provide adequately for themselves and for their children.

Mr. Speaker, there is ample evidence in studies and in just speaking with people who work in our health care sector, it has been restructured, reorganized, reinvented, to the point that the intensity of the work, the amount of work that individual workers are being asked to do has become a particular burden and that may be for some groups, the caseloads, the number of people they have to provide services to, have to make phone calls on behalf of, they have to do investigations to find out what the financial circumstances are of various people and whether or not they have health insurance, whether or not they have drug plans, whether or not they have a place to go to with sufficient home care and follow-up services after leaving hospital. The conditions of work are another issue for many of these workers.

Mr. Speaker, on Friday evening, before I left for the day, I was stopped in the hallway by a group - I think, if I get it correct, they were nuclear radiologist technicians, a group of men and women who told me that on average, they have two degrees, a significant amount

[Page 5108]

of formal education to do the work they do. They were so frustrated about the fact that they are not adequately compensated but they also talked about the lack of equipment and up-to-date equipment and how equipment that is constantly breaking down leads to an inability to keep up with the work. They actually told me there was equipment at the QE II that was so old and out of date that it kept having a short circuit and the fire department was being called in to see what the problem was as a fire alarm was going off.

[11:00 a.m.]

These are professionals who have a set amount of people booked to get through the diagnostic process every day and it is a race against the clock to be able to do all of the work that is required. It is insulting not to adequately pay these people, but then to ask them to do this work and to do it in a timely and efficient and effective fashion, with some professionalism, but they are not provided the necessary tools, you can only imagine how they must feel. They are feeling pretty used, pretty abused, and pretty much taken for granted by this government. They too said that enough is enough.

It concerned me a great deal as I drove home thinking about this one younger man in the group whom I met, who told me that he was leaving Nova Scotia. Not because he wanted to leave Nova Scotia, but he was leaving because he had no choice. He had a huge student debt load that he had to deal with and he had this great training, he had lots of opportunities elsewhere and he saw no future for himself here in the Province of Nova Scotia.

I can't imagine being in that situation. I went back to school as an older person, and when I completed my studies I too had some choice about where I would go in this country to work, to teach in a school of social work. I will tell you, I could not imagine leaving Nova Scotia. If I did, I would want it to be by choice, not to be by force. This is what this government is doing to young, highly trained, highly motivated, enthusiastic health care providers - nurses and other health care professionals - they are being left with no choice but to leave Nova Scotia and go off to pursue the profession of their dreams.

For most people, entering a profession, as I said, it is not anything other than a vocation. For most people, it is something that they have planned for, they have thought about, they have dreamt of doing for many, many years. It is a very proud day for many of these young people - and some not so young sometimes - when they finally complete the formal education and the practicum that is required to enable them to be a paid health care professional.

Throughout this relatively short period of time since Bill No. 68 has been introduced, we have had what I would term a rather disturbing period of silence from members of the government benches opposite in terms of participating in this debate, in terms of standing here in the House of Assembly to explain precisely what this government thinks it is doing. I understand and I feel compelled to speak to the fact that the Minister of Justice, I believe,

[Page 5109]

is pretty well the only person who stood in his place to make any comments on the bill. He actually spent very little time commenting on the bill, but in a rather disturbing way, he suggested that for every minute that a member of the Opposition took speaking on Bill No. 68, the members of the public would be denied their right to appear in front of the Law Amendments Committee to express their views, and their concerns about this bill.

I want to register a very, very strong concern about that kind of idea being put forward by the Minister of Justice. At best I think it was a caution or a warning aimed toward the Opposition. At worst I see it as a threat and perhaps a threat to health care providers themselves. As I said, there are no members in this House, there are no nurses who are legislators here, who can rise in their place and speak on behalf of their profession. There are no LPNs that I am aware of who can rise in their place and speak on behalf of their profession. There are no occupational therapists here who can rise in their place and speak on behalf of their profession, who tell their story, who can say, this is what I have been doing for the past 15 years or however long and this is what has been occurring in the last five years. This is why I think Bill No. 68 is problematic because here are the implications for me, for my colleagues, for the health care system that we are committed to upholding.

Mr. Speaker, the Law Amendments Committee process is a sacred trust that we have with people in Nova Scotia, to give them the opportunity to come here, have voice, participate in this democratic process, particularly, when those groups are not at all represented in a very direct way but only indirectly here on the floor of the House of Assembly. So I say to that Minister of Justice, shame on you for even suggesting, for even hinting that you would limit the opportunities for members of those professional groups, who your legislation is going to devastate, that you would suggest in any way that you are going to limit their right to democratic process. The democratic process that government members, particularly the Minister of Justice should swear to uphold and follow through on upholding that process.

If we were to adopt this amendment, we would also have the opportunity for the Human Resources Committee to hear from members of the public. We would have an opportunity, I am sure, to hear from front-line health care workers, we would have the opportunity for consumers to come forward and bring forward their perspective. The perspective of consumers is a very important perspective. I would imagine that many of us here have been consumers of the acute care system in the health care system. Perhaps we have a family member, perhaps we have an elderly parent or a person in our neighbourhood, someone we know who relies on a regular basis on the health care system.

Mr. Speaker, I certainly am in that situation, where I have both a parent and also a very good friend, who has a serious heart condition that requires regular monitoring by blood tests to keep track of what is occurring, with respect to the effectiveness of her medication. I spoke with her on the weekend because she was concerned about what would happen to the monitoring of her situation if there was to be a strike, particularly a strike in the labs. It is an

[Page 5110]

obvious question, an obvious concern, a fair concern, one that I heard a number of nurses this morning being interviewed on CBC Information Morning about what their commitment was to a contingency plan. I would imagine, Mr. Speaker, that you and other members of this House would have received a copy of the Capital District Health Authority's contingency plan which has been set into motion. It was put into place prior to June 13th, released on June 13th, and the countdown is currently underway.

Under this plan, the plan is one, if I could read a wee bit from this plan, and I would be happy to table this, is that while we are hoping to avert a strike, as a responsible organization charged with the care of our patients, we must put our contingency plan in motion to reduce the number of in-patient beds to levels that can be staffed. This plan, Mr. Speaker, says that the current capacity of the QE II is 1,030 beds and they have a targeted negotiation with the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union to reduce that number to 515 beds, of which 175 will be occupied by veterans. They lay out, in point form, not a great deal of detail in summary form, but I would submit that within the Capital District Health Authority they would have much more detailed information than this that would accompany each one of the summarized points in this plan, precisely what they would be doing. It looks like a fairly comprehensive plan, starting with Day 14, where six site control centres are established to provide the coordinating of operations and monitor quality of care at the site level. They go through, on a day-to-day basis. So this is what is going to happen on Day 14, which would have been June 13th. They lay it out how this is going to work.

Then they go to Day 10, all elective, same-day admission surgeries stop, except for day surgery patients, those admitted and discharged on the same day. So yes, there is some modification going on within the Capital District but essentially, the idea that there was no contingency plan, no plan to continue to provide essential services and emergency care. Well, Mr. Speaker, I find that quite peculiar, frankly, given that the Capital District Health Authority has set out here, with some detail, their contingency plan which, in fact, is now in motion. So there seems to be a bit of a discrepancy in what the Minister of Health consistently tries to spin out to the public to justify Bill No. 68 and the reality of what is occurring within the Capital District.

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the Minister of Health now, ever since he became the Minister of Health. There are days when I shake my head and think, thank Heavens he is not a doctor in his real life because I can't imagine he would have too many patients lining up to see him. He doesn't seem to have all that great a grasp on diagnosing what is actually the reality presented to him.

Mr. Speaker, the reality around the agreements between the health care providers and the Capital District Health Authority, for example, was that particular services would be maintained and I think it is very important to reassure members of the public that this is the case. This government frequently likes to accuse the Opposition of scare-mongering. Well I will tell you, the kind of scare-mongering that has been done by the Minister of Health and

[Page 5111]

the Premier around this situation it is personally upsetting to me because of the number of seniors I have in my constituency, who are very vulnerable to these kinds of pronouncements, by the very head of the province saying that there is no plan. Saying that well the little ideas that have been floated to take care of people, you can't really rely on the health care providers, the nurses don't really mean that they are going to provide essential services.

[11:15 a.m.]

You can't say those kinds of things without causing anxiety, particularly for people who are sick, people trying to deal with illness and disease, people who are vulnerable. It is important that we let people know that emergency rooms are going to be staffed, that cancer care is going to be there, just as if there wasn't a labour situation. The veterans are going to be cared for, that the long-term mental health services are going to be maintained at the levels that the Centre District Health Authority requires, and that hemodialyses is going to be maintained. These are life-threatening situations that people find themselves in and they need to know that agreements have been made so that those services will be provided, business as usual. They don't need our Premier and they don't need our Minister of Health scare-mongering and fear-mongering and creating the kind of anxiety that they are going to have those life-threatening services taken away from them as a result of this situation.

Mr. Speaker, if there is anything I can do in my place in this Legislature and from my place in my constituency, it will be speaking to the seniors and speaking to people who have these serious problems, to reassure them that they are not going to be let down by our health care providers. This is a very caring, responsible, responsive group of people who are professionals. Yes, while they are frustrated, they are angry and they are hurt, this isn't the first time that they have been frustrated, angry or hurt by a government in this province. In the past they didn't let people down and they certainly won't let people down this time either. So I think we really need to make that clear and understood.

I want to turn briefly to discuss nursing in particular. I have so far not addressed the situation with respect to the nursing profession, mostly because other members of my Party have certainly done that and I think they have done a very good job of talking about the nursing profession. I wanted to take my place and bring in the perspective or at least raise the issue that there are other specialities and there are other professions here. But I want that to be understood that doesn't mean that I don't hold with the greatest respect, the women and the men who do nursing - both as registered nurses and licensed practical nurses - because I certainly do. I have had occasion in my own working life to work with nurses in the mental health field and I could not have found a better group of colleagues to work with. Certainly they gave me a great deal of insight into the role of nurses in our acute care facilities. I have to say that I have worked with community health nurses and they are a wonderful part of the health care providers in this province.

[Page 5112]

I had a chance to raise this in the debate earlier on Friday, 97 per cent of nurses are women. I don't think it is any accident that we have not only in Nova Scotia, but in provinces right across the country, nurses becoming more vocal and more insistent that they are not going to sit back and put up with the kind of conditions that have been the result of health care reform and what that has meant for their profession.

I believe that nurses and people who are primarily women are like women generally, I guess. We are often socialized, we are often trained to put the interests of others ahead of our own. It is only when we are pushed and pushed too far that we finally say enough. When we say enough, we generally mean it and we mean it with a vengeance, Mr. Speaker. I don't know if you know what I mean, but some people will certainly know what I mean. I think in this case what people don't understand and what people need to understand is the kind of health care reform that has really been about cuts and reducing the numbers of people who are there to do an ever-increasing amount of work.

The acuity of the work, the degree of difficulty, the acuteness of the situations that nurses, in particular, are dealing with in acute care facilities is such that it has taken its toll on these workers, on these working men and women. It has done so in a way that it has had a dramatic, negative impact on their home and family life. Women workers are constantly in a situation where they have to juggle home and family life with their paid employment. Quite often, and particularly when you consider the nature of shift work, it means that you frequently work hours that are unsociable, you work weekends, you work at times when your friends and family members have time off because they have a regular 9 to 5, Monday to Friday kind of job. You end up working on Mother's Day, Father's Day, missing the school concerts, you might miss the soccer games. There is a certain amount of unsociability, if you will, about shift work and the kinds of things that make it difficult to participate in a world that is quite often organized around notions that people have weekends and evenings off, which is not the case for health care providers.

So, what this means is that for workers who are health care workers, they need to have some regularity then in their shift scheduling so that - okay, they are shift workers, they know that going into the job, they accept that, but they cannot be in a situation where constantly they have no way to predict their working hours - they have no way to predict that they are going to be called back constantly. They can't get the vacation time that corresponds with when their partner, their spouse, is going to be able to get vacation time or when their children who are living some place else are coming home for a period of time and they want to have some time off to spend some quality family time. The health care reform has taken such a huge toll on this group of people, primarily women, in a way that they are bone tired, they are unable to really fulfill and lead the kind of family and home life that they want and they need and they require.

[Page 5113]

I always remember, Mr. Speaker, a woman who I met on the doorstep in the summer election campaign of 1999. A nurse who had two young children who were probably one year old, maybe a little older than one, and three. She described to me the difficulty she had finding the time to do her profession, to nurse, but also to be a mom and for the family to do some quality things together. She told me that there were evenings when she just cried because she could not get to a place where there was any kind of balance between her work life and her home life. It had reached the point where she and her husband had decided, one more year. She would spend one more year as a nurse and if things didn't improve she was going to leave nursing.

I heard this story actually more than once, but one of the things that concerned me so much from this particular constituent of mine was that she was a very highly formally educated, very skilled nurse. She worked in a specialty unit, I can't remember which unit that was, but it was a specialty unit. A unit where we have seen shortages, nursing shortages, because of the difficulty attracting and retaining nurses with that kind of specialty training. She described so clearly what the problem was and what would be required for her to be able to stay in that job. Mr. Speaker, this bill, if she hasn't already left the profession of nursing, I would have no hesitancy in making a pretty good bet that this bill will be the bill that will drive that woman out of the nursing labour force in our health care system and I say shame on this government for doing that.

On Saturday when I was out meeting people and people were talking to me about this bill, I met a woman who lives in my constituency who is a nurse. She has been a nurse for many years. She is a person who is very active in the nursing profession, has done a lot of work with the Registered Nurses Association - continues to do so. Does a lot of work with the School of Nursing at Dalhousie, to the extent that she can - participates in research projects. She has been a teacher of nurses, she is a manager of nurses, she is a person who is very much involved in designing health care provision and looks at the optimum ways of getting an efficient and effective service. She said to me, Maureen, you know we were at a point in Nova Scotia where we were either going to go forward and realize some positive change for the nursing profession or we were going to be thrown into absolute crisis. What this bill does, without any question, is it leads us on the path to a health care crisis in Nova Scotia like people have never seen.

[11:30 a.m.]

That sent a chill through me like nothing else I have heard since Bill No. 68 was introduced. Mr. Speaker, I would encourage, especially members of the back bench, not to sit back and be passive. If there is ever a time for you to rise to the occasion and show some gumption, it is on Bill No. 68 that you should do so. Thank you very much.

[Page 5114]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, just before I start my hour, would you please call for a quorum count at this point.

MR. SPEAKER: A quorum count has been called for. (Interruptions) Order, please. When a quorum is called for, members are allowed to enter the Chamber to be included in the quorum count and there is a sufficient number for a quorum.

The honourable member for Glace Bay has the floor.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I was just hoping that everyone will pay attention, for a change, because I have something to say today.

You know through all of this incredible debate we are taking part in right now, which has been called everything from draconian, outrageous, excessive, unconstitutional and just plan nasty legislation, what has come out of it all is that indeed, there are two sides to the story, I know that, and some are saying this is right, some are saying this is wrong, and how can the government get out of this now because they are into it too far. What can they do to back out of this, and let's stop this once and for all. Let's withdraw Bill No. 68, how can we do it?

Well, we know now that the terrible trio - the Justice Minister, the Finance Minister and the Government House Leader on that side, the terrible trio are not going to do that. The terrible trio have decided that this is going to go ahead, no matter what, no matter if health care workers decide to work-to-rule, no matter if health care workers decide to show up by the thousands tomorrow at Province House, which I hope they do. They are calling for a few thousand, I hope there are 10,000 workers outside of Province House tomorrow. You can use all of the gates and all of the chains and all of the barricades and all the police officers in metropolitan Halifax, if you have to, but I hope they are there, to show this government that they mean business and that they are doing wrong.

Mr. Speaker, out of all that, what can happen right now is the solution to this whole crisis we are in. That solution rests entirely with the backbenchers of the Tory Government. They are the ones who can solve this problem right now. Backbenchers. Number one, they are not members of the government (Interruption) They are not. They are not members of the Executive Council. The Executive Council of government consists of Cabinet Ministers. So what we have on that side of the House - and there are 18 of them - so, I think our chances are pretty good with 18 backbenchers. I think out of 18, if we search hard enough, if we get the message through to at least one of those 18 backbenchers to stand up and say that they are against this legislation, for whatever reason. Pick a part of this legislation that you don't like, stand up in your place because you have that right, you do not have to kowtow to any of those Cabinet Ministers or to the Premier for that matter. You do not have to follow their

[Page 5115]

line, you do not have to listen to the terrible trio over there and you can stand up in your place and say, I don't like it for this reason.

In my opinion, that would start a chain reaction in this Chamber. That would start a chain reaction among government backbenchers. If one government backbencher stood up and said for this particular reason, I don't like it, I firmly believe that another government backbencher would then rise to their feet and say, wait a minute, I don't like it either. That chain reaction would continue to the point where there would be enough government backbenchers standing up talking against this bill. There would be more than the Cabinet ministers, more than the Cabinet Ministers combined.

Don't worry that you will be punished. Do not worry about that. As a matter of fact, as we stand here today, I would dare say that if a government backbencher started that chain reaction and got on their feet they would not be punished, they would become heroes. Heroes, not only in this Chamber, but in this province, in their own constituency. I would say they would guarantee themselves re-election. Guaranteed that they would go back to power.

AN HON. MEMBER: What a reward.

MR. WILSON: What a reward is right. The member for Yarmouth says what a reward. Well, it is not much of a reward to go back on that side of the House, but perhaps the people in your constituency would say, you had enough intestinal fortitude to stand up, why don't you stand up right now and say something about this bill, exactly what it is . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Yarmouth.

MR. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I am wondering if the honourable member would entertain a question?

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Cape Breton East entertain a question?

AN HON. MEMBER: Glace Bay.

MR. WILSON: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker.

MR. HURLBURT: Last week for two days we sat in these Chambers and we heard the Opposition Parties say that we would not stand up and go back to our communities and talk to our people. I want to assure that member and all members opposite that this member went back to his community, he spoke to the people, he spoke to the health care workers, and the people of his Party - diehard Liberals - came to me and told us to stay the course. To make sure that there was health care in this province. So, maybe that member should go talk to some of their Party faithfuls. (Applause)

[Page 5116]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton East, Glace Bay. Honourable members, I know the legislation was passed, but I am looking at the honourable member's name and constituency as per the Speaker's Table and it still has Cape Breton East.

MR. WILSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Just for clarification, perhaps a deviation, seeing as how we are deviating from the norm here. Could the honourable member tell us if he would prefer to be called Glace Bay now that the legislation is passed?

MR. WILSON: I think, since it has received Royal Assent, Mr. Speaker, that would be appropriate.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

MR. WILSON: Let's get back to the matter here. If that was a question, and what the member is saying, I am not saying he is not telling the truth, but I have a picture of him with his pants on fire, okay?

Think about it for a minute. It wasn't a question, but I will answer it. I did not hear that member say that he went home and talked to health care workers. I did not hear that member say that he went home and talked to nurses. I did not hear that member say that those health care workers and those nurses said that this was the right thing to do. I did not hear that member say that and I have not heard any other member say that either, and I know for a fact, I will give that member credit that he went home. I know for a fact that some members over there were too chicken to go back to their constituency. They hid here in Halifax because they didn't want to face their constituents, that is why. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, thou does protest too loudly sometimes, doesn't thou? Maybe by those protestations, one could understand . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to remind the House, all honourable members, including the honourable member for Glace Bay, that the amendment before the House, "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 would just remind the honourable member to try and speak to the amendment.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, (Interruption) if this government hasn't heard the message yet about how bad this legislation is, and I challenge the member for Cape Breton North, who is over there in his seat hollering at me in this Legislature, if he has the intestinal fortitude to speak about this bill, get on your feet right now. Stand up in your chair. Stand up

[Page 5117]

in your place. Let the member for Cape Breton North talk to the nurses and health care professionals back in his riding and rise up.

MR. CECIL CLARKE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The member for Glace Bay got up and said that members on this side of the House were too chicken to be in their riding. Well, I challenge that member to name members of this House that he claimed to be a chicken.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It does appear to be a fair question to the honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, when I said there was some chickens over there, I didn't realize they were angry chickens at the same time. Apparently, I have touched a sore point here, absolutely. I didn't hear the member for Cape Breton North say that he was home over the weekend and he spoke with nurses.

MR. CLARKE: You answer the question, name somebody.

MR. WILSON: I didn't hear him say that, Mr. Speaker. I didn't hear any of them say that. Again, I challenge the backbenchers, and there is one who stood in his place and he still hasn't said anything about this legislation. He hasn't said a thing about Bill No. 68, not a thing. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable members on all sides of the House, I would ask you to bring yourselves to order. Again, I would remind the honourable member for Glace Bay, he does have the floor and the Speaker would appreciate it if he would speak to the amendment.

MR. CLARKE: Name somebody, come on.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I am speaking to the amendment.

MR. CLARKE: Name somebody. Who is chicken now?

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, again, the member for Cape Breton North, who seems to be taking lessons from the terrible trio and trying to bully this side of the House, it is not going to work. We are here to stand up to bullies. He can scream and holler all he wants. I won't be bullied by the member for Cape Breton North. I won't be bullied by those gutless backbenchers over there.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable member, I know that you know full well that it is very unparliamentary to use that type of terminology and I would ask you to withdraw that comment.

[Page 5118]

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I will withdraw that comment. The backbenchers, as I said, know right now, and that is why they are so frustrated. I understand the frustration of the member for Cape Breton North. I understand how frustrated he is and that he has had nurses and health care workers trying to get hold of him and telling him that this bill is no good, that they shouldn't be doing this. I understand his frustration that he can't get through to his Cabinet Ministers. I understand that frustration. It has to be extremely frustrating on the part of backbenchers over there that they can't speak out against this.

MR. CECIL CLARKE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The honourable member for Glace Bay rose in this House and said that members of this government were too afraid and did not go back to their ridings. Well, I say that member has an obligation to name who he is talking about and maybe he would like to explain where he was on Friday when the hoist motion was being discussed. He was under the big tent over on the Island playing around. It is time to get priorities straight in this House. Shame on that member. You coward.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton North had the floor and he called the honourable member opposite a coward. I would ask the honourable member for Cape Breton North to please withdraw that language. It has consistently been ruled to be unparliamentary.

[11:45 a.m.]

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I will respectfully withdraw that statement and I will say that that member is lacking spine and character for his statement to this House and it will not be tolerated by myself.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, am I supposed to start shaking in my shoes right now?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. What you are supposed to do, honourable member, for probably the third time I have requested that you speak to the amendment.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I am talking about the fact that we have moved an amendment that would refer this legislation to the Human Resources Committee. In doing that, apparently I have touched a very sore point, a very sore point among some people in this Legislature. As I was saying, I can understand the frustration. I can understand that perfectly because it has been a very rough time for the government members, the backbenchers especially, in this House.

As I mentioned, that is two of them who have risen so far trying to take up my time, but not one of them has mentioned anything about Bill No. 68. There was not one word about Bill No. 68 and whether or not they are in support of it, or whether or not they think any of

[Page 5119]

it should be changed, or whether or not they support health care workers and nurses in this province.

Mr. Speaker, the other night - I will answer some of your questions if you want - I spent from 12:01 a.m. midnight until approximately 6:30 a.m. in this Chamber and spoke on this bill. Where was the member for Cape Breton North then? He was not here and the member knows that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, order. Honourable member for Glace Bay, the Speaker has requested that you speak to the amendment as sponsored and introduced by your caucus, an amendment to refer this legislation to the Human Resources Committee. I have asked you several times, and the honourable member knows full well that you are not supposed to mention or reference the absence or presence of other honourable members in this Chamber. So I would ask the honourable member to please bring himself to order and speak to the amendment.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, I am talking about the Human Resources Committee and moving this along there. I saw and I have seen the Minister of Justice for this province who, not too long ago, told Nova Scotians that he is going to remove some more of their freedoms. Now, one member of the terrible trio - remember the Minister of Justice, the Government House Leader, and the Minister of Finance, that is the terrible trio over there who are calling all the shots. We have to remember that. It is not the Premier of this province - but before I continue on with what the Justice Minister had to say, let's remember for a matter of fact and a matter of record that the Premier of this province is a medical doctor. The Premier of this province spent decades in the health care industry. How many times do you think that the Premier of this province has called on nurses and health care professionals to lend him a helping hand?

How many times? You couldn't even begin to count, Mr. Speaker. Probably as a doctor, when you walk into a hospital, the first people you rely on are front-line health care professionals, nurses, X-ray technicians, lab technicians, the whole thing. It is all there in front of you when you walk into a hospital in this province as a doctor.

Those health care professionals, those nurses, they were there for that doctor at the time, now Premier. They were there every time he asked them to help him, but when the time comes that nurses and health care professionals are looking for help from the doctor - nothing, absolutely nothing. What they get pushed in their face is this draconian piece of legislation, which we are now proposing should go before the Human Resources Committee so that ordinary Nova Scotians will get a chance to be heard on this bill.

Mr. Speaker, they are not going to get a chance at the Law Amendments Committee. That is not going to happen because the Minister of Justice has now informed Nova Scotians, and tried - unbelievably tried - to blame it on Opposition members. Unbelievable. It is totally

[Page 5120]

unbelievable that the Minister of Justice said, you Opposition members, you bad people over there, speaking on behalf of nurses and health care professionals. If you don't sit down and shut up, you are taking time away from nurses and health care professionals who will appear at a Law Amendments Committee.

Well, Mr. Speaker, when did we start living in that kind of a state that the Minister of Justice could threaten us by telling us that, unless we be quiet, ordinary Nova Scotians are not going to be heard? We stand here in our place speaking on behalf of ordinary Nova Scotians, speaking on behalf of nurses and health care professionals, but not one person on that side of the House has spoken on their behalf as yet, and they won't because they are like trained seal pups.

They are following the terrible trio - the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Finance, the honourable Government House Leader, the terrible trio - nothing will be heard from them, and that is why we are suggesting that this go the Human Resources Committee. It becomes even more important now that it go to the Human Resources Committee, because the Minister of Justice has now taken away that freedom of it going to the Law Amendments Committee. That freedom no longer exists, Mr. Speaker.

Let me tell you about the people that I am talking about representing here, Mr. Speaker. When I spoke the other night, the Minister of Justice referred to my mother, God rest her soul. I am sure she was proud to have her referred to again in this Legislature. He referred to her as a widow, at the time who raised children as a nurse, and indeed she did, Mr. Justice Minister, you are right. Five of us were still at home when my dad died and she raised us on a nurse's salary. You never saw a more proud woman in all your life. It was absolutely incredible what she did. She would go to work through snowstorms and through blizzards. Police cruisers would come to pick her up. She had 10 children; ironically, she worked in the maternity ward of the hospital. She loved children that much. She never turned down a shift in her life, and let me tell you it wasn't because she was getting paid a lot of money. She did it because she loved her profession and because she was a professional.

Let me tell you about one of my sisters - I have five - one of my sisters is an inhalation therapy technologist at St. Martha's Hospital in Antigonish, a finer hospital you couldn't find. She works day after day and then still remains on call. At a moment's notice her beeper will go off and she will be called to an emergency at St. Martha's Hospital. She may have to travel to Halifax by ambulance with the patient. Never would that woman turn down a shift, Mr. Speaker, never, because she is a professional.

Let me tell you about my sister who is an ICU nurse at Glace Bay Hospital - I don't know how I ended up with such great sisters, it just happened - she is another professional person, an intensive care unit nurse, who went to Halifax on a special course to upgrade. You know what, Mr. Speaker? This is unbelievable. That upgrading course gives her a tremendous extra 10 cents an hour. That's 10 cents an hour to save somebody's life in ICU,

[Page 5121]

and then to have this government throw it in her face that they are going to take away her right to strike, that they are going to take away her right to collective bargaining and they are going to take away her right even to have it go to binding arbitration or a mediator and, furthermore, take away the right to challenge it in a court of law, something that we constitutionally all expect as citizens of this country and citizens of this province.

Mr. Speaker, there are other people not within not my immediate family. I have a sister-in-law who is a health care worker at Glace Bay Hospital as well. She used to be a lab technician and now works the front desk and my wife's mother worked at the old community hospital, the St. Joseph's Hospital in Glace Bay. She worked in the laundry department and a prouder person you would never find. A health care professional who never missed a shift, went to work every day through all kinds of weather, did the laundry and was proud of it because she was part of the health care system. Those are the people we are talking about.

Mr. Speaker, those are the people in this province who work hard and all they expect is a decent wage, a decent job, hours that they can call reasonable, hours that they can work and then go home and spend time with their families. That is not too much to ask on behalf of anybody. It is not too much to ask on behalf of any type of worker, let alone nurses and health care professionals. What we are faced with here today is this outrageous, excessive, unconstitutional, nasty piece of legislation that is on the floor of this Legislature.

To have the Justice Minister, as he said, tell us that we are not allowed to say things like I have just been saying, the Justice Minister can say that we will have all sorts of time in Law Amendments Committee, but let me tell you something, let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, and to the Justice Minister, that people in Cape Breton won't be able to come up and speak to your Law Amendments Committee in the Red Room at Province House. They won't be able to make the trip, they will be busy working in the health care industry. You have limited how many people are going to appear there and what area of the province they are going to come from.

So when I said to my sister and other nurses that I have talked to, that I will take their case to the floor of the Legislature, don't expect me to kowtow and run away when the Justice Minister threatens us on this side of the floor with giving more time in the Law Amendments Committee. It won't happen, Mr. Speaker, because we know that is our job and we know that Bill No. 68 is wrong. We know that fully and we are not the only ones.

I will make a prediction that the government will know full well tomorrow just how wrong this bill is, because you will see one of the biggest protests in the history of this province. That is what is being predicted and I am not just predicting it, all of the media is predicting it. They have all been told to expect what is coming up at Province House tomorrow. Certainly members on the government side are predicting that is what is going to happen tomorrow because they have security ready, they have the barricades outside and so on.

[Page 5122]

While all of this is going on, while democracy is being threatened in this Legislature, in this province, what is happening? Absolutely nothing, still to this day nobody on that side of the House has stood up to defend Bill No. 68. The frustration that happened before in this Legislature not too long ago, about 10 or 15 minutes ago, is ready to boil over. No wonder it is ready to boil over because we propose amendments like this to send it to Human Resources Committee, there was a hoist amendment the other night from the New Democratic Party, and because we are doing our job, frustrations like that will boil over. Hotheads over there, Mr. Speaker.

That is what will happen when you are in a situation like this of long hours and something you are trying to defend that you cannot defend. There is no way you can defend this bill, it is the most frustrating thing in the world to try and defend something that you do not believe in. You can stand on your feet when you believe in something and you can defend it until you are blue in the face because you believe in that, you believe that that is what you should be doing. But no one on the government side can defend this because they do not believe in it, except for the terrible trio, the Minister of Justice, the Government House Leader and the Minister of Finance. Those are the ones who are pulling the strings over there. The Finance Minister, of course, controls the purse strings and that is controlling everything else. It has led to some pretty awful decisions and legislation in this Legislature. This is just yet another example of exactly what is happening with this piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, you know the government condemns nurses and health care professionals. They try to separate the values of caring, compassion and commitment from those professionals, but it is the general public that knows the difference. In the end run, that is who will make the final analysis of what is happening here. The general public will know that health care professionals and nurses were not about to put their lives at risk. That is a government strategy that they have put forward.

[12:00 noon]

At the same time that health care professionals are looking for a decent wage, for better working conditions, this government is now spending thousands and thousands of dollars on newspaper and radio ads. It is absolutely astonishing, Mr. Speaker, that public money, taxpayers' money, is now being poured into advertising against our health care professionals. You have heard it on radio, I heard it and you see those big ads in the newspapers. They cost a lot of money. That would probably cost about $5,000 an ad. Add it all up; the government has problems telling us how much they spend at the best of times, who knows how much that is going to add up to. That is money that could be channelled towards health care, towards nurses, towards professionals, yet it is being spent on a public relations campaign by this government to try to win over the general public to a cause that the general public knows is absolutely wrong.

[Page 5123]

Mr. Speaker, the backbenchers over there who stand on the feet and blabber on about how they talk to members of the general public, well they must be talking to different members of the general public than I am talking to and who my colleagues are talking to. Every person I have talked to so far, every person who has been in a newspaper so far and interviewed, that I have seen, has spoken out against Bill No. 68 and what this government is doing, so it must be some secret conversations going on, just like the secret meetings that happen with this government down in the bunker, to plan this kind of legislation.

That is why we are proposing that you take this piece of legislation, we have asked to have it referred to the Human Resources Committee for their input as well, not just ours. We would like the government to hear from everyday, ordinary Nova Scotians. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. That is why we had the Law Amendments Committee, or at least that is why we had it, if we still have it, because by the time we are finished with this debate the Minister of Justice may stand on his feet and say, I am not only going to limit the number of people and how long they can talk at Law Amendments Committee, he might come up with some kind of scheme that will throw the Law Amendments Committee out altogether, and not only limit but absolutely destroy any kind of free speech that will happen from here on in, Mr. Speaker. That is how serious this issue is.

Mr. Speaker, I am not about to stand here in my place and play silly little games with government backbenchers over on that side who start taking temper tantrums in the middle of the Chamber and hollering at me and calling me words like a coward. I think that shows full proof of exactly what is going on on that side of the House, to stand up and challenge another member by calling him a coward because they have the intestinal fortitude to stand on their feet and speak their mind. It is absolutely ridiculous that this debate has come to that stage right now in this Legislature.

Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, there have been times, I know, you sit there as a Deputy Speaker, I have sat there as a Deputy Speaker and so has the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage - I think I have that correct - as the Deputy Speaker for the NDP, and we have been challenged sometimes. We have seen what happens in this Chamber, we have seen tempers flare. It happens from time to time if you have a group of 52 people in a room who don't necessarily agree with each other. I think we can agree to disagree, but I think it is atrocious that a member would stand on his feet and call someone on this side of this side of the House a coward, absolutely atrocious. I think it shows - and the member also called me other names. Hey, sticks and stones, you know the old saying, but it doesn't change anything we are talking about here today, it doesn't change . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable member, I think you would appreciate that during your dissertation you called members opposite, at least some, you referred to them as chicken and I do believe, as the Speaker of the House, that it did incite a reaction. The honourable member for Cape Breton North did withdraw that statement. He did it very quickly and it was received by the Speaker and I trust all honourable members in the House accepted the

[Page 5124]

honourable member's withdrawal. So I think to continue referencing that point is really moot.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. WILSON: But, Mr. Speaker, I am not the one who brought up the chicken thing again. You did. I haven't mentioned that in a long time.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable member, several times during the course of your contribution to this debate, this amendment, you have strayed and strayed. Several times I have requested you to get back to the amendment and again, I would remind the honourable member that the amendment that is before the House was introduced by your caucus' Health Critic. Please speak to the amendment.

MR. WILSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank you for your advice, by the way. I had just mentioned the Human Resources Committee, the fact that we want this bill to go to the Human Resources Committee as the amendment says. I have mentioned it several times and I will continue to mention it and stay on course.

At the same time, I know that what is happening here with this government is absolutely unbelievable. The general public is telling us, health care professionals and nurses are telling us that they don't believe what this government is doing. Really, no one can figure it out except the Cabinet over there. Why are they doing this? What is the big picture here? What is happening? Is this just about health care workers? Is this just about nurses? Or is there more to come?

Another reason why, through the members of the Human Resources Committee we could perhaps weed out that information from people who would testify at that Human Resources Committee, or perhaps from other government sources that they could get before the Human Resources Committee, to try to find out whether this just about health care or is there a bigger picture somewhere as to what is going to happen?

What goes on - and we have seen it time and time again - the Health Minister has a huge staff. I mentioned the money that is going to advertising to try to put a good light on this legislation. It is not working, but it is still going towards advertising on a daily basis. I mentioned before in this House during Question Period, the Health Minister himself has this rather large staff for a Health Minister that is paid some pretty exorbitant salaries. One of the people who he employs is paid over $77,000 a year to hold his hand during press scrums so that he won't mess up on the answers. I would say to your average health care professional or nurse, that is a lot of money, a tremendous amount of money that they would consider being paid to a political aide for the Health Minister, to try to make him look good.

[Page 5125]

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

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for yielding the floor for a few moments. There is an esteemed gentleman and an educational leader in our gallery, a man I have known for many years, a veteran Yarmouth school teacher who currently is the President of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union who believes strongly in the principles of collective bargaining. He has been in our House today for an important press conference. I would ask the House please to recognize Mr. Brian Forbes. Mr. Forbes, could you stand please? (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would also like to introduce an individual in the gallery who tries to be a little bit careful about who he associates himself with, but nonetheless, he has a family connection that does reflect on him. He is a member of Metro Transit. I refer, of course, in the gallery opposite, Rick Dexter, brother of the Leader of the Opposition, Darrell Dexter. Rick is here, a very active member in his union and is here to hear what is going on with respect to the rights of working people in the health care sector. I would ask Rick to stand and receive the warm welcome of the Legislature. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, indeed, welcome to our guests, as introduced, and welcome to all our guests in the gallery.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the visitors to the gallery as well. It is unfortunate that they have to be here at this time, for this purpose, and see what is going on in this Chamber right now. Hopefully, they will be here at the same time when this government changes its mind on Bill No. 68.

What I think is being called for here is consultation and negotiation and just some common sense. That is all anyone is looking for, to bring this back to a rightful conclusion and let's try to get back on a straight course as to what is happening here. It has not been evident at all. This is a government that has failed to act in good faith; they failed to negotiate in good faith and they failed to be honest with Nova Scotians. As a matter of fact, they failed Nova Scotians at every turn and this is just more proof of it.

As the skies started to get dark outside, it is quite appropriate because this is probably one of the darkest days that this government will have in their term. They know full well that the people of Nova Scotia support nurses and health care professionals in this province. If Nova Scotians stand behind nurses and health care workers, then who is left to condemn

[Page 5126]

these professionals? The only one condemning them right now is the Tory Government and the backbenchers, they condemn them in their silence. That is what happens.

Now I dare say that if this amendment goes through and it is moved on to the Human Resources Committee, then that would finally be a chance for backbenchers to have a say because it is backbenchers who are on the Human Resources Committee. So if I am a government backbencher right now and I am plotting over there and I am actually thinking about what could be done here for me to finally have a say in this legislation, I would think if this goes to the Human Resources Committee, I am on that committee and I will be able to ask questions and get my point across by speaking at the Human Resources Committee.

It is another chance that we are giving backbenchers on the Tory side to be heard. We know that by going to the Human Resources Committee, they would not have to condemn health care workers there, they would be able to speak on their behalf. They would be able to say, without any kind of retribution, that they agree with these workers as to what is going on.

As we know, there are a lot of them on that Human Resources Committee because government backbenchers make up the majority on committees in this Legislature. That is the structure that is there and they certainly use it to their advantage in other cases, Mr. Speaker, in other committees of the Legislature. They use it to their advantage every time they meet, that they have a majority. I guess what I am asking for is for them to use it to their advantage now, so that indeed, they could give more Nova Scotians ample opportunity to appear before a committee and have their voices heard on Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, we respect the process and respect the individuals, in this case the individuals who are at the various bargaining tables, the individuals who are involved in the collective bargaining process. We respect that, unlike this government. They don't respect it; if they respected that in the least little bit, Bill No. 68 would not be on the floor of this Legislature.

We have nurses and health care professionals who are leaving this province on a daily basis, going to places like the United States and perhaps out West, not only for better pay. There is a bigger issue being debated in this Legislature on behalf of nurses and health care professionals, it is not just to get more money. That is what nurses and health care professionals have been telling me.

I don't know what they tell Tory backbenchers but what they have been telling me is that this is not just about the almighty dollar, there is more to it. This is about quality of life for nurses; this is about hours of work; this is about being forced to work overtime, mandatory overtime. This is about being called out and you have no other choice but to go. This is about things that are starting to crop up in the health care industry such as innocent absenteeism and lists that are being kept about whether or not you show up on any particular

[Page 5127]

day at any particular time. This is in a system that is already fatigued, it is already fatigued at the breaking point.

[12:15 p.m.]

I don't have a copy of it here with me, but the ad that the Tories are using lists a number of things that are happening in health care or would happen if nurses and health care professionals went on strike. It said that you would have long lineups and you would have bed closures and this and that. It listed about four or five things which already exist in the health care industry, they are already there.

They are there because of mismanagement, that is why they are there. They are there because this government said that they could fix health care in this province for the mere sum of $46 million. That was the bill of goods that they sold to Nova Scotians in their blue book. There would be more beds open, there would be more doctors and nurses, you wouldn't believe how much it covers, Mr. Speaker. They promised the world everything and so far they have given nothing, absolutely nothing. They said to the health care workers and the health care professionals that there would be more for them. They said we are going to take care of your problems.

Now one example and one example alone, if I look to the area of Strait-Richmond, and as the good MLA for Richmond in this Legislature has raised time and time again, it is now well over six months since the area of Richmond, the Strait-Richmond Hospital, has had an emergency department. Why? No doctors. The Health Minister has stood in his place, question after question in Question Period, and said, we are working on it. This really threw us for a loop, threw us for a loop when there was a doctor shortage at the Northside General. It was absolutely miraculous that a doctor was found in 48 hours to go from Halifax to the Northside General, not Strait-Richmond where a doctor had been needed for months.

No overtures were made to the doctor from Halifax, would you like to go to Strait-Richmond and help out the people there and we will do what we can for you if you go to Strait-Richmond, because they are in desperate need of a doctor. We would like you to go to the Northside General, which just so happens to be in the riding of Cape Breton North, a Tory riding - temporarily, Mr. Speaker, temporarily, but a Tory riding nonetheless. That doctor was picked out of the blue, out of a hat like a rabbit and a magician, and put into that riding and the member for Cape Breton North stood in this Legislature and very vociferously, as he did earlier today, rose in his place and said I cured the health care problem in North Sydney. I did it on my own, I went to Cabinet and I solved the problem.

Mr. Speaker, if the member for Cape Breton North is that much of a magician and he can solve doctor shortages, I call upon him right now to solve this problem. Go to that same hat and pull out that same magic wand, and wave it over your Tory colleagues over there, and make them come to their senses, for God's sakes, Mr. Speaker. If he can do that, if he is that

[Page 5128]

magical that he can cure a doctor shortage in North Sydney, take that wand and go tap the Minister of Justice on the head and the Government House Leader, give the Finance Minister a little tap on the head - and while you're at it, give the Premier a little whack, too - and maybe they can all come to their senses, once and for all.

It may take a little harder tap on some than others, but if you could do that then we would be able to pass this amendment and have Bill No. 68 move on to the Human Resources Committee. At least we could do that or we could cure the whole problem once and for all because that is how magical the member is. That is how magical he purports to be, anyway, in front of this House and perhaps to his constituents.

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, this is about nurses and it is about health care professionals. That is what this bill is all about. It is not a bill of support, nor it is not one of protecting valuable health care workers, it is not one about protecting the health of Nova Scotians, it has nothing to do with that whatsoever. This bill is about simple disrespect for people who work hard in this province and work hard on behalf of Nova Scotians. They just don't work on behalf of the Cabinet or the government, they work on behalf of all Nova Scotians when they go to work on a daily basis and do the job that they do; what a job they do.

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned before, my family is fully involved in the health care industry. I am very proud of it. I am extremely proud of it, but they work long, hard hours and it takes away not only from their personal life, they give everything they have to work the shifts that they work and to put in the care and they do it because they are professionals. They are not just dealing with everyday, ordinary circumstances. I stood in this Legislature the other night and said, we had been here for about five or six hours and we have been here for how many hours now? Still, not one of us knows what it is like to put in the hours in a shift such as a nurse or a health care professional would put in. We are not dealing with life and death here. We are not dealing with patient care. They do it on a regular basis.

Now surely, Mr. Speaker, if I have members in my family that are involved in the health care industry, out of 31 members in total - I am including you, Mr. Speaker - surely somebody over there has members who work in the health care industry. The law of averages would tell me that somebody over there has either a direct relative, or whatever the case may be, who works in the health care industry . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Mr. MacIsaac.

MR. WILSON: A spouse or something, okay. What have they told them? I bet that has made for some pretty interesting dinner conversations. What are they telling them when they go home and what are their relatives saying to them?

[Page 5129]

I don't believe it for a second, Mr. Speaker, that the relatives are simply saying because you are who you are, I believe in Bill No. 68, that it is the right thing to do. I don't believe that for a moment and that is why I am saying that out of 18 backbenchers over there, there has to be somebody who is willing to get up and say, I don't agree with parts of Bill No. 68. It has to happen. It is the law of averages, but it is also because this bill is one of the most outrageous bills that has ever come before this Legislature. I am not just talking in the last 10, 20, 50 years, I am talking ever to come before this Legislature, that this is one of the most outrageous.

That is why we are saying, take this and send it to the Human Resources Committee, Mr. Speaker, and let's see what we can do with it. I would prefer that this bill goes by the wayside, that I didn't have to get up and talk about it anymore. But I am not naive enough to think for a minute that those stubborn Tories over there haven't dug themselves into a trench and they are not going to come out of it because they are too afraid to poke their heads above that trench right now.

AN HON. MEMBER: Too chicken.

MR. WILSON: I did not say that word, Mr. Speaker. That came from another part of the House. I want you to know that. I think this would be what you would call, if I am not mistaken, there is a hockey phrase for when you don't want to fight, you turtle. Surely, turtle isn't unparliamentary. I am not sure if I am going there or not.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I think for clarification, the honourable member for Glace Bay may have misunderstood. When the honourable member used the word and terminology chicken, the Speaker did not suggest that it was unparliamentary. He merely reminded the honourable member for Cape Breton North to withdraw a comment that he made. I think the honourable member for Glace Bay would agree that that was the case.

I would point out to all honourable members that the Speaker has consistently ruled that language used in the House should be temperate and worthy of the place in which it is spoken. No language is, by virtue of any list, acceptable or unacceptable. A word which is parliamentary in one context, may cause disorder in another context - and I think we have seen that from time to time - and, therefore, it can be classified as unparliamentary.

The honourable member for Glace Bay has approximately six minutes.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I am not really on track with you on that clarification of that matter. I know that I said that they are turtles, and I guess you are saying that is okay. I will stick by my guns, they are nothing but a bunch of turtles hiding in their shell over there right now because they won't poke their head out to be heard.

[Page 5130]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member knows full well that using such names does depend on the context that they are being said. I would ask the honourable member, probably for the sixth time now, to speak to the amendment.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I mentioned that in this amendment we are asking to refer it back to the Human Resources Committee because the bill is nothing more than a campaign of intimidation. That is what this government is trying to do. They are trying to intimidate health care workers and nurses in this province, and now with the Justice Minister the other night trying to intimidate members of the Opposition, the Rambo Justice Minister. Pull out the knife and the gun and let's say, hey, I am Johnny Rambo, the Justice Minister.

They are not intimidating me, Mr. Speaker. We have more debate coming up and I will be on my feet for as many hours. If I could go for five hours right now, I would love to do it, but that is not what the Rules of the House allow. There are other people standing by in the wings who are ready to go at it again. We are doing it because we know that this is nothing more than a campaign of intimidation and manipulation of health care workers in this province. Health care workers and nurses should stand proud. They haven't wavered. They haven't stopped caring for the people who are in hospitals. They are not threatening the health and lives of people who are in hospitals right now. They haven't once done that, not once.

AN HON. MEMBER: They can be trusted.

MR. WILSON: They can be trusted to look after the people that they are in charge of on a daily basis. (Applause) Mr. Speaker, where were the government members and where were the Cabinet Ministers, before this came up, when those health care professionals and nurses were doing this on a daily basis without one gripe, without one complaint? Where were they then? Nowhere to be found. Now we get a campaign of intimidation and manipulation.

Mr. Speaker, we challenge the government on this. We challenge the government on a lot of issues and we will continue to challenge them on this. Because, as I said, it is an issue that Nova Scotians are very concerned about. This is about nurses and this is about health care professionals. This is about us standing in our place for lab technicians and LPNs and nurses and X-ray technicians. We stand for them because we know the true story. We know they are the ones who hold this province's health care system together. They are the ones who do it, not the Minister of Health with his high-paid help and his high-paid staff. He doesn't hold this health care system together.

As a matter of fact, I don't think he knows too much about health care to begin with, Mr. Speaker, that is quite obvious. If he did, then we wouldn't be talking about Bill No. 68 right now. If he actually cared about the health care system in this province, he would tell the other two members of the terrible trio, the Justice Minister and the Government House

[Page 5131]

Leader to sit down and negotiate a fair settlement with the nurses and health care workers in this province. That is what he would be telling them.

Mr. Speaker, instead, we are left to try to be intimidated and manipulated by not only the Minister of Health and the Premier and the Government House Leader, but now by the Minister of Justice, who says that there will not be enough time left at the Law Amendments Committee for the nurses and helth care workers to appear and talk. Well, they don't need to appear before a Law Amendments Committee to be heard in this province. Nurses and health care workers are being heard in the media and on the streets of this province right now and they will be heard here, en masse, tomorrow. That is when they will be heard. Maybe that is when this government will finally pay attention and know that they have gone down the wrong road on this bill.

They will have to come out of their trenches. They will have to stick their heads out of their shell, Mr. Speaker, and finally the rest of those chickens on the backbench will stand up and be heard in this Legislature. That is what we are looking for. I repeat that comment because I want that bunch of bonehead chickens over there to finally stand up and say . . .

[12:30 p.m]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member will take his place. His time has expired.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I have been waiting patiently, warming up here in the batter's box because of the particular comments of the previous speaker. I still want to look back to the fact that what I did this weekend, because I went home this weekend and I am sure that the members on the backbenches over there went home also. I am sure they had the courage. I am sure they returned the phone calls. I am sure they took the heat because if they didn't, they shouldn't be here. I know those members opposite, those backbenchers in particular, are under a great deal of pressure. (Interruption) Obviously, the previous speaker wants some more time. (Laughter)

However, let's look at the comments that I have and I have prepared them and I would like to review them for you and for the people in the gallery and listeners at home because this is a serious topic. No matter what I did this weekend, no matter whether I was at that auction in Shad Bay, where we were raising money for this wonderful little girl who has to go to the Children's Hospital in Toronto, no matter if it was the Tim Hortons drive-thru or when I went grocery shopping with my wife - or maybe she went grocery shopping with me - everywhere I went the comment was, what is this about 24 hours?

[Page 5132]

Some of the questions that were brought up, and I want to bring some of those questions to the House's attention, questions about the Law Amendments Committee, questions about Human Resources, questions about the House of Assembly debates. These questions were asked by health care workers. They were asked by nurses. They were asked by lab technicians and their question always comes back to, where's the debate? Where are the government members standing, making their case, the to and fro, the con, the for, the arguments for and against? Instead, debate doesn't seem to happen in this place, although this morning I was told, at 2:30 a.m., there were some interesting comments by the Minister of Justice. But those are some of the types of questions that were brought to my attention over the busy weekend that I faced.

The other things that I am going to review for you are some interesting press clippings, from some people in my constituency and people throughout Nova Scotia who have been in contact with my constituency office. On Sunday evening, I went to my constituency office and I had an opportunity to look at the e-mails and the faxes. They are not all from Timberlea-Prospect, Mr. Speaker, and they aren't all ex-students of mine that members opposite often say, well, he is always talking about all his ex-students; he must have taught everybody in Nova Scotia. Well, the people who are in contact with me - many of them are my ex-students - many of them are frustrated with the system of what is going on with this collective bargaining, but I have also heard from other Nova Scotians, from Colchester County, nurses and health care workers in hospitals from other parts of Nova Scotia, and I am going to bring those to your attention during the next hour or so that I have to speak.

In 1939, Mr. Speaker, my father, as a proud North Novie, left the shores and went across to England. He was on one of the first troop ships overseas in 1939. Six years later, he returned to shore, returned to Nova Scotia. Needless to say, if you do the math, you know that I might look far too young to be born between 1939 and 1945, but two years prior to my father - the private who led us ashore, who, after all, at Normandy on June 6th, actually was in France on June 5th when they landed behind enemy lines - going overseas in 1937, there was a piece of legislation introduced in Nova Scotia. It was called the Right to Collective Bargaining.

Now the Minister of Justice opposite is not going to get a history lesson from me today, but I think it is of some real significance for Nova Scotians, for members of this House, for people in the gallery, for people at home to understand that we are talking about one of the basic rights of this province, one of the rights that my father went across that ocean to defend. One of the rights that we have in this province - and I am going to leave that to a following member to get into the history lesson of it - but it is of real significance that we understand that this piece of legislation is as offensive as history is going to make it stand.

Also, I received a note from a constituent - it must be because of the fact that I was a teacher at one time, but she highlighted a few things for me. I want to bring them to your attention. Canadian law and government is based on three premises: equality, justice and

[Page 5133]

fairness. Those three words are pretty easy words to throw around in a political science lesson, pretty easy words to see on a coat of arms, and we at times throw them around with abandon: equality, justice and fairness. But, according to this health care worker and according to what I have heard and what I have looked at in that bill, members opposite, Bill No. 68 opposes all three of those basic principles. It is unethical and it is immoral and it is unfair and not just to health care workers, and this is a key concern. Nova Scotians are beginning to wake up - not that they were asleep - but the point is, they have to follow closely how things happen in this Legislature.

A couple of weeks ago we fought like you know what to oppose Bill No. 20 that was introduced in this House. At the time, a lot of my associates, a lot of my friends in my constituency said, what is this reorganization Bill No. 20? What is it all about? It was an omnibus bill, if we remember the description. It was balancing all the rights of power and who was going to control all these various departments. Now we see the connection between Bill No. 20 and how it is applied to Bill No. 68. Nova Scotians - let's be clear on this - they are not going to be fooled because they are going to be made fully aware of the connection between Bill No. 20 and Bill No. 68. You are going to see that.

Members opposite should be prepared for the fact that it is not just health care workers, it is not just lab techs. Teachers - Brian Forbes, the President of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is here - government employees, people from all walks of life are concerned about the fact that there are certain provisions in this bill that go beyond any kind of back-to-work order or any kind of no strike for a particular health worker. It goes beyond that. It gives the Cabinet - again, that inner circle, that group that meets down in the blue room with the blue curtains, like my friend, the member for Sackville-Cobequid says, it gives them - unlimited powers. That unlimited power is a threat to collective bargaining in this province.

Let me review with you, if I may, some of the concerns that have been brought to my attention. I have been asked, what is the importance of the Human Resources Committee? What exactly is the Human Resources Committee? And I always begin with the explanation by saying - with tongue in cheek, to a certain degree - read that columnist in The Daily News? That columnist in The Daily News, that member for Kings North, he is the Chairman of the Human Resources Committee.

Some of these people religiously - although I shouldn't perhaps use that term with that particular columnist - read that member's column. If you look at - and his name I shouldn't use, but the title of the column is Parent in Politics. Of course, that being his last name, the MLA for Kings North has received a bit of a following here in metro and other places where The Daily News is avidly read. He is the chairman of that committee so people are reflecting on the fact that he has a reputation, he shoots from the lip or shoots from the hip - whatever is appropriate - he has his say.

[Page 5134]

He has been made out at times to be a bit of a - and it is a term that was used once very much in light with the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley - rogue, a bit of a lone wolf who always has his say. Do you know that member, as the Chairman of the Human Resources Committee, would serve this process very well because of his reputation for open-mindedness and fairness and concern for some of the very things that health care workers and Nova Scotians have concern for. There is the Human Resources Committee. It is a reflection of who is the chairman of the committee and his concerns that he would continue to be allowed to be brought forward.

I know that my good friend, the member for Halifax Needham, sits on that committee and my friend, the member for Halifax Fairview of the same caucus serves on that committee. So that quality alone would say that it would be quite a valuable exercise to take this piece of legislation because of the backlash that it has caused and refer it to Human Resources and to allow the good chairman and the members of that committee to look at it and to allow Nova Scotians to have their say on that behalf.

But if they ask about Human Resources, they ask about Law Amendments Committee. Because Law Amendments is a particularly unique feature of this House. It is an opportunity when we take this piece of legislation and it is taken down the hall here to the Red Room and average, ordinary Nova Scotians make their appointments to come in and talk to us as legislators. The Minister of Justice is the chairman of that committee and there are five government members, there are two members of the Third Party and then, of course, there is myself as one of the members of the NDP caucus and the member for Halifax Chebucto. Law Amendments is a wonderful opportunity for ordinary Nova Scotians, for organizations, for people to come in front of us as legislators and to make their points of view known.

I want people to know that it is not an intimidating process, it is a process where you sit down, if you have a prepared comment you can read it into the record. If, on the other hand you just want to have your say on something, and you are usually - this is the key point I am coming to - given 15 minutes of presentation. In fact, in front of Law Amendments, we have had some long sessions with Law Amendments. In the time that I have been in this Legislature, we have had some controversial legislation brought forward - not just by this government, but by the previous government - but individual Nova Scotians have the opportunity at that time to come forward and have their say.

Then last night in his place, the Minister of Justice rose, the Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee, and this is what he said. I know some members perhaps were not here during that amount of time, so I want this in the record. This is what the Chairman of Law Amendments said, and this is a lesson for Nova Scotians. Law Amendments, the historic tradition of this House when people from all walks of life have an opportunity to come to the people's House, to sit down with us as legislators and have their say, and what did the Minister of Justice say? Well, here he is and he says, ". . . and I think it is fair to say

[Page 5135]

that very little in terms of original thought is being said at this point, . . .", he is talking about us, obviously, although I can't see him including me in that.

MR. HENDSBEE: Repetition.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Repetition, says the member for Preston, ". . . each hour they . . .", that is the Opposition, ". . . speak is eating the time away from the Law Amendments Committee. At this rate, the debate on second reading will last until midnight on Tuesday. I invite my friends to do the math. In order to avoid a legal strike, the Law Amendments Committee will need to be limited to a single day."

Let's think about that. Are we going to ask Nova Scotians to make arrangements to come into the people's House at 2:10 a.m. for a five minute session with the Law Amendments Committee? Why in the name of good God do we not want these people to have their say on legislation? Is it so important to ram it down the throats of Nova Scotians, even the cherished Law Amendments process in this province is going to be tampered with? That is a message that Nova Scotians will not forgive the Minister of Justice for delivering. That is a message that will never be received well. Democracy is not perfect, we know. It is never in a hurry though, to reach its goal.

If we want a hurried form of legislation, we do not have democracy, we have another form of government and some of it has been described for me this weekend. Maybe I could use some of them. This is Gestapo government - it is a quote; if it is out of line, I will withdraw it - this is uncompromising and unconstitutional crap. Mr. Speaker, if that is unparliamentary, I will withdraw it, but it is a comment, and it is a quote.

[12:45 p.m.]

More importantly, my good friend from Timberlea, Bruce Flemming has made comments and comparisons of the Premier that I would not bring to your attention. Mr. Flemming understands that, because the comments would be ruled out of order. They would be ruled impolite, they would be ruled far too personal, but these are the sort of disrespectful things that Nova Scotians, from one end to the other, are comparing this government and this Premier to. It is not a compliment when the Premier of Nova Scotia is compared to one of the most hated dictators of the Second World War, a dictator that we were glad that my father went across the shore to get rid of. That comparison must hurt; that must hurt the Premier and it must hurt members opposite, but that is the sort of reaction that this legislation has brought forward from Nova Scotians.

Let's hear from some of these Nova Scotians. Here is a journalist that I not only very seldom agree with but on occasion must say I am not going to read it. It is not Harry Flemming, it is Pat Connolly, and I will table this. Pat Connolly says, this is from Saturday's The Daily News, "The bill the Tories are attempting to ram through the House goes far

[Page 5136]

beyond the bounds of good judgment or even common sense." He goes on to say, "When Health Minister Jamie Muir introduced an act that not only eliminates the right to strike, but bypasses binding arbitration and gives cabinet the right to settle collective bargaining without appeal until 2004, the long-term future of this government became a big question mark."

Now Pat Connolly has been involved in the election process. Pat Connolly is a journalist who has some experience politically, but notice what he calls it. The headline says, and I don't mean to use it as a prop, A mind-boggling mistake. You don't make mistakes in politics, you make mistakes and you don't get re-elected, that is the concern that many backbenchers opposite and Cabinet Ministers also should carefully look at when, after all, we are looking at achieving the government's agenda, part of it is re-election.

Then, of course, I would like to turn, if I could, to another Nova Scotian, two Nova Scotians. This one is from the same Daily News of June 16th. Diane Pothier, a labour law professor at Dalhousie University says, "I think it's outrageous and draconian to be changing the rules at the 11th hour and to be unilaterally imposing something," If we move further, let's see what the Medical Society of Nova Scotia says about this legislation, the Medical Society, which represents doctors. I quote from this article, which is a compilation from The Daily News and The Canadian Press, "At a time when the government of Nova Scotia should be making conditions more attractive for people to come and work in the health-care field, this legislation will have the opposite effect,"

Mr. Speaker, we have these experts, we have the Medical Society, we have a law professor, we have a journalist, and I know that we have members opposite who are certainly second-guessing themselves with this legislation. This weekend, as I was travelling the roads - the bumpy roads incidentally - of the Prospect Road, tuned in to Country 101, I heard an offensive radio ad. The offensive radio ad is basically the text of this ad that comes from one of our daily newspapers. The offensive part of it, of course, is, "A strike by thousands of health care workers would leave Nova Scotians without critical health services - this is an unacceptable risk."

Mr. Speaker, that is a falsehood; that is a lie; that is unacceptable; that is misrepresenting the facts. That is an ad that was run on Country 101. That is scaring seniors across this province; that is scaring Nova Scotians. If collective bargaining was allowed to go through, and if for some reason a labour interruption resulted, are they saying that these caring health workers, these caring nurses, are going to put padlocks on the doors? That is a falsehood. That is an untruth.

I told a woman in a seniors' complex this weekend, if, God help her, knock on wood, she would have a serious reason to go to the hospital and there was a labour interruption and the paramedics picked her up and put her in the ambulance and drove down Highway No. 103 and brought her into town, did she expect the emergency department to be closed and sealed? If you read that message, the message is, yes, and that is unfair. Health care workers

[Page 5137]

have made it very clear that they have a plan. Essential services would be maintained, but that sort of fear-mongering and scare tactics have hurt Nova Scotians. No longer will they trust this government. It is a lesson they soon won't forget.

Mr. Speaker, I am privileged to represent a growing constituency. I have many health care workers in the constituency of Timberlea-Prospect. In fact, I hear that the Premier met one of them the other day, Carolyn Doucette from 75 Maplewood in downtown, beautiful Greenwood Heights, Timberlea. She confronted the Premier out in the foyer and she made a number of very important comments in a polite, direct way. She was not offensive. I hoped she would have been a lot more blunt. What did Carolyn say? This is what she told the Premier, that she has watched nine operating room nurses, two anaesthesiologists and a surgeon leave this year; the more nurses that are gone, the more physicians that will leave as well, especially surgeons and highly trained physicians. That is Carolyn Doucette's point of view.

That is the point of view of many health care workers that I heard from this weekend. Not all of them were my students, but I am going to share a moment or two with you now, if I may, Mr. Speaker, in bringing their names to your attention.

Tracy Snow lives at 1691 St. Margaret's Bay Road. She says she is so disillusioned with Nova Scotia. She works on the special unit, Floor A. She is an LPN and she is ready to leave - a young woman who, after all, wants to continue to live and work in Nova Scotia, but Tracy Snow is ready to pack up and leave. Can you blame her, with the disrespect that she has been treated with, with this particular piece of legislation?

Donna Rafuse lives on the Prospect Road. She is a QE II health worker. She has been working, she says, short-staffed for almost six months as an LPN. We do our job every day and now this government treats us with disrespect. Susan Rice of 37 Oakridge in Hatchet Lake, a health worker, who said, let's face it, no one in this government listens to the people who really care. You think about that comment. That is a comment that stings. That is a comment that hurts. When I call her back and say, well, I will make sure I bring your concerns forward and I am interested in some of the answers that you might give me.

Mr. Speaker, I am no expert in health care. I am not trained to be aware of all the difficulties that we are faced with in health care, but I am telling you that over the weekend I had quite a learning experience. I am sure members on this side of the House had a learning experience, too, as we heard from lab technicians, as we heard from LPNs, as we heard from nurses. I hope members opposite learned the same lesson - a stressful, overworked job, underappreciated and now their basic collective bargaining rights are being taken from them.

Joan Foren, a nurse at the IWK, who lives in Timberlea, says, does the government really understand what I do? It is so frustrating when no one listens to you. Then there is Catherine Butler, oh you have to love Catherine. Catherine is the one who put it to me very

[Page 5138]

directly, Bill, this legislation is unconstitutional crap. You are talking about strong feelings being expressed here. You are talking about people who are angry, who are upset and who have good reason to be thus.

Just in case members opposite think I heard only from people in Timberlea-Prospect or Hammonds Plains, let me read to you, if I may - and I will table some of these letters - this letter comes from Joanne Keating. I am a critical care nurse at the Colchester Regional Hospital. Now that is a long way from Timberlea-Prospect, the Colchester Regional Hospital. I am very upset with the proposed Bill No. 68, which will take away the rights of health care workers. This is what she says and I will table this when the Pages are ready, I have worked, writes Ms. Keating, over eight years in the United States in both Texas and Maine. During my entire stay, I was treated with dignity and respect. The United States knows the value of Canadian nurses and shows it in many ways. It is such a disappointment that my government does not know this. That letter from Joanne Keating, June 17, 2001, from the Colchester Regional Hospital.

If you would like to follow me for another moment, Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to your attention the comments of Barbara Lewis, Janet Hutchinson and Gloria Falle - I am sorry if I mispronounced Gloria's last name - they come from the same hospital, the Colchester Regional Hospital. The Tory platform and John Hamm said, they quote this and highlight it, health workers ". . . will not stay unless they have a rewarding professional environment.", a wonderful comment made two summers ago next month, by the then Leader of the Conservative Party and the future Premier of Nova Scotia, who had his say and convinced people that he was a good, kindly family doctor from Pictou County.

He would represent the concerns of health workers; after all, he works with them. He has experience in the Aberdeen Hospital. He knows about the concerns and the pressures. Is that the same good, country, kind health physician who has brought forward this legislation? Yes, it is Nova Scotia. You have been hoodwinked, but you are not going to forget it this time.

Finally, this comes June 15th, addressed to Bill Estabrooks, MLA, Timberlea-Prospect. I am an RN that has worked at the QE II for 14 years. I take pride in the job that I do, providing excellent patient care to my clients. My job, at times, is very difficult. If Bill No. 68 is passed and our fundamental right to negotiate fairly is taken away, then I will have no recourse except to move away to a place where my job will be no easier, but I will be treated fairly and equitably in a democratic manner. It was signed, a very discouraged RN.

Now those examples alone should be testimony to the fact that Nova Scotians are frustrated. Nova Scotians are upset. Nova Scotians are concerned about what is ahead of them as they face some of the concerns which we, of course, are going to continue to bring to the attention of this House.

[Page 5139]

Trish MacDonald, incidently, Mr. Speaker, is a nurse on a 33 bed general surgery unit. Trish tells us that they have been seriously understaffed for a number of months. Since last September, there have been 12 permanent, full-time nursing positions vacant in her unit alone. There is the concern. If more nurses are not hired, according to Trish, by this September, there is little doubt that beds will have to be closed.

You hear that expression all the time and Nova Scotians hear it all the time. We have closed beds and the reason is there are no nurses there to attend to those beds. It is not a matter of a shortage of furniture. There is lots of furniture in these hospitals. It is not a matter of going out and saying we should buy more beds so we keep them open. That is not the issue, Mr. Speaker. The issue is that we don't have the health care workers. We don't have the nurses in place. We don't have the LPNs who will be able to wait on and take care of these patients and their clients for the many long hours in a 24 hour day.

[1:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, let me point out to Nova Scotians that this piece of legislation will not just affect health care workers. It is of real importance for us to remember who was here today at the press conference downstairs. It is a real interesting fact, as I look at the list that is here in front of me. I look at the list of who was at this press conference today, hosted by the Leader of my Party: Betty Jean Sutherland, the President of CUPE Nova Scotia was there; as was Roger Neeley, the CUPE Regional Director; Brian Forbes from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union; Rick Clarke, the President of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour; Larry Wark, the Regional Director of the Canadian Auto Workers; Gerald Higgins, the Service Employees International Union; and, of course, as expected and as is so important to this particular issue, Joan Jessome, the President of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and Heather Henderson, the President of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union were also present.

Mr. Speaker, the point is simple. This piece of legislation is sending a message to Nova Scotians from one end of the province to the other. It is sending a message to Nova Scotians in all walks of life, not just health care workers, not just nurses. It is also concerning teachers and government employees. It is concerning all kinds of Nova Scotians, union workers and non-union workers. I know, for the members opposite, that is always a big concern, that, the NDP only represents unionized workers. It is only the unionized workers they care for.

Let's be clear on this, Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians know when they need someone to stand up and speak for them, they know what Party to come to. They know who to contact. At no time do we ask how they voted in the last election. At no time do we ask them whether they are a union member or a non-union member. They are Nova Scotians. They are frustrated with this government. They are concerned about the lack of attention to their basic constitutional rights. Those basic constitutional rights are being denied here.

[Page 5140]

Let's talk about what people learn as they come here into this historic Chamber. They expect to hear and see debate. They expect to see and hear an exchange of ideas, points of view given and points of view taken. They don't expect personal attacks. There is, I know at times, in the heat of these debates, things that are said that are unkind and unfair. However, I would think, to members opposite and I hope that they give me the same courtesy, this is not a difference between the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and the member for Timberlea-Prospect. This is not a personal difference between the member for Halifax Bedford Basin and the member for Timberlea-Prospect. This is an idea difference, this is a philosophical difference, and I would look forward to having the opportunity to discuss with those two members and others opposite their points of view on why they believe this legislation should go forward.

So it is not a personality conflict. I am not going to get into shouting and pointing, although I do raise my voice on occasion, as you know, Mr. Speaker. I want you to know that this isn't going to be a personal attack on the member for Preston or the member for Cape Breton North. What is the point of calling each other names? What is the point of describing each others as chickens or turtles or turkeys or whatever the apt description of the day is? Instead, people come to this place to hear debate and unless you were here at 2:30 this morning or if you were at home - my goodness I hope you weren't watching television at 2:30 in the morning - but you would never have heard debate. This is a one-sided, prolonged harangue by the sounds of things from the Opposition to the sitting government members.

There are members opposite, and I can go through some of their municipal pasts; I can go through their reputations; I can talk about them in terms that they always stood up and had their say, but I fail to understand why in the hour that I have - and I believe I have 24 minutes left - I will give up my 24 minutes right now, I will give up my 24 minutes to a member opposite to stand in his or her place and say, I think this is good legislation because: I have heard from members of my constituency; I have met with health care workers, they agree; or, I truly believe these ideas are the types of things that we must allow Nova Scotians to decide on; these are the types of ideas that we can have a difference on, a philosophical difference, a policy difference, an idea difference, not a personality difference. That is what has happened here.

Nova Scotians are beginning to realize debate does not take place in this House. I should point out to members of the gallery who are here, and those of you who might be listening at home, Wednesday, in this Legislature, is Opposition Day. That is when we bring in legislation. One week the members of the Third Party bring it in; the next week the Official Opposition brings it in. That is the opportunity when the members opposite must stand in their place and speak; usually on Wednesdays, it goes from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m., in those wonderfully short four hour days, if we remember those, not 24 hour days. That is the opportunity for some debate.

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Notice who brings forth the legislation, the Opposition brings it forth. The Opposition brings forth ideas, and what in turn do the government members do, they stand in their place and they debate those ideas. Usually, I should point out to members of the gallery, it is the Cabinet Ministers who are doing the talking. On occasion, I must admit, the backbenchers are allowed to stand in their place and debate a particular idea brought forward by the Opposition, but that happens only on Wednesday.

When you bring in a piece of legislation, and I can use the example of the good Minister of Tourism and Culture - now there is a member with political aspirations; there is a member with a bright political future, well, maybe I should have said he had a bright political future before this piece of legislation - but when he brought in that piece of legislation that he treasured so much, the Order of Nova Scotia, he stood and made a few comments, and then we debated the legislation. We debated it; we had an exchange of ideas. As the Tourism Critic and as the Tourism Minister, we came to a conclusion. That piece of legislation was amended; it was taken across to the Law Amendments Committee; it was brought back into this House, a productive exchange took place.

That is a piece of legislation, amended that it is, that Nova Scotians will benefit from. What is the lesson to be learned? The lesson to be learned from the good Minister of Tourism and Culture, if he believes this piece of legislation will better serve the health services in Inverness, then I would love him to take his feet, to stand in his place and to explain to me how this piece of legislation could help out the good people of Inverness, when it comes to health services and when it comes to better collective bargaining rights with health workers in his particular constituency. I am sure that member, and I am sure that minister has heard from health care workers.

Instead of me standing here and pointing fingers and getting into a personal harangue with the young member for Inverness, who had the bright political future, I would love to have that member stand in his place and explain to me - after all he is a member of the Cabinet, he is a member of the blue team, he is a member who is driving this agenda - what makes this legislation so good; what makes this legislation acceptable.

This is, after all, what we are supposed to be doing in this House. We are supposed to be having an idea difference; we are supposed to be having a philosophical difference. I don't expect those members opposite to agree with me; I don't expect them to be able to, in fact, at times, even want to listen to me, which it is giving me the respect of the ideas that I am bringing forth in this House.

But when you look at this legislation, and we go through it and we look at the legislation and members opposite stand in their place and say, well, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, you didn't hear from so and so, and I heard from - give me her name or his name, and you will have the opportunity to present your case, to present your point of view. That is the thing that many of these health care workers - some of them are here today -

[Page 5142]

say, why didn't they take you up on your offer? Five minutes have passed - we now have how many more minutes left in my hour? - and I know you are counting with bated breath, I know that, but I will give you those 18 minutes, the member for Inverness, I will allow you to stand and have your point of view.

That, after all, would be the healthy exchange that Nova Scotians expect. They don't want to have to buttonhole you as you go through the line, maybe escorted by a member from the police department. They don't want to have to get up and get in your face, they would like to have you stand in your place publicly and explain, what are the reasons that you as a particular MLA from a particular area are supporting this legislation? Be different; take the challenge.

I see a certain member over there who I know would love to be able to have his say, to have his point of view expressed. I fail to understand how the good member for Preston - and I said I wouldn't get into personal attacks, and this is not personal. You hear of people and you hear of their reputation, and you know of people and perhaps you have seen them in a different public service when you have seen them quite regularly on Tuesday night, when, the cable channel broadcasts the Halifax Regional Municipal Council debate.

Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, I think you were pre-amalgamation, and they weren't televised, although I am sure that you had your say on occasion, but that member for Preston, it escapes me why he, in caucus, cannot say to the House Leader, cannot say to the minister who is responsible, why can't I stand in my place. I don't have to talk for an hour, it wouldn't turn into a filibuster; why can't I make my point of view, because I have heard from these people in my community and they believe this or that.

That is the concern that Nova Scotians can't understand. I am sure they are asking the member for Preston, the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, aren't you going to speak on this? Why aren't you speaking on this legislation? If this is a piece of legislation that you are going to vote for, you, publicly, should have the courage to stand in your place and say why you are going to support it. After all, that particular member opposite, when we look at his record in municipal government, it must be very frustrating for him. It concerns me that he is not doing the job that he was elected for, because I knew that member in a previous career; that member had a reputation and that reputation successfully got him elected as the MLA for Preston. Unless he begins to show - whatever I am allowed to call it, intestinal fortitude, I believe is allowed - unless he begins to show the intestinal fortitude that he was known for, then he will not sit another term in this House.

That member is a conscientious member of a service club of which I am a member. He is a heavily-involved volunteer. He is a person who has worked hard to be in this House, but he has to understand that his first and foremost responsibility comes to his constituents, not to the members of the front bench, it comes to his constituents. I hope that when the time comes for him to be able to make his constituents understand that when that fateful night

[Page 5143]

comes and votes come in the wrong way, he can say to himself, I wasn't defeated because I didn't work hard enough during the election; I wasn't defeated because I didn't have enough signs up in the right location; I wasn't defeated because my pamphlet didn't make me look good enough, I was defeated because of Bill No. 68.

[1:15 p.m.]

Nova Scotians are not going to forget this one. You can hope - well, two years; how many years before the next election? Nova Scotians aren't going to forget this. This is a piece of legislation that tomorrow is going to fill the streets around this House. It is going to fill the streets with health care workers who are going to be angry and frustrated and the concern will be, of course, our protection.

Our protection? I mean, why should we have to worry about protecting ourselves if we are doing the people's work, the people will approve of us. We certainly don't have to wear flak jackets. We certainly don't have to be escorted in and out of this House. Now, you can say this is unpopular legislation, it is necessary legislation. Well, I am waiting for those explanations. I have heard the members opposite, I have heard them speak on other issues, why are they not speaking on this particular issue?

The Human Resources Committee is a valuable committee. It is a committee that would be able to promote more understanding of Bill No. 68. It would look at its legitimacy, the details, some of the very basic services that have to be guaranteed. The Human Resources Committee, made up of all three Parties, would have the opportunity to listen to Nova Scotians, an opportunity for them to make sure that their point of view is listened to. But, more importantly, the Human Resources Committee would be an opportunity for members opposite to stay awake long enough - although that is a bit of a dirty jab, I understand - to be able to ask some questions, but not to take it to Human Resources, to go through this exercise where we are trying to point out this is a bad piece of legislation. It should be withdrawn. The collective bargaining process should be allowed to proceed as it is democratically allowed to do in this province and in this country, democratically allowed to go forward.

A labour interruption is not what these people want. A labour interruption is not what these workers want. But if it is necessary and it is legally allowed, then democratically, these workers must be allowed that right; that right that was maintained so long ago when the right to collective bargaining was established before World War II.

Who is the next target? Nova Scotia workers are concerned. Who is the next target? I have, as you are well aware, many friends in the teaching profession. Friday night I had the opportunity to go to a football practice. Football, that wonderful sport where actually you can achieve something some days. You look back at the end of 50 yards of football field and you say, we went that far today. At that football practice, a teacher by the name of Arla Murrant from Brookside Junior High School said, we were talking about Bill No. 68 in the staff room

[Page 5144]

the other day. And guess what they were talking about? It is the health workers now, but who is next? Who is next? Who is the next target that this government is going to pick on.

Let's look at the history of labour relations with this government, in the short two years. Do you remember, Mr. Speaker, that ambulance stuck with keys locked inside at the gates of the Legislature with the sirens going? The paramedics' strike was nasty. It was personal. It was full of conflict, but the collective bargaining process eventually would have been allowed to work. Look at the custodians in the HRM. Look at the animosity and the bad feeling that resulted. Two very well-respected professions in this community: the paramedics, the custodians. Now it is the health care workers: the LPNs, the lab techs, the nurses. But who is next? Is it the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union; is it the liquor store workers, if we even have liquor store workers anymore; is it the teachers; is it going to be the doctors of the province who are the next target?

Mr. Speaker, this sort of legislation is a dangerous precedent, and I hope you, in your wisdom, and I hope members opposite, look carefully at some of the powers that are included, some of the powers that the Cabinet assumes. The Cabinet assumes powers based upon, of course, Bill No. 20, which gave them a lot, and applies it directly to Bill No. 68. Cabinet is going to have power well beyond any type of democratic need by a democratically-elected government in this province. If members opposite would carefully look at that legislation; if they would say, there is a clause that should be withdrawn; there is a clause that should be taken out of there; there is a clause that I disagree with, Mr. Minister of Health, Mr. Premier; there is a clause that I can't vote for, don't hold us in suspense.

Stand and have your say on that particular offensive clause, because that is a clause, that unbounding, unlimited power that the Cabinet has, that sticks in the craw of workers in Nova Scotia. What has happened to the constitutional rights of bargaining and collective bargaining? Why do we have Nova Scotians demonstrating feelings so strongly and so personally to make comments about a Gestapo government, a communist government, an unconstitutional government?

Mr. Speaker, those are things that are personal. I know they hurt; they sting. The point being is, if many of these health care workers have been in contact with you as an individual MLA, how come you are not listening? What is more important to you, to serve your political masters, or to serve the constituents who are going to elect you again, maybe? There is the concern that comes back. You look at some of the offensive clauses in that legislation, you look at them and you consider them, and when you finish that consideration, members opposite, you will be able to stand in your place and knowledgeably be able to say, I have a concern, a concern that I am not prepared to vote for. Then, I guess, maybe your choice would be, well, I won't show up for the vote. That is not the way things operate in this province; that is not the way you were elected to serve in this province.

[Page 5145]

Mr. Speaker, I have a few more health care workers that you want to hear from. I want to mention John Ross. John Ross is an ICU nurse here in Halifax. He and his wife have been nursing for 20 years. John Ross and his wife live, and they love living, in Nova Scotia, but if this government doesn't start giving nurses what they deserve, they are looking at leaving. The 8.5 per cent increase that the Premier is bragging about, according to Mr. Ross, is not going to end up in John's pocket. After losing special unit pay, in fact, John's increases won't even keep up with the cost of living. I want you to know that John Ross and his wife work hard to care for their patients. They arrive early, they leave late, even though they don't get paid for that overtime. Mr. and Mrs. Ross are committed to their patients. The question they ask is, why can't they receive the respect that they deserve?

Mr. Speaker, I am watching my time carefully here and have saved the best for last. As you are well aware - and I believe you were in the Chair the other morning, evening, night, whatever it was, some time over the last 24 hours - I tabled and I have been asked to do it again, but I will not get into poetry. I have the distinct privilege of calling an exceptional young nurse, Melissa Cavicchi as one of my friends. Melissa Cavicchi has written a wonderful poem, and again I am going to table it for the members, so they can read it. This poem is called This Hour Has Twenty-Two Dollars, and in this poem Melissa Cavicchi points out the many frustrations of the job that she does. I had the opportunity to meet Melissa's co-worker the other day. Melissa's co-worker, I am sure, had a bit of a say in this poem. The one stanza which actually happened, I am going to read it to you, it comes near the conclusion.

Melissa's had a long night, she has been working hard, and here I am into poetry, if you may,

"The day shift strolls in to perform a repeat

A site for sore eyes as I jump from my seat

So I leave in a rush, can't get home none too soon

To sleep a few hours and be up before noon.

No sooner than gone, I return to the floor

When the crew looks at me feeling very unsure

'Why are you back? Do you still have the keys?'

'NO! My car has been stolen! I need a drive PLEASE!'"

A nurse, who actually had her car stolen from her very own parking spot. What a way to finish your day. That happened. More importantly, Melissa Cavicchi, the next day, was back at work, work that she loves; work that she told me, when she was a charming young lady named Melissa Ryan from the Village of Prospect - Melissa Ryan a student at Sir John A. Mcdonald High School, who later on in life wisely married the captain of the Sir John A.

[Page 5146]

fastball team, Craig Cavicchi - Melissa Cavicchi has always told me, from the moment that she was one of my students at Sir John A., she wanted to be a nurse.

She has achieved that goal. She loves her work, but she doesn't feel that she is being treated fairly. She doesn't feel that this piece of legislation is treating her with respect. No one trusts me; no one thinks that in this province we would walk out on these patients; we care for these patients, as she said, we love these patients. They are part of us; they are what we do. But now, we are in a situation where health care workers no longer feel they are valued in this province.

Melissa and Craig Cavicchi have a young family; they have a mortgage; they have a nice home in Tantallon Woods; they have deep roots in Nova Scotia. Craig works on the waterfront; he is a respected tradesman, heavily involved in our community. Is it possible that Nova Scotia could lose an exceptional young couple like Melissa and Craig Cavicchi, because of their distrust and the disrespect shown to them by this government? That is the sort of emotional response that Nova Scotians are giving me as an elected official. They are angry; they are upset; they are frustrated.

Mr. Speaker, come Tuesday, members opposite, members of the Third Party, members of my caucus, you will have an opportunity to meet Melissa Cavicchi. She will be here. I look forward to introducing her to you, Mr. Speaker; I look forward to introducing her to the member for Preston and the young MLA for Inverness, because Melissa Cavicchi has something to say about this legislation. It is unfair; it is disrespectful; and it hurts. In her opinion and in the opinion of health care workers across this province, in the opinion of the NDP caucus, this bill must be withdrawn immediately. Thank you for your time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I would say it is a privilege to rise here, but unfortunately, that certainly would not be sincere. It is an absolute disgrace that I have to stand in my place a second time on Bill No. 68. Last time I had the opportunity to address this bill was 2:30 a.m. Friday morning. Once again, now, it is 1:29 p.m. Monday. It may not be the last time I speak on this bill today, considering that this government is going 24 hours, around the clock.

Mr. Speaker, as offensive as Bill No. 68 is to myself, to those I represent, to our caucus and to all Nova Scotians, I have to tell you that last night I listened to what the Minister of Justice and Attorney General for the province had to say. I have to tell you that listening to that minister stand in his place as a Minister of the Crown, to accuse the Opposition of placing the lives and the health and safety of Nova Scotians at risk made me absolutely sick. I think it made all members of the Opposition sick, and all Nova Scotians sick, to hear that minister stand in his place and try to accuse us, because we are speaking on behalf of Nova Scotians, that we should be held responsible for what happens in this strike. They did the

[Page 5147]

same thing for the paramedics, to try to accuse Nova Scotians, and they are doing the same thing today.

[1:30 p.m.]

As I have said many times in this House, it is that same minister and it is that same government and every single one of those backbenchers - and I hold especially to blame the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, the minister from Antigonish and the minister from Inverness - that have placed the health and safety of my constituents and of the constituents of the Strait area at risk for the last six months. They have the unmitigated gall to stand here and accuse the Opposition that if a strike happens that we should be held responsible.

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: If the hat fits, wear it.

MR. SAMSON: Well, the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury says that if the hat fits, wear it. Let him go back to Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury and stand at the Strait-Richmond Hospital and tell those nurses there that they should be responsible for the fact that there has been no emergency room doctor for the last six months. Let the MLA for Inverness who hid this weekend from a meeting of nurses in Cape Breton, let him stand and tell them that. Let the member for Antigonish, himself a former teacher, go and tell his colleagues and say I agree collective bargaining should come to an end in this province. Shame on them.

I know the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury is frustrated because he has to go back home and tell them, I have done absolutely nothing for nurses. I have sat there in silence and have allowed myself to be intimidated by the Minster of Justice and by the Minister of Finance and by the House Leader. I have done absolutely nothing, nothing. You have sent me here and I have sat in silence. I have listened to them and I have allowed myself to be intimidated.

This became personal last night when the Minster of Justice had the gall to quote my colleague, the member for Glace Bay, when he spoke of his mother being a nurse and raising her family. It became personal at that point when he did that and there should be shame on every single one of them. (Interruptions)

The member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury tells me to shut up. Well, let's see what his constituents tell him when he goes back home to Port Hawkesbury and goes to the Strait-Richmond Hospital and tells those nurses how you have abandoned them and you have done absolutely nothing for six months and you continue to make excuses for your government. If there is something that happens to one of my constituents, the blood will rest on your hands, member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury and it will rest on the hands of the MLA for Inverness and the MLA for Antigonish. That is whose hands it will rest upon.

[Page 5148]

If anything happens within the next few weeks, the blood will be on your hands. The blood will be on your hands.

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: The blood will be all over your face if you aren't careful.

MR. SAMSON: Oh. Well. The member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury said the blood will be on my face if I am not careful. That is what this government has resorted to. Well, you can threaten all you want, you can come across the floor if you want. Whichever one of you guys wants to, you can come across the floor if you want to.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I again would ask honourable members to please respect each other in this Chamber and I would advise the honourable member for Richmond and remind him that he is to speak to the amendment that his Party introduced and sponsored, the amendment to refer the subject matter of Bill No. 68 to the Human Resources Committee.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, respect for this Chamber was lost when your government introduced Bill No. 68. When your government brought in last night six armed uniformed officers and told nurses to stay behind the gates. Stay behind the gates, we don't want you in the lobby because then we will have to walk amongst you and we will have to look you in the face.

We know that the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury wants to keep hiding. He doesn't want to have to look anyone in the face, because he is ashamed, as he should be ashamed. That is why he is frustrated. He throws out threats to the House, blood on someone's face, imagine. He can go back to his riding and say, hey when it came to the nurses, I told the Opposition either be quiet or I will put blood on your face. That is the MLA you have sent. I have left the Strait-Richmond Hospital without an emergency room doctor for six months, yet I agree that we should take thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money to take out ads saying what a dangerous thing is going to happen if there is a strike.

Imagine, Mr. Speaker. What you are seeing is pure frustration, frustration by the fact that they have been told by the Minister of Justice, by the Minister of Finance and by the honourable Government House Leader to be quiet and be good little boys and girls, because, if you are not, that is it, you are gone, and they sit there. You know what? The amendment to refer it to committee would give them a chance to go back home. Because when the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury meets at the Strait-Richmond Hospital, he won't have the Minister of Justice to hold his hand as he has in this House.

He won't have the Minister of Finance to hold his hand and he won't have the honourable Government House Leader to hold his hand. He will be there by himself and he will have to stand there and say, I sat in the House of Assembly and said absolutely nothing about the Strait-Richmond Hospital for six months. The member for Inverness will have to

[Page 5149]

say the same and so will the MLA for Antigonish. They will say, but if there is a strike, your health and safety is going to be at risk.

Imagine, what more of a hypocritical statement could possibly be made, Mr. Speaker, than that? They have the nerve to sit here in this House and to hurl insults at this side of the House. I can go back to my riding, and I know everyone on this side of the House can go back to their ridings and hold their heads high and know that they fought on behalf of nurses, they fought on behalf of health workers and they fought on behalf of their constituents.

Mr. Speaker, I can see the political ads for the next election already. I can see them running on The Hawk. I can see them running on CJFX right now. What did the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury do when he was in the House? Then I can hear a moment of silence. What did he do for nurses? Silence. What did he do for the Strait-Richmond Hospital? Silence. What did he do in general? Silence. The people of Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury will not reward that silence and he will pay the price in the next election, as will the MLA for Inverness. I was there when he stood in front of his colleagues last year with the Education budget and he stood there and tried to justify it. His colleagues said, how can you stand there with a straight face and look at us and say that we deserve what your government is doing? He couldn't do that. His government backed down and they found money.

This year again, in the Education budget, they found more money, but now they are telling nurses, there is no more. Believe the Minster of Finance when he tells you there is no more because the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Justice and the honourable Government House Leader tell them all what they should do and what they should say. When they walked in here today and the bill was tabled, they were all handed an envelope, Mr. Speaker. Here you go. Here is what it tells you to say. Here is what it tells you to do. Here is what you are to answer and here is what you are not to answer. That is how this government is run and that backbench sits there and allows it to happen.

But when they leave this Chamber, those people will not be there to hold their hands. They will have to stand on their own and tell nurses that they agree that their government could not trust nurses to hold emergency services. Imagine, Mr. Speaker, and I look forward to seeing the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury and the MLA for Inverness going back there and saying, we just couldn't trust you.

But somehow they could trust them at the Strait-Richmond Hospital for six months to keep an emergency room open without a doctor, to have people come there with life-threatening injuries and have to say, I am sorry, you are going to have to go somewhere else - St. Martha's Hospital, which is another hour away, or the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, which is more than an hour away - because there is no doctor here. A six months' reference to the Human Resources Committee would give them a chance to look at that.

[Page 5150]

Mr. Speaker, where this government is going is a most dangerous road and it is one which affects each and every Nova Scotian in this province because already the government has said, if you are going to try to protest, we are going to meet you with resistance. The riot squad of the Halifax Regional Police has been on alert since this session opened, on call. The paddy wagons have been near and they are ready to trot away all Nova Scotians, those threatening nurses. Imagine, how the Tory members are threatened that those nurses are going to come down and harm them and cause them physical harm, people who worked their whole life to try to help people who are suffering, to try to heal people and this government greets them last night with six armed, uniformed officers. A paddy wagon sitting in our parking lot sent the message.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: That was for you.

MR. SAMSON: I hear the member for Preston.

AN HON. MEMBER: Say something substantial, David, instead of gabbing on over there like you do.

MR. SAMSON: Imagine, Mr. Speaker, that he would agree with this, someone who stood at Halifax Regional Municipality, refused to call the mayor Your Worship and tried to defend wearing a shirt with a beer logo on it. He planted the flag on that and yet, today, when nurses' rights are being trampled on, he shouts a few insults to the Opposition from the deep bowels of the Tory backbench. When did you trade it in? When did you check in your conscience, your principles? At what point? Stand in this House and tell the people of Preston when you traded it in and when you passed it in?

AN HON. MEMBER: Election day.

MR. SAMSON: One of the members says, election day. Well, the people of Preston will remember that, Mr. Speaker, and I can see the election ads for him, also. As the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect said, you can put up all the signs you want. They will remember what you did to our education system and they will remember what you did to our nurses and they will remember what your government is going to do, because if any of the members of that backbench think this is the end, this is the beginning.

What this government is saying is that people have sympathy for nurses; if we can manage to put the screws to the nurses of this province and we can get away with it, well, boy, we have free reign here because guess who is next? The teachers are next, the Nova Scotia Government employees are next and any other bargaining unit that deals with this province. You are all next and you are all going to get it from this government.

[Page 5151]

How ironic to see the MLA for Inverness, a minister, a teacher who knows right now what is going to happen to his colleagues, yet he will plead ignorance. He will say, I had no idea that they were going to take away your bargaining rights when he sees teachers. I didn't know that. The Minister of Justice didn't tell me he was going to do that. The honourable Government House Leader didn't tell me that, nor did the Minister of Finance. They said it was only the nurses we were going to stick the screws to. He didn't tell me the rest of you were going to get it also. Mr. Speaker, we know now where this government is going.

The government, again today, placed another $5,000 or $10,000 ad in each of the daily newspapers. I wasn't even aware that they are running radio ads with taxpayers' dollars. A government that said, and you were there, Mr. Speaker, you sat on this side of the House when your Party said - we would never support using taxpayers' dollars for government propaganda. Yet, they sit here now in silence and tell nurses, there is no more money, but we spent almost $100,000 in the last week on ads to tell Nova Scotians how bad our nurses are and how greedy they are and how greedy our health workers are and how we can't trust them, $100,000 and counting. The members of the government, the backbenchers, sit in silence and they allow this to happen.

Mr. Speaker, it is an absolute shame and an absolute disgrace that this has to continue. The Premier says, on one hand, well, it is going to take a little bit so I am hopeful the contracts can be settled before Bill No. 68 goes through. Then they asked him, well, if they are settled, will you pull out Bill No. 68? Oh, God, no. We want them to bargain in good faith until the bill passes and, hopefully, we will get a settlement, but we are still putting Bill No. 68 through. Imagine today, to show you - and I have said it before, many times - the Tory Government in this province thinks every Nova Scotian is stupid. There is no better way to describe it. That is the principle they go on.

Listen to this, why should Bill No. 68 be passed? "A strike by thousands of health care workers would leave Nova Scotians without critical health services - this is an unacceptable risk. The health and safety of our children, families, seniors, indeed all Nova Scotians, must be protected, today and tomorrow." Listen to this one, this is the most precious one of all and this is really where it goes to how intelligent this Tory Government thinks Nova Scotians are. If negotiated settlements cannot be reached with health care workers, Bill No. 68 allows for fair and affordable contracts. Explain that to me, Mr. Speaker. How in God's name does it allow for fair and affordable contracts? How can it be fair when this Cabinet is going to determine, by itself, what the contract is going to be? Yet, they say that is going to be fair.

Who do they think they are kidding? Do they think Nova Scotians are all stupid? The Minister of Education brags how great our education system is and how intelligent Nova Scotians are. I think she is sincere when she says that, yet she sits there and votes in Cabinet to have these ads telling Nova Scotians how stupid we think you are and we are going to try to make you believe that Cabinet itself is going to ensure fair contracts. By whose standard?

[Page 5152]

John Hamm's standard, the Premier of the province? By the Minister of Finance's standard? By the Minister of Justice's standard?

The Minister of Justice last night showed his pure contempt for this House. I would have thought - Mr. Speaker, I know you weren't in the Chair at the time - that his speech last night should have been ruled out of order unparliamentary and an affront to this House. But, no . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Affront to democracy.

MR. SAMSON: An affront to democracy, to tell members, you be quiet and then we will go to the Law Amendments Committee. Trust me, I will allow the Law Amendments process to go on for a longer time, trust me.

[1:45 p.m.]

There is not one Nova Scotian in this province, Mr. Speaker, not one nurse, not one health care worker, not one single Nova Scotian who has any trust in this government and then we are told, I would rather hear from a nurse than hear from the honourable member for Richmond or hear from any other member. Unfortunately, the nurses in my riding, like the nurses in so many other ridings, cannot be up here in Halifax to speak to this government. They have to continue their work in the hospitals.

The nurses at the Strait-Richmond Hospital, for example, continue to be overworked because government members like the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury sit in silence, while they are overworked, stressed to start off with and have no emergency room doctor. Yet, the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury claps when the Minister of Justice says that the Opposition should be quiet, they want to hear from nurses.

Mr. Speaker, that is why we have been sent here, to speak on their behalf, to speak on behalf of all our constituents. That is why we have been sent here. I can go back to my riding and I can tell them when this came up. I can send them the tape. I can run that on my cable show, The MLA Report. I can say, here is the evidence, here is what I had to say. But I would love to see what tape the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury will send. I don't think they will need too much film on it and I think there might be some problem with the editing because all you are going to get is a blank screen.

That is what they get in Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, a blank screen. That is what they get in Inverness, not one word to try to justify what this government is doing. Yet the heat is on in the backbench and they said we are sick and tired of having to take this abuse because the Minister of Justice said it is the right thing to do or the Minister of Finance. The Minister of Justice said, well, to appease them, I am going to get up myself and try to take some of the deflection from them and put it on myself.

[Page 5153]

Mr. Speaker, I know and I think all members of the Opposition know, that members like the member for Kings West are getting sick and tired of this government front benches. Not all of them, I wouldn't want to offend all the front bench, because Nova Scotians know and I think the front benchers know that there are three ministers who run this government: the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Finance and the honourable Government House Leader. The rest are told to toe the line.

AN HON. MEMBER: They are lemmings.

MR. SAMSON: One member calls them lemmings. But one knows what happens to lemmings, Mr. Speaker. There is a very tragic ending on what happens to lemmings and one would hope there won't be a tragic ending for these Tory members, but I think there might be a tragic ending politically for all of them in the next election. I think that you might even see resignations from this caucus once they have to return back to their constituencies, once they no longer have the Minister of Justice.

It was so funny last night to watch the Premier go and sit with the members of the backbench and tap them on the back and reassure them. It is funny. He does it now. You don't hear from him any other time with his backbench. The member for Kings West has to ask himself, how many times has the Minister of Justice invited him out for dinner? How many times did the Minister of Finance ask him to come over for a meal or how many times has the House Leader done it? They want nothing to do with the backbench; they are an annoyance to these three ministers.

I have to say, look at the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank. He has taken it on the chin a number of times for this government and for that front bench and there have been enough times we have tried to encourage him to speak. I have to give him credit, he stood a number of times and he took it on the chin. He took some hard shots and he took some easy shots, but he took it on the chin. He has to ask himself, what credit is he getting for that? Is it being recognized by the Premier or by the front bench? I stood in his place when we were in a minority government. I took a few on the chin myself. Mr. Speaker, shortly after that, I ended up in the Cabinet. It was a privilege for me to be asked to be in Cabinet.

The member for Sackville-Beaver Bank has to ask himself, what has this government done to recognize his efforts? The member for Kings West has to go back to his riding and say, look, I am a successful businessman. I am very intelligent. I have a lot to contribute, yet this government has silenced me and won't allow me to speak, won't allow me to do anything. That member is a member of principle and to be told to be silent, to be told to vote on a bill which he did not agree on and to vote against his own government.

As I said, I think there is going to be a few less faces there. To see you, Mr. Speaker, and your illustrious career in this House, how you have always been known as the one to defend the little guy, to fight for the senior, to fight for the unemployed, to fight for those on

[Page 5154]

assistance, to fight for the common guy and to fight for the hard-working men and women in this province, and to see you have to sit and endure this type of legislation.

This government could have said, we are concerned about the health and safety, a strike would be very dangerous. We don't want a strike, but in return for not striking, we will offer binding arbitration because, look, our ads already say that it is a fair offer, $53 million. Why would we not want to go to binding arbitration? Because this government knows that if they go to binding arbitration, their fair offer is a joke, it is a farce, yet they will spend thousands and thousands of Nova Scotian taxpayers' dollars to try to defend that, and to try to convince Nova Scotians that this was a fair offer, which they know isn't correct.

Mr. Speaker, it was interesting, you see members on the government side who continue to refuse to even stand in their place and make any comments on this legislation. It is very disheartening to see that. When the member for Preston is more content to sit as a doorman in this House, than to be able to stand and speak as to why - let's say he does support this legislation - he supports it, and to stand in his place and argue that. Of course, it is only 24 hours a day, it's not like he can say there is no time. We are going to sit 24 hours again tomorrow, more than likely, so 48 hours straight. On Thursday and Friday, we could see his frustration; he was getting mad; he was red in the face; he was hollering insults at members, but he was still sitting in his chair, not standing up. Nova Scotians will remember that, and Nova Scotians will judge him as they will judge every other backbencher.

Mr. Speaker, to think that the Premier of this province has yet to stand in this House and say anything on Bill No. 68 is atrocious. I have said it before, the amendment to refer this - we first tried the six months' hoist, that was voted out by the government, now to refer it - to the Human Resources Committee would give the Premier an opportunity to turn around, look sideways and see what is happening.

What is happening right now, there are two options, either one, the veil of the good country doctor has been lifted and Nova Scotians are seeing the true side of this Premier. It is not a pretty side or the Premier, when he looks at the faces directly next to him, he can say to himself, I remember these same faces. When I was sitting on this side of the House, these same faces were the ones sitting beside me and sitting behind me who tried to get rid of me. Remember that? They are the very exact same faces, yet I am told not to say anything on this bill. I have played a hide-and-seek game on this bill, refusing to take accountability for it. I wonder if it is not the Minister of Finance, when he tells me not to say anything, and the Minister of Justice, are they looking out for my best interests, or are they looking to give me the boot?

Mr. Speaker, I could be wrong, but I am willing to put money on it, that the Premier of this province that we now have will not lead the Conservative Party into the next election. Bill No. 68 is the first step towards the ousting of Premier Hamm out of his position as Premier.

[Page 5155]

Once they go to the Human Resources Committee, they would have a chance to hear from every single Nova Scotian. I would love to see that committee come and sit in Port Hawkesbury, sit in the Strait area, and I would love to be sitting at the front table with the Minister of Tourism and Culture, the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, and with the minister from Antigonish. I would love to be sitting at that table, and I would love to just watch them, looking at the nurses from my riding and the nurses from their ridings and the health care workers, looking them in the face and trying to answer questions.

I would be interested to see if the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury might tell the nurses if they put too much heat on them, don't talk about blood because it might be on your face, and he might threaten the nurses like he threatens members of the Opposition here. Where this government is going, there is no depth that they will not stoop to. They will be made to pay a price for that. They will be reminded of that. I can guarantee you I will serve them notice, I will remind them at every given opportunity, of what they have done as elected members and how they have sat there in silence, and just hurl insults rather than trying to do something to tell the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Finance that this is bad legislation; we can't be doing this. You would think they would do that.

Mr. Speaker, it is a sad day. When you walk into Province House now and I was watching some tourists who were walking, looking to come in the House, they were just kind of looking around and they could see the steel barriers along the sidewalks and they see the uniformed officers. In the month of May I had the opportunity - I was in New Brunswick - to stop in the community of Dorchester. There was a little bed and breakfast there that had a beautiful little restaurant and we had lunch there. I want to tell you that driving by the federal penitentiary in Dorchester, today Dorchester Penitentiary is a more inviting place and a warmer looking place than Province House here in Nova Scotia. (Interruptions)

Mr. Minister, the House Leader says shame. Well, yes, sir, if you want to see shame, just go to the bathroom and look in the mirror and you will see shame, for you bear responsibility for what is taking place out here. You bear the responsibility that there are six armed officers in Province House. Never before seen: sitting 24 hours a day; armed officers in Province House. Yet we tell the nurses that you are welcome to come here and listen to the debate. First you are going to see the officers when you walk in - that sends you a message. You see the paddy wagon sitting out in the parking lot - that is a second message. And you see the steel gates all along the sidewalks.

Mr. Speaker, the House Leader sits there with a smug look on his face, saying Tory times are happy times. Bring more police in. Tomorrow, I would predict that any Nova Scotian who has not seen the Halifax Regional Municipality riot squad before in their life and has an interest in riot squads, I would encourage you to bring your cameras and your video cameras down to Province House tomorrow, because under this Tory Government, under Premier Hamm you will get to see that riot squad in action. That is what the contribution of this government has been.

[Page 5156]

Mr. Speaker, I know that the members are listening very well. I wonder if you could just check for a quorum, make sure we have a quorum in this House. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Yes, there is a quorum, honourable member.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting . . .

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: I'm not asleep over here.

MR. SAMSON: Well, the member for Preston says he is not asleep over there. I can tell you anyone who is watching this tonight has to ask themselves, they have no idea. I could stand here in this House and tell them the member for Preston is sleeping and there would be no way to prove different because he certainly hasn't stood in his place and said a word on this. (Interruptions)

The member for Colchester North has a few words to throw in also, but he is a good Tory, he is going to keep quiet. He rode the coattails of Premier Hamm to office, and he has built up his pension; next election, it will be a swan song and thanks for coming out. That will be his contribution, he knows that. The member for Pictou East, I believe he was actually a representative in a Nova Scotia Government Employees Union. He worked for the Civil Service, Department of Natural Resources. He sits there in the backbench, very obedient also and doesn't say a word.

Mr. Speaker, the people in Cape Breton are asking, where is this guy from Cape Breton North who came into the House? All you could see was the arms waving, and he was hollering and blaring about how great he was, how great John Hamm was. Where did he go? He won't show up for a nurses' meeting down in Sydney. He hides from the nurses down there. It has just begun. Anyone who now wants to see a picture of him, I hope they kept his election poster because they may not see him around anymore.

Mr. Speaker, Parker Barss Donham wrote an article telling him to be a good little Tory, to be nice and quiet back there and everything would be well. It is interesting to see where he takes his political advice from. We will see next election how warranted, how good, how beneficial that political advice is for him. (Interruptions) The member for Cape Breton North, I heard him this morning, shouting insults across the floor. Imagine. What a big shot. He sits down in the deep bowels, if he wonders how well the Premier likes him he just have to look over to his right and see who he is sitting next to, see what kind of reward the Premier gave him, to be the assistant doorman for the Tory caucus. He sits there and doesn't say a word.

[Page 5157]

[2:00 p.m.]

In September, he has been told, Parker has suggested it to him, and the Premier has told him, be a good little boy, MLA for Cape Breton North, just sit back there and be a good little boy and maybe we will put you in Cabinet. Then, if we do that, what does that say for the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, who has stood and taken it on the chin? What does it say for the member for Dartmouth South, who has stood and taken it on the chin? What does it say to the MLA for Eastern Shore, who has also stood and took it on the chin for this government? It says, you guys take it on the chin, you guys take the blows, yet the MLA for Cape Breton North will sit and be a nice little boy and we will put him in Cabinet. That is what they have to ask themselves.

You are being asked to check your principles and conscience at the door when you walked into this session of the House for Bill No. 68, and what is your reward going to be? Nothing. If you are lucky, the Premier might pat you on the back, but that is highly unlikely. I look at the member for Kings South, the Minister of Environment and Labour, someone who has stood in this House, stood with principles, stood with conviction when he sat over there behind the Minister of Tourism and Culture, yet somehow, I don't know how the Premier has done it, but once he was sworn in, the Premier said, here, place in the palm of my hand your principles and your convictions, and you shall no longer use them as long as you are a member of my Cabinet. I will sit here, and I will refuse to stand in my place to justify what is being done.

I know people in his constituency and they are saying, I don't know what happened. He went to Cabinet, and I don't know what the Premier did to him, but now all he does is toe the Tory line, he doesn't question anything, he is mesmerized by the whole thing, and he just doesn't say a word. He feels that he also will be re-elected by sitting here and saying nothing. A man who stood here and said, how dare you criticize? Yet now, when his government proposes to take away collective bargaining rights, when his government brings in six uniformed police officers, talks about bringing metal detectors, keeps nurses behind gates like prisoners. Where is the how-dare-you speech now? Where is the how-dare-you speech? What happened to that member?

Mr. Speaker, as I said last night, this became personal when the Minister of Justice stood in his place and accused us and held us responsible for what might happen. Yet the backbenchers have to ask, if you want to see how incompetent the Minister of Justice, the House Leader and the Minister of Finance are, it was no secret that this agreement was coming to an end. This didn't catch them by surprise two weeks ago, oh my God, the nurses' agreement is ending, the health care workers' agreement is ending, what are we going to do? This was deliberate. This was deliberate from day one. This was part of the Tory strategy, and you are all being used as pawns in this, and you don't even realize it. You don't even realize it, which is the saddest part.

[Page 5158]

From the day these guys got elected and the Minister of Justice and the Finance Minister and the House Leader said we are in charge and we are running this ship, this was the plan, from day one. The negotiations were a farce, because they said, at the end of the day, the Minister of Finance said, I am not taking from my little pot of cash that I have which I will try to convince Nova Scotians in a few years that the tax cut we are going to offer is because of wonderful financial management. I want each and every one of you to go out and say there is no more money. Yet, today, I am once again told, and I won't give the details now because I am sure it will come out in this House, one of the ministers, I won't name which one, is just about to announce that they have found an extra $1 million in their department to give towards ministerial responsibilities, $1 million. Imagine. They must have been cleaning the couch or something in their office and lifted the cushions and, oh my God, look what I have found, two loonies and $1 million, and a Hershey bar and maybe some cookie crumbs. (Interruptions)

But they tell the nurses, there is no more money. That was the only couch with $1 million hidden in it. We have checked all the other couches and we haven't been able to find that $1 million. Yet, the backbenchers, the member for Preston is going to go back home and say, look, we didn't have any more money, really. The Minister of Finance and the Minister of Justice told me so, I believe them. We don't have any more money. Imagine.

I know he doesn't believe that. He would be a fool to believe that. He doesn't, yet he is convinced I am going to be a good little Tory and I am going to go and say we have no more money, yet the Liberals have proven that we haven't given the bracket creep, we have used other user fees and that, clearly, the money is not there. Now, what does he do? He stands now, his vital role in Bill No. 68 is to stand and block the doorway of this House to stop wandering Tories from leaving and entering the Chamber, to keep a quorum. Imagine.

AN HON. MEMBER: Make sure you have time to talk.

MR. SAMSON: Well, he says, make sure I have time to talk. He knows he has lots of time if he wishes to speak. My God, poor Walter Fitzgerald couldn't keep him quiet at HRM, now here we hear more noise from the mice in the basement than what we hear from that member.

Mr. Speaker, I would love to see that member sit on the Human Resources Committee and to go around the province and hear Nova Scotians, to hear what they have to say.

AN HON. MEMBER: You're not on council now, it is where you should be, though.

MR. SAMSON: Well, he might be back there before long. I don't know. You really have to shake your head. I spoke to my mum last night, and she said, well, as I have said so many times, il n'y a ni honte, ni honneur, it is the thing she has told me a number of times, referring to individuals when she sees their actions and when she can't explain it that is how

[Page 5159]

she explains it, il n'y a ni honte, ni honneur, no shame, no honour. Those are the words she would use to describe this government. I think that is how all Nova Scotians are describing this government because what is being done in this House today has never been seen.

To see that the backbenchers here, and the nurses said it when they first came here - I believe it was Thursday and Friday and they sat here Friday night - the backbenchers aren't even listening. They are just concerned with keeping a bare quorum in this House, and that is all. That is all. When you think of what Bill No. 68 does you would think that every single one of them would be in their seats at all times to be accountable for this and to be able to go back home and say, I listened, I listened to all the debates, I partook in it and I took back from it, I have learned from it, I have grown from it. They cannot say that.

The member for Cape Breton North will continue to be told by the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Finance, look, just be quiet, don't get up and speak, remember what Parker told you, be a good a little boy, listen to Parker, do not stand and say anything. The meeting of nurses down in Cape Breton, how many where there? The hall was packed, I am told. The one government representative from industrial Cape Breton, where is he? Not to be seen, and yet he has not stood in this House once to explain to them where he was, leaving us to conclude that he was in hiding. (Interruptions) Well, if he wants me to get my facts straight, he is not sitting in his seat but he is near it, he can certainly stand in his place. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, he wasn't at the meeting but now we know he was even in Cape Breton, which makes it even more offensive, that he was actually in the community where the meeting took place and yet did not have the intestinal fortitude to go there, because he could not justify it. Anyway, it was probably best for the nurses because all they would have been treated to was arm whaling and hollering and everything about how great John Hamm was and how great he was and how great he looks and how wonderful an MLA he is. I don't think that would have been very beneficial for the nurses to start off with.

They will judge him. Anyone can get elected once. Remember that, anyone can get elected once. You have to do it more than once to have any credibility. I would suggest to you, the member for Cape Breton North, that you are going to have a hard time gaining that credibility. You certainly haven't earned it on the floor of this House, and you certainly haven't earned it with Bill No. 68. (Interruptions) Stand in your place. Don't be shouting insults here. Stand in your place. You are an absolute disgrace as a member of this House, and as a fellow Cape Bretoner you are an absolute disgrace. If you have something to say, stand in your place. Look those nurses right in the face and tell them you agree with what is being done. Look at them right now. If the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury has anything to say, let him look at them also.

[Page 5160]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. (Interruptions) Order, please, honourable members. Let's not let this debate digress to the degree that it has. Let's get back to the amendment that is before the House, an amendment to refer Bill No. 68 to the Standing Committee on Human Resources.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as you can clearly see, your fellow colleagues are very frustrated. They have been told by the House Leader you can't speak. The good member for - well I can't call him the good member anymore, because people who hide from their constituents, people who hide from nurses are not good members. They are shameful members and they are disgraceful members. He is frustrated, he wants to holler and point, but he is subservient, the member for Cape Breton North, to the Minister of Justice, to the Government House Leader, who is laughing all the way to the bank. There is no one happier in this House than the Government House Leader, to see how subservient the backbenchers are and how they listen.

The member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, he is so frustrated with the Minister of Health, six months he has gone, his emergency room, no doctor, yet the Cape Breton North MLA, within 48 hours, he finds a doctor for him. How do you justify that? How do you sit in the same government when you see that happen? How can you do that? Imagine. Yet, he sits back there and claps when the Minister of Justice stands up and says that because of the Opposition, if there is a strike, the Opposition will be responsible for that, and he claps his hands. We will see how many clap for him when he comes back to the Strait area. I will be there. I won't hide from the nurses. I won't hide from the Strait-Richmond Hospital. I will stand in my place and make sure that I listen to them.

Mr. Speaker, that is what this has come down to. Bill No. 68 has taken respect out of this House, because Bill No. 68 in itself is void of respect; it is void of respect for nurses; it is void of respect for health care professionals; it is void of respect for the members of this House; and it is void of respect for Nova Scotians. That is why you see what happens in this Chamber; that is why you see the anger and the frustration. It is unbelievable that the government would try to do this in this province. Three other provinces have anti-strike legislation for the health care workers, yet not one of them allows Cabinet to dictate that contract. I want to see the member for Kings West go back and say - well he has already proven that he is very strong in his personal convictions. My God, he voted against his own government for something he did not believe in. I have disagreements with him on that, but I have to respect that he actually stood in his place and voted against his own government because he didn't agree with it - I want to see on this vote whether the member for Kings West will agree with this government or not.

I want to see if the member for Kings North, himself, can say that in good conscience he agrees with this legislation and what this legislation is doing. They can't say anymore that it is just the Opposition. They haven't presented one person yet in this Chamber who has said they think they are doing the right thing. They are usually so quick whenever they do things

[Page 5161]

to haul in the Chambers of Commerce from here and there and to say, oh, the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies and all those think tanks support what they are doing. Yet on this bill, not one.

Every bargaining unit, every union has come out to say what dangerous legislation this is, and they know where this legislation is going. This is a government that is now drunk with power; it is a government that is out of control. That is why I never thought in my political career that I would have to suggest this and stand in my place, but I will now take the opportunity as the member for Richmond, as a member of the Liberal caucus, and as a member of the Opposition to call upon each and every able-bodied Nova Scotian, every nurse, every health care professional, every union person, every senior in this province, every mother, every father, every single person, every disabled person to descend upon this House to make it clear to this government their displeasure with this bill. At the end of the day, we cannot stop this bill. The government knows that, the Tories know that, but Nova Scotians can stop this bill. That is the only way it can happen.

[2:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow night I look forward to standing with Nova Scotians, and standing with them to try to tell this government that this legislation is unacceptable, it is unwarranted, and it is draconian to the extent that has never been seen before. I will give you an example, they say this legislation almost mirrors New Brunswick legislation. New Brunswick legislation says, if a union member goes out on strike illegally, after this bill is passed, they will be fined $100 a day. That is what New Brunswick said.

What does the Minister of Justice do, he says, no, no, they are just softies in New Brunswick. I am really going to stick it to them here, and show them what a wonderful Minister of Justice I am and how this is now a police state in this province, and how we have an iron fist and we are going to rule with an iron fist because we are drunk with power. It is $100 in New Brunswick; in Nova Scotia it is $2,000 on the first day, $500 for every day after that. That is the Tory way in Nova Scotia.

In New Brunswick, $300 a day for any union, the representative of a union who encourages a walkout; in this province, $50,000; $300 in New Brunswick, $50,000 in this province. Yet you sit there and you are expected to go back and say this is reasonable legislation, and this hasn't gone too far. I want to hear your arguments. I am going to read every paper I can to see how you are going to justify that and say that our government hasn't gone too far. Once again, to show how stupid they think Nova Scotians are, they say, and the employer will also be fined $50,000 if he locks anybody out. Who in God's name do they think the employer really is? It is the government itself.

[Page 5162]

If the Minister of Justice couldn't become any more ridiculous than he has already become since becoming Minister of Justice, which we have proven time and time again, now, he says I am going to fine myself $50,000. Imagine. What a farce. What a joke. That is what this government has become. That is what each and every one of those members who will have to go back to their ridings and justify and say that this was the right thing to do. Not only can they not strike, New Brunswick said $100; we say $2,000 first day, $500 every next day. The unions, $300 in New Brunswick; $50,000 here in the province.

Mr. Speaker, what a way to govern. A government that has known this was coming, a government that has known since it was elected that this agreement was going to expire on a certain date, and yet, what do we get? Two weeks before a strike they bring in the House, legislation. Not only is Cabinet going to decide what the agreement will be, they have the audacity, the gall, if you really want to see the mean face of this government, they say not only will we decide the contract, let no court in this land review or even question our decision. Imagine. Not only do they not want it reviewed, they even inserted the word in the legislation - you have seen it yourself, Mr. Speaker, in Bill No. 68 - that they cannot even question.

That is the Tory Government in this province. That is Premier Hamm's Government. How dare anyone in this province question us? How dare any Nova Scotians or any member of the Opposition question what we do, because we have the divine right to rule, and we know better than any Nova Scotian does, and we shall tell them how their lives should be governed. That is the Tory way.

I look at the member for Halifax Bedford Basin, who has tried hard to swallow the lumps that have been thrown to her by this government. The awful taste it must have left in her mouth. I sympathize with her now, knowing the number of nurses in her own riding, that she has to go and say, I think this is reasonable. I don't think she can. That is no disrespect to her. I really don't think anyone can say that.

Only the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Finance and the House Leader have the gall to be able to stand here and say that. If you remember at the bill briefing, the bureaucrats who were there, they couldn't do it. They had their heads bowed down, because they knew what they were doing was shameful, and they knew it was bad enough they would take away the right to strike, but to tell them you can't even get binding arbitration and no court can review our decision, they couldn't even justify it. Legal counsel was asked is it constitutional? She said I choose not to comment on that. She knew very well it wasn't constitutional. The government knows it is not constitutional, but that is the way.

Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day - I know my time is winding down - I want to serve notice now on these members. You will be expected to stand in your place and to vote on this legislation, and each and every one of you on the government side will have to say Yea or Nay. I will be making a copy of that tape, because I know next election for the Strait area

[Page 5163]

what wonderful stuff for the member for Inverness, the member for Antigonish, and the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury. If they think the voters will have forgotten come the next election, the beauty of technology, and a videotape, will ensure that they will not forget and that they will be reminded. The member for Inverness will be shown how he voted on the budget that stuck it to teachers, that will be there, how did he vote, Yea or Nay; how did he vote on the nurses? What did he have to say about the Strait-Richmond Hospital and the lack of an emergency room doctor? We won't need much tape for that.

The member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, well, he is too busy telling people he is going to put blood on their faces, rather than do anything to address the doctor situation. I am sure the people down in Guysborough will stand, when he goes home, and say what a wonderful MLA you are. Big tough guy. You stick it to the nurses and then you tell the Opposition you are going to punch them in the face, imagine.

That is what this Tory Government has stooped to. What you are seeing, Mr. Speaker, and what Nova Scotians are seeing is the veil has been lifted. The veil has been lifted and you are seeing the true government here. You are seeing the nastiness of this government. They have turned decent backbenchers, decent Nova Scotians into nasty people. That is a shame. Anyone who looks at the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury today and says, that is the same guy I knew a few years ago, no, they are going to say, what happened to him? The guy I knew would have never threatened to bloody anyone's face. He would never have done that. But today, that is what he has resorted to.

The member for Cape Breton North, the wonderful, perfect member hurling insults on this side, shouting insults. That is what he has been reduced to. (Interruptions) Ask the people, the nurses. We know now, he not only did not attend the meeting where my colleague, the member for Cape Breton South and my colleague, the member for Cape Breton the Lakes were, he has now told this House that he was actually in Cape Breton when that meeting took place. He can't even say he was in the city or he wasn't around, we now know he was even down in Cape Breton.

MR. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I have sat through the entire hour since just after midnight. I have now heard from six government members that have made allusions to the fact of where I was or wasn't, and if I was meeting with nurses and said I wasn't, saying people are trying to get hold of me and I didn't return the calls. Well, I can present, and I will table right here, the names of 20 nurses that I met with on this issue on the night previous in Cape Breton, in Cape Breton North, being responsible, being accountable and being open, not close-minded like the Liberals are. I would ask to table this. (Interruptions)

[Page 5164]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, (Interruptions) I met with 20 nurses, 300 were at an organized meeting. Now you see, let the nurses see the quality of the Tory backbenchers. Let them see the real face of a disgraceful member. You have been absolutely disgraced in this House. Look at you. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, honourable members, order, please. Honourable members, on all sides of the House, please bring yourselves to order. The honourable member for Richmond does have the floor.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely shameful to see that government backbenchers have to interrupt our time, stand up on these points of order which aren't points of order. They have become so pathetic, so weak and so frustrated that here they are, I met with 20 nurses and they clap for him. Twenty nurses. I met with 20 nurses. When a public meeting is called, I am the government representative, I am asked to be there to try to justify this bill; I am in hiding. Now he tries to justify that by saying I met with 20 nurses. What a hero. What a hero, congratulations, (Applause) what a wonderful member.

Mr. Speaker, let him sit on the Human Resources Committee. Let him go around this province and let him meet in public rather than his little private meetings that he asks people after, please sign a piece of paper for me so I can bring it to the school and show the principal that I was a good little boy when I was home on the weekend. It's too bad we don't have a McDonald's prize that we could send over to him for being such a good little MLA for the Tories that he could bring home and show the nurses, look, here is the prize they gave me, what a wonderful member I am. Look, I got a McDonald's prize here I can play with. He might as well play with that in the House because he has nothing else to do in here. He won't stand in his place and speak on behalf of Cape Bretoners.

In the election, what a strong voice being sent to Halifax, strong voice. Well, a strong voice when he is sitting down on his behind. We know that. He has proven that here in the House, but that's what it has come down to, Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 68, and it is a shame. Bill No. 68 has removed any respect in this House. It really has. It has removed respect for members when you have members of the government who can sit there and do that because, as my colleague, the member for Glace Bay, has said, there is not one member in this House who doesn't have a family member or a close acquaintance who is either a nurse or a health care professional.

This bill hits every single one of us and where it hits us, Mr. Speaker, I won't tell you where it hits us. I think the nurses know where it hits, because this is legislation, which you even see constitutional lawyers come out and say that it will not stand the smell test in the courts. A Minister of Justice who stands there and defends this legislation, his greatest accomplishment since becoming Minister of Justice, the first week he was there was to give

[Page 5165]

himself a Queen's Counsel appointment. Imagine. The Minister of Justice giving himself a Queen's Counsel appointment, yet stands here and says that Bill No. 68 should be passed through this House. Hopefully, the Bar might even have a chance to review that decision to give him a Queen's Counsel knowing how this legislation just does not stand the test through the courts to say that a Cabinet cannot be reviewed or even questioned by the courts.

Mr. Speaker, many of the members on this side, in our caucus, have given personal stories and I could give you many also, of cousins, that I know of good family friends who are nurses, who are health care workers, whether they be at St. Anns Nursing Care Centre, the Strait-Richmond Hospital, St. Martha's Regional Hospital, the Cape Breton Regional facility, the Villa in St. Peters, the work they do is incredible. It has been extremely tough in my riding because of the fact that we have not had an emergency room doctor at the Strait-Richmond Hospital for over six months, six and a half months, as I speak today. St. Anns Nursing Care Centre has had repeated physician shortages which has placed additional stress on them, and the Richmond Villa, you know yourself, Mr. Speaker, as I have pointed out in this House, was closed due to some mold contamination, which has placed a great deal of stress on them.

Mr. Speaker, I am ashamed to have to be in a House where a government is going to pass legislation such as this, which tells nurses not only did we not trust you to provide essential services, although there was an agreement in place long before this legislation was passed, but that it says we are willing to offer you a fair package, but not willing to have the intestinal fortitude to go to binding arbitration. That is where this government has gone too far. The member for Preston can't justify that. The member for Cape Breton North can't justify that and certainly the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury can't justify that and they have resorted to simply shouting insults at the Opposition and shouting threats because they know how frustrated they are and they fear having to go face their constituents but, we, in the Opposition can hold our heads high. I will address Bill No. 68 again and, God willing, the government will withdraw this legislation before the end of the day. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I can't say that this is a privilege. I have had the honour and the privilege to be a member of this House for 17 years, not as long, certainly, as the Government House Leader, but I think a fairly significant period of time. Over that 17 years, even when the Tories were in power before, I cannot ever remember such draconian legislation or actions by a government. People used to talk about the heartless Buchanan Government and how they used to try to railroad legislation through this House by a process of exhaustion, how they would keep the House open for 16 to 18 hours a day. Now we have it 24 hours a day. This isn't intended to try to have a meaningful debate. The Premier has already made a decision. The Premier has decided that this legislation will pass, unamended,

[Page 5166]

and that all the good little Tories are going to be good little Do Bees and do exactly as they are told and vote along with what the Premier tells them to do.

[2:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that you will remember not too long ago there was a conference that drew a lot of attention in Quebec City, the Conference of the Americas, to which countries throughout North, Central and South America were invited to discuss a whole host of issues. There was one country that was not invited and that was the Country of Cuba, supposedly because Cuba was not a democracy. When one looks at what this government is doing, one has to wonder what would have happened had Nova Scotia been invited to that because although we profess and we have the trappings of a democracy here today, what we are seeing happening is anything but democratic.

Oh, the government will say the Legislature will meet and discuss and we will pass this legislation in a democratic forum but the Minister of Justice - you know, that fellow, the Minister of Justice, he is the one who is supposed to be standing up for the freedoms, the justice and equality in this province - has the audacity to tell members of the Opposition to sit down and to shut up because if members of the Opposition speak, then we won't give members of the general public an opportunity to speak at the Law Amendments Committee process. Now, I don't know, Minister of Justice, and I won't comment whether he is or isn't here today, but let me just say that I won't be asking him any questions right now about what his intentions are for the Law Amendments Committee process, but you can be darn sure that the Law Amendments Committee will be convening as soon as is humanly possible after this bill passes through this House.

I have been in this Chamber before, Mr. Speaker, and have seen legislation pass second reading and as fast as it could be run down the hall, the meetings were being held at the Law Amendments Committee. Supposedly, we like to brag in this province how we have a Law Amendments Committee process that affords the general public an opportunity to come in and to have their say on legislation. But that, too, seems to be a sham, because this government has decided, the Premier has decided, and mark my words, Mr. Speaker, although government members may try to protect the Premier, this rests with the Premier, and he is probably quite happy with that because the Premier thinks that he is making the right decision.

Mr. Speaker, very recently, I would say probably about 15 minutes ago, a letter was distributed to all members of this House, hand delivered. It is addressed to the Premier. I don't know if the Premier accepted the offer that was extended in that letter. This is a letter from Heather Henderson, President of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union - Mr. Speaker, I understand that somebody is waiting for the member for Cape Breton North. I just got a message that somebody is waiting for the member for Cape Breton North to go out and talk

[Page 5167]

to them. He has been invited out to speak to some guests in the gallery and I am sure that he will welcome the opportunity to go out and meet with them.

Mr. Speaker, the letter from Ms. Henderson extended an invitation to the Premier and I would welcome the Premier getting to his feet on a point of order, or I will yield the floor momentarily to the Premier so he can make an announcement. We don't even need to call it a change of business, by unanimous consent we can agree that it would, if we go back to Statements by Ministers, we won't call any recorded votes coming and going, to give the Premier an opportunity to publicly stand up and to say whether or not he accepts the invitation that was given to him.

Mr. Speaker, Ms. Henderson went on in her letter to the Premier, dated June 18th, that is today, so it is fresh off the press, and in the letter she said, Prior to the introduction of Bill 68, An Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia - that is a bogus name by the way, that is not the real purpose of this legislation. This legislation is all about money, it is not about health care in the Province of Nova Scotia. Anyway, Ms. Henderson said that the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union agreed to meet with the nine district health authorities and the IWK Health Centre with the assistance of a conciliation officer of the Department of Labour.

They offered to meet; they want a conciliation officer from the Department of Labour. Now does that sound like they want to disrupt services? Not to me. This meeting was scheduled for Thursday, June 21st at 9:30 a.m. at the Dartmouth Holiday Inn. It was a further effort to attempt to conclude collective agreements.

"We always have and always will meet our commitments." The President of the Nurses' Union is making a commitment, promising that the nurses will meet their commitments, and have we ever seen a situation where they have not? Each and every one of us in this Chamber, I am sure, have had an opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to be served by the well-trained, highly-qualified, and extremely dedicated health professionals in our province.

Ms. Henderson went on to say "Therefore despite the introduction of Bill 68, the NSNU will be at the conciliation meeting." Now I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, that is pretty big of them. Personally, I don't tend to be as generous. If somebody smacks me, I tend to smack back. That is my inclination. (Interruption) Oh, there is the Wal-Mart greeter. Maybe somebody could give him a real job to do, the member for Preston. Maybe he could go out and count the police officers who are surrounding us to keep him safe. Maybe he could go out and count the barricades that are strung around this building. I don't know, I haven't felt threatened since I have been in this House. I don't ever remember seeing the barricades around this building like we have them now; don't ever remember it. But I guess the nurses, those people up in the gallery, you must be terrorists. Are you terrorists? They look pretty serious. They look very dangerous to me. At least they didn't have to go through a metal detector.

[Page 5168]

AN HON. MEMBER: Not yet.

MR. HOLM: Yet. Anyway, Mr. Speaker, we will continue to make every reasonable effort to conclude collective agreements. They are acting responsibly. I wonder why the government can't do the same thing. Is that too much to expect? I said a moment ago that this legislation is not about health care. It's not. This is about the Minister of Finance's bottom line. The government doesn't have any money or any will to try to negotiate a fair, collective agreement, and they say they trust the health care workers of this province. They don't have any money, but how many thousands of dollars are you spending every day of my tax dollars, of their tax dollars, on your propaganda campaign? How many ads are you running across this province at how many thousands of dollars a day to spread Tory propaganda, and that is what it is? I suggest that maybe if you want to have Tory propaganda, go to your buddies in the back rooms and tell them to belly-up to the table and the Tories can pay. Taxpayers should not be forced to pay for misleading advertisement. Pure, unadulterated propaganda that is untrue.

Mr. Speaker, Ms. Henderson went on to say, While we strongly object to the introduction of Bill 68, it is clear that you and your Cabinet seek an increased role in the collective bargaining process. To ensure that you make informed decision, I invite you, that is the Premier, and your entire Cabinet to attend the conciliation meeting 9:30 Thursday morning. It might be an eye-opener. How many members on the government benches have two clues about negotiations? How many of you have two clues? Some might suggest they actually do have two clues. The only problem is one is lost and the other one is gone looking for their buddy. I will tell you, the way this government is behaving, that appears to be a very accurate assessment.

Mr. Speaker, I will tell you this legislation is not about you, it's not about me, it's not about the Premier, the Minister of Health or anybody else in here. What's important far more, and I said this the other day, whether you are here after the next election or I am here after the next election or, quite frankly, whether the Premier is here after the next election, in the scheme of things makes not a hill of beans of difference because somebody else will occupy these chairs. Somebody will be here. I look around this Chamber, there are four people in this House, I think it is, who came in in 1984: the member for Dartmouth East; myself; the Minister of Finance, and then, of course, with the Don Cameron Regime, he took one long vacation; and, of course, the Government House Leader and the member for Cape Breton

Nova have been here longer. Others in this Chamber have had their seats changed on a number of occasions. Some of those who occupied government benches thought that they were pretty important; when you live in a cocoon and live in a shell and everybody is running up to you and calling you sir or madam, you sometimes start to think that you are important. Well, you are not, nor am I. None of us are.

[Page 5169]

[2:45 p.m.]

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: That's right, it's democracy that is important.

MR. HOLM: My colleague for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage says it is democracy that is important. It is. It is also treating people with respect and with dignity. Those who work in the health care system, whether they be nurses, whether they be technicians, whether they be the orderly, those people who work in our system have given, and given, and they will continue to go on and give, go that extra mile because they are dedicated, caring professionals and if they aren't going to be treated with respect after all they are doing, then there comes a breaking point. There comes a point where people say if I am not valued by the government, then why should I continue.

I say to our guests in the galleries and any others who work in the health care profession, you may not be valued by them, but you are valued by the people of the Province of Nova Scotia.

This isn't just about money. The Premier says he has to ensure that we have a health care system. He said that if, for example, we have a strike, that our health care system could not stand it. The Premier knows that health care workers in this province made a commitment. They promised that if a strike could not be averted that they would ensure that essential services will continue. They guaranteed that there would be enough health care professionals there, on duty, to ensure that those who are in life-threatening situations would be taken care of. They also promised that if there was some kind of dispute or a disagreement over the shifts and the number of people who would be needed for those shifts, that could go to an arbitrator and that that person's decision would be binding. They aren't interested in putting the health care of Nova Scotians at risk; that is not why they went into that profession.

I can tell that my words are having the same impact as the words of others who have spoken in this Chamber. I look around at government members and watch the conversations and I look at backs of heads. You know, when this legislation comes up for final vote, the Minister of Health will have one vote. The member for Kings West will have one vote. It is funny in a democracy when you go to the polls, the rich and the famous and those big mucky-mucks who can pour millions of dollars into the coffers of their friends, when they go behind that little box to vote, they have one vote. In this Chamber, even though members of the backbenches may feel like you are pretty insignificant, you are as powerful as a Minister of Health. You have one vote. The Premier only has one vote.

Now we had a situation in here and I haven't heard of anybody being disciplined on the Tory benches but you know there were a couple of members in here who voted against a government bill. People remember who those people were. I didn't agree with their reasons. I didn't support their position but, Mr. Speaker, at least they did vote in accordance

[Page 5170]

with what they, themselves, personally believed. I have a different belief but they stood their ground on that issue. Right or wrong, they stood their ground and they voted in accordance to what they believed.

Members on the government benches, some of you I would suggest here, have a very important ethical question to ask yourself. You have to look in the mirror and think because I will tell you, in two or three or six years from now, you are going to have to look back and say did I or did I not make the right decision? Did I allow myself to get steamrollered into voting a particular way because those 11 members on the front benches told me how I had to vote? Mr. Speaker, we are already hearing about people who are saying they are leaving Nova Scotia. Health care workers are going to pull up and go, not because they want to. It is not just because there is a big pot of gold somewhere else. The contempt that this government is showing for the health care workers in this province, for many of them, is a straw that is going to be breaking it.

I say to government members and I say this to the Premier, and I am dead serious and he knows, I have told him this privately, this is a foolish piece of legislation. It is going to do more harm than good and I urge the government members, pull back. If necessary, leave it on the table, allow the collective bargaining process a chance. Under this bill that is before us, it is a farce.

Treasury Board, yes, Treasury and Policy Board, names keep changing. It is like the former Minister of Education who was Minister of Education and he was Minister of Advanced Education, I think the name changed about five times. The current Minister of Education occupies the same seat as that former member. Names really don't make a heck of a lot of difference. You know, you have Cabinet - I will just call it Cabinet because they are all in the Treasury and Policy Board right now - you know because of courtesy of Bill No. 20, which again gets steamrollered through, and we, over here, were making some predictions and members on that side, on the backbenches and so on, said, oh, you're nuts, it's not going to happen. Under that legislation, Treasury and Policy Board, according to Bill No. 20, Cabinet, they are the behind the scenes controllers of negotiations because the Central Health Board, the Northern, none of them can approve a contract.

The Minister of Health knows this. They can't approve a contract with the health care workers unless the rubber stamp of approval is given by Cabinet. So now we get a situation, the government says, oh, go back to the bargaining table, meet, we hope you are successful. I haven't heard the Cabinet say, not once, I didn't hear from the Minister of Health, I didn't hear from the Minister of Finance or the Premier, I didn't hear any of them say go back to the bargaining table, we won't interfere. You drive a good hard bargain, yes, as employer, but a fair bargain, and we won't interfere. Not once.

[Page 5171]

What this legislation, if it passes, will say, you go and negotiate behind the scenes. It doesn't have to say it, we know that from Bill No. 20. Cabinet controls what those bodies can offer. So, Cabinet says these are your guidelines. Come in under this figure, you negotiate, if you can't get an agreement on our terms, Cabinet's terms, we will declare that we can't get any agreement, Cabinet will declare that, then they, those same 11 people who set the terms in the first place will impose the collective agreement. Hello, Mr. Speaker, is there something wrong with that picture? You wonder why people are cynical. You wonder why people don't trust this government.

I saw, a few minutes ago, the member for Cape Breton North get up and say, I met with 20 nurses in my constituency. I congratulate him for that. There is nothing wrong with doing that. In fact, I urged, when I spoke on Friday, each and every one of the government members to go back to their constituencies and call public meetings with their health care professionals in their communities. I invited them to do that. I would like to know though, from the member for Kings North, how many of those health care professionals support the position that he is taking in here.

AN HON. MEMBER: Cape Breton North.

MR. HOLM: Cape Breton North. What did I call it? (Interruption) Oh, okay, I apologize. Cape Breton North.

AN HON. MEMBER: Let him stand up and tell us that.

MR. HOLM: I would like him to stand up and tell us that. I don't know if he went out and met yet with the people who wanted him to go out with but, hopefully, he has. I would like him, and I would like the member for Colchester North, who I had a phone call for on my answering machine, actually. I had a couple of health care professionals from that area call to express their views about this government and the contemptuous treatment that they are receiving from this government. I would like to know how many of those health care professionals, I would also like to know how many people have contacted government members to say that we support what you are doing.

My phone in my office has been very busy. My fax machine has been quite busy and last night at around midnight I was responding to a few more e-mails. Not one call, fax, e-mail, supported the government's actions, not a one, and guess what? They weren't all from health care professionals nor were they all mothers or fathers or brothers or sisters or spouses or children of health care professionals, but they were people who believe, as I do, what this government is doing is fundamentally wrong.

[Page 5172]

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I don't doubt for one second that the Premier himself genuinely believes that what he is doing is right. He believes that. I don't question that. The problem is, when you believe something and you are not willing to look or to listen to hear the other side of it, that is what causes problems. I have, on many occasions, believed something and I have believed it in my heart of heart that I am right, except I was wrong. As it turns out, I have been wrong. We cannot, we should not, be imposing our personal beliefs without genuinely listening.

What kind of overtures have the government made to public health care workers and their representatives in this province? What have you offered to do? What offers have you made to Opposition members? Have you suggested, let's just leave the legislation here, let's try to let negotiations go on, conciliation go on and, if necessary, arbitration go on? Just leave it there. If, at the end of the day, if the government feels that through arbitration, through all the processes that nothing is going to be resolved, you still have the bill there.

What has the government done? We have this legislation. We are told it is going to be going through, 24 hours a day. A great way to make legislation. It is not too hard on us over here, Mr. Speaker. We can spell each other off. Gone are the days when I was in the caucus of two or three and let me tell you, when you are two or three in a caucus and you are up on every bill and speaking and doing everything you can, it can become a little bit tiresome. I am very sure that it is very tiresome for government members, particularly the backbenchers, because you have to sit here.

You know as soon as I come in that I am scanning the room and counting numbers and that if I see that the total number of members in here were to drop below 15, you know I am calling for a quorum vote as quickly as possible. That is why there are the guards often at the doors to make sure, not just because of me, but others might do the same thing, that there are enough good little Do Bees in your seats, so that the House won't be adjourned because of a lack of quorum.

So, you sit there and you sit there, and you turn people like me off. I might be inclined to turn me off sometimes, too, but don't turn the people in the gallery off. Don't turn the health care workers who are out there as I speak, from one end of this province to the other, caring for the sick, the dying, who are involved in providing support services and important surgeries. Don't turn them off; don't turn them away; don't, more importantly, drive them away.

We have had people in this House talk about ethics before. We even have somebody who likes to write about them. This, I suggest to you, is a lot bigger than partisan politics. Government members, if you in your heart of hearts do not believe that what your government is doing is right, it is your responsibility, it is your duty to show that you won't

[Page 5173]

support it. You don't have to come in here if you are afraid to stand up in your place - yes, some of us like to torment you and I am sure if you do get up some people will torment you for getting up and speaking against the government, and we will use you against your colleagues, that is a reality - behind the scenes you can tell the Minister of Health, you can tell the Premier that I will not vote for this legislation. You can tell them, and you can work to lobby your colleagues also, to tell them that you will not support this legislation.

Now after, if the vote is held and you stand up and you vote for the bill - I have heard this before, I have seen this done before - people go back to their ridings and say, well, I didn't agree with it but there is nothing I can do, I am not in Cabinet. I had to vote for it. It is not my bill. I don't agree with it. It doesn't wash. The member for Eastern Shore has one vote; the member for Chester-St. Margaret's has one vote; and the member for Halifax Bedford Basin has one vote. That is one more than the Minister of Health and the Premier put together. In here, when it comes to voting, each and every one of us are equal, and each and every one of us has a responsibility.

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned a little while ago about some e-mails and so on. One of them, I know that members on the government benches will have received this as well, because it was sent to, first of all, the PC MLAs, and that is government members. So, the member for Kings North got this one, as did others. I haven't got a clue who the person is, personally. It is a paramedic and a volunteer fireman, not a health care worker but you might say if he is a paramedic he has tasted the Tories' sense of justice.

I thought he posed a few interesting questions. He said that the government claims to do what is best for the people, but we as a people are never consulted when it comes to what is best for us. Why is that? That is a good question to ask government members. The member for Shelburne, the member for Guysborough-Port Hawksbury, the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, it is a good question, how do you answer that? What did you say? Have you responded yet?

He said, if Mr. Hamm is, as he claims to be, just looking out for the best interests of the people, then I would like to know what people is he referring to? Because speaking for myself, I can tell you right now that I am nowhere in Mr. Hamm's best interests. What a heck of a thing for a citizen to feel compelled to say. It goes on to suggest that he thought he lived in a free country, a democratic country.

Another one, sent to the Premier. A person kindly provided me with a copy. It started out, and I see that some members in the back are paying very close attention again, I am sure when I go through the list that I can find their names on it as well, these e-mails got wide distribution so those members who aren't paying attention I am sure will have an opportunity to read their own e-mails because it will have been sent to them.

[Page 5174]

Mr. Speaker, it starts off by saying, below is a letter that you signed - that is the Premier because this is addressed to the Premier - and knowing that it was your signature at the bottom of this letter I must ask you, do you not remember signing the letters? It goes on and says a few other things. This was a letter from the Premier, President of the Executive Council, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and all the titles of the Premier. It goes on to talk about the Web site and so on, it says this site contains information, both about issues that are important to me and about matters that affect all Nova Scotians. I encourage you to use this site to learn more about our government's plans to build a modern health care system that is responsive to the changing needs of Nova Scotians, create a government that is fiscally responsible and financially accountable, develop a more student-focused approach to the education system in Nova Scotia, et cetera.

Driving health care workers away, is that building a more modern health care system? How many of our graduate students are remaining here? Where are they going and why are they leaving? The Minister of Health should have that information off the top of his head. What are we training our health care people for? Doing what you are doing now is ensuring that we are training them for somebody else. It is not just about money. It is about working conditions, it is about respect, it is about not kicking sand in their faces.

[3:15 p.m.]

Another gentleman writes wondering who is running the show? He wants to know if it is Stalin. Democracy means representing or listening to opposing views and not imposing the will of the majority in a heavy-handed way. If what this government is doing now is not heavy-handed, I don't know what is. I am sure that my colleague, and somebody who despite our political differences I have had some respect for, I think is certainly interested in the health care system of the community that we represent together, and that being Sackville, the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, I don't know, but I am sure, at least I hope he also received an e-mail from staff members at the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre and that, Mr. Speaker, is an excellent health care facility which is grossly overtaxed and stressed to the max.

It is going to be replaced and the staff who work in that facility go way above and beyond what most people would expect to be done by reasonable people. Yes, there are some complaints made occasionally about the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre and if you trace most of those complaints back, what it really comes down to is an overtaxed system that can't possibly begin to meet some of the needs when they're brought in, but few would question the sincerity, the professionalism and the dedication of the staff who work there.

The writer says that, I am writing to let you know that we are all very upset with the Hamm Government and what they are trying to do to us right now. It is not in cooperation with us, it is not in consultation with us, but it is what the Hamm Government is trying to do to us. By now you will have received your own copy of all the reports about essential

[Page 5175]

services. That part I won't bother to read, Mr. Speaker, but let me just go on to say that they consider that the Minister of Health speaks with false words because if I use the word that was used in this letter, it might be called unparliamentary because we are not allowed to call people this in this Chamber. We are so concerned about proper etiquette and respect that we can't use the "l" word and other words like it, yet while we can't do that in here, government can do that to the workers out there. It seems to be a little bit ironic, but I won't push that one, and I won't continue to spell that "l" word.

The writer goes on to say that this isn't about money. This is about fair compensation and working conditions and the right to sit down at the table with our employer and bargain.

Premier Hamm or no other government official should think that he/she has the right to do this. The right to sit down and bargain - interesting concept. You know, when I arrange a mortgage, Mr. Speaker, I bargain with the financial institutions. I bargain with them and I drive as hard a bargain as I can, and I win some and I lose some, but I walk away knowing that I got the best I could get, and I won't sign on the dotted line until I get fair treatment.

A colleague said, well, that is capitalism. I want to take that analogy for a second and the whole idea of the free-market system. I have stood in my place in this Chamber before and I have urged, I have insulted, I have begged, I have pleaded with this government to interfere on some things to protect consumers, like the price that you pay for home heating oil and gasoline while big companies are gouging and walking away with absurd profits, but we are told, no, we can't do that, this is a free-market economy. We can't interfere. Well, if this is free market economy where you negotiate and where you bargain, why is the government interfering here? You won't take on big oil, you won't tell them because, oh, no, we can't interfere, it is a free market system, free, open system, but you have no qualms about interfering and imposing when it comes to health care workers in this province. It's contradiction; I don't, quite honestly, expect government members or some people to see that because you get a mindset, but it is. It is called interference when it is convenient for us, meaning the government; hands-off when it isn't.

The writer goes on to say we are the backbones of the health care system and Hamm is destroying that further. Truthfully, it is not just Dr. Hamm who is destroying it, the member for Halifax Bedford Basin will be every bit as guilty of what happens, any consequences, as will the member for Kings North if you don't stand up and say, give collective bargaining a chance. Stop kicking sand in the faces of our health care workers. I don't think there is anybody on the government benches, not a one, who promised that if I am elected I will be a good Do Bee and I will do what I am told, when I am told, by my Leader, the Premier, if we form government. Did anybody over there make that commitment to your constituents - whether it is good or bad for you, I promise that I will do exactly as I am told by my Premier.

[Page 5176]

In fact, the Tories once upon a time used to say free votes. What is being proposed in this legislation is wrong. The process that is being railroaded through this House is wrong. To have people questioning who you are when you are coming through the gates at midnight, not even coming into the House, but just going through the metal gates outside - where do we live, Mr. Speaker?

Health care workers who live in my constituency, in your constituency, live next door, care for us, care for our loved ones, and we have to challenge them when they come through the gates into Province House. You never know, they might want to talk to a Tory MLA and they might even use their tongue as a weapon. That is one of the privileges, one of the things that I like, has been most rewarding being a member of this House, that at least I have the chance to stand in my place and, eyeball-to-eyeball, tell governments what I think of what they are doing, and sometimes that has been complimentary. Do you know, Mr. Speaker, that the vast majority of pieces of legislation that come before this House are approved by all sides. It is not, as some would like to have the image out there, that you just automatically battle and disagree on everything but you have to stand up. (Interruption)

Two minutes? Thank you, Mr. Speaker, that is two minutes in this hour, because I hope I will have the chance to speak for quite a few more unless the government - actually I hope I don't because I hope the government pulls back; I hope the government will make some overtures. Winning at all costs is not an answer. There is absolutely nothing wrong with pulling back. There is absolutely nothing wrong with making overtures to the other side and saying look, is there a way, do it in private if you want, who cares? Just stop this foolish course that you are driving us on, which is going to have severe consequences.

Mr. Speaker, quite truthfully I haven't even really looked at my notes yet but, as you say my time is up. I didn't hear the Premier say whether or not he was going to be at the conciliation meeting on Monday morning. He is not in Newfoundland, so it gives him an opportunity to go to it. Honestly - and there has never been an issue that I have felt more strongly about in my years in this House - this, what the government is doing, is wrong.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, would you table that letter that you read from earlier, the one from Heather Henderson, please.

MR. HOLM: Oh sure. It was given to every member of the House too, but sure.

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on the amendment that is before the House, the amendment that will allow this bill to be referred to the Human Resources Committee. Bill No. 68, An Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia. If this amendment goes through, it will actually allow this bill to be and probably will allow this government at the same time an opportunity to do some further

[Page 5177]

consultations, an opportunity to talk with the people of Nova Scotia, an opportunity to listen to nurses and other health care providers but I can honestly say, hearing comments made earlier today by the Minister of Justice, by the Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee, that this bill, Bill No. 68, needs to be passed before next Wednesday, June 27th. It doesn't appear that this Tory Government is ready to vote with the Opposition in support of this amendment when the vote will be taken later this afternoon or early this evening.

[3:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice also said earlier today in this House that the Law Amendments Committee will only be sitting this Wednesday to allow the public the opportunity to make presentations before the committee and further to the minister's comments, it sounds as if he is telling the Opposition to stop talking on this bill. Now I am just wondering if the Minister of Justice forgot where he was two years ago. The Minister of Justice was sitting on this side of the House, on the Opposition benches, and the role of the Opposition is to hold the government accountable and to debate the legislation that comes before this House. Maybe the Minister of Justice forgot where he was two years ago and who knows, maybe the Minister of Justice may find himself, one day, sitting on this side of the House again, on the Opposition benches.

AN HON. MEMBER: If he is lucky.

MR. GAUDET: If he is lucky, my colleague indicates. The Minister of Justice may not agree with what the Opposition members have said so far but I can tell you, under the current parliamentary system in Nova Scotia, based on the British parliamentary system, the Opposition's role is to hold the government accountable to the people of Nova Scotia. Government comes and government goes. The people of Nova Scotia decide who is going to be sitting to your right, Mr. Speaker, on the government benches, along the way.

But for the Minister of Justice, the Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee to stand in this Chamber and tell members of the Opposition that we should take our seats to allow more time for the public to come in and make presentations at the Law Amendments Committee is uncalled for. Maybe the Minister of Justice loves to try to bully people around. It is going to take a lot more for the Minister of Justice to bully me, and members on this side of the House.

Mr. Speaker, the amendment that is before the House certainly would allow the government to vote in favour of this amendment, to allow Bill No. 68 to be referred to the Human Resources Committee which would then certainly allow everyone in the Province of Nova Scotia the opportunity to be heard. If they have concerns they wish to bring forward, if they have concerns that they wish the government to hear, this is an opportunity to allow everyone who wishes to speak on this bill to come forward at the Human Resources

[Page 5178]

Committee and be heard, whether it is here in Halifax, whether the Human Resources Committee would be travelling around the province.

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to speak to quite a few people in the last several days, especially with people from my constituency, in the Municipality of Clare down in Digby County, and they have pointed out they have no intentions to travel three hours to come in to make a short presentation and go back. At the same time, a lot of these individuals are currently working 12 hour shifts at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital, so in their time off they can't afford to. They have young families, they can't afford to leave their family behind and drive up. With the amendment that is before the floor of the House, certainly the committee could take its hearings to different parts of the province, allowing those people to come forward and make their presentations.

Mr. Speaker, that is not going to happen. The Tory Government has a majority. They hold the majority number of seats in this House. Especially hearing the Minister of Justice earlier trying to blame everyone else for their mess that is before us, we really know who is to blame for the mess here today. This Tory Government has created this mess and I am sure it is going to get worse, especially when you have the Minister of Justice trying to bully his way through this whole process.

Bill No. 68 is currently before you, Mr. Speaker, currently before the floor of this House. We are going through second reading. The Opposition had brought an earlier amendment on Friday. That amendment was voted down by the government members. Another amendment was introduced by my colleague, the honourable member for Dartmouth East, to allow this bill, Bill No. 68, to be referred to the Human Resources Committee. We know that, technically, each member of the Opposition is only allowed once to rise to speak on this bill to a maximum of one hour. So we know the clock is running. The government knows that at some point in time today the question will be put to the floor of the House, a vote will be taken - especially hearing the Minister of Justice's comments earlier this morning that this bill has to go through before next Wednesday - so we know that this amendment that is before the House probably will, more than likely, be defeated at some point here today.

Then what happens after the second amendment gets defeated? As everyone is aware, Mr. Speaker, the process, the Chair recognizes members from the government benches and then a member from the Official Opposition is recognized and then a member from the Third Party. Well, after we vote on the second amendment, the Chair will recognize the Government House Leader; that's only fair, that's the system. Chances are, as we have seen in the past, not long ago, the Government House Leader is expected to move a motion to put the question, which will limit, again, members on this side of the House an opportunity to speak one last time before the vote on second reading is put and that will probably happen sometime early tomorrow evening and then the bill will be sent to the Law Amendments Committee.

[Page 5179]

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 68 that is before this House affects more than 9,000 nurses and health care workers at hospitals throughout our province. Why has this bill been introduced? Well, this Tory Government has said they want to prevent a strike by nurses and health care workers in Nova Scotia, so by introducing Bill No. 68 they will take away the rights of these individuals to strike.

I can tell you over the last few days our Liberal caucus has received lots of letters, e-mails, faxes, phone calls, and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you have as well, and the members on the government benches have as well, from Nova Scotians objecting - not just from health care workers, not just from nurses, but from other Nova Scotians objecting - to Bill No. 68 that will take away the rights of health care workers to strike.

Mr. Speaker, over the weekend I had the opportunity to attend a number of events at home in Clare. I had an opportunity and a chance to speak with quite a few people and I have to say everyone I had the chance to speak with told me that this Tory Government has gone too far with introducing Bill No. 68, I agree with them.

Earlier today a member from the government benches from our area of the province stood up and indicated that he had talked with Liberals who basically said that Liberals were going too far with objecting to this bill. Well, I can say to that honourable member from the western region of the province, I had a chance to talk to individuals who are very connected with the Tory Party here in Nova Scotia and they certainly do not support the Premier and the Minister of Health for bringing Bill No. 68 to the floor. So while he may throw back to this side that there are Liberals objecting to this bill, I think it is fair to say I don't think the majority of the people in the province today are in support of Bill No. 68.

Yes, I will agree that there are people in support of Bill No. 68, but I think Bill No. 68 is going a little too far. Mr. Speaker, I am sure you have had the opportunity over the last couple of days to talk to people at home who raised concerns with you with regard to this bill, with what Bill No. 68 is proposing to do if the bill does not get amended before third and final reading. I am sure members of the government benches had a chance to speak to some of their constituents at home in the last couple of days, and I am sure it wasn't fun, trying to defend the government's action, trying to defend Bill No. 68, and trying to defend not showing any respect for our nurses and for our health care workers.

Looking at some of the facts that we do know and we do have: we know that nurses are underpaid in Nova Scotia; we know nurses are moving outside of Nova Scotia because the same job pays more outside this province; we know that nurses are in demand, not just here in Nova Scotia, they are in demand right across North America and even outside; we know there is a delegation currently from the United Kingdom in Toronto recruiting nurses; and we know, Mr. Speaker, that working conditions for these health care workers need to be looked at. Those are givens.

[Page 5180]

But the people of Nova Scotia want their government, want this Tory Government to show some respect, not disrespect, to show some respect for these health care workers. These individuals, Nova Scotians, want this government to treat them fairly, you know, it is not to use the hammer approach, the bulldozer approach, let's do it my way.

These individuals are not asking for money. It is not just because of the money. They are asking for respect and they are not getting it and it is upsetting a lot of people, a lot of people who are currently in the system and those nurses and those health care workers have families, they have friends, and they are extremely disappointed with what Bill No. 68 is offering. The people of Nova Scotia do not want this government to use the hammer approach. They don't want this government to impose a settlement as they see fit. These health care workers don't deserve to be treated this way. They don't.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words about this mess that is before us now, this Bill No. 68. We know that over 9,000 nurses and health care workers are, or were, I should say, currently involved with negotiations with the provincial government, negotiating with the NSGEU, negotiating with the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, but this Tory Government decided to hijack these negotiations by introducing Bill No. 68.

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I am sure you are wondering, as all these workers are wondering, what has happened here. Why did this Tory Government decide to hijack these negotiations? Why not let the collective bargaining process work? What about the conciliation process here? What about the mediator who was appointed by government last week? What about arbitration, if both sides can't come to an agreement? What happened to the collective bargaining process?

Mr. Speaker, this Tory Government has interfered with this collective bargaining process. This Tory Government has put an end to these negotiations between the provincial government, the NSGEU and the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union by tabling this bill, Bill No. 68 that brings this legislation preventing these individuals from going on strike. Whatever happened to bargaining in good faith? I am sure you have probably been asked that question time and time again, because I have, and I am sure members on the government benches have as well. Whatever happened to bargaining in good faith? We have seen that, it is nothing new. We have had labour disputes in the past, but all of a sudden we are faced with Bill No. 68 and people cannot understand why Bill No. 68 is before us here today. It was introduced last Thursday.

Mr. Speaker, if this Tory Government is willing to take this action against these 9,000 or more health care workers, then you have to ask who will be next? Nurses and health workers today, is it teachers tomorrow? We need to ask who will be next, and I am sure the government will certainly take on another group in the future. As I have said, and as many

[Page 5181]

members on this side have said, everyone believes that this government, once they have Bill No. 68 passed through this House and it becomes law, there will be more to come. I just hope that I am wrong, that once this bill goes through, it is not going to happen, government is not going to take on other groups, other government employees in this province. I hope, for the sake of everyone, that this will not happen.

Mr. Speaker, 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, unfortunately, we cannot say the same thing about this government.

Mr. Speaker, this latest action by this government proves that this Tory Government has no trust in the nurses and the health care workers in this province, and they have no trust in the collective bargaining process. Sadly, they have no respect for the nurses and health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia by introducing this bill, Bill No. 68. Bill No. 68 also talks about what happens if agreements cannot be reached. That is the sad part, what happens if agreements cannot be reached. Cabinet will have the final say, take it or leave it. Cabinet will have the final say, we will no longer negotiate at the table, we will no longer call upon binding arbitration if both sides are unable to reach a settlement. It will be left to Cabinet to decide, the final say in what will happen in this labour dispute. This is a sad day for collective bargaining in the Province of Nova Scotia. This amendment that is before this House allows this government to reconsider before this bill goes too far, before this bill eventually becomes law.

Nova Scotians do not want to see nurses and health care workers strike and likewise, nurses and health care workers do not want to strike. It goes against everything that they believe in and that they have trained for.

Mr. Speaker, I want to make reference to a press release issued on Friday by the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union. Sorry, it was issued on Wednesday of last week and I quote the President, Heather Henderson: The NSNU nurses have an incredible amount of loyalty to their patients and residents. That is the type of commitment that we have.

Over the last several weeks we have heard many stories from these front-line health care workers, that they only want to be treated fairly. That is all they are asking for, to be treated fairly. That is not what is happening here with this bill. So much for negotiation, so much for conciliation, so much for the mediator appointed last week and the day after the government tabled this bill. So much for binding arbitration, with this bill Cabinet will have the final say. Even more, under this bill there is no right to appeal, it is a done deal, I can't believe it and I will have more to say about that later.

[Page 5182]

These employees will not be treated fairly by this Tory Government with the introduction of this bill, Bill No. 68 goes through third and final reading and that is just a question of time. I was asked on the weekend by nurses, by individuals at home who have been following this whole debate, isn't there anything that the Opposition can do? Unfortunately, the Opposition in this situation is restricted. The government on that side of the House, the Tory Party, has the majority government in this House of Assembly.

We know we can bring amendments, we know amendments will be voted on, we know these amendments will be voted down by the government. This government has Bill No. 68, they want to ram through, they are in a hurry to get it through this House and it will, especially when you are looking at these extended hours. This bill will get through probably by early next week, as we heard the Minister of Justice indicating earlier this morning, this bill needs to get through before next Wednesday, June 27, 2001.

There are a lot of people in the Province of Nova Scotia who believe this time, this Tory Government has gone too far with these employees and their families and they, themselves, know this first-hand, but this government has gone too far by introducing Bill No. 68 preventing them from striking.

[4:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, if this 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 that bunch across the floor. This is the beginning of more to come. There are many problems in health care; 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 these parties. This is the same Party that made all kinds of promises in the last election. They could fix health care for $47 million. As I said late last week, nurses, health care workers, many Nova Scotians are waiting for this government to deliver on that promise and it is not happening. Instead of solving problems, they are creating a bigger mess along the way and that's certainly not comforting for those involved in the system. This piece of legislation does nothing to address our crisis in health care in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I want to make reference to a press release, issued by the Medical Society on Friday, that at a time when the Government of Nova Scotia should be making conditions more attractive for people to come and work in the health care field, this legislation will have the opposite effect. This bill does more harm to the health care in Nova Scotia and that's a terrible shame. I want to go to a press release here that was issued on Friday by the President of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, President Brian Forbes: This is perhaps the most regressive legislation ever introduced by any government in the history of this province, says Forbes. If this bill is enacted, collective bargaining in this province is dead.

[Page 5183]

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 68 is a bad piece of legislation and we've been hearing from members on this side of the House for the last several days many reasons why this bill is not a good piece of legislation. My colleagues on this side of the House will continue to raise these concerns, raise problems and raise different issues that this government needs to address in the health care system in our province.

I want to say a few words about nursing salaries. This week the government has put out an advertisement in the newspapers saying that their wage offer will make Nova Scotia nurses the highest paid in Atlantic Canada at $48,000, a fair offer for nurses, and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you have probably seen this already, but that salary is the top end of the pay scale and does not represent the salaries of all nurses in Nova Scotia. I am looking at this announcement, this advertisement, why hasn't the government included in this advertisement what nurses are making in other provinces in Canada or yet across the border in the U.S.? They are talking about what nurses are making in P.E.I., New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and what nurses will be making here in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, this government is spending a lot of taxpayers' dollars on advertising the salaries of nurses and before I get into this issue, let's look at what the Tories promised in the last election. I want to go back to the so-called famous blue book. The Tory Party back in the last election made 243 promises to Nova Scotians. I want to go to Page 19. On Page 19 in the famous blue book it says, "During its first mandate, a PC Government will: . . . Stop spending taxpayers' money on politically-motivated government advertising."

You are right, Mr. Speaker, what happened to this promise? The advertisement in our newspapers is politically-motivated advertising and this is exactly what the Tories said they would not do. We had another one, a health care strike, the risk is too great, a fair offer for nurses that was put out by the government.

Mr. Speaker, in typical Tory fashion, they have ignored this promise. There were others as well, but now I want to come back to the nursing salaries. Into this mix, looking at nursing salaries, we need to include the nursing shortage that exists. What this government, and particularly this Premier, and this Minister of Health don'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 Health Minister's propaganda machine would have us believe.

Mr. Speaker, nurses are in demand all across North America and across the ocean. As I told you earlier, currently there is an individual in Toronto recruiting nurses for the United Kingdom. This is not just a Nova Scotia issue, problem. According to the American Hospital Association, 126,000 nurses are currently needed in the United States. That is 126,000 nurses currently needed across the border. The average salary in New England is $64,993 in Canadian dollars and when I look at this propaganda, nurses in Nova Scotia would be making $48,000. You know you have to wonder how come the government or the Department of Health forgot to include that in their propaganda.

[Page 5184]

Mr. Speaker, hospitals in the United States 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; not just here in Nova Scotia. If we are going to look at this whole issue then we need to look at all the facts, we cannot just look at Atlantic Canada.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable Leader of the Liberal Party allow for an introduction?

MR. GAUDET: Yes.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, in our east gallery is a woman from British Columbia, Alexis MacLeod and her two grandchildren, Morgan Barber and Matthew Bowe. They are here watching the proceedings. I thought the House may be willing to give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our special visitors from B.C. to the House today.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party. You have about 17 minutes.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to extend a warm welcome to our visitors in the gallery this afternoon.

Mr. Speaker, I think we have to certainly recognize the shortage of nurses and other health care workers here in Nova Scotia. There is a bigger problem and we need to keep that in mind as we debate Bill No. 68. Sometimes I actually wonder if this government has any conception of just how big the magnitude of the nursing shortage and recruiting of specialized health care workers is.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you, at the same time you bring this type of legislation, you have to wonder if they know or if they are ignoring the facts or if they just don't care. If this Tory Government truly believes this piece of legislation will prevent our nurses and other health care workers from leaving Nova Scotia, they should look again; they should look again because we are losing them now. With this type of legislation we are actually helping them out, we are pushing them out of the province. The tabling of this legislation, this back-to-work legislation, will only encourage more of our health care providers to leave the province and look for work somewhere else.

Mr. Speaker, I want to make reference to a letter I received from a nurse, Mora Lavoie, "I have been nursing for forty-one years . . . The younger nurses are not going to stand by and be degraded. They will up and leave very quickly with all the generous offerings from United

[Page 5185]

States and other parts of Canada." When you look at nurse Lavoie, 41 years in this business, she has seen many of her colleagues come and go. The fact that she took the time to write us a note to express her concerns that Bill No. 68 will have on her colleagues worries me.

[4:15 p.m.]

I have received another one here from Sonya Salter. Sonya indicates, "Having worked four and one-half years in the United States and treated with the utmost respect, it is such a let down to be treated this way by my own government . . . Because of this proposed bill I too am currently seeking employment again in the Unites States . . .".

Mr. Speaker, nurses at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital are very upset, are very frustrated with Bill No. 68. Earlier this afternoon I was speaking with Deborah Theriault. She lives in Little Brook, the Municipality of Clare. Deborah is a nurse. She started her career in Louisiana, came back several years ago and has been working at the Yarmouth hospital ever since. She has a young family and she works in the ICU at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital. Deborah loves her work. She is very dedicated to her profession and committed to her job and to the people she works with who need her caring, but working 12 hour shifts in the ICU - there are supposed to be three RNs working in that unit, a unit that is very busy. Unfortunately, because of the nurse shortage at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital, Deborah finds herself working with only one other RN and one LPN at times, and that really worries Deborah.

Because of the nurse shortage in Yarmouth, Deborah often gets called for another 12 hour shift on her scheduled time off. So sometimes unable to say no to another 12 hour shift to help her colleagues at work and helping to care for those in need is really upsetting Deborah and her family. Existing working conditions at the Yarmouth hospital are making it hard for Deborah and her family. Deborah is very upset with Bill No. 68. Deborah actually told me this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, she is actually considering looking for work in the State of Maine, getting on the Yarmouth ferry between Yarmouth and Bar Harbor on the Cat and looking for work in Maine. Deborah and her other health care colleagues deserve to be treated fairly and respected by this Tory Government, and that's not what is happening here. You have to wonder, if this bill goes through, how many of these health care workers will actually be pushed to look for work outside of Nova Scotia, and that worries me.

Mr. Speaker, our province will continue to lose nurses and health care professionals to other parts of Canada and the United States unless we act quickly to improve working conditions, along with wages. It's not just a money issue. Again, with this bill this Tory Government is driving these workers out of the province, and that is a terrible shame.

Mr. Speaker, throughout this whole debate, we need to recognize that we have many health care workers working in Nova Scotia, not because of the money but because of their dedication in helping others in need and because of their dedication to their profession. I

[Page 5186]

want to acknowledge those, not just personally but on behalf of all of us because I am sure members on the government benches certainly appreciate their support and their work, even though at times you have to wonder if they do, but I truly believe that everyone in this House acknowledges the commitment that all of these health care workers are giving to the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is about disrespect, disrespect for nurses and health care workers in Nova Scotia and never before has the 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 and they have failed to be honest with Nova Scotians. By introducing Bill No. 68, this government has shown no respect for nurses and health care workers in Nova Scotia. I certainly would welcome the Premier, the Minister of Health, anyone on the government benches to rise and tell this House and tell all Nova Scotians why Bill No. 68 is now being debated on the floor of this House, why, the real reason, not this political propaganda we have been seeing on the news and in the newspapers for the last little while.

The people of Nova Scotia support nurses and support health care workers but today, unfortunately, they are not being supported by this group across the floor. 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 tabled here in this House. I indicated earlier, and now my time is getting closer to the end, that under this bill, when it becomes law, no order, no regulation made by Cabinet, shall be questioned or reviewed by any courts.

Mr. Speaker, I am no lawyer. I am a teacher by profession. I spent 14 years in the school system and I have to question who came up with this Bill No. 68. You have to wonder if this Tory Government is desperate enough to bring this type of protection forward into this bill. Then we need to ask ourselves why do they need this type of protection under this bill that they cannot be questioned, they cannot be reviewed, they cannot be appealed? That worries me.

Mr. Speaker, I understand at the press conference last week, when this bill was being introduced, a question was asked about a part of this bill, whether or not it was constitutional. The question was ignored.

Mr. Speaker, in closing in the next few minutes, this bill does nothing to address the crisis that is currently in our health care system in the Province of Nova Scotia. It does nothing. What it does, it gives this Tory Government and it gives the Cabinet - because the backbenchers aren't part of Cabinet - the power over all of the people of Nova Scotia. We know this bill applies to nurses and other health care workers now, but then you have to ask yourself, what is the next group that this government will take on? There will be another day and someone else will be frustrated and upset with this Tory Government.

[Page 5187]

When this bill becomes law it will effectively do a couple of things. First, it will take away the right to strike. It will allow Cabinet to impose a settlement without negotiations. This government is not interested any more in negotiations; they are interested in bringing down settlements. This bill will eliminate a constitutional right of appeals to the courts by health care workers. No right to appeal, and that is a sad day in this province.

Mr. Speaker, this bill will prevent fair, collective bargaining by health care workers. It doesn't exist anymore. Cabinet will make a final decision and impose their decision on these employees. Now unfortunately, this group will not be entitled to appeal whatever decision is brought down by Cabinet. We are not living under a dictatorship, but under Bill No. 68 you really and truly have to ask yourself what is happening here.

So, Mr. Speaker, with those few comments, I will take my seat. I am sure I will have an opportunity in the next little while to rise again and to continue with this discussion.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have another opportunity to rise on Bill No. 68, this time on the motion to send this bill to the Human Resources Committee. Everyone knows why we are here, everyone knows why our caucus is standing up, why the Liberal Caucus is standing up and talking on this legislation.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Something to do with the battle at Normandy or something.

MR. DEVEAUX: My colleague, the member for Halifax Atlantic, said it has something to do with the beaches of Normandy, and . . .

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: You should have heard Bill this morning.

MR. DEVEAUX: I did hear Mr. Estabrooks this morning, a little earlier.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to go back a little further. I was driving home from the midnight shift. It was quite funny, because I was here from 12:00 to midnight - as the Speaker would know, he was here as well - I spoke from 5:15 to 6:15. On my way home CBC Radio was announcing This Day in History and one of the things they announced was that June 15th was the signing of the Magna Carta, which would have been, I am not even going to venture a guess, 1200 and something, I think or sometime around then, several centuries ago, and it is often referred to, at least in English society and English civilization, as the beginning of responsible government where the King was forced at that time by the aristocrats, by the nobles, to have to comply with what they wanted to some extent, some responsibility on the King to have to respond to them, some accountability.

[Page 5188]

[4:30 p.m.]

It was the beginning. It took many more centuries for us to get to the point where average citizens had that same level of accountability, but on June 15th, the first day that this House debated on second reading of this bill, was the anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta which is generally seen as the beginning of democratic reform, democratic renaissance in the western world, or at least in the English-speaking world, Mr. Speaker, so I thought it was quite ironic that we were in the Legislature debating a bill which will take away so many of those democratic rights that have been fought for, that the people of Nova Scotia have fought for.

When I stand in this House and I look across at a plaque that says the first responsible government in the British Empire, Mr. Speaker, that's something that many people in this province fought for as well, an opportunity to say that when the majority are elected and the majority of people in Nova Scotia want something, then it should be the government that responds to it. It shouldn't be a government trying to defeat it. It shouldn't be a government trying to thwart the will of the majority, but it should be a government that works with the majority, that works with the people of Nova Scotia to build a better society.

That is what responsible government was about. That's what Joseph Howe fought for. We name a room downstairs, the Uniacke Room, after the member, Mr. Uniacke, who I think at one point was on the government side and went over to the Reform side because he believed there was a need for that responsible government as well, Mr. Speaker. Yet we are in this House today and we continue to stand in this House, we continue to talk and talk and talk because we are doing what little we can. Sometimes it may seem like we are banging our head against the wall, but we're doing what we can to try and ensure that this government understands that what it is doing is wrong. It is wrong for themselves. It is wrong for the government politically but, most importantly, it is wrong for our health care system. It is wrong for the people of Nova Scotia because their health care system will be devastated by this legislation, not directly, let's be clear.

This doesn't directly attack our health care system, but it is a direct attack on the foundation of our health care system, the morale of the workers in that system, and the workers in that system are not happy. They weren't happy before this legislation came in. They believed that this province was on the road to destroying our health care system, basically death by 1,000 knives, Mr. Speaker, cuts here, cuts there, roll-backs there, beds closed here, a lack of a new home care system to replace it.

More and more we expect those in the health care system to do more with less, less staff, less up-to-date equipment, less facilities and, Mr. Speaker, that has resulted in the workers in the health care system who are just devastated. Their morale was already low. I saw it only a few weeks ago when my wife was in the hospital with the birth of our daughter. I could see it in their faces. They talked to me about it when they found out what I did. They

[Page 5189]

wanted to talk about how the health care system was being destroyed, how they would have to work four shifts in a row, 12-hour shifts, and then mandatory overtime would have to be brought back, or how they would try not to answer the phone for fear that they would be called back on their days off, just so they can find an ounce of sleep or, you know, a moment of rest. But, no, the stress was building, the stress is building and this government has just turned up the heat a lot more on them and that's a problem.

The member for Preston has just told me the Magna Carta was signed in June, 1215. I don't know, was that the Premier who noted that - the Premier, thank you. Not to offend the member for Preston, but I assumed that it might be the Premier who actually knew that it was in June 1215. I had the right century anyway and I am going to talk a bit about that but, Mr. Speaker, I think what is important here to reflect is that the people of Nova Scotia, the workers, the health care workers, aren't asking for a huge amount. They are not asking for parity with the top-paid nurses in North America. They're not asking that our system be changed and revolutionized and work effectively and efficiently overnight.

They know that this is a long row to hoe. They know we have a debt. They know we have a deficit. They're not being unrealistic but they also know, Mr. Speaker, and I am going to talk a bit about some of the evidence I have towards that, they also know that our system cannot work, our society cannot work, that we will not succeed as a province. I hear the Premier from time to time talking about wanting to make us a have province. I hear the Premier from time to time talk about the need for us to begin to be self-disciplined, to begin to take responsibility for our lives and to begin to ensure that we, as a province, can succeed. I agree, but do you know what, that is not going to happen with short-sighted, fiscally-obsessed decisions that are about balancing the books in order to give a tax cut.

It will only happen, Mr. Speaker, when this government and this province begins to invest, begins to invest in our health care system, begins to invest in our education system, so that we, as a province, can begin, not in a year, maybe not in two years, but in 10 years or in 20 years to see a health care system that is revitalized, we will begin to see an education system that is revitalized, and that's the foundation of a society that is a have province, that is able to be prosperous, is able to ensure that the people of Nova Scotia don't have to leave to find work but will be able to stay here.

You know, Mr. Speaker, that is why we need to send this legislation to the Human Resources Committee, because the people of Nova Scotia need an opportunity to talk to this government. They need an opportunity to make comments on this legislation and explain exactly what I am explaining, or the other members who have spoken before me have explained, that fiscal obsession on behalf of this government, on the part of this government is killing this province.

[Page 5190]

The Premier is a physician and maybe he got in and sort of did a little triage and said, when he got elected, we have a budget deficit we have to get under control; we have a debt we have to get under control, you know, it is sort of like stopping the bleeding. We have to do this before we can do that. Let's stop the bleeding, let's get them breathing and then we will worry about the bigger problems later on. He must have said we have to get rid of the deficit, we have to get rid of the debt and then we can worry about our health care system and our education system.

The problem is the province isn't a patient and the province isn't bleeding to death like the way the Premier may think it is. The problem is that we will kill the patient, we will kill the province, Mr. Speaker, unless we begin to also address the longer term problems. It isn't just about the deficit and the debt. Yes, there are problems. It is about something much bigger than that as well. It is about a province that is able to succeed and is able to provide to its citizens basic, adequate health care and education, and Bill No. 68 goes in the completely opposite direction.

I heard the Premier, I think it was in an interview earlier in the last few days, he was asked, why didn't you go to binding arbitration, why is this legislation talking about the Cabinet imposing its will with regard to the conditions of the collective agreement. His comment was, because we need to control the costs. We need to know that we are able to control the costs. Well, this is my point exactly, Mr. Speaker, it's about an obsession with the bottom line. I have said it before and other members of this House have said it before, being a government isn't just about balancing the books. If it was that, do you know what, it would be a very easy task.

It is about balancing the books, Mr. Speaker, being fiscally responsible while providing those essential services that Nova Scotians want so desperately, so they do not have to wait for surgery, so they do not have to wait for elective surgery, or for tests, whether they be MRI or bone densitometry, so they don't have to wait for those things, so that when they are in hospital they know there is going to be enough nurses, technical staff, support staff and doctors to be able to meet their needs, and knowing there is a plan to ensure that that is all in place, that's what it's about. It is about ensuring those essential services are there and doing it in a realistic, fiscally responsible way, but this government has lost sight of that. Their position is that their job is to balance the books, period. Not to do it while providing essential services, because it is pretty clear that that's not part of their game and that's exactly the problem.

That is fiscal obsession, not fiscal discipline, Mr. Speaker, and it is that kind of fiscal obsession that will be the downfall of this province. It will be the downfall of this government, because the people of Nova Scotia have said, quite clearly, they said it in the 1999 election, they have said it in polling that we have taken, they aren't so concerned about tax cuts, they are not so concerned about balancing the books in the short term as they are about ensuring that it can be done as long as their health care system and their education

[Page 5191]

system is there for them and their children and their parents. It is that simple, providing the essential services that Nova Scotians want while being fiscally responsible. That is the equation and this government has lost sight of that. When will they get sight of it? I don't know. That's why we are here today; that's why we were here on Friday; that's why we will continue to debate Bill No. 68, because of all the legislation this government brings in this is the penultimate in its lack of understanding that it has a duty.

It was elected in 1999 to provide the people of Nova Scotia with those essential services, and yet the people of Nova Scotia know full well that their health care system has not improved, in fact it has deteriorated. Their education system is worse now than it was before. There are fewer nurses and there will be more nurses leaving, and there are fewer technical people. The shortages with regard to health care technicians is going to grow because of Bill No. 68 and our health care system will be the worse for it, Mr. Speaker, and this government has lost sight of that and we're here to remind them that their job is to provide those essential services for Nova Scotia in a fiscally responsible way. It's that simple; it is not rocket science.

Yes, there are tough decisions to be made, but I would hope a government that was elected on promises of restoring our health care system, of providing an education system for the people of Nova Scotia and their children, Mr. Speaker, would be able to make those choices based on what they were elected to make them on and not based on a bottom line, a bottom line that can be addressed in 2 years, in 4 years, in 10 years. It can be addressed, but a health care system that we must begin to turn around, we must begin to provide a plan as to how Nova Scotians will be able to ensure their health care system is viable. Yet this government does nothing; it does nothing for it. In fact it makes it worse by bringing in bills, like Bill No. 68, which destroy the foundation of our health care system and the workers in that system.

I haven't had a chance to be in a hospital since Bill No. 68 was introduced, but I can't imagine the morale in the hospitals right now, Mr. Speaker. They must be devastated. I have had nurses call me, and I have had technical staff call me, and I will talk a bit about that. It is amazing to think, you know I was here today, I came in and there was a woman I went to high school with, Tracey - and I apologize if I don't remember her last name - I think she may be gone now, but I just saw them out in the gallery not too long ago, even 15 minutes ago, and they have been here - she and two of her co-workers from the QE II, they work in the various labs there - since 6:00 a.m.

They seem to have this endless amount of energy and I look at them in awe and given everything that is being done to you as workers in our health care system, given everything that has been done to you over the years, even before Bill No. 68 came out, to see their motivation, to see the level of anger, to see the level of determination, I see them bringing in the member for Halifax Bedford Basin, or the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, and they were talking to them, imploring to them that they felt that this legislation was

[Page 5192]

destructive, and you see that level of energy and you think to yourself, by God, I can do my part as well.

I am sure there are a lot of other health care workers out there, I have talked to some of them who said, look, what can I do, and I tell them there is the Law Amendments Committee, there is the ability to come out here and protest and there is the ability to talk to MLAs on the backbenches of the government. Take the time. Let them know that they are destroying your morale, they're destroying the health care system as a result. They're destroying the utter fabric and fibre of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, that is what is happening.

This legislation, it is bad enough when governments introduce legislation that is back-to-work or takes away democratic workplace rights or, instead of binding arbitration, impose under their thumb their own legislated or Cabinet imposed collective agreement, but what's so awful about this is a lot of these workers, Mr. Speaker, saw this collective agreement process, this collective bargaining process as the first time in 20 - no, sorry - 10 or 15 years they've had a real opportunity to collectively bargain and they were probably assured in the last few years, here is our opportunity, you know, the oil and gas is coming ashore. There are royalties. The government is getting its books in order.

Here is an opportunity for the people of Nova Scotia to sit down and talk, the workers to talk to the government and say okay, we have paid a price. We have been working. We have been overworked; we have been underpaid. We have a lack of staff. We have a shortage of staff. We have people moving out of the province and moving to other places for more money, but we stayed behind, you know, whether we are the lab technicians or whether we are the X-ray technicians, or whether we are the nurses, we stayed behind because we love Nova Scotia. We have paid a price, we have sacrificed for Nova Scotia, and they saw the collective bargaining process as an opportunity for them not only to improve their own lives, not only a matter of pay, not only a matter of direct working conditions, but because of their compassion, because of their commitment to their professions, Mr. Speaker, I would assume they also believed that this was an opportunity for them to help improve the health care system.

[4:45 p.m.]

It meant they were more motivated. If it meant that there was more staff to help them, if it meant the simple recognition that this government said if we bargain with you, if we come to an agreement that you can accept and we can accept, then the government is reflecting the fact that they have respect for them as workers and that they believe they are beginning to invest in health care. How many times have you heard that - it has been 15 years since I have had a pay raise or it has been 10 years since I have had any opportunity to really negotiate my conditions of work. These workers saw this as a golden opportunity for them to, once again, get a little tinier piece of the pie so that when they get up in the morning for those shifts, or go to work at night for their shifts, can say I want to go to work again. I just

[Page 5193]

need a little bit from this government to tell me that they respect me so that I can get up and be motivated and want to go to work.

They'll do their job. Of course, they'll do their job, Mr. Speaker, but the question is, do they do their job motivated or do they do their job unmotivated. This government had an opportunity, if they had negotiated collective agreements with them, if they showed them that dignity, if they gave them a little bit more at the table, then the people of Nova Scotia would have health care workers who were happy to be at work, who would be working well, but that is not what we have. We have a government that cut that process off, that stopped those workers from having the right to get the dignity they deserve, to stop those workers from being able to bargain at the table with the government one on one to ensure that not only their lives, not only their friends' working lives, not only their families' lives, but the whole health care system would begin to improve.

Mr. Speaker, that is what this government has stopped. It isn't just a matter of a piece of legislation. This is about stopping the workers, stopping the health care system from beginning to turn itself around. I don't think these members across the way understand that. I don't think they understand that this legislation is not about basic human resources or labour relations law. This is about legislation that has put the kibosh on any type of health care reform, any sense that the workers will be part of a system that will work for them and for the patients.

That's what people wanted in 1999 when they voted for the Tories, Mr. Speaker. The Tories promised them for $40 million they would resuscitate our health care system, it is in the blue book, $40 million, and yet this government has, I think, spent well over that. I think over $100 million more in health care has been spent a year, Mr. Speaker, than before it came into government, well over the $40 million that they promised would fix the system and still we have the same problems. Still we have a lack of bone densitometers, still we have a lack of MRIs, still we have long waiting lists and I would suggest even longer because this government hasn't addressed the real problems affecting our health care system and that's the real pity. This government had a true opportunity in the last two years, you know, I have talked to some health care workers about this. They will tell you, they are very patient people, they have been waiting 10 or 15 years for any sense of dignity to be provided to them from a negotiated collective agreement.

Clearly they are patient but, Mr. Speaker, they wanted an opportunity, just a chance to be able to work with this government to be able to build a better health care system and if this government had come to them when they were elected and said, look, the books are bad, we have got to be fiscally disciplined, we have got to be fiscally responsible, but you know what, here's our plan. In the next two years you can expect this. In the next five years you can expect that. Maybe the Minister of Health should have done this, sat down with those workers and said, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and, yes, maybe that means when you go back to collective bargaining in 2001, you are not going to get everything you

[Page 5194]

want, but I will assure you, he could have said, that in five years, in 2005 or 2004, there will be more there because we are going to begin to turn that system around and here is the plan. There is the light at the end of the tunnel.

Many of the nurses and technical staff and health care professionals who I have talked to have said, I would accept that. I have been patient this long, I can continue to be patient as long as I know that when I am getting up in the morning to go to work, when I am doing my shift, that there is a real sense that this thing is turning around, but the system is beginning to work for me, for the patients, most importantly. None. None of that. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. They don't see the light at the end of the tunnel, the government hasn't told them there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This government hasn't even begun to provide a plan with regard to how our health care system will be better; how they will address waiting lists; how they will address a lack of doctors in rural Nova Scotia or parts of metro; how they will address a lack of specialists; how they will address a lack of nursing students.

The Minister of Health gets up at Question Period on Thursday and says, we are addressing the nursing problem. We have opened up all these new seats at the nursing schools, at the universities. Well, I chuckled to myself and said, yeah, we're addressing the nursing problem in North Carolina and in Ontario and in British Columbia because all those Nova Scotia nurses we are training at Dalhousie or St. F.X. are leaving. They are not even staying. A $5 million PR plan, the nursing strategy, which if it were part of a bigger plan would be a nice component, but it isn't a plan by itself. This government has done nothing to tell these nurses, these health professionals, these technicians that there truly is light at the end of the tunnel and that the system will be better.

All they see is the waiting list getting longer. All they can see is the patients getting more frustrated. They are the front-line health care workers who are out there having to deal with it day after day and this government has done nothing to make them feel that the system is turning around. Then, bang, Bill No. 68 comes forward and we see that this government is even loading more onto them and making it even harder for them to want to get up in the morning and go to work.

Do you know what, Mr. Speaker? That would be tough enough for people, but then they have recruiters from Alberta. I was talking to someone today who works at the QE II, she said there were 40 people who work in these two labs at the QE II. I have all these names in front of me of people who talked to me - I believe it was Catherine Burke at the QE II. She lives in my riding and she said of the two labs she works in or knows people who work in them, of 40 people, 21 of them are actively talking to an Alberta recruiter right now about leaving. That is over half the people in that lab and these are technical staff. Sometimes we talk about a nursing shortage, sometimes we talk about a doctor shortage but the shortage of technical staff is even greater. Why? Because we are not producing any more technicians in this province anymore. We shut down the schools that were doing it, we shut down the

[Page 5195]

programs. At least we have nursing schools, at least we have medical schools. We actually shut down the technical schools and we are in a situation where there are no more coming in. We have no influx of new people and yet the government imposes this legislation, Bill No. 68, and you have technical staff who are talking to Alberta.

Maybe it is not easy for them to get up in the morning. Maybe it is not easy for them to want to go to work when they see all the problems and all the difficulties and the shortages of staff and all the headaches and all the problems with the health care system, but on top of it all here comes someone from Alberta, or Texas, or Saudi Arabia, or Louisiana, or North Carolina, or Ontario, or British Columbia who will sit down with them and tell them, you don't have to put up with this. We will move your family out there. Here is a signing bonus. You will make a lot more money. Maybe real estate is a little more expensive but we can work around that, we will find a way to help you.

Mr. Speaker, that is what is happening. Not only do they go to work and say, God, this is horrible; how do I continue to work in a system where I cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel? On top of it, they have other provinces coming out here and saying, it's a bed of roses in Alberta, come out here. We will pay you a lot more money. Maybe some of the backbenchers will sit there and convince themselves that in Vancouver and Calgary houses are a lot more expensive, therefore, moving out there they have to make more money. But, let's remember there are smaller towns, and even in Edmonton the price of housing is no different than it is in Halifax. In fact, it is probably a little lower. It's not higher in Edmonton.

That's the real point. Their salaries may be higher in some places but, quite frankly, they still need an opportunity to have dignity for their job and that is what this government is not providing. That is the real shame, Mr. Speaker, that this government should be taking the opportunity to provide these workers with dignity. Not because it is the economic thing, not because it is the fiscally responsible thing, but those are reasons as well, because this government has to realize balancing the books on the back of our health care system will only result in greater costs later on.

There was an old ad for an air filter - FRAM - you can pay me now or you can pay me later, and that is the truth. This government can try and nickel and dime our health care system now, but the cost of the health care system in 5 years, 10 years or 20 years will be incredible, when the equipment is falling apart, when our system isn't working properly, when we don't have a home care system in place and, quite frankly, we do not have workers because they have all left. That is the problem with this government, that is why Bill No. 68 is so awful, because it has not provided Nova Scotians with any sense of where it is going in health care and why the health care workers should accept these kind of draconian rules. They are bad enough, but if this government had actually attempted to try to tell these people that they had a plan, maybe they could swallow it. But, the government hasn't even done that.

[Page 5196]

There are a lot of people in this province who voted for the Tories in 1999 under the assumption that the health care system would be fixed. Clearly they wanted change, they voted the Liberals out, they wanted to ensure that there was going to be a change, yes, some voted NDP, some still voted Liberal, but 39 per cent of the people voted Tory. They voted Tory because they believed that their health care system would be better, that a new government would do things differently. Yet, we see a government that is doing exactly the same or even worse. That is a real problem.

I was talking earlier about the Magna Carta, June 15, 1215. That was the start of a whole process of democratizing society. It was a small start at that time. The next steps probably didn't come until the Parliament of England was being set up. We have a long tradition in this province. When I sit in this House, the member for Sackville-Cobequid pointed this out, we are just 52 people in this Legislature. We will come and we will go. There will be other people sitting in these seats. It is important to remember that, but the democratic institutions that we have that were built up from the Magna Carta to the traditions of the British Parliament, that were transferred over here when the colonies were created - I think it was 1758 that this Legislature was first started, it was built in 1819. By 1848, we had responsible government here, the first time outside of England in the British Empire. We had Joseph Howe fighting for freedom of speech. His picture hangs here because of his fight for responsible government, for his fight for freedom of speech in North America. These are all fights that first started in England, have come over to our soil and they continue to be fought.

You can talk about the BNA Act that was created in 1867 that gave this province powers based on democracy to do certain things, particularly around health care. We had a Bill of Rights introduced in the 1950's by a Tory federal government that tried to entrench certain rights, and then we had a Charter of Rights that was introduced in 1982. That is a thumbnail sketch of what has resulted in the development of our democratic institutions in Canada and in Nova Scotia. And they will continue and they will carry on. From time to time we have had people in our country, in our province that have had to fight to preserve those democratic institutions when there have been threats. World War II being the most obvious. It is only recently we celebrated the Anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1945. You begin to see that the people of Nova Scotia hold dear their democratic institutions. Of all the places in Canada, of all the buildings in Canada, if not all the buildings in the Commonwealth or in the English speaking world, this is one of the few that has such a history of protecting democratic rights, of entrenching democratic rights, of promoting democracy. Even today, this is one of the only buildings, one of the only systems that has a Law Amendments Committee that allows the people of Nova Scotia to come and speak to their government and have their two cents' worth put in on legislation.

Nova Scotia has a very proud history of promoting, entrenching and protecting our democratic institutions. That is why it is with such pride that we probably all came here, why we ran. We wanted to be able to, just by chance, be part of that history, to say that we were

[Page 5197]

a member of this Legislature and yet Bill No. 68 comes forward and instead of taking an opportunity to talk about it, instead of taking an opportunity to maybe negotiate with the nurses, negotiate with the health care professionals, this government tries to ram through legislation that in many respects is taking away the very rights that our parents fought for, that our grandparents fought for, that Joseph Howe had a trial in what is now the Legislative Library, fighting for his rights, that we had responsible government in this very room.

[5:00 p.m.]

These are things that the people of Nova Scotia have fought for and will continue to fight for long after this government leaves yet this government seems to forget that and they seem to forget that their role is not to take apart our democracy or to redefine democracy as they know it. Their job as a government, they are the keepers of the flame, the flame of democracy that allows us to grow up believing that our society can get better because as individuals we have the right to vote, we have the right to free expression, we have the right to have democracy in our workplaces. These are things that are entrenched in our system and things that the people of Nova Scotia say they want and this government cannot take that away.

They can pass legislation, they can do what they want to try to stop democracy from coming into our workplaces, stop democracy from flourishing in Nova Scotia but in the end they will not put out that flame. They will not put out that flame of democracy that started with Joseph Howe, that started with responsible government. They cannot put out a flame of a province that has such a strong history of keeping democracy and protecting democracy for the people of Nova Scotia and Canada. That is what it is about yet this government seems to have forgotten that. They seem to have forgotten what their role is and maybe Bill No. 68 is a wake-up call and maybe if we sent this bill to the Human Resources Committee, this government would have an opportunity to listen to Nova Scotians and then reaffirm exactly what they are doing here. Their job is not to do whatever it takes to balance the books in the short term so they can hand tax cuts out to their buddies. Their job is, within the confines of a free and democratic society, to provide the essential services of Nova Scotians in a fiscally responsible way. That is a very different task and this government has forgotten that.

Every time one of these backbenchers goes out and is confronted by one or two or three health care professionals, maybe they will get a quick reminder of exactly what they are doing here. As my friend, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, said, none of us are here for very long but the point is, there is a real need to ensure that the people across the way in the government understand that their job is not at any cost to destroy our democratic institutions and balance the books so they can give tax cuts out to their buddies. Their job, Mr. Speaker, is to protect their democratic institutions, to negotiate freely with workers and to provide the essential services that Nova Scotians want. As I said earlier, it is not rocket science.

[Page 5198]

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to talk a bit about some of the people who I have talked to since - there are many others but these are just a few of the names - people who I have talked to, who have called me, they live in my riding. They are clearly very upset with this legislation. I got a call from a Paul Wright who lives in Eastern Passage. He is a nurse and clearly, he is frustrated as much as anything else but I think he clearly understands that this legislation is taking away not only his rights as a worker, not only his rights as a citizen but it is taking away his dignity and he understands now that this government never did have any respect for him. Now you can say, hey, he is only one but do you know what? There are many more of them and on top of that, Mr. Speaker, the real problem is he could leave tomorrow and go to Alberta. He could leave tomorrow and go to British Columbia or Ontario or Texas or North Carolina and there is nothing this government can do.

I had a health care advocate outside on Friday night, after we were finished, say to me, do you know what? You can legislate, that stops them from going out on strike, but you can't legislate that they don't leave this province and that is exactly what they will do. They will vote with their feet so to speak. They will walk away from this province. They will leave this province and begin to work somewhere else and our health care system will be the worse for it.

Jennifer Parsons who is a nurse at the IWK, I know her from other aspects of my riding but I was talking to her today as well and she voiced her concern with the whole issue around how they are being treated as nurses, how they are affected by Bill No. 68. Gail MacLennan is another person whom I have had some dealings with in the past who called me up on the weekend, Mr. Speaker. She lives in my riding as well. Again, very upset, she is a technician, a health care professional, and she as well is very concerned that this legislation is going too far, is taking away their rights, is destroying our health care system. This is more than about workers' rights, this is about a health care system and whether our government will treat the workers and the system with respect. Gail and others know full well that Bill No. 68 proves to them once and for all that this government does not respect them or the health care system.

I got a call from Jill MacLean from Cole Harbour. She is, I believe, a pharmaceutical technician at the Dartmouth General Hospital. I encouraged her to talk to the member for Eastern Shore and the member for Dartmouth South and the member for Preston. They were wondering what they could do and I said - well, she lives in my riding - but I said find some other people there who (Interruption) Jill MacLean, she lives in my riding but I said, you know, try to talk - the member for Eastern Shore is looking through his fax list to see whether she has faxed him yet. In all seriousness I said look, you are at the Dartmouth General Hospital, go around and talk to people who live in Lake Echo or Preston or Lawrencetown or Chezzetcook or Manor Park or Portland Estates or downtown Dartmouth, and get them to call their MLAs and get them to tell them what they think and then allow the member for Preston to do the math as to how that is going to impact him in the next election.

[Page 5199]

Mr. Speaker, I also heard from Paula Mann who lives in Eastern Passage, who is also a pharmaceutical technician at the Dartmouth General Hospital. They are coming to the Law Amendments Committee; they are already signed up, and they are eager to have an opportunity to speak. They are worried that the Rambo Minister of Justice has taken that away and I said, no, I don't think so. I don't think the Rambo Minister of Justice is about to do that. Maybe he will in the end, maybe he will prove me wrong but I will say this, if the Minister of Justice thinks he can take away the rights of Nova Scotians to attend at the Law Amendments Committee, then he is shooting himself in the foot. He is doing something immediately that may solve a problem, but in the long run will only destroy him and destroy his government and destroy our health care system.

It is one more symbol of this government's disrespect for the democratic institutions that people of Nova Scotia have fought for and hold so dear. If the Minister of Justice thinks he can stand up here, suffering from sleep deprivation at 2:30 in the morning, and try to tell people that he is going to shut down the Law Amendments Committee, then he has another think coming because the people of Nova Scotia will not allow that.

Again, this government has clearly, and the Minister of Justice has clearly forgotten why they are here. They are here to protect and promote our democratic institutions and to build on our essential services so Nova Scotians have a free, democratic, and safe society in which to live and prosper. The Minister of Justice doesn't give a darn about any of that, he just feels the need to go out and slam the door on democracy.

I mentioned Catherine Burke earlier. She is a technician at the QE II. She lives in Cow Bay. I was talking to her today. She called me the other day. We were having a good conversation. The same thing, she is going to the Law Amendments Committee meeting. She is very concerned about this legislation. She is very concerned about how the lack of dignity has been provided to the workers in the system. Beryl Traves is another one - I know that Hansard is going to be wondering about the names. I have them written here - another technician at the QE II and she, as well, has a lot of concerns about how this will impact, not only on her, but on the health care system. As she said, there is a shortage. As Catherine said, there is a shortage of health care professionals and technicians and until this government treats them with dignity, they will continue to vote with their feet and that is the real problem, but this government doesn't understand that.

Mr. Speaker, I want to take some time because last week the Premier met with the Premier of Alberta. There is a tendency, I think, for him to want to cozy up to Ralph Klein and well, I don't blame him. I mean Ralph Klein is a very popular man among Tories and I am sure any time he can get is picture taken, it bodes well for the people back home.

AN HON. MEMBER: And his pockets are full.

[Page 5200]

MR. DEVEAUX: Yes, and his pockets are full and, of course, he is hoping maybe some of that good luck with regard to oil and gas might rub off on Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, here is the point. Alberta is where it is today, and people talk about Alberta, they are about to maybe eliminate income tax and they are going to pay off their debt in a few years and their deficit, they have surpluses of $6 billion, huge surpluses. This government sort of looks at them with teary eyes saying, gee, I wish I could do that. All I have to do is put the screws to the workers in my province. All I have to do is force back-to-work legislation and tighten the screws and be fiscally obsessed and we will be another Alberta.

I think they have forgotten something, Mr. Speaker. Alberta is where it is today not because it was fiscally obsessed but because over the last 25 or 30 years, it steadily developed and invested in the systems that the people of Alberta wanted. It took its oil revenues, it took its gas revenues and at first put it away in a heritage fund, invested in things like hospitals, invested in things like schools. Yes, they maintained the books. They were fiscally disciplined but they took those surpluses, they took that revenue, that royalty, and invested it so that the schools weren't falling apart, so that the children didn't have asthma when they were in school, so that there weren't waiting lists, so that there weren't doctor shortages. Still they have the same problems to some extent. They are complaining about the health care system out there as well.

Alberta, 30 or 40 years ago, was a have-not province, just like Nova Scotia. It is where it is today as the most prosperous, the most economically vibrant and now becoming one of the most diversified economic places in North America, not because they became fiscally obsessed, but because people like Premier Lougheed took time to invest in the services that were necessary. They understood that this wasn't a two year plan. Peter Lougheed and his predecessors knew that this was something that would take a generation, that when they started getting their oil and gas revenue it would take time.

Now I don't agree with everything that the Government of Alberta does, obviously, but one thing I will give them credit for is knowing that it takes a long time to make a have-not province into a have province but the Government of Alberta also knew that it had to start down that road, not only by balancing books on the backs of workers, not only by stopping maintenance and capital projects on our schools, but by actually investing on and in our education and our health care system.

Mr. Speaker, that is what is important here. That is what this government seems to not have picked up from Ralph Klein and from the Alberta Government. They might say, look, we have to get re-elected in a couple of years. How can we be thinking about a 25 year plan or a 10 year or a 15 year plan. Well, it is quite simple, as I told you earlier. The people of Nova Scotia will be willing to take the harsh medicine, they will be willing to swallow the big pill if they know that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that things are slowly getting better. Maybe you can tell them, look, your school may not be built this year or next year but maybe in three or four years, just be patient, and at the same time maybe we can do

[Page 5201]

a little work on that road. But this government has no plan, it has no vision and on top of that, whatever royalties, whatever revenue we are going to get from gas is minuscule because this government doesn't have the strength to go out and actually build a deal that allows Nova Scotia to get its fair share.

So our health care system fails, Mr. Speaker. So our health care system fails, so the people of Nova Scotia and the workers in our health care system can't get dignity and respect, can't get the services they need. So our education system fails, or our schools fall apart all because this government doesn't have the ability to create a plan that will take us from, as a have-not province, to there, as a have province. All it takes is a little planning. All it takes is a little vision but this government cannot think beyond the next election, cannot think beyond a tax cut for its buddies and that is what is wrong with this government. Bill No. 68, as I said earlier, is the penultimate in this government's lack of vision and this government's inability to prove that it is willing to invest in the essential services that Nova Scotians want.

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that is the problem with Bill No. 68. That is the problem with this legislation and that's the problem with this government. This bill typifies why this government is not able to do what Nova Scotians want and they are tired of it. The health care workers who spend 12 hours here after working, trying to convince backbench MLAs not to do this, the nurses and the health care workers who are faxing your offices, e-mailing you, calling you, lobbying you, are doing it because they know that their jobs aren't the issue here. They can always go somewhere else and find work and make more money, but they love Nova Scotia, they love working here. They want to stay here. They want their families to be raised here and all they want is an opportunity to be treated with respect and dignity in doing that and this government can't do that and that's why they are so angry.

Maybe if we sent it to this to the Human Resources Committee, Mr. Speaker, there would be an opportunity for the people of Nova Scotia to have that conversation with this Tory Government and maybe, just maybe, with the couple of years they have left, this Tory Government could begin to say, okay, we are going to turn things around. We realize that we haven't been doing it right. We realize we promised that we would fix the health care system. We haven't done that, but let's talk about how we are going to show the light at the end of the tunnel.

It shouldn't be about the next election. It shouldn't be about the election after that, you know, once you get elected, government is something bigger than just elections, Mr. Speaker, it is about actually doing something for the good of this province. It is about providing the services that Nova Scotians want. It is about being fiscally responsible. It is about doing all of that as a government. You're no longer a political Party. You're no longer political entities. You are the government. On behalf of the people of Nova Scotia you are making the

[Page 5202]

decisions and yet this government does not see that. All they worry about is tax cuts for their buddies.

The member for Sackville-Cobequid also brought up the issue of capitalism and the free market. I always find this so funny. I was talking to someone at the gym earlier today, Mr. Speaker, about this. You know the whole issue of (Interruption) The Tories are always the first ones to claim it is a free market system, we must let the market decide, whether that be in negotiating royalties for offshore gas, or whether it's a part of business to provide loan write-offs, or they won't come here if we don't give them a little money, you know, part of the "free market system".

But when we talk about the workers trying to negotiate through the free market system, that's what collective bargaining is, Mr. Speaker, the workers have a skill, they have a trade, and they are saying we will provide you with this trade if you provide us with an appropriate amount of money. The problem is that given the shortage of technicians in Nova Scotia, given the shortage of technicians in Canada and in North America, given the shortage of nurses in North America, supply and demand, it is that simple. If the supply is reduced, or the demand goes up, one or the other, then that means you have to pay more. The government has to say we're going to have to belly up to the bar and pay more for that same service.

If this was a tendering process, if this was a negotiation between the government and a business, it would be that simple, but when it comes to workers, capitalism, the free market does not apply and this government tries to thwart, tries to shut down the free market. That's what I always find so ironic, is that the Tory Party, the Progressive Conservative Party from time to time, if not on a regular basis, say they are the protectors of the free market. Their job is to be hands-off as much as possible, to let the market rule, but when the market demands that we pay more to our nurses, that we pay more to our technicians, they're the first ones in there trying to shut it down, trying to stop those workers from getting what they are owed in a free market system. It is that simple.

In a free market system nurses deserve to be paid more than this government has offered them. In a free market system the technicians deserve to be paid more than this government is offering them, Mr. Speaker. Yet this government cannot and will not in good conscience sit at the table and tell them, fine, the market demand and we will pay in order that we can provide the services that we need. Instead it uses legislation, it uses backbenchers as pawns in a bigger chess game, in order to try to stop the workers from getting what they deserve in a free market.

This is the point. When there is a shortage of these people, when you try, unless you shut the borders, unless you close the airport, unless you close the train station and close all the ports, Mr. Speaker, the market will still rule because those workers will leave for somewhere else where they can make more money - supply and demand.

[Page 5203]

The price has gone up in Alberta, the salary for a nurse, in British Columbia for a technician. In fact, it is going up higher. I was interested today in the news that the technical staff in B.C. is looking for even higher wages even though they are making probably much more than they are in Nova Scotia and you don't think under the free market system that those workers in Nova Scotia aren't just going to pack up and move. The free market will eventually rule, I have no doubt about that. This is a market economy and if those workers aren't paid what they are worth here, they will go somewhere else and then we'll be left with even a greater shortage. Then there will be even more money having to be invested in our health care system and we will never be able to balance the books because this government is not investing, this government is not providing the essential services. It is not putting the money in that is necessary and it will only result in the spiralling and spiralling of more and more costs that will result, Mr. Speaker, in our government having continuous deficits and debts.

You don't balance the books on the backs of our health care system, on the backs of our education system, or on the backs of the workers in those systems, Mr. Speaker. It doesn't work. The market won't allow it and until this government begins to invest, begins to provide them with the dignity, the respect, what they're worth financially, morally, ethically, the system will not work right. It will fall apart and we will continue to be shovelling more and more money out. We will be continuing to try to stop the bleeding so to speak in the health care system and we will never be able to ensure that we're able to balance the books.

As I said earlier, the government thinks they have a tight grip around the neck of the economy and every time they pass new legislation they are trying to make it tighter and tighter in order that they can control the costs and control the system, but in the end they are going to have such a tight rein that all they're doing is choking off any ability for our systems to work properly, Mr. Speaker.

I want, Mr. Speaker, to talk a little bit about the fact that this government has had a tendency in the past to say that it can't afford to provide the nurses, I think the member for Halifax Bedford Basin was outside with the TV cameras on saying we can't afford it, we can't afford it. This government has raised $120 million in new taxes and user fees every year; $13 million alone in the windfall of HST from fuel oil and gasoline. This government has provided in the budget for $52 million, I think it is $52 million to provide all the pay raises for the workers in the Public Service in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia has a $2.2 billion payroll, Mr. Speaker. At 2 per cent a year, at 3 per cent a year, sorry, and the inflation rate is actually closer to 4 per cent, a 3 per cent a year pay raise is just keeping up barely with inflation. That would mean $66 million of new government money having to go into salaries and the government has budgeted $52 million.

[Page 5204]

It is on assumptions in its budget that the inflation rate will be 3 per cent. So the government has said we think inflation is going to go up 3 per cent. We know how much we pay out in payroll, $2.2 billion, so we are only going to pay our workers a 2.2 per cent increase and that's why you see the health care technicians and staff getting a 2 per cent, 2 per cent, 2 per cent raise over three years, Mr. Speaker, but the fact is that this government knows inflation is going up 3 per cent. They put it in their budget as an assumption and yet they are only budgeting to pay the workers a 2 per cent increase. What does that mean? Well, it means that in real dollars our government passed a budget this year that will result in what they knew would be a cut in salary for our health care workers. This government knows the health care problems. They know that there is a shortage of health care workers. They know the market demands that these workers be paid more in real dollars and yet when they produced and passed a budget, they were proposing and had only enough money to pay the workers less than the rate of inflation which in real dollars means these workers are taking a pay cut.

But if we took that $13 million in HST windfall, Mr. Speaker, took that $13 million that this government has collected in fuel oil and money from gasoline and put that in with the other $52 million, do you know what, this government may have enough to actually cover the salaries and keep up with inflation. Maybe that might be enough for the workers in this province to say you are treating me with dignity.

Well, Mr. Speaker, you don't even see that. I could go on, there is $13 million there; there is $3 million that went to a Sysco PR firm to try to sell a botched Sysco deal; $12 million that was raised by just decoupling our tax system and not increasing our basic personal exemption the same amount as the federal government has; there is another $5 million in general tax increases on an annual basis; there is another $28 million from bracket creep. All this money, $120 million more a year that this government is bringing in and they say they cannot afford to pay our workers a decent wage. They cannot afford to provide them with the dignity and respect they need. They cannot afford to invest in our health care system. They cannot afford to ensure that our health care system is working properly.

No one is buying that. Our taxes are going up, our user fees are going up, our health care system is falling apart and this government's answer isn't to sit down and talk, this government's answer is not to work with our workers, to work with the people of Nova Scotia. Their answer is to impose draconian legislation that not only stops their democratic right to strike, not only eliminates their ability to fair and free collective bargaining, it also forces them to have to accept a Cabinet-imposed collective agreement. Unheard of in Canada. Of all the governments the people of Canada can look back at and say were horrible, or were considered absolutely atrocious, none of them did what this government is doing here with Bill No. 68.

[Page 5205]

That is why the people of Nova Scotia won't soon forget this. We are here, not only today, but for the next few years and, hopefully, much longer beyond that, reminding the people of Nova Scotia what this government has done.

I was saying to a friend the other day, come the next election it is going to be pretty easy to remind the people in my riding. All I have to do is mention the Minister of Education's comments about 50 kids in a classroom and people will have their memory refreshed as to how the education system has collapsed.

AN HON. MEMBER: Bring your own toilet paper.

MR. DEVEAUX: Bring your own toilet paper, people probably remember that one as well. With regard to health care, I just have to say Bill No. 68 and the people in my riding will say, oh yeah, that's right, that's what the Tories have done. They promised us they would fix our health care system. They promised us they would fix our education system. They promised us that they would do all this and still be able to provide us with 243 promises.

Well, in the end, they have done none of it, they have only made it worse and the people of Nova Scotia will not forget and they will remind this government and their candidates, whether they are sitting here or whether they are ready to run in the next election, they will be reminding them what this government has done. They have not only destroyed collective bargaining in the health care system, they are destroying our health care system, not for today, but for the next several years. On top of that, as someone said outside today, this isn't just about health care anymore, they are destroying our democracy. That is something that cannot be stood for. This government will pay the price. They will pay the price at the polls. They will pay the price when they have to legitimate and account to the people of Nova Scotia for what they have done. The people of Nova Scotia will let them know they are not happy. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak this afternoon on the amendment that was introduced by the member for Dartmouth East which would refer the subject matter of this bill to the Committee on Human Resources. I have been taking the opportunity afforded today, listening with sort of one ear to the debates of others on this side about the concerns created by this piece of legislation. I have been taking some time to flip back through some works on labour history to refresh my memory on some of the things that have happened in the past.

We have a very rich history on industrial relations and the trade union movement and trade union activity in the Province of Nova Scotia. We were the first jurisdiction in the country to set up a Trade Union Act back in 1937. It was a Statute declaring that the workers were free to organize into trade unions and subsequently, or also, a declaration of the right

[Page 5206]

of employees to bargain collectively with their employer or employers. There have been some commentators who have suggested that industrial relations in the rest of the country were very much formulated by the experience here in Nova Scotia and, in particular, in the late 1800's and early 1900's by the struggles of the coal miners in the coal fields of Cape Breton and mainland Nova Scotia.

[5:30 p.m.]

We have had an impact on the pattern of industrial relations as they establish in this country. But I suggest to you that, likewise, the activity in this jurisdiction and other jurisdictions across the country over the past 50 years has not been a particularly pretty one in many ways. There has been an increasing move to the regulation of relations between workers and employers to the point where many people would suggest that workers' rights have been so significantly constrained and regulated that it has very much affected their ability to take action and to influence their wages and working conditions.

I think it goes without saying that the state has granted certain rights over the years to unions that were legally enforceable against employers. In other words, employers had to recognize that workers, members of unions, had certain rights. That if employers did not recognize those rights they would be subject to some retaliation by the state or, for that matter, by the union representing those employees. Much like the Workers' Compensation Act, which was an agreement between workers, between employers and with the government, that in exchange for giving up the right to sue an employer that workers would participate in this scheme funded by the government and the employers that would ensure that their injuries and fatalities on the job would be compensated. Of course, as we have discussed and I certainly had the opportunity to participate in the discussion, I hear in this House that whole question of proper compensation for the injuries incurred at the work place has been, I would suggest, affected by successive governments and changes by the legislation.

It goes on and says that for those rights granted to employees by the state, there have been, at the same time, set limits on the timing of strikes, set limits on the inviolability of contracts and sought to eliminate spontaneous militant activity on the part of workers. There are many critics who suggest that we have moved to such a regulated industrial relations scene in this country, perhaps in North America, that it creates its own problems. My point in casting back is to suggest that we do have an important history with respect to trade unionism, with respect to industrial relations in this province and in this country that we should remember, that we should not ignore, and the actions of this government in Bill No. 68 have an influence on that history. I think it is something we need to consider, and I would suggest to you that were we to refer the subject matter of Bill No. 68 to the Committee on Human Resources, we could review some of that history.

[Page 5207]

In light of that, Mr. Speaker, I have to say I asked myself, you know, where are we right now? What is it that is being suggested by this government bringing in this legislation? We have heard a number of things. We have heard them say that they can't afford to pay health care workers any more money. When health care workers suggest that they can go elsewhere to other jurisdictions in the country, or to the United States, this government says that they can't compete. They simply don't have the resources to compete with other jurisdictions.

They say that we need to live within our means and that health care workers should understand that this government - this is what government members are saying on the front and back benches - really does care about health care workers even though they are doing everything to prove otherwise and all they are asking the health care workers to do is basically what they're being told by the government, to stay in their place, and they will look after working conditions and wages over the next number of years. To expect health care workers to accept that kind of an attitude today I think is fanciful at best.

Mr. Speaker, we must remember what these workers have gone through over the past 10 years. We must also remember that in 1999 in the election campaign this government that is now in power ran and won election on the basis of promises to health care workers that they were going to immediately address the problems being experienced by them in the health care system and to now suggest, two years later, after no action has been taken, to now suggest two years later that we can't afford it and we will look after it later is simply ingenuous and the health care workers deserve better.

They are bringing in this legislation, the government suggests, because - imagine this - they can't trust health care workers to provide essential services. I have to tell you that it was shocking to hear that come out of the Minister of Health's mouth, to hear the Premier say that. I remember a meeting during the election campaign in the summer of 1999 where the Premier and I and the Leader of the Liberal Party sat before hundreds and hundreds of health care workers at the IWK-Grace in a forum. I have got to tell you that the Leader of the Tory Party that day told those health care workers basically you elect me, you elect the Tories, and we will handle all of your problems. We feel your pain, sisters and brothers, is what Dr. Hamm said on that day and we will move, only us, immediately to solve this problem.

I think health care workers have seen now just exactly what you can do with a promise made by this government and by that Premier. For them now to suggest that they can't trust health care workers is wrong, Mr. Speaker, is disrespectful; it is inflammatory and the health care workers deserve much better than that. But what's interesting is if you go back in history, you see that this is not a new argument, that during the nurses' strike which I am going to talk about in 1975, the Gerald Regan Liberal Government of the day said exactly the same thing. Even though at the same time the administrators in the hospitals were saying there wasn't a problem, that the Nurses' Union had negotiated a very fair, reasonable and co-operative essential services agreement, they were very happy with it, the government of the

[Page 5208]

day led by Premier Regan was saying that they needed to bring in back-to-work legislation in order to protect the safety and welfare of the public. I want to talk about that in a little more detail further on in my comments, but the point I want to make is that it is a pathetic argument frankly. It is a pathetic position being taken by a government that is in a desperate situation.

The other one I guess I have heard is the fact that the health care workers have not provided a sufficiently comprehensive contingency plan in the event of a strike. Well I have a copy of a contingency plan, and if there are any members opposite who don't have it, then I would be happy to share it with them, although I know it has already been tabled. I know it is available. It is something, in fact, that has been part of the collective agreement that has existed between the Nurses' Union and the employer and with the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union and the employer, something that deals specifically with the situation.

I talked about this earlier, when I was on my feet a couple of days ago, that the union, in particular the NSGEU - and I am sure the Nurses' Union did the same - they went even outside of the provisions of their collective agreement and the language on essential services to make a commitment to the Capital Health District that they would ensure that an arbitrator be established to deal with any disputes over staffing levels provided for in the essential services agreement. That business was covered, has been covered responsibly by the employees involved, Mr. Speaker, so that argument and those arguments by this government simply do not hold any water.

Before I begin what I hope is somewhat of a logical argument that pieces together some of the history and why I think from an industrial relations point of view what this government is doing is wrong, I want to share with you and other members a message that I received by e-mail from a constituent of mine, a woman by the name of Dawn Trefry. Let me just read this if I may, a bit of it anyway. "I am sure you are in as much disbelief as I am. I have never felt so degraded by a government in my working life. I have been an employee for the QE II, formerly the Victoria General Hospital, for the last 19 years as a medical laboratory technologist, laboratory information system database coordinator, for the transfusion service. To think a government would have a lack of trust in the health care workers who have given their all to support the public, we, as health care workers, are also members of this public community. There have been many times I have set aside personal plans when called into work to support my co-workers when they were very busy with trauma, bleeds, transplants or staff illness. This was all for our patients. I am incensed that the government does not trust the people when they put their lives in our hands every day."

Think about that for a second, Mr. Speaker. These are the same workers whom Nova Scotians put their lives in their hands every single day and yet this Minister of Health and his Cabinet colleagues, and in fact all members on the government side, have the audacity to question the commitment and the trustworthiness of these professionals. It is shocking. She says here, and it is an interesting point, "I am sure you have heard the medical laboratory

[Page 5209]

technologists' training no longer exists in Nova Scotia and, therefore, we are facing shortages."

She says she, "received a notice today of an information session by Dynacare Casper Medical Laboratory to be held at the Delta Barrington in the MacKay Room on Thursday, June 21st, at 7:30 p.m. They are from Alberta and are recruiting medical laboratory technologists. We are losing the techs to other areas willing to pay what a health care worker is worth." Mr. Speaker, she goes on to say that, "Bill No. 68 turns Nova Scotia into a dictatorship and this allows the government to take away our right to collective bargaining. We have no rights left."

She has asked that I please speak up on her behalf on these issues and I said to her, and I say to her again, and I would be happy to send my comments on to her, that I will certainly speak up on her behalf.

As I have since I walked into this House 10 years ago, Mr. Speaker, I come to this place with a purpose in mind and that was to stand up on behalf of people who are not well represented in this House. To make sure that the concerns of working people from one end of this province to the other are properly heard and that legislation like the legislation that is now before us does not go through this Chamber without my having had an opportunity to debate it to its fullest and to explain why it is that I and those other people who have talked to me think it is onerous legislation.

[5:45 p.m.]

I certainly will continue to do that because I know - and I have said this before and I look at Dawn and I look at the other women and men who I have worked with, who have been in this Legislature over the past number of years, who my family has depended on, who my friends have depended on to provide good quality health care in the Province of Nova Scotia. I say to them and I say in this House that they deserve no less from me and I suggest that they deserve no less from every other member of this Legislature and that is respect.

Ultimately, it is time that we all stood up here and recognized the work that they do on behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia and protecting the quality of life and the citizens of Nova Scotia and they deserve our respect and attention, especially as it relates to Bill No. 68.

Back in 1960, the government of the day, recognizing very serious deterioration in the relations between workers, employers and government decided to set up a fact-finding body looking at labour legislation, in particular, headed by Judge Alexander MacKinnon. The terms of reference of that inquiry were threefold. Number one, to inquire into existing labour legislation in various jurisdictions in Canada and elsewhere. Number two, to ascertain the opinions of experts in the field of labour relations as to the degree to which the said

[Page 5210]

legislation protects the interests of the employer, the employees, unions and the public. Number three, to assess the extent to which said legislation promotes industrial peace.

The public hearings that were held by this commission and their activity and, in fact, their final report had as its underlying philosophy one that is forced to the conclusion that restrictive legislation has driven an ever-deepening wedge between management and labour and has made much more difficult the voluntary co-operation which is vital to the welfare of industry and its employees. Continuation of this trend could very much mean an ever-widening rift between the parties and a not remote possibility of a renewal of a class struggle which neither party now wants, but which may be forced on them because of a lack of trust in one another.

Out of this commission was established a Nova Scotia joint labour-management study committee which had representatives from organized labour, from employers. They reviewed legislation, they sat and considered those questions as they related to industrial relations until 1979. They finally decided to disband in 1979 - they did so as a result of the government directly intervening against the recommendations of this committee. The government intervening on behalf of Michelin Tire to unilaterally change the Trade Union Act in a way that prevented workers at a Michelin Tire plant from being able to form a union. They made a section of the Trade Union Act particularly applicable to Michelin in complete contravention of the recommendations of this joint study committee. Labour and management on both sides recommended strongly against this type of action. They warned the government of the day of the repercussions of that action and, nonetheless, the government went ahead. So, the committee felt that in light of that, they would desist from their efforts because there was clearly no longer any goodwill there on behalf of the government.

In 1975, the Nurses' Union became certified and they were in a situation in those days not dissimilar to what they are faced with today where they found in other jurisdictions in the country, Alberta, British Columbia, the wage disparity between Nova Scotia and Alberta had almost doubled. The nurses in Alberta were making almost twice as much as they were here, likewise in Ontario and in British Columbia. Inflation at the time was running at nearly 13 per cent and nurses felt that it was important for them to catch up. The last increase they had in 1974 that had been recommended and offered by the employer/government was 8 per cent; nearly 5 per cent below the rate at which the cost of living was running and nurses had had just about enough at that time. Then, as today, there was a shortage of nurses being attracted by the wages in other jurisdictions and by other matters relative to training.

The Nurses' Union went on strike on June 12th to back up their demands and by Friday, June 13th, the government had introduced back-to-work legislation. It is interesting what they had in that legislation, not only did they take away the right to strike and legislate workers back, but they referred the dispute to binding arbitration, that it would be resolved

[Page 5211]

by binding arbitration. That's when it was introduced, but there was a bit of a battle in the Legislature over the next few days and a few things transpired in the meantime.

It is interesting to review some of the discussion that was going on at the particular time. As I said before, the government cited as its reasons for bringing in back-to- work legislation the threat to public safety. They were reacting, they said, to the disruptions caused by the picket line but, as I indicated and has been stated publicly, the administrators at many, if not most of the hospitals, were quite satisfied with the level of co-operation by the Nurses' Union for essential services protection and did not feel, and newspapers of the day reported this, that there was not the kind of disruption the government was arguing; essential services had been negotiated.

I think what's important to recognize is that the threat of back-to-work legislation undermined the bargaining power of the nurses. That what the government had done, was the government had treaded in in a very clumsy manner to a very sensitive relationship between the employer and the employees and they very rudely tipped the balance of the scale of the employer in this situation. The impact of that dispute and the way the government managed that dispute, the results of that lasted for many years within the nursing profession, within the Nurses' Union. I dare say that the level of distrust that currently exists within the health care sector for the government goes back that far.

There was a further dispute in the health care sector back in 1981 subsequent to that, involving all health care workers. It is important to remember that health care is not simply delivered by doctors, nurses and technicians, although they are certainly the most visible and the people we often see first-hand, but there are many others who support that level. Of course within nurses there are licensed practical nurses in there are well. There are dietary workers, housekeeping, laundry, mechanical maintenance, boiler room operators, clerical staff, cleaners; there are a lot of different women and men who do a lot of different types of work that form part of the health care team. They cannot be missed in this whole dispute.

Let me say that one of the things about Bill No. 68, the government wants you to believe that Bill No. 68 simply deals with the nurses and the health care workers who are covered by the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union or the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union. The language in the declaratory, I would say, provisions of that bill talk about all employees of district health boards. I would suggest to you that this piece of legislation could very easily be broadened to take in all workers, all people involved in the health care sector in the Province of Nova Scotia.

There are some, and this is being analyzed right now, who would suggest that because of the broad powers provided to the Executive Council, that in fact the authority provided to the Executive Council could be further broadened to the greater public sector. Were we to suggest that it was the thin edge of the wedge, it could therefore be expanded beyond, to all organized workers.

[Page 5212]

So, Mr. Speaker, the point is that we have had disputes within the health care sector in the Province of Nova Scotia but never, ever before have we seen the kind of legislation that this government is bringing forward in Bill No. 68.

I want to move now, if I may, to reminding members of this House - I talked about how in 1975 the nurses of the day were trying to catch up to their colleagues in other jurisdictions in this country. They also had the problem in those days of nurses in one region of the province making a different salary than others. There are health care workers to this day who still suffer from that kind of regional difference, although much progress has been made, thanks to the bargaining units on behalf of those health care workers.

Mr. Speaker, since 1991 public sector workers, health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia have been subject to governments intervening in the collective bargaining process. In 1991, as a result of Bill No. 160, public sector workers, health care workers, had their wages frozen. They had their collective agreements frozen for two years.

In 1991, I remember talking in those days with health care workers who said that their last collective agreement had been signed in 1989 and that they had been in negotiations ever since, when in 1991 the Tory Government of the day came in with legislation to freeze those negotiations even further.

[6:00 p.m.]

In 1993, Mr. Speaker, you will recall that Bill No. 41 was introduced, which again froze wages at 3 per cent. Bill No. 41 came in in 1993; Bill No. 52 came in the following spring, again under a Liberal Government then, and the consequence of those two pieces of legislation was to roll back wages by 3 per cent for those earning under $25,000; to freeze wages of those earning above $25,000, and to freeze collective bargaining until November 1997. That is what these workers had been subjected to over this last decade.

I believe that an average increase that has been realized by health care workers since the un-freezing of the collective agreements in late 1997, has been in the area of 5 per cent. For us to now suggest, after all that time, that we don't owe health care workers a bit of catch-up, I think is absolute nonsense, Mr. Speaker. Likewise, for us to suggest to health care workers that they should cool their jets for another couple of years and that we will do something about their quality of working life and about their wages later, is just simply showing a level of disrespect that these people do not deserve.

Mr. Speaker, in 1991 and again in 1994, there were complaints lodged with the International Labour Organization, in particular its Freedom of Association Committee. It is a committee where national labour bodies, or other bodies within a jurisdiction like Nova Scotia or like Canada, would make submissions because the International Labour Organization passes various conventions, in terms of freedom of association and things like

[Page 5213]

supporting free collective bargaining. They call upon the member states - and Canada is one - to sign those declarations supporting those kinds of commitments.

The complaint made to the ILO was that Nova Scotia, in this case, had broken - I think it was something like - four different declarations of the ILO, to which Canada and Nova Scotia were signatories. Mr. Speaker, the Freedom of Association Committee reviewed this. There was a general survey conducted in 1994 of member states, by what they called a committee of experts. I want to read you just a passage in this report. It says, a fair and reasonable compromise should be sought between the need to preserve, as far as possible, the autonomy of the parties to bargaining, on the one hand, and measures which must be taken by governments to overcome their budgetary difficulties on the other.

The point being, Mr. Speaker, the best way for a government, any government, to deal with what it considers its financial limitations, is to bargain a resolve to those, to work collectively and constructively in a consultative way, in a respectful way with their employees and employee groups, in order to seek a resolve that were a government to intervene in an iron-fisted way - in a hand-fisted way I would suggest - is simply damaging to the relationship at it now exists.

The committee rendered its decision with respect to specifically Bill No. 41 and Bill No. 52. They rendered their decisions as follows - and again with respect to Bill No. 41 and 52, it had to do with a 3 per cent rollback, a wage restraint measure and remember back in 1991, Bill No. 160 was a two year wage freeze - the ILO committee says that Bill No. 52 and Bill No. 41 cannot be defined as exceptional measures and clearly go beyond what the committee considers permissible restrictions on collective bargaining, especially as regards to the duration of the period covered.

In other words the ILO committee determined in its review - and they had a very extensive submission from the Province of Nova Scotia - they determined after review of the facts that these two pieces of legislation overstepped their bounds. The government's argument that the circumstances were exceptional did not hold water, were not acceptable and the government had overstepped its bounds. In particular, they talk about the duration of the period covered, the fact that the government had extended and inserted itself into the collective bargaining process in the first case for two years and subsequently for three years - a five year period if you will - was simply not good enough as far as the ILO committee was concerned.

Further, the committee insisted that the government will refrain from taking such measures in the future. That is what the recommendations were of this particular committee as it related to the steps of this government. I suggest to you that Bill No. 68 goes again even farther than what Bill No. 41 and what Bill No. 52 have done, that it further inserts itself into the collective bargaining process in a manner that cannot be supported. I would suggest to you that were this government to make representation, and let me tell you that if this bill goes

[Page 5214]

forward there will be a complaint filed to the International Labour Organization and there will be a decision rendered by that committee. While members opposite may not think that this matters a hill of beans, it does matter. It does reflect very much on the reputation of this province and the reputation of this country in the eyes of the international community.

I would suggest to you that the decision by this government to insert itself holus-bolus in the relationship between the employees, their unions, and the employer - in this case the district health authorities and major tertiary care hospitals - is going well above the constitutional responsibility and, I would suggest, the rights this government has at its disposal and the committee will find that is the case.

If this government has the nerve to go before the International Labour Organization and argue that their financial circumstances put them in exceptional circumstances and that they simply cannot afford to pay nurses, they will get laughed out of the room by members of that committee and by members of the international community, because it is very clear to everyone - and that evidence will be presented - that this government has been understating their revenue projections, that this government fully intends to have a balanced budget next year and that they fully intend to provide Nova Scotians with a 10 per cent tax cut in the following year.

Now, the issue at hand is, should that tax cut be paid for by health care workers. Should the people who care for our families, friends, communities, the women and men who toil at the bedside and who keep the equipment clean and look after the infrastructure of our buildings, the capital infrastructure, the boilers and keep the rooms clean and keep the food edible and keep the laundry safe. Should those people be asked again this year to pay for a politically-motivated tax increase in a year and a half from now? Should they? I say no and I believe the ILO will say no. I believe Nova Scotians will say no, Mr. Speaker, because above all else, Nova Scotians hold their health care system and the people who work in that health care system as second to none and they will not allow the well-being of these health care workers to be sacrificed by a mean-spirited government, a government that is motivated by the most crass of political desires, the most base of political emotions, that is to get re-elected in a year and a half from now.

It was a year ago that we were here dealing with the legislation, the way this government was mistreating paramedics. In those days we suggested that this is not about this government's political future. I mean, I could care less, frankly, whether this government does well or not as a result of the decisions made here. What I would like to see this government do is the honourable thing, the right thing, withdraw Bill No. 68, tell the health care workers, nurses, technicians and support care workers, that they are sorry and give them a fair and decent wage increase. That is what I think you should do right now. I hope you do that and I hope that Nova Scotians will look on you fairly and fondly.

[Page 5215]

It's not about your political future, it's not about my political future, it's not about the political future of the member for Halifax Chebucto, it's about us being able to deal with real problems in our health care system, being able to deal and treat responsibly and respectfully the women and men who toil day and night to care for the sick and the infirmed, from one end of this province to the other. The level of change that has been imposed on these workers in the past decade would crush, I would suggest to you, the spirit of most normal people. The reorganizations, the downsizing, the layoffs, the wage freezes, the rollbacks, the intimidation strategies, I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, have been a huge, huge burden to carry, all the while these women and men are looking after us, all the while they are taking care of us.

I was up on 7.2 at the QE II, it's a step up from the cardiac intensive care. A good friend of mine, Archie MacKinnon, was there. You may remember his son, Archie MacKinnon, who ran for us a few years ago and did such a great job in Cape Breton North. Archie's dad is also Archie. He had a quintuple bypass. I was talking to him the other day, he was outside working around the house. He started to feel sick and he went in the house and sat down and he thought it was all over. He called his wife and said, you have to get me to the hospital. They called an ambulance and got him to the hospital, they stabilized the situation and got him to Halifax and performed magic - a quintuple bypass.

I was talking to him three days after that happened. He just couldn't say enough about the people who look after him. Every one of the people who were in that - I guess you call it a step up or a step down, I don't know, from intensive care, but there were a number of people on that - ward who were still under very significant observation. Every one of them couldn't say enough about the health care professionals who looked after them, and they couldn't believe what this government was doing. Why they would suggest that these people who, in Archie's case, had just had his life in their hands, that they would somehow turn their backs on him, he found that simply unconscionable and utterly unbelievable.

[6:15 p.m.]

I know that members opposite, if not themselves then families or friends, have been in the care of health care professionals at one time or another, and understand the level of dedication we are talking about, who understand that the health care system is built on a team concept, that it is a whole group of people, women and men who work together as a team, who are committed to one goal, and that is providing quality health care to the people who come through those doors or, in the case of home care workers, who are behind the doors that they go through, to making sure that those people, whether they be seniors or children or adults, that they are able to enjoy the quality of life to the level that the health care system can best assist. That is what these people do.

It is one thing to turn around and for me to say, as a trade unionist, you can't do this to the collective bargaining system, you can't take away their right to collective bargaining and so on and so forth. People are very upset about that. You know what I think is the crux,

[Page 5216]

and you can hear it best from those people themselves, what I have heard, what is ultimately at issue is the level of disrespect and almost contempt with which the government seems to hold these workers in, that people can't believe it.

I remember, I mean we were here talking last night at 12:00 o'clock midnight and I was here until 2:00 a.m., some of my colleagues were here until later, but there were health care workers in the galleries. It may be a big deal for some of us to be up at 2:00 a.m. or 3:00 a.m., certainly the older I get it is more difficult, but for many of these workers it is just like any other day.

I was reading again about that 1975 nurse's strike. One of the things you have heard some people talk about - and the health care workers who come here, who work shift work, who work around the clock sometimes, double shifts, overtime, they come in here and they see us - I have heard some people criticizing some members who sit and they are inattentive and they are reading papers or they are asleep at their desk, or they appear to be asleep at their desk. I remember in the story I was reading about the nurse's strike in 1975 that, I think, on the second day of the strike, nurses came down and were in the gallery. Members had adjourned for dinner and had gone to a reception somewhere and came back and some of them were a little intoxicated, it appeared, and there were problems. In fact, some of the members were censured because of those activities.

It really sent a message to the nurses and the other health care professionals with what they said. What they said was, imagine if we showed up at work in that condition. Imagine if we were taking care of a patient and fell asleep or if we were doing observation in the ICU and we stuck earphones in our ear and played with a computer and couldn't see the monitors or couldn't tell what was going on. You see, they can't do that. When they are on, they are on. The Minister of Health, when he wants to have a little nap, he just drops his head, but when it comes to health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia, their level of dedication and their level of professionalism does not provide them with that luxury. So when they sit back and hear the members opposite say, we can't trust you to protect your patients, you can understand them being aghast and them saying to themselves and saying to everyone else who will listen, how dare you, your group that doesn't know what it is like to work hard and to have the kind of responsibility we do, how dare you say that to us and how dare you challenge our level of professionalism the way you have. They, Mr. Speaker, I suggest to you, have every right to say that very thing.

So this amendment to refer the matter to the Human Resources Committee, I think, is timely. It is timely because this government is following the mistakes that have been made in history in upsetting the balance within industrial relations, intervening in the manner that completely skews the relationship, will exist and will do that for many years, that unnecessarily takes away the rights of a whole group of workers in Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker; a group of workers, I would suggest, that deserves a lot more respect.

[Page 5217]

For this government to likewise suggest that not only do you not have the right any longer because of this decree to bargain collectively, not only is that the case, but we, who can't stay awake during debate or who don't know what it is like to walk a mile in your shoes, we are going to decide what wages you are going to get and what your working conditions are going to be from now until March 31, 2004. Can you imagine? This government is so insecure about that, that they recognize it is such an onerous bill, that these provisions are so odious, that people will ultimately take them to court, will challenge them because they are infringing on people's rights, that they have put a provision in this legislation which says that nobody will question what it is that we have done, what decisions that we make. I mean it is shocking.

Do you know that even in Mike Harris' Ontario, the jurisdiction that has been called the neo-conservative capital of Canada, that not even in Mike Harris' Ontario has the government gone to this extreme. This government is breaking new ground, but are they breaking new ground in the area of bargaining tough with the oil companies so that we get more oil revenue? Are they breaking ground in terms of ways to organize in a positive and constructive way the future of the health care system? Are they breaking ground in terms of fairness in the tax system in the Province of Nova Scotia? Are they breaking ground in terms of making sure that our transportation networks are more secure and more solid than they are?

No, this government is breaking ground and taking rights away from working people and are taking rights away from health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia, workers who have had their rights trampled on by successive Liberal and Tory Governments for the past decade. I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that I don't think these women and men are prepared to take that anymore.

Bill No. 68 is a bill that is an affront to me, an affront to my colleagues and an affront to many Nova Scotians I have talked with, Mr. Speaker, whether we are able to change it as a result of this amendment or whether we are simply able to delay it so that Nova Scotians, health care workers and their families and their friends, people throughout this province will recognize what a step this government is taking towards being a dictatorship, the direction this government is taking in terms of taking rights away from working people, because if they can do it with health care workers, they can do it with every single worker in the Province of Nova Scotia. Don't think they can't and don't think that this government doesn't want to.

We saw them try it with paramedics. We had an awful battle here, Mr. Speaker, and you know that those women and men fought a valiant fight and were finally able to get this government to back off ever so slightly so that the matter was referred to binding arbitration.

This government has brought in a piece of legislation that should not be allowed. It should be considered out of order because we are mandated here, as legislators, to uphold the rights of Nova Scotians, to uphold the spirit of fairness and the spirit of equality throughout

[Page 5218]

this province and instead, we have a piece of legislation before us today which mandates that a group, thousands of health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia, by the stroke of a pen, will no longer have the same rights as any other public sector worker in the Province of Nova Scotia or any other private sector worker in the Province of Nova Scotia. But they may just be the first. I think we should all be very wary of that. If this government is successful at getting Bill No. 68 through without amendments, that is just the beginning.

So as I wrap up, Mr. Speaker - I can see that my time is winding up - I will have the opportunity to say some other things at a later time, a later day, perhaps, but I say to all members of this House, pay attention to what your constituents are saying, pay attention to what health care workers are saying and recognize that Bill No. 68 is wrong and it should be pulled from the table at the earliest opportunity. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I have to say that in the two years that this government has come to power, more and more I regret the need to have to get to my feet for a couple of reasons. One is that usually on the most important issues, we have such little effect in changing the government's mind, and the other reason is the fact that we should feel the need to change their mind at all.

The amendment, Mr. Speaker, is "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 would certainly say that if this bill was withdrawn and the subject matter was referred to Human Resources, it would give some time for the government, hopefully, and Nova Scotians, generally, to have a chance to reflect on what exactly this bill does. I think those in the health care community have absolutely no doubts as to what this means and certainly members of other unions and, in particular, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union are becoming gravely aware of what the impact of this legislation may well mean for them, as well.

[6:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, who would have thought that with the entrenchment of the Medicare system in Canada that we would come to this in the Province of Nova Scotia. I want to read from a book entitled A Doctor's Strike, and I think maybe this incident sowed the seed for Medicare in this country: When I was a boy, I lived in Scotland before World War I. I fell and hurt my knee. A bone disease called osteomyelitis set in and for three or more years, I was in and out of hospital. My father was an iron moulder and we had no money for doctors, let alone specialists. After we immigrated to Canada, the pain in my knee came back. Mother took me to the outdoor clinic of a Winnipeg hospital. They put me in the public ward as a charity patient and I still remember the young house doctor saying that my leg must be cut off, but I was lucky. A brilliant orthopaedic surgeon whose name was Smith came through

[Page 5219]

the wards looking for patients he could use in a teaching demonstration. He examined my swollen knee and then went to see my parents. If you let me use your boy to help teach medical students, he said, I think I can save his leg. His knee may never be strong again, but it can be saved. I shall always be grateful to the medical profession for the skill that kept me from becoming a cripple and the experience of being a charity patient remains with me. Had I been a rich man's son, the services of the finest surgeons would have been available. As an iron moulder's boy, I almost had my leg amputated before chance intervened and a specialist cured me without thought of a fee.

Mr. Speaker, that story is a story related by Tommy Douglas. I would say that the history of health care in this country could probably most easily be framed by the name Tommy Douglas. I find it ironic that in this province - at least in my memory and I was not in this House in 1993 when the John Savage Liberal Government was here - it seems strange to me that two Premiers that we had, that I think have been the hardest on health care in this province, were both doctors.

Mr. Speaker, I think we would all assume that having a doctor as a Premier would mean that we would have someone with real insight into the health care system, just as having a farmer as the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, we would think we would have someone with real insight into that department, as well. But insight and agenda are two different things. So you have to ask, even though you have a doctor for a Premier, is his agenda to shore-up health care? Some of the biggest opponents to the Medicare system in Saskatchewan were the doctors in Saskatchewan and people argued to Tommy Douglas one day, who was he that he would know anything about running a health care system. His response was, I can't lay an egg, but I can cook one better than any chicken you ever saw.

So I would say, Mr. Speaker, that we should never assume that anybody has to come with any great credentials to this House, but that they at least must have a vision of trying to do something good for the people. I think if they have that, they can find the specialists they need to carry out their vision. If that vision is against the people of the province, they certainly can find someone to help them carry out that vision, as well.

I think some of my colleagues have been right when they say that the decisions that led to this piece of legislation were made for purely crass political reasons, that this piece of legislation was not based on trying to improve the health care system, it was not based on trying to show a real commitment to our health care workers. It was based on trying to meet a bottom line so that the province could offer a tax rebate and get re-elected. Some people would say government is trying to get re-elected, that's a normal process so why argue with that? It seems strange, to me, that during the 1999 campaign one of the things the New Democratic Party heard a lot about was that we were lusting for power and I know that naive as I may be, being new to this only since 1998, it really struck me as strange that there was something wrong with this Party trying to seek power, but it was okay for the other Parties to seek power.

[Page 5220]

I feel sorry for those in the health care sector because I would assume that some of those people voted Tory, but for Nova Scotians in general, we can see by the number of seats across the floor that certainly a great number of them voted Tory. So how is it that Nova Scotians are ever going to know who to vote for or who will actually stand by what they say after they get elected?

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of quotes here from the Premier, prior to his becoming the Premier, that are certainly appropriate for the times, for five years the Liberals have governed solely for the sake of the bottom line, treating the serious concerns of ordinary people as mere afterthought - that was from the Premier in February 1998 - I am convinced there is a better way to govern Nova Scotia; it starts with setting priorities and making choices that put people first. That means consulting with people and considering the human impact of every move government makes. This last quote was made in Stellarton, February 14, 1998, our bottom line will never get better if we continue to deny Nova Scotians access to quality care.

I know from listening to the Premier over the last couple of years, he certainly says that the government will meet all their commitments from the blue book from 1999, but the Premier seems to have rolled the 243, or 263, or however many promises there were, into I think one statement and that was to balance the books. I have to say I can't fault the Premier for having concerns about the finances of the province. I think this is the right direction to go, it is a question of what priorities you want to make and trying to get rid of the deficit I think would be appropriate, and to get rid of the debt I think he should take another strategy.

The Premier, I hope, would know that in 1945 the debt in this country after the war was greater than its Gross Domestic Product and in 1970 we still had that same debt. We had serviced it for 25 years, had not paid anything down on the debt, but instead of being over 100 per cent of our gross domestic product, it was 40 per cent of our gross domestic product and this country was reaching a point where it actually could have started paying down on the principal of that debt.

In Nova Scotia, in order to tackle that debt and say, try to eradicate it in 20 years, we would have to have a surplus every year of about $500 million to put on the debt. I don't think you have to be a rocket scientist to figure out from the latest budget figures that Nova Scotia has not had a surplus of $1.00, let alone $500 million, so I would say to the Premier, don't cut the services to Nova Scotians thinking that you are going to balance the books quickly. Certainly take the approach to not add to the debt but balance the books - get rid of the deficit, I would agree, and try to do that year after year - but take whatever dollars that we can generate in the way of a surplus and put that to those things that draw people to Nova Scotia. The Premier and others may not recognize, but when business decides to move to an area, they look at things like health care. They look at things like education. They look at things like a skilled workforce. They look at a stable environment. Definitely that is not

[Page 5221]

something that they are going to see in Nova Scotia and I would say that the Premier is missing an opportunity to increase his revenues by showing some stability in these sectors.

I have to say that I am always amazed at what the government does. I have said it before in this House that there's no escaping what you are when you put it in legislation. You can't go back on the doorsteps and say, oh, sorry, we made a mistake. That wasn't what I intended.

Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, I heard about a meeting that actually was in the beautiful Musquodoboit Valley a couple of years ago when we were making major cuts to the Department of Agriculture. I think, if I heard it correctly, it was a meeting, or maybe an AGM in your constituency, that some of the ministers were there. I think the Minister of Finance was there and some other ministers and actually members of the local Federation of Agriculture came to the meeting. I am not sure, maybe even members of the Women's Institute, but I think the Federation of Agriculture actually showed up to ask questions of the ministers and whatever others from the Tory Party who were there.

What they came away with was that the members conceded that they had a legitimate right for concern, but they would say, well, it wasn't me, it was the other guys and it was the ministers and members who weren't at the meeting, they were the ones who were driving this agenda, and I often wondered if there was an annual general meeting at any Tory constituency across the province and there was a different selection of ministers and backbenchers at those meetings, that they would all say the same thing, it was not me but it was the other guys.

I think what we've seen, Mr. Speaker, is what people say when they are out and about in their constituencies is far different than what we see happen in this House, because this bill is going to be voted on and that means the members across the floor are going to have to declare once and for all whether or not they support this piece of legislation. They are going to have to stand up and be counted and we know it will be a recorded vote. I don't know what they are going to say when they go back to their constituencies and try to blame the other guys because there won't be anyone else to blame. So I will be really interested to see how this vote goes and who exactly from the government side actually votes against this piece of legislation, if any. If they do, they will have something to tell their constituents.

Mr. Speaker, I know that all members in this House get up in the morning and they put their pants on one leg at a time, or I assume they do. Maybe some are more athletic than others and (Interruption) Not always the same leg, but yes. I tend to think that in Nova Scotia we're all relatively aware of similar environments and similar communities, but I often wonder where it is that the members of the Tory Government live. Is it in gated communities, like they have in California, that they can withdraw to some environment that has the majority of Nova Scotians excluded and they have some pristine place that people don't get sick, children don't need to be educated? Where is it?

[Page 5222]

It's like it's a different world that they see that I don't see and I don't know if there is a shuttle that leaves the Legislature parking lot and goes to the moon, or some other planet, at the end of the day so that they are somehow oblivious to what it is that the rest of Nova Scotians are dealing with in their everyday lives, I haven't figured that out. I haven't seen it lift off, but I can tell you that if this government keeps it up, it is not going to lift off in the next election.

[6:45 p.m.]

I can't figure out why it is that the members opposite have such trouble walking in another man's or woman's shoes. Why is it so hard to look at the world from somebody else's perspective and be able to deal with the problems that somebody else may have to deal with and try to set your policy and your agenda based on making the lives of these people better. It doesn't seem to happen with this government. They have an agenda, their own agenda, and they do see the world through somebody's eyes, but it is not the eyes of the majority of Nova Scotians. That, I think, is very sad.

I think that we all have those who are near and dear to us. It is our hope that we never have to make use of the health care system. But things happen. Usually things happen that we don't expect, that we are not counting on and they catch us by surprise, to nobody's fault. In the blink of an eye, a child can run out onto the street even with the parents there and for a split second they weren't paying attention and the child is gone. It is for those split seconds that we realize the value of the people who work in the health care system, when they are able to breathe life back into someone who means so much to us.

So, why is it that they mean so little? Why is it that those who work in the health care system, we assume that they don't have dreams, they don't have aspirations, they don't want to see their children grow up and go to university? What is it that we think that they want in their lives that is so different from anybody else? Is it that for some reason they shouldn't be remunerated in an appropriate way compared to people who are doing the job elsewhere across the country? Is it that if you live in Atlantic Canada or in Nova Scotia, your wishes and your hopes and your desires are on a much lower scale than anybody else in the country that somehow they deserve to be paid less for the same work?

It is one thing to try that stunt, something else to tell them they can't go to court and argue it, to take that right away from them.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable members, there is far too much racket in the Chamber. The honourable member for Hants East does have the floor.

MR. MACDONELL: Members in the House wouldn't know and there is no reason that they should know, but I have two sisters who are nurses, RNs. One of them works for the Victorian Order of Nurses and I have to say that - maybe it is because she is my younger

[Page 5223]

sister or just the fact that she is my sister - I worry about what she does every day. It is a taxing situation. She works alone. She goes into homes alone. She has to lift people - she is not the biggest person in the world - and I certainly would have no faith in the workers' compensation system in this province if anything were to happen to her. If she were to hurt her back and not be able to work, then there would be very little, I think, offered by this government to support her. I have to say that I see no reason why she should have to be abused by this province with its legislation, considering all she has to put up with in her work.

I say to all health care workers who at the end of the day are tired and would like to go home, that the energy demand placed on them by this government in having to deal with this situation is uncalled for. They could have been treated like equal human beings and allowed to negotiate. That was a little too much to ask and I find it hard to believe that the Minister of Health and the Minister of Justice in their comments indicate that they couldn't trust the health care workers to deliver a contingency plan that would really take care of people in critical care.

I am amazed and especially since the Minister of Justice is a lawyer. I don't know what there is about dealing with health care workers that if they were to sign a document about what they were willing to do, how that signature is not worth what anybody else's signature in this province would be worth.

I want to provide some information to the members opposite. I am going to try to take this occasion to educate the members on the government side. I think people would recognize the difficulty in that challenge but I would say that certainly whether or not my political career would be long enough to ever accomplish any milestone in that regard - and I will table this document when I am done with it, Mr. Speaker. This is a document published by the Canadian Centre on Policy Alternatives. It says, of all human activities, a strike is probably the most misunderstood. It has generated more menace, as well as more public hostility than any other economic process. As polls and surveys consistently show, most Canadians look upon strikes as an abuse of union power, as evidence of unions' greed and irresponsibility, as a disruptive anachronism that should be replaced by some less combative way of settling labour-management disputes. Also, according to the polls, most Canadians object to strikes by public employees and with support legislation denying them the right to strike.

These and other misconceptions about the rights of workers to withhold their labour flourish because Canadians know next to nothing about unions and collective bargaining. We are taught nothing about labour relations in the elementary and high schools and the only time Canadians read about unions in the press is when they are on strike. The inevitable outcome is that the average Canadian's mental image of a union is that of a motley band of hoodlums and troublemakers bent on bedevilling business and harassing the innocent public. The question would be, wouldn't the easiest way to eliminate strikes be to eliminate unions?

[Page 5224]

Antagonism towards unions often takes the form of a demand that they be legislated out of existence. The argument is that without unions, strikes and outbreaks of other union-management, conflict would disappear. In fact, the opposite would occur. If unions were eliminated, we would have more strikes, not fewer. That is because unions are able to settle most contract negotiations, more than 9 out of 10, without having to resort to strike action. Deprived of unions to represent them and bargain for them, workers would lose the only vehicle they now have for reaching peaceful settlements. Strikes would proliferate, not vanish and there would be more production lost by absenteeism, staff turnover, slowdowns, shoddy workmanship, alcoholism and other forms of rebellion.

Strikes have been recorded at the time of the Roman Empire, during the Middle Ages and in every century prior to the Industrial Revolution. Canada's first recorded strike was by the fur trade voyageurs of Rainnie Lake in Upper Canada in August 1794, which occurred long before the first union was organized in this country. Unions are able to defuse many potential strikes by using the threat of strike to pressure employers into making concessions they would refuse to workers acting as individuals. By providing a mechanism for containing the conflicting economic interests of management and labour, by democratizing to a limited extent, the work system and by enhancing the rights, dignity and self-worth of working people, unions have become a force of economic stability, as well as social justice. Now, I would assume that members opposite would never agree that they are a form of economic stability.

I want to quote economist John Kenneth Galbraith, the rules that regulate, pay, seniority, and other benefits and conditions of promotion are voluminous. Any unilateral application of such rules by management, however meticulous, would seem ordinary and unjust. By helping to frame the rules the union serves invaluably to mitigate the feeling that such systems are unjust. It is a measure of importance of this union function that where a union does not exist, good management practice calls for the development of some substitute.

The unions didn't create this system but they have to operate by its rules. They know that to an employer, wages are a cost that he will keep as low as he possibly can, and that is usually not much higher than the legal minimum wage, if he doesn't have to worry about a union. Whenever business and government seriously decide to change to a more just and orderly method of determining compensation, the unions will be glad to co-operate, but in the present economic jungle, they will not relinquish their only weapon while their managerial opponents remain fully armed.

I quote Richard Hyman, sociologist, it is hardly surprising that workers still want more when they are daily urged by TV commercials and newspaper ads to strive for a way of life that is beyond their means, when they see that this affluent lifestyle is already enjoyed by those who are always complaining about greedy trade unions.

[Page 5225]

But isn't it true that strikes cripple the economy and cause more lost productivity than any other factor? Unless a strike drags on for a year or more, it rarely does irreparable harm to any company and, in most cases, the production lost during a strike can be recovered by working overtime and making full use of plant capacity. This is borne out by strike studies that always show that in most cases companies prepare for strikes by stockpiling large quantities of goods in advance. Most of the business allegedly lost during strikes is merely deferred.

The number of worker days lost because of strikes, when expressed in millions, always appears enormous. In recent years the annual figure has ranged between 7 and 9 million days; when expressed as a percentage of the number of days worked, it strikes as a proper perspective on average only one-half day per year of each employee. More to the point, strikes account for far less lost time than either unemployment or sickness. The time lost due to unemployment is nearly three times as much, averaging about 25 million days, Mr. Speaker. The loss of work time through sickness and accidents is estimated to be some 70 million days, seven to eight times the loss due to strikes.

It is impossible, unfortunately, to measure the loss of time and output through managerial inefficiency. If it were, we might well find that management's mistakes, carelessness and incompetence cause much more productivity loss than do strikes; moreover, to the extent that management is responsible for precipitating strikes by adopting an unreasonable bargaining position. It is patently unfair to blame all strike-induced production losses on workers and their unions. The attention of the public and the media is focused entirely on strikes by workers but companies go on strike, too, by withdrawing production and jobs, as the oil companies did in 1980 to 1981, by pulling their oil rigs out of Canada, in protest against the federal government's national energy policy.

In a recent five year period, corporations withdrew $32 billion from Canada and sent it to the United States and other countries in the form of profits, dividends and other investment income. These capital strikes deprive Canada of many more jobs and production than the labour strikes people are always complaining about. For effective collective bargaining, employees must be free not only to form trade unions and to bargain with employers, but also to invoke economic sanctions in support of their bargaining. The strike and the lockout are necessary counterparts to free collective bargaining.

I think members opposite should be aware that strikes are not always about wage and salary demands. I think that is obvious in the case of the potential disagreements going on now. Something the minister doesn't seem to pick up on is that by passing this piece of legislation, he is going to do more harm to the health care system than he is going to do good and the thoughts that they are going to take care of the people of Nova Scotia are ridiculous. By demoralizing the already demoralized staff, further demoralizing them when other jurisdictions are offering better plans for employees, if more health care workers in this

[Page 5226]

province leave to go to other jurisdictions, then certainly Nova Scotia taxpayers are not going to be better served by what is left of the health care system.

[7:00 p.m.]

It is the possibility of a strike which enables workers to negotiate with their employers on terms of appropriate equality. If the right to strike is suppressed or seriously limited, the trade union movement becomes nothing more than one institution among many in the service of capitalism. A convenient organization for disciplining the workers, occupying their leisure time and ensuring their profitability for business. That quote is from Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

But aren't some strikes forced on workers against their will by labour bosses? The term labour boss, so popular with the headline writers is a misnomer. It implies that a union leader has the same authoritarian control over his members as a company boss exerts over his subordinates. In fact, the roles and responsibilities of union and company officers are as distinctly different as the organizations they lead. A corporation is run as a hierarchy. It is managed by its officers much as an absolute monarch rules his domain. Orders are given and obeyed, the master/servant relationship preeminates its structure. Unions, on the other hand, are voluntary associations of workers and are run on democratic principles. Their officers are elected by and are answerable to the membership. Policies are debated and voted on rather than arbitrarily determined.

A strike is not a pleasant experience for workers. They have to get along on a meagre strike pay, usually $50 a week or less. They have to walk the picket lines in all kinds of weather, sometimes having trouble with police and strike breakers. The strain on their families is horrendous. They go through this ordeal because it is their choice, because it is the only way they believe they can obtain a just settlement. The notion that they could somehow be bullied or coerced into a strike by a union leader against their will is ludicrous. Most union leaders do everything they can to avoid a strike. They have nothing to gain personally from a strike, and in financial terms have a lot to lose in dues, revenue and strike pay. There are, in short, no strike-happy union leaders nor compliant union members willing to go on strike on command.

The records demonstrate that most unions make every effort to settle disputes without recourse to a strike. Union leaders far from fermenting trouble, spend most of their time settling disputes before the strike stage is reached. That is from economist Raymond Walsh.

Strikes by public employees are not nearly as disastrous as we tend to view them. Most government services merely provide us with the amenities of life. It ranges from garbage collection to public transit and while convenient, they are not really essential. Our social pain threshold is not as low as we think. The sky does not fall if the post office is shut down or the planes are grounded. This is by Paul Willyear, former Chairman of the B.C. Labour Relations Board.

[Page 5227]

This next quote members may be interested in, the justice of any socio-economic system deserves, in the final analysis, to be evaluated by the way in which work is properly compensated. The organization of workers into unions is necessary to protect the rights of workers, especially the right to a just wage. In this connection, workers should be assured the right to strike without being subjected to personal, penal sanctions for taking part in a strike. That quote is by Pope John Paul II. I will come to the end of this, Mr. Speaker.

A few years ago, the federal Department of Labour, disturbed by the high level of industrial conflict in Canada, commissioned a British labour expert to find out why Canadian workers are more strike prone than those in other countries. This expert, Professor George Sayers Bain of the University of Warwick in England, produced a report that was later filed and forgotten, like most other government studies. That is unfortunate because Professor Bain had a lot to say about Canada's labour relations system that should be required reading for our businessmen, editorial writers and others who know little about labour relations.

Bain found that unions in Canada are not accorded the same legitimacy and recognition given to the unions in Europe. They are constantly under attack by the business community, by government and by the press and thus must always be on guard to protect the shaky rights they have had to struggle so hard to obtain. In his report, Professor Bain suggested several ways public policy should be changed to promote union recognition. These included labour law amendments to prevent unfair labour practices by employers, to give unions greater access to employees during organizing campaigns and to make representation and certification votes easier for unions to win.

At present, he observed, Canadian unions exist in a society much more hostile to them than is the case in Europe. A society that looks upon unions as undesirable intruders into a private enterprise economy and tries to curb union rights and effectiveness, should be prepared to pay the price. Part of the price, as Professor Bain's study emphasizes, is a much higher level of labour relations conflict than would be the case if unions in Canada were given the recognition, acceptance and respect they deserve. I will table these pages, Mr. Speaker. I know that the members opposite will like to review them.

My colleagues have read letters or e-mails that have been sent either to them or have been sent to all MLAs in the House and I think I have four that I would like to read to the members. This first one, actually, was sent to my honourable colleague to my right, the member for Halifax Chebucto, from Ann King, please forward my disgust with the labour situation that is occurring now. I started employment at the VG in 1973 as a registered respiratory therapist. Since the merger, I am now employed in the biomedical department. Never in my career have I been treated so shabbily. Just two months ago, I was given a watch as a reward for faithful service. Now I am told that the government or the CEO doesn't believe that I would respond to a crisis. How could you?

[Page 5228]

So I would have to say that from one side of their mouth, the government is willing to pat people on the back and thank them for their effort, but then to say that they can't trust them to deliver the service that would be necessary during a strike.

The next one is from Donna Gamble and it is a letter to the editor: The reasons behind the introduction of Bill No. 68 are difficult to fathom. The government's attempt to persuade the public it is doing so for their safety is difficult to believe when you watch the Legislature on television and see Mr. Muir slumped in his chair, drinking water and totally ignoring the so-called debate. Half of the House is not there and those that are have computers on, not even listening, while their cohorts speak. It is a disgusting display. Yes, there it is, Nova Scotia politicians at their finest. They could at least fake an interest in the discussion of a law that when passed for one will eventually trickle to another. Who will be next that the government protects the province from; police, firemen, teachers, who?

I have been a nurse for 20 years, and the last several have been the worst I have seen. No new recruits that wish to stay and a crippled system that makes my job to deliver safe, effective patient care harder to accomplish. To say that reduced services in a strike is not enough is ridiculous because we have had reduced services for quite some time and reduced staff is the norm, not the exception. Chronically, I arrive to work to find a full unit and reduced staff by two or three nurses and I work in the intensive care. Imagine the floor situation. Every day the charge nurse is faced with staffing difficulties, requests for staff from other areas and doctors who complain, why are there no nurses? Every day is a battle to provide safe health care to Nova Scotians, not just when it suits the government.

It is a professional and personal insult for Mr. Muir to say he feels we would not meet our professional responsibilities under any circumstances. I am bound by standards of care, a code of ethics and professional standards. Is he? I might be more convinced if he appeared to be paying attention during the debate. Then we have Dr. Hamm, who did not show up on Thursday, some priority. No nurse I know would not respond to an emergency need. It is what we do every day. Nurses have told the government for a long time that staff in health care is cut to the bone and the public is aware of this. I find it interesting that when we ask for a fair wage increase, having not had one for about 10 years, the government suddenly cares about the safety of our health care system. As usual, they wait until it is a nightmare and then try to shift the blame.

The government has shown how much it cares about our health care, cut, cut, cut. Many of us have just plain had it. Maybe I am the one who needs the reality check - I still give a damn. By the way, I guess the MLAs don't need any more money either, after all, Nova Scotia is a nice place to live, at least it was.

The next one, I don't have a name. This came to the honourable member for Dartmouth North: Dear member of the Legislative Assembly, I am writing in response to the most recent comments by the CEO of the Capital Health District and the Premier regarding the reasoning

[Page 5229]

behind Bill No. 68. The QE II and the Capital Health District have promoted themselves to providing excellent health care. Recognition awards for excellence, for staff and various departments in the Capital Health District are promoted and acknowledged on a regular basis. Yet, according to the CEO, health care workers cannot be trusted to provide essential services in the event of a strike. How can we provide such excellent care, yet be so untrustworthy?

The people who are drawn to work in health care professions, and we all are professional, are by nature people who care for others, people who want to help others, people who are nurturers and people who would and do put themselves at risk to help others in need. How dare the administrators say we are untrustworthy. Most of us work with limited resources and limited spaces and yet, according to the employer, we continue to provide excellent health care to Nova Scotians. Again, how can that be when we are so untrustworthy? Well, the employer now has to change their public promotions and recruitment strategies to come work in an environment of people who cannot be trusted to provide appropriate care to our community. This is the message that they are sending us as current employees, firstly, by not offering us a reasonable contract and then by slandering us to the public. Is this the message they want to portray to the public, we can't trust our employees?

This is not only insulting to us, but also insulting to the public who use our services and praise the quality care they receive. They know the truth. It assumes the public is stupid and cannot see the game they're playing with us. Many of us employees may have been satisfied but not happy with the last offer, however, the insults and innuendo which accompanied the offer were offensive and abusive. Administration and government have created their own chaos.

These negotiations are about us, Nova Scotians trying to make an appropriate income so we can live comfortable and healthy lives, just as the Capital Health District promotes. To do so, we need to eat healthy, have adequate housing, pay our bills and take relatively stress-free vacations, all of which require at least the cost of living raises. How can we educate the public to live healthier lives when we can't even afford to do it ourselves? Bob Smith and Jamie Muir should be ashamed of themselves. They are the equivalent of an abusive parent expecting perfection, not willing to help the process and verbally abusive and threatening when they aren't satisfied with the outcome.

[7:15 p.m.]

This last letter actually is to me from one of my constituents, Marina Isnor, RN: I am writing to you as the Government of Nova Scotia begins the process of legislating an unfair and unjust law to remove the right to strike from health care and nursing staff. Whatever the motivation of this government is, this law is not being introduced to protect health care. This law will devastate health care and plunge staff morale to an all-time low and elevate

[Page 5230]

emotions to levels never before experienced in health care. I am not surprised by the government's decision to remove the right to strike, I am shocked by the government's decision to offer no line of appeal. This places us in a worse position than criminals in our province. At least they have a right to an appeal.

Civil Service cannot strike, however, they have access to arbitration. Why is the government denying health care workers and nurses this option? Your government was never elected to create such heavy-handed, draconian laws. You were not elected to be part of such a law. I urge you to at least amend the law to provide arbitration. As a resident of your constituency and a health care worker, I ask that you work toward a more effective solution. Surely you see that this is bad legislation.

I am a little worried that maybe she thinks I am a government member. Mr. Speaker, those are only four of many messages that our caucus has received. I know that members opposite are getting them as well because they are on the list when we get the e-mails as to who has received them.

I want to say that when I think about this piece of legislation, although it is legislation that has been brought forward by the Minister of Health, I see the Premier's profile on it. When I hear him talk to the media, I certainly would say that he definitely strongly endorses this piece of legislation and I am not sure whether I could go so far as to say that he crafted it, but I certainly would say that there is a major buy-in by the Premier on this. I think the Premier has been able to do two things. It was stated earlier today in the press conference that this piece of legislation will destroy health care in the province. One thing that it will do that the Premier wasn't expecting, is it is going to unite the labour movement, it is not going to fracture it.

I want to give a quote that was made by a lady in my constituency in the Maitland area to the Premier. The Premier can say it is hearsay because it wasn't made to me, but it was relayed to me by this lady's son and I would take him to be a good source. I want to say that this woman has been a lifelong Tory. As hard as I tried to convert her, I was unable to do that, but what I was unable to do, the Premier may have been able to. Her comment regarding the Premier was, we didn't know who he was. I think that is the way that a lot of Nova Scotians are starting to look at the Premier and starting to look at this Tory Government.

I wanted to say that, again, this reminds me of a conversation I had with my father over something that was happening in another part of the world where people were being abused and I said to my father, I am always amazed at what people will do to other people. His comment was, yes, just because they can. That is what people will do to other people. His comment was, yes, just because they can and that is what this piece of legislation represents. It represents a government that has a majority. It represents a government bent on balancing the books so it can give a tax break.

[Page 5231]

I am sure that those individuals in the health care system, if they had a choice between getting a tax break from the Premier or getting the decent salary that they deserve, they probably would be willing to take the salary because all the way along for years now they have been providing a tax break to Nova Scotians, not the Premier, and I think it is high time that the Premier recognize that, recognize the benefit of taking care of these people, and treating them the way they justly deserve to be treated and that is as appreciated employees of this province.

It would probably go a long way if the Minister of Health was to do two things: one of them would be to apologize to those health care workers for his comments, and the other one would be to withdraw this bill so that it could go to the Human Resources Committee so that there could be some input from other sources. Not that I expect the government will experience any revelation in changing its mind, but it certainly might experience enough to improve this piece of legislation. The honourable member for Kings North, I believe, is the Chairman of the Human Resources Committee.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is, that's right.

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: He is also a Baptist minister.

MR. MACDONELL: Yes, and also a minister.

AN HON. MEMBER: And a journalist.

MR. MACDONELL: And a journalist, right. So perhaps that member would like to rise and speak on this amendment since it is the committee that he formerly chaired, I guess.

I would say that for any members on the government backbenches, if they were to stand and speak on this piece of legislation, I think those in the health care system would appreciate hearing what their views are. I certainly would expect that the people who are in their constituencies who are employed in the system would like to know what it is they're thinking. I have to say that on occasion other members have stood and spoken on pieces of legislation, and I guess they didn't offer us anything new. They certainly stuck to the Party line, but I think that health care workers in this province would appreciate knowing what it is that their MLA who is on the government side thinks about this piece of legislation and I think they'll find out sadly, probably before the end of the week, what they think when they stand in their place and vote on this piece of legislation.

For a government that talks as though it is interested in taking care of people, I want to draw the government's attention to the barricades outside this House of Assembly. I have in my hands the Constitution Act of 1982, Schedule B, and it is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a Guarantee of Rights and Freedoms, the rights and freedoms in Canada, "1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and

[Page 5232]

freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society." The Fundamental Freedoms, everyone has the following fundamental freedoms, ". . . (a) freedom of conscience and religion . . .", so members opposite are free to have a conscience . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: No, they're not. The Minister of Justice will make sure of that.

MR. MACDONELL: ". . . (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; (c) freedom of peaceful assembly . . ." Now, under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms the people in this province have the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. So why the barricades? If this House of Assembly should be a place that any Nova Scotian can come and peacefully assemble, then why has this government clearly gone against their rights and their ability to be able to do that.

Now, it will be argued that the next freedom, the freedom of association, will not solely in itself allow them to collectively bargain or be in a union. I would argue that that is the case. I think it has gone before the Supreme Court of Canada and the Supreme Court has said that the right to form unions is not necessarily addressed under the freedom of association, but the fact that it is not solely expressed in the Charter of Rights, then there is nothing in the Charter of Rights to say you can't do it either.

I have a few minutes left and I want to cite some of the other professions that are involved and will be affected by this piece of legislation: CSR aid, biomedical technologist; biomedical technical assistant; respiratory assistant; respiratory therapist; diagnostic imaging technologist; instructor, diagnostic imaging; darkroom radiology technologist; senior radiology technologist; EKG technician; lab assistant; lab technologist; health record administrator; health records technician; nuclear medicine technologist; morgue attendant; occupational therapy aid; recreation therapy assistant; occupational therapist; physiotherapist assistant; senior physiotherapist; recreation coordinator. I am going to say, Mr. Speaker, that's probably one-quarter of the occupations that are affected by this legislation.

I am running close to my limit of time, Mr. Speaker. I do want to say that I am disappointed that the government feels that it has to take such draconian measures when it acts on the people of Nova Scotia. I don't know why it is that the government doesn't feel that the health care workers are the people of Nova Scotia. When they're talking about trying to protect the people of Nova Scotia, aren't the health care workers the people of Nova Scotia as well? Do we set categories all the time? This government is always pitting one group against another, mainland against Cape Breton, people on community services against those who are not, unions against those who are non-union.

[Page 5233]

So, Mr. Speaker, with those comments I want to say I definitely will not be supporting this legislation. I would like to move that the debate be now adjourned and I ask for a recorded vote.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Speaker would like to recess for a couple of moments to confer with counsel relative to that motion. I understand there already was a motion to adjourn debate on this motion Friday evening.

[7:28 p.m. The House recessed.]

[7:29 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The motion is in order.

A recorded vote is being called for.

The bells can ring up until 8:29 p.m. or until the Whips are satisfied.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[7:30 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: A recorded vote has been called on the adjournment of debate. The clerk will call the roll.

[8:29 p.m.]

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Manning MacDonald Mr. Baker

Mr. Downe Mr. Russell

Mr. Gaudet Dr. Hamm

Dr. Smith Mr. LeBlanc

Mr. MacAskill Mr. Muir

Mr. Wilson Miss Purves

Mr. Boudreau Mr. Fage

Mr. Samson Mr. Balser

Mr. MacKinnon Ms. McGrath

[Page 5234]

Mr. Pye Mr. Ronald Chisholm

Mr. Epstein Mr. MacIsaac

Mr. Taylor

Mr. Dooks

Mr. Langille

Mr. Chataway

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

THE CLERK: For, 11. Against, 22.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is defeated.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Question.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The motion that is presently before the House has been moved by the honourable member for Dartmouth East. (Interruption) Let me read it first, please.

"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."

Is the House ready for the question? A recorded vote is being called for. Ring the bells to the satisfaction of the Whips.

[8:32 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. A recorded vote has been called on the amendment before the House. All those in favour will say Aye; contrary minded will say Nay. (Interruptions)

[Page 5235]

The question before the House is the amendment that has been moved by the honourable member for Dartmouth East, which is to refer Bill No. 68 to the Standing Committee on Human Resources.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[9:32 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Manning MacDonald Mr. Baker

Mr. Downe Mr. Russell

Mr. Gaudet Dr. Hamm

Mr. MacAskill Mr. LeBlanc

Mr. Wilson Mr. Muir

Mr. Boudreau Miss Purves

Mr. Samson Mr. Fage

Mr. MacKinnon Mr. Balsar

Mr. Pye Ms. McGrath

Mr. Epstein Mr. Ronald Chisholm

Mr. Steele Mr. MacIsaac

Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. Dooks

Mr. Langille

Mr. Chataway

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnett

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

THE CLERK: For, 11. Against, 22.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is defeated.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

[Page 5236]

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this is the second time today I have had the opportunity to rise on this bill. Some 16 or 18 hours ago I rose in my place here to protest Bill No. 68 and once again I find myself doing that on behalf of our caucus and I am sure will be followed by members of our caucus over the next 24 hours, or however long it takes for this bill to clear second reading.

When I look at Bill No. 68, Mr. Speaker, the title of Bill No. 68 is an Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia. Well, it should better stated an Act to destroy the quality of health care services in Nova Scotia. That is what this bill really means.

It is regrettable that we have to be here debating this bill and it is also regrettable that in talking to some of the government backbenchers in the last couple of days, they have been telling us that this bill is a bill that must be supported by all MLAs on the government side or they are no longer going to be a member of that caucus. That is democracy in the Tory Party for you. The bosses in the front row have told the people in the back rows, you vote against this bill, you are gone.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who said that? I think Neil said that.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I believe some of the remarks were attributed to the Minister of Finance, his was one of the names mentioned that told the lemmings in behind there that they either fall into line or they are gone in that caucus. That is why we are under no illusion that this vote is going to go any other way but the way the government wants it to go. However, we are going to hold it up as long as we can because we live in hope that this government might have a change of heart in this draconian legislation. Or failing a removal of the legislation altogether, would be willing to listen to some amendments when we get into debate on amendments in Law Amendments and also in Committee of the Whole House on Bills. (Interruption)

The Government House Leader is saying, let's get there. The Government House Leader would like nothing better than for us to sit down and let this bill go off to Law Amendments right now so the Minister of Justice can then bring closure over there to the groups that are going to be in there, bring it back here when he knows full well that there are only 20 hours in Committee of the Whole House and 20 hours in third reading, no matter what we do. So we are not buying the game plan of the Government House Leader at all. It might not even be 20 hours, it might be 18 or 19 hours, but I am going to tell you we are going to take every single hour that we can until we embarrass members opposite sufficiently so that their constituents will start calling them, if they are not already calling them, and hopefully there will be a break in the voting practice over there when this bill finally comes to final reading.

[Page 5237]

Bill No. 68 shouldn't be here. It is here because it is a betrayal to the workers who work in the health care system of this province. I said before and I will say it again that these negotiations, as tough as they are - and believe me we have been there - have to be concluded at the bargaining table, whether an agreement is reached at the bargaining table by both sides or whether both sides agree to allow an arbitrator to settle the matter. Neither is happening here.

The government has said that they don't trust the nurses and the other health care professionals in this province. They don't trust them in a labour dispute situation that they will maintain the level of care in this province that they are sworn to do. I believe them, Nova Scotians believe them, but this crowd opposite doesn't believe them. They don't trust the nurses and other health care professionals in this province to provide service in the case of a work disruption. That is a terrible indictment on the health care workers of this province. I heard one government backbencher earlier today talking to a couple of her constituents. It was the member for Halifax Bedford Basin telling the people that she was talking to that the well is dry. She was trying to convince them. Well, in two years' time, that member will be on the outside there looking in, instead of going out to answer questions. I understand there are a huge number of health care workers living in Halifax Bedford Basin who will make their feelings known at the next election, what they think about their members' actions here.

I will touch on a few others on the Tory backbenches as I move along in my remarks.

I don't intend to talk that long tonight on this bill, just an hour. We will be back again at the Committee of the Whole House and then back again on third reading. If I could talk all summer on this bill, until I get somebody to change their minds over there, I would, but I don't think the Government House Leader will be disposed to allow me to do that so I have to use the time at my disposal to bring some relevant facts out here when the member for Halifax Bedford Basin says the well is dry.

I only wish that in the last year we were in office in this province that we had the money to deal with that this government has right now. I could only wish that we were in a position to put a slush fund away for the next election, and that is exactly what this government is doing.

I want to talk about the well being dry, for a moment, Mr. Speaker. The Deputy Minister of Health currently makes $188,000 per year; the Associate Deputy Minister, $100,000; the Assistant Deputy Minister, $100,000; the Chief Information Officer, $100,000; the CEO of the Capital District, $350,000; the Vice-President of Human Resources, $145,000; the Vice-President of System Development and Performance, Capital Health District, $145,000; the Vice-President, Public Affairs, $145,000; the Vice-President, Administration, $165,000 and the Vice-President, Diagnostic and Support Services, $165,000.

[Page 5238]

Now, does it end there? No, it doesn't end there, Mr. Speaker, just hold on. This is why the well is dry, if it is dry, and I will get to that in a few moments. The Vice-President of Health - nobody knows what he does - $200,000 a year; the Vice-President of Medicine, $260,000 a year; the Director, IT, Capital Health District, $80,500; the Director of Finance, Capital Health District, $80,500; the Director of Human Resources, $80,500 - that is a popular figure - the Director of Environmental Services, $80,500; the Director of Lab Services, $80,500; the Director of Pharmacy, $80,500; and Director of Diagnostic Imaging.

Now, one would think that it stops there, Mr. Speaker, but it doesn't stop there. It goes on and on. The CEO, District Health Authority 2 - whatever that means - $126,000. We need fewer spin doctors, like the ones that I outlined there, and more on-line health care professionals, nurses, technicians and others that work in the system.

Now in a province with less than 1 million people, one would raise some eyebrows about the list that I just spelled out here, the list that I reminded Nova Scotians that their tax dollars are going to pay. You can take those figures and you can put them into the Department of Education, the same bureaucracy has been building there, at the top end, at the expense of those in the system. What we have here is a complete betrayal and this government is unwilling to do anything with this bill because they have another agenda. I believe this is the fourth time I have had the opportunity to talk about the other agenda.

This government picked on a group because they looked around and they said, where is a group we can try this legislation on to set the stage for future legislation in this province? We have the health care workers coming up for contracts and the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union and all the other employees working with the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union as well. So, they decided let's take that union because they are not a very militant bunch, they only want to go to work to look after the people they dedicated their lives to serving.

[9:45 a.m.]

What does the government do to thank them for that? They use them as scapegoats here in this legislation, because this government has a bigger agenda here, a much bigger agenda. It is to destroy the collective bargaining process for all trade unions in this province in the public sector and to put the decision making totally in the hands of the Cabinet. I will guarantee you, Mr. Speaker, even some of the backbenchers over there didn't know this legislation was coming until the day it was dropped.

I am going to tell you also, Mr. Speaker, that the government one day agreed to a mediator in this process and the next day dropped this bill in the Legislature and reconvened a session of the Legislature to deal with it. The government knew before Tuesday they were going to come back to the Legislature. This bill was drafted before the mediator was appointed and this government knew exactly what their agenda was going to be. There were three Cabinet meetings held, in three successive days, to deal with this issue, so they knew

[Page 5239]

this was happening. What they had to do was to ensure they put the spin out to their backbenchers and to other Nova Scotians who were stakeholders in this piece of legislation before they brought it to the House. So it ended up here, and here we are debating it.

Now what does the Government House Leader do? He says we are going to stay here 24 hours a day until we get this bill through. Why the hurry? We heard today that conciliation is going to resume. We heard the Premier today saying to the President of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, that's a great thing, let's get back to the table. Well, Mr. Speaker, I suggest to you if that is the case, let's suspend debate on this, let's suspend debate on this bill. If this is the only reason why this bill is before this House, why are we talking about it if there is a chance that this whole matter could be solved at conciliation? Why are we talking about it? We are talking about it because the government wants to get this legislation through, because they have another agenda here. It is to hit the health care workers first and then it is to hit the other public sector unions.

It wouldn't be so bad if in the bill there was provision there for redress, or at least provision for arbitration. It is one thing to take the right to strike away but it is another thing to not impose compulsory arbitration. Instead of that, the government veered from its course when it imposed legislation on binding arbitration on the emergency health people last year, but decided not to go this route with the nurses and health care workers. Why not? That question hasn't been answered. There has been no satisfactory answer coming to this House in that regard. But what is even worse is that the Cabinet will now decide in the future the working conditions and wages of all people working in this sector, the health care providers of this province, including the nurses and they will have no redress.

I have never seen anywhere, we can't find any precedent, where a bill would go before the House and be approved that would not allow any redress to the courts. There is no redress of a Cabinet decision here in this bill. In other words, this Cabinet has the divine right to rule and the divine right to decide the future of health care workers in this province and they don't have any redress. Shame on that government for bringing that forward when there is no need of it.

If the Premier meant what he said on a number of occasions, and I can tell you that the Premier has gone out of his way out there to tell nurses, to tell other health care professionals how valuable they are, but words like that just aren't cutting it because he can stop this bill. If he said they were that valuable, there is no need for this bill to be introduced in here.

So the Premier is not telling those workers and the people of Nova Scotia the truth. He is playing political football with the lives of these people for another agenda that this government has put on the table here, an agenda to decimate the Public Service of this province. The precedent that is being set here is going to poison labour relations with this sector and other sectors for many years to come. It means that already overworked and

[Page 5240]

underpaid workers in this province are going to realize that this government just doesn't care about them.

Can you imagine on the one hand talking about an ambitious recruitment program to bring health care professionals into Nova Scotia and when they call up to find out what the working conditions are and what the contractual benefits are, they are going to be told there aren't any. The Cabinet will decide in the future what you are going to make, where you are going to work and the next step, Mr. Speaker, will be to get rid of the health boards because obviously they don't have any power anymore anyway because this bill will put the power straight in the hands of the Cabinet, straight in the hands of the boys and girls in the bunker downstairs. That is what is going to happen here.

A Mike Harris agenda, but even Mike Harris didn't go this far. Even Mike Harris had redress in his bills of some sort but there is no redress here, there is no court of final opinion here other than the court held downstairs with the Cabinet. So the Cabinet is exercising its right of divine rule here.

Mr. Speaker, in Sydney last Saturday evening, I met with a large number of NSNU workers from that area. Our Party was there. We felt we were obligated to go there and tell them what we were going to try to do in this House. Two government members on the Island chose not to show up and explain their position. That is their problem, they will have to live with that but the member for Cape Breton North doesn't have any problem showing up if there is any federal ribbon-cutting going on so he can get his picture in the paper in North Sydney, but he won't show up to talk to health care workers and nurses about this terrible legislation that is before the House.

You have to ask yourself, and I believe, in talking to those workers Saturday evening, Mr. Speaker, I listened to them, they asked some questions and I told them the procedure of this House. One of the nurses, one of the ladies there, said to me, Mr. MacDonald, you have been in politics a long time and you have a lot of friends in politics, you can stop this bill. I said to her, I would love to be able to stop this bill, but I can't, because the Tory Government has a majority government and will do what they are going to do. I will tell you what I can do, I told this lady, I can stand in my place with our other members and the members of the Opposition and we can slow this bill down. I said we can't stop it but I said to the group there, you can stop it. We can't stop it but you can stop it, because you can go to the court of public opinion and that is why we are slowing this down.

Those people over there, if they have any brains at all and want to stay around in politics, they will pay attention to the court of public opinion, they will pay attention to their constituents who will surely never forget this bill and will act accordingly and will know how you voted, each and every one of you, on this bill, when it comes to a final vote. They will pay you back. They may not be able to pay you back now but they will pay you back when

[Page 5241]

this Party has the intestinal fortitude to go back to the people of Nova Scotia for a second mandate.

They will remember because they will be reminded by this Party and that Party. They will be reminded of that. They will be reminded of Bill No. 20. They will be reminded of the other bills that have come before this House and have taken money out of the people's pockets of Nova Scotia, saving it up for the next general election as a slush fund. They will remember that. They will remember that they took the federal income tax breaks and kept it instead of passing it along to the people of Nova Scotia. They will remember that because it is the only province in Canada that the income tax breaks didn't flow through because this crowd is taking the money from Nova Scotians and in an election year is going to give it back to them. They are going to give it back to them and say what a wonderful group we are.

I am leading to something here, Mr. Speaker, because the date of the termination of this legislation just happens to coincide with a date that would be shortly after the next provincial election. So what else is this government going to do? They are going to ensure there are no more strikes in the public sector before they have to go back to the polls. So not only are they ripping money out of the taxpayers' pockets of this province for a slush fund, now they are going to ensure that the people can't even walk before the next election to display their displeasure with this government.

So you can see what is happening, Mr. Speaker. The government is setting the ducks in a row here for the next election. They decimated department after department. They are going to sell off assets to their friends. They are going to put $30 million of economic development money in the hands of 12 Tory hacks and let them give it out to their friends throughout the province over the next two years, hand-picked people. You know, Nova Scotians have to be reminded of what is going on here and what is going on here is that the ability of this Legislature to determine public policy in this province and the ability of this Legislature to debate bills on the floor is being diminished because this particular bill and others are taking the right of the Legislature, the House of the people, and putting it aside in favour of Cabinet decree.

In other words, the Tories and the Tories alone, and their backroom boys know what is best for Nova Scotians, not this Legislature, not the 52 members who are here, not the backbenchers who are not members of the government but just government lemmings, MLAs who were elected to come here and represent their constituents. Instead of doing that, they are just toeing the Party line over there in hopes that the Premier will give them a second look for a Cabinet position. Well, I can tell you, I have been scanning here for two years now and I will tell you, if you come and ask me, each and every one of you, who has a chance to get in the Cabinet and who hasn't. I will also tell you, and our Party is going to do a lottery on this, we are going to set up a lottery to tell you which ones are going to be back after the next election and which ones aren't.

[Page 5242]

I said in this House before, since 1993, since I came to this place, there are only nine people left here. So there are a lot of swinging seats in this Chamber by people who occupied them prior to you people who didn't listen to the wishes of your constituents and some people weren't even in this House long enough to get the seats warm in the last six or seven years.

So you people over there who are smug and who are saying in trying to justify, like the member for Halifax Bedford Basin outside trying to tell her constituents that the well is dry, what foolishness after what I just read out here in these salaries in the Department of Health, that the well is dry, when this government got $150 million more in transfer payments in the past year from Ottawa. Instead of telling her constituent how sorry she was to even be part of this sorry situation that is going on here with this bill, she tries to justify it by saying there is no more money.

Well, there is going to be an announcement made tomorrow with another $1 million coming from the Minister of Education, we understand, for some school which is not bad, I guess. There is money there. There was money there for the other school boards when they hollered long and loud but there doesn't seem to be any money for health care workers. There doesn't seem to be any money for nurses. There doesn't seem to be any money to put on the table to settle this matter. What is on the table is another agenda. What is on the table is the use of this group for a further end. Who is next? Is it the teachers? They are coming up next year.

[10:00 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: Police.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Police. They snuck the Barrington bill in, Mr. Speaker, through the back door and they hung the member down there out to dry because they don't think he is going to get re-elected anyway so they hung him out to dry and the larger picture is simply this, that they want to take the doctor recruitment program away from their jurisdiction and say in the future, do you want a doctor? Call your mayor. He will charge the taxpayers an extra 5 cents per $100 assessment or something or an extra couple of hundred dollars a year and let them go buy a doc. The new program in Nova Scotia will be buy a doc, because that is why the legislation came in here. They said themselves that the municipal units could do a better job of recruiting doctors than they could. So that is going to be out of the government's hands. Don't come see us if you can't get a doctor, go see the municipal unit, go see your councillor or your warden or your mayor.

Now we have a situation where this bill is before the House for another reason. If the only reason, Mr. Speaker, this bill was before the House was to protect the public interest, then they should be willing to amend the bill to allow for arbitration. They should also be willing to hold this bill until the conciliation talks finish. These are responsible people we

[Page 5243]

are talking about here. These people don't want to walk out on the street and leave people to fend for themselves. These people are dedicated and those aren't my words, the Premier said that. The Premier said he had no problem with this sector, so why is this bill here?

We haven't been able to get at the Premier yet in Question Period on this bill. That is some democracy. Call the House back and we haven't been able to talk to the Premier, we haven't been able to ask him a question yet. Hopefully that will come later tonight or tomorrow morning or 3:00 a.m. or whatever time it is. It is interesting that the Government House Leader makes sure that Question Period is in the middle of the night instead of the middle of the afternoon and it is no accident we are going 24 hours a day. They are hoping to push this through as quickly as they can in order to get out of Dodge with their new legislation in place.

Mr. Speaker, you have to ask yourself, if the well is dry, who is paying for all the advertising the government is doing here to try to convince Nova Scotians that they are right and the unions here are wrong? They are not taking money out of their own pockets or they are not holding a bake sale to get the money for that. What they are doing is taking it right out of the taxpayers' pockets. So the well is not dry for that. They are taking it out of the slush fund. Who is paying the money for polling that they are doing on a daily basis on this? That is not dropping from the sky. That is coming out of the taxpayers' pocket.

So why are we here dealing with Bill No. 68? You have to ask yourself why. You have to ask yourself and Nova Scotians have to take a close look at this. There is another agenda here, there has to be. I think it is Machiavelli at its finest, I have to tell you. I have said that before. I thought I saw the utmost in trickery here with the illusion of the Barrington bill being brought in the back door. I thought that was the best I would ever see in this House, until this bill came along.

Now the Tory backroom boys are working overtime to get you guys elected in the next election. That is what they are doing and they said, one good way to do that is to outlaw public sector strikes in the next three years in Nova Scotia. Why didn't they put forever in this bill? Why didn't they put an arbitrary date of one year, because that is before the next election. They don't want any more negotiation with this group until they go back to the polls. They are hoping to catch Nova Scotians unaware of some of the deeds that have been done when they run back to the polls to try to get a second mandate.

Mr. Speaker, I explained why they want to get a second mandate, because during the last 15 year reign in this province they looked after every single, breathing Tory who could walk in the province with boards and commissions and jobs and heavy-duty contracts, they looked after them all but they missed a few. So the backroom boys are saying, since you missed a few, here is how to look after them. If you look at the appointments being made now, they are all Tory hacks who are being put back on the boards and commissions. There

[Page 5244]

is no more democracy in that, either. They are filling the boards and commissions with Tories, just as they did with their senior people here and some of the salaries they are paying.

To hear the Government House Leader stand outside this Chamber and try to tell the press a few weeks ago that he believes all deputy ministers in this province should come from within the province, well, that is great, after they have all been appointed from outside the province. All the jobs are filled now. So then he goes out there and states, oh, I agree, they should all come from Nova Scotia - after they have all been hired. Who does this crowd think they are fooling? Everything they do smacks of politics of the finest kind and they are using this group here as an example of what they can do in riding herd on the public sector unions of this province. It is a sign of things to come.

You have heard the word precedent, well, this is a precedent being set here. Once this bill goes through the House, Mr. Speaker, there will now be a precedent. It won't be something new anymore, it will be a repeat bill next year but it will involve some other sector. They picked on this group because I think they thought that this would probably do them the least damage if they picked on this group, they would probably take the hit and continue to work on behalf of fellow Nova Scotians in the fine way they have done year in and year out.

Mr. Speaker, I believe they have made a tactical error. I believe that they have awakened a sleeping giant here. I believe this group is not going to let them get away with this. The attitude that I encountered last Saturday evening in Sydney is that they are not going to take it anymore - enough is enough. So I believe this group made a tactical error here, they picked on the wrong bunch of professionals in this province. Over the next few days I believe that those statements I just made will be borne out.

These people don't deserve this kind of treatment. These people don't deserve to be left to the whim and the mercy each and every year of the Cabinet and how they are feeling, whether or not they have had a good day. To talk about the future of these people being decided by the Cabinet, two of whom are remnants from the last 15 years of government in this province, the Finance Minister and the Government House Leader, who were part and parcel of the crew that put this province into bankruptcy. They can't run away from that. The two of them are over there, running the show now again. They are going to get a second chance at ruining this province. Can you imagine, now they are going to get a second chance. Now they have taken over the Workers' Compensation Board. They are going to take the democracy out of that and put it back in the hands of the Cabinet so they can have that money at their disposal, as well, for the next election.

They are not fooling anybody. As I have said so many times, this government says one thing and then does another. What happened to the promise? I want to quote the blue book again, ". . . the existing structure has focused almost exclusively on the day-to-day administration of hospitals at the expense of long-term, value-added planning. RHBs will be

[Page 5245]

replaced with volunteer/community-driven (as opposed to bureaucratically driven) boards." Well, isn't that something.

Now, what does that mean? It means they want to bring more democracy back into decision making. So what do they do? They take all the decision making out of the bureaucracy, they take it all away from the boards, these local boards, they put it not in the hands of a third party but in their own hands. Now, Mr. Speaker, they are the employer, the Cabinet is the employer. Can you imagine a situation where the public sector negotiations have failed and there is no other redress but to go to the Cabinet? Now, one day the Health Minister will say, I am not really involved, it is the health boards that is doing the negotiations. Where do Nova Scotians think the health boards get their money if it is not from the Cabinet?

Now they are going to cut that out and the employer is going to make the decision on behalf of the employee. Think about it. Who is going to win there? Does anybody in their right mind think that this Cabinet is going to give these employees a break? The only way that they may get a break is if all 10,000 of them signed Tory cards and pledged to vote for them in the next election. That would be the only way this crowd understands the system. This is the system with this crowd. If it is not politically correct for them, they are not going to do it.

So, what kind of a break do you expect these workers are going to get with the Cabinet making the decisions? They are not going to get any break. This Bill No. 68 simply cuts out collective bargaining until the year 2004. Now, what will happen in 2004 if this government is lucky enough or if Nova Scotians are crazy enough to put them back in office again, what will happen again? They will have proven that they can get away with it and they will do it again. If they don't get elected, it is somebody else's problem.

You can see what is happening here. They are setting it up so there will be no labour disruptions in this sector until after the next provincial election. Isn't that just an accident in timing that they put in this bill, just an accident in timing. What a coincidence. I guess they just picked that date out of a hat.

I have said it here before that when you are dealing with the public sector when you are in government, it is not easy. Sometimes there are hard feelings between employees and their bargaining agent - in this case, the government - sometimes the fence mending takes a long time, but you have to have confidence that the collective bargaining system works and that eventually it will solve the problem. But there are mechanisms to be put in place as safeguards. One of those is conciliation of course, and the other one is compulsory arbitration, if everything else fails. Why didn't this government offer this union compulsory arbitration? They did it before with another group. Why didn't they?

[Page 5246]

There are two reasons why they didn't. One is that they don't trust them and the other is that they have another agenda, because they have never been able to succeed in getting a piece of legislation through that entirely wipes out collective bargaining and sets up a mechanism where only the Cabinet will decide what the future is going to be for these workers and other public sector workers in this province. That is why. That is why they didn't introduce compulsory arbitration in this bill. They are the lord and masters. They are going to determine what people are going to make. Heaven forbid that they leave it to a third party who might be fair to both groups. Heaven forbid that. They are the employer, they are going to determine.

If anybody in their right mind thinks that this government is going to look after the employees once they are given this kind of a situation, then they are dreaming. It would have to be politically astute for those people to want to do that on their behalf. But it would have to be beneficial in the long run for their re-election bids.

I believe that if there is one issue in this province that has galvanized people right now and one issue that is in the hearts and minds of many Nova Scotians today, it is this particular issue of health care and where we are going with the provision of health care.

[10:15 p.m.]

I said this before twice, last week and this week in my place here, that health care workers, I believe, are the victims here. There is no question in my mind they are the victims. Nurses are the victims. All the other professionals who work from the office to the technical labs are all victims here, but the victim list is going to grow if this bill goes through. Other public sector workers are going to also be victims in the future.

The member for Kings South has become the conscience of the Tory caucus in his musings from time to time. So it is going to be interesting to see how he votes on this issue. He is always torn with his conscience on these issues. He is always torn between doing the right thing and following the Party line. He states that substantial debate never happens in this place, the place of the people. Well, if he doesn't consider this substantial debate, then I don't know what is. We are here trying to defend the interests of a public sector group and we feel this is substantial debate and we feel this is necessary debate for as long as it takes to get this government to change its mind on this bill.

My personal objection to this bill is well known. I hope that the government will see the error of its way and withdraw the bill, but I don't expect that to happen. They are too proud. They introduced it and they have another agenda. The agenda goes way beyond this particular sector that they are dealing with. So that's not going to happen, but maybe at the Law Amendments Committee, or when it comes back to the Committee of the Whole House here, we can get some amendments in there such as substituting the decision to be made by

[Page 5247]

the Cabinet, that decisions will be made by an arbitrator appointed and agreed to by both parties.

That would seem to be much more reasonable and if the government wanted to do something to keep faith with these workers, they would agree with that amendment if, Mr. Speaker, that was their only agenda, but I don't think they will agree with that amendment because that's not their only agenda. Their agenda is much broader and their agenda is to cut out collective bargaining, period, with public sector groups and no more third party arbitrators because we don't need third party arbitrators. The front bench of this government knows what's best for Nova Scotians, particularly Tory Nova Scotians.

They are going to look after the rich and the powerful, Mr. Speaker, they are not going to worry about ordinary Nova Scotians. They never did in the past and they never will in the future. They will look after every single breathing Tory who has done something for them in order to get elected in the next election and what they are doing is ensuring that there will be no disruption on the road to Damascus because what they will be doing is silencing everybody by legislation prior to the next election and they just happen to have a couple more contracts coming into place over the next year to year and a half.

So we will be back here, Mr. Speaker, dealing with other legislation in the fall concerning public employees, I know we will. Once this one comes through this House, we will be back dealing with other legislation. They are going to target group after group and they used this particular group as a means to an end. That's what they have done, but it is our duty to hold this bill up as long as we can. It is our duty to hope that there will be no closure as the Justice Minister has been talking about, saying let's hurry up and get it over there so we can hurry up and get it back, so when we hurry up and get it back, the people of Nova Scotia should know we are then restricted to 20 hours of debate or less on each bill, depending on how many members we have available. So there will be no more amendments, well, there can be amendments, but the people should know that the government knows and realizes that it will be a maximum of 20 hours. So we're done, we are down to 40 hours. That's why they want to rush it out of here and rush it back.

Now, if the Justice Minister thinks that he is going to get away with evoking closure at the Law Amendments Committee with the anticipated number of people coming before this House to speak to their minds at the Law Amendments Committee, then he is sadly mistaken. Mr. Speaker, I believe that the process at the Law Amendments Committee is of enough importance to take time to let every person interested in this bill have their say. That is why we wanted this bill to go to a committee and have a committee going around the province. That didn't happen. That was defeated by that crowd.

Now I will tell you that people have one more opportunity and that is at the Law Amendments Committee. No, they have two opportunities, one is the Law Amendments Committee and one is the court of public opinion. Public sector workers in this province in

[Page 5248]

this section that we are dealing with right now, the professional nurses, the professional health care workers and all those working in that system that this contract, or this bill, there is no contract, there is a one-way contract, to call up their members and express their displeasure.

The smugness will come off the faces of members opposite. Instead of listening to me they are joking and telling stories over there. That is fine. We have been through that for the last two or three days. The members opposite over there think this is a joke, that there is no need of them being here because their bosses in the front row have told them not to even listen to the members opposite, just run the clock down and go home for the summer. Well, I suggest to you that Nova Scotians are going to take a long time forgetting about this particular bill.

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

MR. SPEAKER: You have 13 minutes.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Not long enough, Mr. Speaker. The government just doesn't get it here. We are hoping that Nova Scotians will get it, get the picture. I am sure they are fast becoming aware of what is happening here, that this government is using this bill and using these workers as scapegoats. That is all they are doing. They made a tactical error, as I said before, in taking on this group because the sleeping giant has just woken up. The calls that I have been getting the last fews days, the reaction I got last Saturday night when talking to these people, these very good people who, by the way, some of them came directly from work to the meeting. There were over 300 of them there on a Saturday evening. It was very warm, but they were concerned and the stories I heard were similar to the stories we hear up here, overworked, overtime, 12 hour days, no time off, can't get their vacations, no respect, all of the above.

Now they get a further kick by saying they are not going to have any more negotiations. They might as well tell their union leaders all to resign. There is no need of them any more. There is no need of any committees to look out for their benefit because the Cabinet knows what is best for them. The health boards won't have any say any more because they will just be rubber stamping what the Cabinet wants them to do. How sad that we have come to this situation in Nova Scotia when we have perhaps the hardest working health care professionals anywhere. I know that because I am closely associated with one. As I said here before, my daughter is a nurse. I have people who have used the system who have required the assistance of nurses and LPNs and other people in the system, lab technicians and that. I respect that service. I respect the fact that these people do a job for their fellow Nova Scotians and they don't want to go, Mr. Speaker, to work every day having to worry about things like Bill No. 68 and their security.

[Page 5249]

They want to go to work worrying about looking after the people that they vowed they would help as a result of their profession. That is what they want to do. But can you imagine the additional strain that is in the system and on the backs of these workers now when they are confronted with a government who doesn't trust them. Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, a government saying that we couldn't allow a work disruption with this bunch, and that is the way they put it, because we don't think they will look after people adequately. That is disgraceful for the Premier or anybody in that government, the Health Minister, to tell Nova Scotians that they don't trust their own health care workers.

Mr. Speaker, the union guaranteed this government that they would maintain essential services in the event of a work disruption. But what does this government do to thank them for that? They introduce legislation that simply states, we don't need you to guarantee us anything. We are going to tell you what we are going to do and we are going to reward you with what we think you are worth, not what any bargaining table thinks you are worth or not what any arbitrator thinks you are worth or not what any other group - the people of Nova Scotia that put them in the Cabinet - not what they think. It is what this Cabinet thinks downstairs in the bunker and if it is not getting political mileage for this crew, they are not going to do it. They are the employer, no matter how you cut it and they are going to determine what the future holds for the health care workers in this province.

Mr. Speaker, all of what I have said is bad enough, but then to do the same thing with the courts in this regard as they did with a previous bill in this House, to simply state that they don't want the courts to get involved in this. There is no redress. This is the second time in months that this government has said, we don't trust the courts. They did it with the fines on tobacco smugglers. You remember that. They said, ha, we don't trust the courts to levy fines, so we are going to reduce them. In other words, let the criminals in for less in Nova Scotia. Now they are doing it here. They don't trust the courts here to arbitrate a settlement or to have a court of last opinion, a redress. They just said the Cabinet is going to be law, not the courts of this province. That is what they said. So, once again, they have risen above the courts of this province.

I don't have any doubt that that is going to be the norm here because where else would you get a Justice Minister that his first act when he got elected was to make himself a QC. That is the only thing he has done since he got here and that is your Justice Minister, who thinks he is better than the courts. So how can these workers expect to get any justice from that crowd when we are dealing with the likes of the Justice Minister, who thinks that he is above the courts, and who stood in his place here earlier today and said, all of this is a waste of time, that the Opposition is slowing down the process of getting this bill through.

Well, Mr. Speaker, he is exactly right. We are slowing down the process to give Nova Scotians a chance to see this bill for what it really is, the worst piece of draconian legislation that ever hit the floor of this House and I suspect ever hit the floor of any provincial government in this country. As bad as Mike Harris was, he didn't resort to this. This

[Page 5250]

government has simply got to come to its senses on this particular bill. They are not protecting the health care system in this province with this bill, they are destroying it. There is not a practitioner that is affected by this contract that feels anything else today but betrayal by this government and Nova Scotians aren't going to be allowed to forget about this right up to and including the next provincial election.

A number of us, Mr. Speaker, have been talking to health care professionals and I have all kinds of correspondence from them here today and from the last couple of days. If I have enough time, I am just going to refer to one. This is a letter to the Premier and I will table it, although he already has a copy of it. Dear Mr. Premier: Regarding your proposed Bill 68, I suggest that you are going too far. To deny health care workers the right to strike is one thing, but to do it so without a binding arbitration mechanism is disgusting, to say the least. To empower your Cabinet the right to set wage standards is not only sickening, but it is bordering on dictatorship. It is not bordering on dictatorship; it is dictatorship. Do the right thing, Mr. Premier, and withdraw Bill 68. It is signed by Bud Bagnell, a gentleman who is concerned. I don't know if he has any connection with the health care system in this province, but that is the type of letters that we are getting.

Dictatorship, disgusting, allowing the Cabinet to make decisions on the future, wage increases, working conditions and settlements of this province without any redress, yes, it is nothing short of dictatorial.

[10:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we, as a Party, are determined to hold this bill up as long as we possibly can. We are going to be watching the Justice Minister to see what he does in the Law Amendments Committee and heaven help him if he tries to invoke closure in that public forum that will take place in the Red Room because he will not get out of that room. Nova Scotians want to be heard and the only place they can be heard is in this House of the people, the Legislature. If we abandon that, then in the future we might as well not come here. Just elect 12 Cabinet Ministers for the province and let them run a dictatorship here because that is where this province is heading. The House of the people will have nothing more to say here.

When you hear the Justice Minister talking about the need for us to sit down and keep quiet, to get on with the process here, who does he think he is talking to? We were sent here by constituents to represent their wishes and that is what I intend to do and that is what my colleagues intend to do and that is what the MLAs over there should be doing - getting on their feet and expressing the wishes of their constituents, instead of sitting there telling each other jokes and falling asleep. But, Mr. Speaker, as I said before, some of them won't have to worry about it in a couple of years anyway. They are just passing through. Their inactions since they have been here have already dictated their fate. They know. Some of them, you can tell in talking to them, that they are not coming back. They already know that.

[Page 5251]

People in those constituencies that I am talking about were entitled to one mistake, I guess, but they are not going to make two. Those people have signed their political death warrants if they vote for Bill No. 68, I can tell you that. I am speaking directly to those people now. You have an opportunity to do what is right here. There is no sense in my talking to that bunch in the front row. They are on the Executive Council. They have to do what Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham want them to do or they won't be in the Cabinet anymore. But you people on the backbenches have an opportunity to do what is right here. Use it because you know in your hearts this bill is wrong. You know it is wrong and I suggest to you that you have an opportunity to truly represent the people who sent you to this place. They sent you to this place, so they can send you home, because that is the only ultimate weapon the voter has in this province. They may have to put up with your inaction for four years, but they will pay you back when it comes time to mark the ballot.

As sure as I am standing in my place here, Bill No. 68 is going to mean some vacant seats in that caucus. So if you want to play Russian roulette with your futures in this place, vote for Bill No. 68. If you want to incur the wrath of health care workers in this province as long as you live, vote for Bill No. 68. If you want to be known as part of a team over there that destroyed the health care system in this province, vote for Bill No. 68. If you want to do what is right for Nova Scotians and for the health care system and the health care providers in this province, vote against Bill No. 68 and tell the Premier that he was wrong in allowing this bill to come before this House.

Tell the Premier and tell his Cabinet Ministers in the next few days, please withdraw this bill. Please let the court of sober second thought prevail here. Give time for the conciliation to work and if that doesn't work, sit down with the bargaining units here and let an arbitrator decide this issue. Those who haven't spoken since they have come to this place have an opportunity in this debate to get on their feet. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that they will take the opportunity to get on their feet here and express their concerns about this bill and for once, while they are here, do something right.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, one of the real pleasures in politics is the opportunity to talk with a lot of Nova Scotians and one of the even more intense pleasures of talking with Nova Scotians is to hear the essential common sense that they are so frequently able to express. Nothing brings that out like a controversial issue and in my experience in this House nothing has brought it out so greatly as the labour relations bills of this government. I think of Bill No. 9 from the fall of 1999 dealing with the paramedics and, of course, now Bill No. 68 dealing with nurses and a broad spectrum of health care workers.

[Page 5252]

I have had one of these conversations on the telephone this evening with a nurse who is a resident of my district. It wasn't a very long conversation. We have been playing a little telephone tag today. She was on duty at the hospital so it took us awhile to get together on the phone. Of course, she is working shift work, 12 hour shifts. This particular nurse works in the birthing unit at the IWK Health Care Centre. What she wanted me to know was the range of her concerns. Now, we spoke only for a couple of minutes on the phone when we finally did manage to get together and yet she was able to list her concerns and her observations about this bill in a very trenchant way. I want to repeat her comments for the members opposite and for the public at home so that they understand very clearly what it is that is at stake here.

Mr. Speaker, this is the third time that I have had the opportunity to speak about Bill No. 68 in this House. So what that means is by the time I will have finished speaking this evening, I will have spoken for three hours about the various failings involved in Bill No. 68. Of course, we know we're engaged in a process of taking as much time as the House Rules allow in an attempt to convince the government to back off on this bill. I haven't had a lot of trouble filling up the two hours or so that I have had so far and I don't imagine I am going to have a lot of trouble filling up this third hour but, do you know what, it doesn't take that long to understand exactly the problem here.

This nurse was able to sum it up for me very quickly because in her heart she understood exactly what the problem was. Just as an aside I should say that I am going to refer to this person as this nurse. She asked me not to use her name. She lives in my district. I have said that she works in the IWK, beyond that she asked me not to go. She is a little apprehensive. She just didn't want her name used in public because as she reads Bill No. 68, it sends a message of intimidation to all health care workers and, frankly, although she is prepared to go on record to me, she didn't want to go on record publicly although she is going to come to that demonstration tomorrow if she can get away. If not, she will come later. That's what she told me.

Now, here are the words that she used. She said she was "totally disgusted" with the government about Bill No. 68 and she went on to explain the following. She said that she wasn't really surprised to see the government come in with back-to-work legislation. Now, just think about that for a moment. She wasn't really surprised and, do you know what, I think that there are a lot of nurses who probably think the same way she does. It is probably no big surprise to them that the government would be tempted to come in with back-to-work legislation for the health care sector. Never mind that there isn't even a strike yet. Never mind that the bargaining process is still going on. Never mind that conciliation hasn't even been entered into with the nurses. Never mind that they haven't tried a mediator. She wouldn't have been surprised if, at some point in there, if there had been a complete breakdown of the formal statutory negotiation process, the government had decided to move for back-to-work legislation. But not this legislation.

[Page 5253]

This legislation has brought her to the point of being, as she said, totally disgusted with the government. She is totally disgusted because this bill goes way beyond what it is that she, as a regular, middle-class, hard-working, honest, upright person would expect. Who is more typical than your average Nova Scotian, your average, good Nova Scotian than a nurse? And this person understood immediately the government's temptation if, indeed, they were really concerned about public health and safety, to try to avoid work stoppages in the health care sector. She said that was her first point, she wouldn't be all that surprised to see some kind of legislation come back.

Here is the other thing she had to say, she said she had worked as a nurse in Nova Scotia for more than 20 years. Here is a person who has been working at a tough job for more than 20 years. Nurses are the personal health care providers. They are the hands-on people who do a tough job that is necessary, that we rely upon them to do. We rely upon them to do it in a professional way and they do it. This person has done it for 20 years. Do you know what she said? In 20 years her pay is not much different than it was when it started out. There have been changes, there have been some changes but not much, in 20 years.

We know that in the broader public sector there was a period of wage freezes, we know in the broader public sector there was a period of wage rollbacks and that affected this nurse and her colleagues and all the other health care workers. There is what I think economists call pent-up demand, this time round in the bargaining in the health care sector. (Interruptions) Well, one of my colleagues is suggesting there is pent-up anger. There is no doubt about that. They are looking, and nurses across this country, and all public sector workers are looking through this round and probably the next round to make some gains, to make up for the ground that was lost against inflation, against cost of living, through the restraint that was put in place, the restraint and the rollbacks, earlier in the decade.

In their working lives, they feel that they have been hard done by. They feel that they have been giving their all and they want some form of decent remuneration. It is not just money, this nurse went on to say, they do want fair remuneration, fair is the word, fair is the touchstone, not more than that, fair is what they are looking for, but they are also looking for better working conditions. This nurse also went on to tell me about her experience of being called in all the time on what are supposed to be her weekends off, her time off, her time with her family. There is just not enough staff in the hospitals to make working conditions tolerable for the rest of them.

They don't mind giving their all, but they are being asked to give more than is there to give. Their lives are being taken away from them. That is not what employment, even employment in something as important as the health care sector, is all about. It is our obligation and in particular the obligation of the government to make sure that there are the staff there so that they can support each other in their jobs from day to day. That job has not been done. Don't forget, I am reporting on what probably wasn't any more than a three or five minute conversation with this person.

[Page 5254]

So far, she made the point that she was totally disgusted with the government. She wasn't really surprised that there would be some kind of back-to-work legislation. She knows they are underpaid, and she knows that the hospitals don't have enough nursing staff and need a lot more.

[10:45 p.m.]

But she made another point, and she made it very well. What she said was that in addition to her concerns for herself, she is even more concerned about young nurses who are thinking of where they ought to go in terms of their employment throughout their careers. What she said was, they will take off. They will take off is what this nurse said to me. She knows these people; she knows her colleagues; she knows her own mind. She knows that the options are there; she knows that they are not restrained when it comes to the opportunity to take their skills and seek employment somewhere else in North America, not just somewhere else, anywhere else in North America.

If nurses want to move, they can move. The government can pass this bill if they want to, but there is nothing they can do to force nurses to stay here, not one single thing. Just think about this conversation that I have had. Surely this is a typical experience that any of us who are prepared to talk to our residents have. Just by-the-by she also pointed out to me, as have others, that they know that many of their colleagues who live elsewhere in the Halifax peninsula, for example, in areas represented not by members of my Party but by members of the government, they are not answering their phone calls; they are not answering their messages; they are not calling the nurses back; they are not calling the health care workers back. They are ducking; they are heading for the hills.

People would have this kind of conversation time after time, if they were to take the trouble to have it, and they would learn from this kind of conversation if their ears were open to actually listen. I was very impressed by this person. She made all the right points, because she understood them right away. This is a typical Nova Scotian, and Nova Scotians will know what to do when the time comes. Government members can choose not to answer their e-mails and they can choose not to answer their letters and they can choose not to meet with their constituents and they can choose not to answer their phone calls, but they can't choose to avoid the next election.

Nova Scotians will know what to do when the time comes. Nova Scotians will make up their minds because they understand, just as this nurse understands, exactly what is wrong with Bill No. 68. Don't think they are going to forget. They won't forget. Nova Scotians will know what to do when the time comes. Nurses have their families; nurses have their friends; nurses have their networks; and all health care workers, equally, have their families, friends, networks, people they talk to. Don't underestimate, government members, the significance of what you are doing here.

[Page 5255]

What is it that went beyond the reasonable limits here? Clearly, it is to bring in legislation that does not have, as part of the back-to-work order or the prohibition of strike order, binding arbitration. That is what is so totally outrageous. It is not a good idea to interfere in the normal processes of free collective bargaining when you are in the middle of a problem. If the government wanted to sit down and bring in labour relations legislation in the abstract that we could discuss at a time when there was labour peace and there weren't any negotiations going on in the health care sector and there wasn't an imminent dispute about something particular that they were trying to resolve, we could engage with that. We could set up, as the Tories did a decade ago, an industrial inquiry commission to look at it.

We could get experts in. We could read the studies, we could think about it, we could do it. We could take our time, we could set up a special committee, a select committee. We could do all the kinds of measured steps that would be appropriate to engage with a change in the labour relations negotiation framework. But the important thing is that if the government wanted to do that, the time to do it is not in the time of high pressure when there is something going on on the ground. The time to do it is when there is none of that going on, when you can engage in it in a neutral fashion.

Of course this government, as I pointed out the other day, already engaged in it a decade ago and their select industrial inquiry commissioner, William Kydd, QC, told them an answer they don't seem to like, but I will get to that a little later on. I would have been extremely surprised, I think anyone would have been extremely surprised, if we had engaged in a neutral analysis of labour relations and bargaining in the health care sector and as a result of our studies, we ended up coming back with some kind of agreement that what was appropriate for the health care sector bargaining was that at the end of the day, the way to resolve disputes in the health care sector is to just let the Cabinet say what ought to be in the collective agreement.

You know what? I don't think anyone can even remotely think that that would have been the result. I can't think of any study anywhere by anyone, not even the Fraser Institute, that have ever suggested that is the way you resolve bargaining disputes, by just letting the employer dictate what the result is going to be. That is not a theory that prevails in any corner in this country or any other country that I am aware of, except in the minds of the members opposite. The whole point about binding arbitration, if it is going to be the way to resolve a dispute, is that it ought to be known in advance. We have discussed this before. We have discussed it in another context, I think the context of the paramedics. It affects the dynamics of the negotiation process if you know at the end of the day there is binding arbitration. It is quite a bit different to negotiate in a framework where you are working up to the possibility of a strike or lockout than to negotiate in a framework where you are working up to binding arbitration.

[Page 5256]

In binding arbitration, if it is known in advance that that is the way that the differences are going to be resolved, there is not much inducement for people to change their positions very much unless they can get complete agreement at the bargaining table. The reason they don't want to move, unless there is movement at the same time on the other side, is that with binding arbitration, there is a big temptation for the arbitrator to split the difference. So you don't want to come down unilaterally because it is hard to go back up in your submissions later to the arbitrator. So it is important that if binding arbitration is going to be in place, it be known in advance.

Yet, even if it is known in advance, elements of fairness attach to binding arbitration. Here are the elements of fairness. Here is why it is fair. Here is why it is that participants in collective agreement bargaining will sometimes agree to go ahead with binding arbitration. It is because someone else comes in at arm's length to make the decisions on the hard issues that cannot be resolved at the bargaining table. Just knowing that someone else is going to come in and make that decision induces the parties to try to resolve the issues themselves. It is only those issues that are left on the table after the parties have not been able to agree that are finally sent off to binding arbitration. Binding arbitration can be one person or it can be a three person panel. If it is a three person panel, the employer and the employee appoint someone and they agree on who will chair the panel. If it is one person, again, everyone has to agree on who it is. So the person has stature. The person is trusted. The person that is finally chosen is someone for whom there is buy-in, but that person will not be agreed to if they are not seen as independent, if they are not seen as someone who will be able to make a genuine, informed decision that is not partisan to either side. Now that is the importance of it.

Do you know what? A year and a half ago, the Premier understood that. I went back and looked up my notes from the time of the debate on Bill No. 9 a year and a half ago over the paramedics. I found, in my notes from one of the speeches of the Premier, his expressions of respect for the binding arbitration process. It was right there. (Interruption) I can quote to you from what it is that the Premier actually had to say at the time. You will recall the issue at the time, I think, we were in the midst of job action by paramedics, very parallel to what it is that we are looking at here, although much more advanced. It was the health care sector again and again there were statements having to do with fears of public health and safety and the government brought in Bill No. 9. It focused on paramedics, telling them to go back to work and saying, the outstanding disputes at the bargaining table will be resolved by binding arbitration. That is a feature that is missing from this bill and that is the feature that the nurse I spoke to a little while ago, made her totally disgusted with the government.

But here is what the Premier said a year and a half ago, here is what he said about binding arbitration, The unresolved issues with the paramedics, he said, will go to binding arbitration: The Nova Scotia Federation of Labour said the Premier gave us our lead on this. They have been asking for binding arbitration, he told us, for first contracts. Well, he said, we are going to do it. We are going to bring it in, binding arbitration. Here are some of my

[Page 5257]

favourite words from the Premier from that debate in his speech. We have faith in that system, he said. We have faith in that system that it will produce a fair result. The paramedics, he said, will get reasonable hours, reasonable wages and the result will be fair. Binding arbitration, the Premier told us, is the least intrusive way to preserve the service.

Well, thank you, very much, Mr. Premier. It was quite well said really. It gets to the heart of it. If you are going to interfere in labour relations at the last minute, in itself not a good idea, not a good thing, not desirable, but if you are, as a government, going to do that, because in the theory of the government of the time - this is a year and a half ago - about the paramedics, you have to speak for all the people, you have to protect public health and safety, there is a way to do it. As the Premier said, he has faith in that system, faith in the system of binding arbitration. It will produce a fair result. Well, what happened? What on earth could possibly have happened this time, a year and a half later, that apparently the government doesn't have faith in binding arbitration. Apparently, it doesn't believe that that system will produce what the Premier is calling, or did call at the time, a fair result. Apparently they are not interested in what the Premier called the least intrusive way to preserve the service.

So what on earth could possibly be going on, we have to ask ourselves? The question is not one for which we have to cudgel our brains and speculate for an answer. The Premier, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health, I think now, have all actually gone on record as saying what this piece of legislation, Bill No. 68, is all about. It is not about an informed method of restructuring bargaining in the public sector, it is not about a researched method of improving labour relations there and isn't really about protecting public health and safety. Now, despite the fact that the government is shelling out $7,000 or $10,000 a day for the advertising it is doing in the newspapers and on the radio around the province, despite all that money that it is spending in order to put out the message about how it is protecting public health and safety, that is not what Bill No. 68 is about.

[11:00 p.m.]

The Premier, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health have told us this bill is about money. This bill is ultimately about saving the government money and the reason they won't go to binding arbitration is it is going to cost them too much. They don't want to pay the freight. That is what this bill is about, they just don't want to pay the freight. They know, or have an apprehension, that if the issues that are left outstanding go to binding arbitration, the arbitrator will probably side with the nurses and the other health care workers. That is what this bill is about; this bill is specifically about being unfair to the employees. That is what this bill is about.

This bill is about saying we have put our money on the table. We have put the last dollar on the table that we are prepared to put on the table and you can take it or you can lump it, and if you don't there are penalties for disobeying, penalties to the union, penalties to the executive members of the union, and penalties to any health care employee who might

[Page 5258]

disobey the Act. They would get too much, I think that is what one of the ministers said, perhaps the Premier himself. So now there is a new meaning for fairness. Now the meaning of fairness is what we think is fair.

So, apparently, there is no arbitrator anywhere in Canada that this government is prepared to trust. Is it so impossible? We know there are arbitrators out there. Surely there are arbitrators that this government would be prepared to put the case in front of if they felt they had a good case. Just think about what it is that they are going to go argue. Here is what they are going to go argue if the matter went to binding arbitration, they would go and they would say here is what we think the nurses ought to be paid, a fair wage for their skill level, for what it is they're obliged to do with what the competitive market is and so on. And they would also say here are our financial constraints, here is how much we can afford to pay, because that is a relevant factor. That is a relevant factor, the employers' ability to pay is something that an arbitrator will think about. It is not easy for them to sort this out, particularly in the case of governments, but they can and they do.

These kinds of arbitrations are not unprecedented. It is not as if this kind of arbitration, binding interest arbitration, had never taken place before. This goes on all the time. This kind of arbitration, whether mandatory under legislation or consensual on the part of employers and employees, it goes on all the time, particularly in the public sector. There is a slew of experienced, expert arbitrators in our province, in the Atlantic Region, in Canada who could be called upon to deal with the arguments, the sophisticated arguments about ability to pay, about marketplace, about skills. This can be done, and it would cost a darn sight less money than all the advertising and calling this House back into session for this silliness, to pay the arbitrator to do the job. A government concerned about saving money could have done that.

Instead, they are spending at least $50,000, maybe $100,000 in advertising dollars by the time it is done. I forget the figure of what it costs to have the House in session every day, $6,000 or $8,000, I think I have heard that figure. Unnecessary, completely unnecessary, that is money that could have gone to pay the arbitrator, get the job done. As part of going to arbitration, no one goes out on strike and there is no lockout; that is the whole point about binding arbitration. The system has buy-in, it has buy-in because people are prepared to listen to the arbitrators. It is like any adjudication process if you have faith in it. You get the opportunity to make your arguments and, even if you don't win, because the argument is made by someone who is independent-minded you come away prepared to accept it.

That is why we have judges in courts who make those kinds of decisions; that is why we have labour arbitrators, labour relations boards, other kinds of tribunals to resolve disputes. You have to have buy-in; they have to be seen as independent; the arguments have to be heard; they have to be seen to have been considered by the decision-maker. They have to be dealt with, and even if they are not accepted you can go away satisfied. But that is not good enough for this government apparently. It is not good enough for them to have the opportunity to go to an arbitrator and put their case.

[Page 5259]

Why is that? Why is it that they won't go to an arbitrator and put their case? The answer is they expect to lose. Clearly, the government expects to lose if it goes to arbitration. Now, let's be clear about what "lose" would mean in these circumstances. Lose would mean an arbitrator, in their opinion, is likely to order them to pay a little more money to the nurses and other health care professionals in this province than they are prepared to pay, that is what it comes down to.

One of the prime defences of the government in its spin right now is that the government has to be on track to balance its budget, to deliver the three year balanced budget and in the fourth year a tax cut. They are afraid to put that case to an arbitrator. They are afraid that if they go to an arbitrator and try to argue limitations on their ability to pay, the arbitrator will look at the books of the province and say I don't believe you; this is in fact not convincing; there seems to be, perhaps, more revenue than you are letting on here.

Well, I am not saying there is or there isn't, what I am saying is that the government is scared to argue the toss. The government is scared to go to an independent person and lay out their case, because they don't think they would win. There is no other explanation that makes sense. Nothing else accounts for all the facts. Is it any wonder that I get calls - and I am sure other members get calls - from people who say they are totally disgusted with the government?

I am interested in another aspect of Bill No. 68. I think we have already demonstrated that it is just bad labour relations, it doesn't make sense, but I am interested in what it is that even makes the government think that it should be able to interfere with free collective bargaining in the first place. I don't understand that. We hear a lot of rhetoric, and we certainly have heard a lot of rhetoric from this government over the years about the free market, about how government must know its place. It reminds me of that statement that I guess several of us have heard about what actually is a Tory. A Tory is someone who believes that government doesn't work and they get themselves elected to prove it for sure. I think we get an example of that right here.

This is the fundamental theory of what it is that this government is all about. They believe that government doesn't work, and so you have to leave things to other people, you have to leave them to the private marketplace, you have to leave them to the kind of free flow. There were wonderful statements. Do you remember some of the old Speech from the Throne statements, " . . . But government must also know its place." That was one of them, "But government must also know its place." I think that was probably their first Speech from the Throne. Here is another extract from that wonderful Speech from the Throne, "Government must respect the right of Nova Scotians to direct their own lives and chart their own futures." I like that one, that was a great one. Do you know what that meant? That meant people that they might not have the opportunity to squish under their thumbs, that is what that meant. Respect for independence of Nova Scotians only if they can't get out from under the government's thumb.

[Page 5260]

Here is another one, they really were wonderfully amusing. I don't have to table this because they are already in the front of the House, of course. "This government is committed to respecting the rights of its employees who provide service in a responsible and professional manner to Nova Scotians." That is a nice one too. I really enjoyed refreshing my memory about some of these earlier statements of the government. Why is this? What on earth can be the underlying theory or approach of a government that on the one hand makes these kinds of statement that talks about responsibility and people being able to direct their lives and the interaction in the marketplace and respect for that and a kind of hands-off attitude and that government must know its place? What can possibly be the explanation of the attitude of a government that feels that on one hand it can say these things, and on the other hand feel completely at liberty to interfere with a pre-existing, determined set of ground rules that were out there as a framework for bargaining?

It's a puzzle. Clearly, the government apparently seems able to carry one set of ideas in their mind and at the same time a completely incompatible set of ideas in their mind. I think that is known as cognitive dissidence. You hold two incompatible ideas in your head at the same time. The psychological phenomenon is you never compare the two sets of ideas. Every once in a while something triggers the first set and you utter those words, and every once in a while something triggers the second set and you utter those words. The dissidence is the inability to put them together. Well, let's put them together.

We are asking the government what possible reason could they have to be saying one thing and doing another? Again, the explanation cannot be a good one, it cannot be to the credit of the government. I have heard others say they are doing it because they can do it, because they are able to do it, because they have the force, the superior position, the numbers. Well, I have the numbers in this House but, of course, 60 per cent of Nova Scotians didn't vote for that government. When the time comes, Nova Scotians will know what to do. The time will come. Nova Scotians, inevitably, will know what to do. They are following what is happening here; they are following it in detail; they know.

I have to ask, what kind of labour relations atmosphere are they going to create by what it is that they are doing. We can narrow it, I suppose, and just ask what kind of atmosphere there will be in labour relations inside the health care sector. Everyone knows that there are variations around the country in labour relations negotiation in the health care sector. I tabled, earlier, an extract from the very interesting article of Professor Larry Haiven, focusing on industrial relations in health care. I tabled his figure that shows exactly how it is that disputes are resolved, particularly disputes about essential services, at the federal level and in each of the provinces around the country.

[Page 5261]

[11:15 p.m.]

I just want to remind members just how off base the government seems to be on this particular problem of essential services. Everyone understands that bargaining in the health care sector is difficult. Everyone understands that part of the leverage on both sides involves, if not actual threats to public health and safety, then at least apprehension, worry about threats to public health and safety. Let's just get it on the record again, just to be clear, so everyone understands that the health care workers, the nurses, have explicitly agreed in their previous collective agreement, that one that has expired, the one that they are seeking to renegotiate, that essential services will be maintained. It is there. We have already tabled the Article 6.03. It is in front of members of this House.

The way it goes, just to be clear, is that a collective agreement, when it expires, when it goes beyond the date that it says on the face of it, it is not like a normal contract, suddenly it ends and there are no rules, but the Trade Union Act says that until a new collective agreement is negotiated all the old conditions are still in place. That is called a bargaining freeze, the old terms and conditions are still in place until a new collective agreement is worked out by the parties.

In fact, the union has gone even farther in this collective agreement and in their promises to management than the Trade Union Act even requires, because, when a strike starts, there is nothing in our Trade Union Act, as it affects our health care workers, that says that some of them have to stay on the job. It is just not there in our legislation. They have promised that they will provide essential services. Whether that is something that could be enforced under the collective agreement or it isn't, they have promised it and clearly they will follow through on it. They have put it in writing, they have signed it, and when management, this year, sought clarification, they went further.

When management asked, what kind of contingency plans for essential services are we exactly talking about here, they said, before any strike starts we will work out with you the details of the management plan. Furthermore, they went on to say, if we have a difference of opinion as to whether something is essential services and ought to be covered, we will get a quick arbitration, 24 hour turnaround time, in order to have any disputes resolved. There is a joint committee of management and the nurses to work out these things, but if the committee can't agree, 24 hour arbitration, there it is.

For some reason the Minister of Health tried to deny that such an agreement was in place. In answer to one of the questions I asked him in the House the other day he said, "I think all members know that there is no dispute resolution mechanism should there be a disagreement between the union and the Capital District Health Authority." That is from Hansard, June 14th, Page 4581. It doesn't seem to be the case and the next day I tabled the extract from the collective agreement and the letter of May 10th. So there is a dispute resolution mechanism; there it is. The minister didn't seem to have it quite right.

[Page 5262]

So in this context you have to ask, what is likely to be the result of this kind of interference with the collective agreement process? Make no mistake about this, it is an interference and it is exactly the kind of interference that the government has been advised it ought not to undertake. I am not privy to some private advice that the government got, so when I say that the government has been advised not to bring in this kind of legislation I am referring to the specific report from an industrial inquiry commission, headed up by Bill Kydd a decade ago. Let's not forget that a decade ago it was the Progressive Conservatives in a former incarnation who asked Bill Kydd to advise them about bargaining in the health care sector. They specifically asked him, what do we do about essential services? He gave them advice - and I tabled this as well in one of my earlier interventions - not only did Bill Kydd tell them that essential services matters should be left for the parties and not for the government, he went on to advise them not to bring in ad hoc special legislation.

I will quote again, Paragraph 8, from his recommendations. "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 be best 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."

Well instead of reassuring the public, the government is taking out ads trying to scare the public. I read that into the record a second time because I do want to reassure the public. I want to reassure the public, and the Nurses' Union and the NSGEU have been trying to reassure the public that this kind of provision for essential services is in place. When Bob Smith, the head of the QE II steps up to the plate and says he is not satisfied, I wish he would explain why he is not satisfied because it sounds like what they are saying is anything less than 100 per cent service is not acceptable. Well, you know what? That is not justified, that is not debated, it is not explored and, if it is not justified, what the heck were they doing signing that collective agreement that says that 50 per cent emergency services is the kind of thing that they will find acceptable, that they will go ahead with it.

You know what? Nova Scotians are going to know what to do when the time comes. They will know what to do when they get the opportunity to make their judgment about what it is that the government has done here. Because what the government is doing is just bad labour relations that will undermine what they say they want to maintain. They say they want to maintain and preserve the health care system. It is not what my caller says. What my caller says is that she is worried about the young nurses that are going to "take off," in the words of that caller, and we've heard this time and again.

What the government will do, what the government will accomplish through this bill is to drive out of the province any person in the health care sector who has an opportunity to go somewhere else and isn't completely fettered by family ties or other obligations to keep

[Page 5263]

them here. There are a fair number of people who are not so fettered. It is especially the case with the young nurses and the young health care workers coming into the profession. They can go anywhere and suppose they only go for 5 years or maybe 10 years and then come back because Nova Scotia is a wonderful place. Many of us have the experience of having worked elsewhere. Many of us grew up here, got our professional training here and worked for awhile in other places and they come back.

I came back. I worked in Ontario and I am sure many of the members here, many of the people they know, have taken jobs outside of the Atlantic Region and came back because we like it. But you know what? We don't have the opportunity to take the leisure of waiting for 5 or 10 years or maybe 20 years when they feel like coming back. The age profile of health care workers, especially nurses, is that over that 5 and 10 year period, a huge number of them are going to be retiring. They will retire either because they have come up against mandatory retirement age or because they are worn out and tired or because they are fed up. They are of an age, mid-40's, mid-50's, when they are getting ready to get out of the profession and go do something else. Typically, they will be in families where there are two incomes and they are ready to get out and we will need replacements.

Even if some of the young Nova Scotian nurses and other health care workers have just gone off for 5 or 10 years, well these are the 5 or 10 years where we are going to need them to come in and start taking those jobs as people retire. This is counterproductive. I use the term poor labour relations, but that is what it means. It means people are being driven out. They will, as my caller said, take off. Well, that is wrong. It shouldn't happen, but it is the inevitable result. The inevitable result is the opposite effect of what it is that the government says that it wants to achieve. How can they do that?

I know I have referred several times to a particular call that I had. This person was very articulate and, as I explained, got to the heart of the matter in a three to five minute telephone conversation. She hit all the highlights. She made all the right points. But she isn't the only caller or person that we have been in contact with. I think that although I said before many of the members opposite are doing their best to try to avoid coming to grips with the details of what it is that people out there feel, I think I better give them a couple of other examples.

I am going to read into the record, and I will table it, a copy of a letter that I have received. Here it is, dated June 15th: I am appalled at the government's heavy handed manoeuvring in this piece of legislation. I urge you to seek the support of the public of this province, as well as unions, both in the province and across Canada, to challenge this legislation. I cannot believe that the last clause of Bill 68 is legal. I believe that due to an ever present apathy, this government may well pass this bill and this will remain unchallenged. I briefly attended at the Legislature this morning to hear some of the debate regarding the bill. I was somewhat disappointed to see small numbers do likewise and would only hope that with intense media attention and petitioning, these numbers will rapidly bound over the remainder of the debate.

[Page 5264]

It was interesting to observe a group of school children visiting the gallery at the Legislature and I must make a statement about seeing them there. I don't want our children and grandchildren to grow up in a society in which they innocently believe that they have rights, that there are laws made to protect them, only to discover as they grow up that those rights and laws that are imposed are taken away whenever it is convenient for a government to do so, that their contracts are worth nothing. I wonder if their parents were aware of the very issue that was being debated in their presence and what a threat it is to their futures. I ask you, do you want this for yourself or for others?

[11:30 p.m.]

I ask you, as I have asked the Opposition NDP on behalf of the people of this province, to do whatever you must, rally whoever need be and do it quickly in order to prevent this. This government has chosen a very sacred part of our lifestyle with which to bargain and I resent this immensely. The nurses and health care workers of this province are again being held out as sacrificial lambs. I truly believe in my heart that if more of the public considered the far reaching ramifications of this legislation, they too could be rallied to react and provide support to halt this oppressive type of government.

I will close in saying I am not a nurse nor am I a health care worker. I am not writing you to simply rave about how I feel about this issue. I am angry, so angry that I am propelled to write this and to do whatever else I may to assist those who are of like mind. I am asking the NDP and the unions to seek the support of the public to influence this government to stop this. Time is short. Please realize you do have support if you seek it.

That is the end of the letter and it is signed, Nancy Mahoney. Well, you know what? We have a very large number of similar letters from quite a number of members of the public, some of them nurses, some of them other kinds of health care professionals, some of them just members of the public who have been appalled to see what Bill No. 68 is all about. Some of the commentary comes from labour relations experts. I know I mentioned earlier the very interesting article by Professor Larry Haiven, who was formerly at the University of Saskatchewan and is now a Professor at Saint Mary's University.

I happen to know, Mr. Speaker, and I would like to advise members of the House, that commentary on CBC Radio tomorrow morning at 8:15 a.m. or 8:16 a.m., after the morning news, they ought to listen because Professor Haiven is going to be giving commentary about Bill No. 68. I wonder if he is going to be complimentary to the government for Bill No. 68? I somehow don't think that Professor Haiven, one of the main Canadian experts in academia about labour relations in the health care sector, is going to be very complimentary to this government for Bill No. 68. So I don't know what he will have to say, but I am looking forward to listening myself and I hope all members of the House and others do listen to this commentary.

[Page 5265]

Mr. Speaker, I am tempted to read into the record several more of these letters, but instead, I know, unfortunately, I only have I see about a minute and 20 seconds left. Is that correct?

MR. SPEAKER: One minute.

MR. EPSTEIN: Well, I will just give you a quick extract. Tina Deleplante, here is one of the letters that I have. She says, "we are one of the lowest paid nurses unions across Canada, yet we do the same job. We have the same workloads and suffer from the constraints of budget and staff shortages. We do the same procedures and use the same skills as any number of nurses across Canada, yet why is our value so much less than our counterparts?" Well, that is an extract from her letter. I am not going to give you all of it. Instead, I am going to make the following observation.

We have now moved into a different phase of debate over this bill. The question has been called and we are back on second reading. So what I would like to do, I guess, at this point, since I only have about 20 seconds left, is move that this debate now be adjourned. So, Mr. Speaker, recognizing that we are in a different phase, I now move that we adjourn this debate.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The motion to adjourn the debate is out of order, there has already been one motion to adjourn today.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I believe it is the custom of the House to at least listen to members who speak for and against the point of order before there is a ruling. I would like to note that under Rule 42 it says, "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." The phrase "intermediate proceedings" not being defined in our rules, we turn to Beauchesne which says, ". . . means a proceeding that can properly be entered on the Journals."

Mr. Speaker, I have ascertained, earlier this evening, that, indeed, the question that is now on the floor is properly entered in the journals and has on previous occasions been entered in the journals. It goes on to say that "The true test is that if any parliamentary proceeding takes place, the second motion is regular . . ." It says that a proceeding is ". . . making motions, moving amendments, presenting reports, putting the questions, answering questions . . . voting, naming a Member . . ."

Mr. Speaker, I would note, finally, that since the last motion to adjourn, we have had not only a vote but we have also had a new motion put on the floor by the Government House Leader, and it seems to me that according to Beauchesne and our rules the motion to adjourn must therefore be in order.

[Page 5266]

MR. SPEAKER: I thank the honourable member for Halifax Fairview for his interjection. I think all members would agree that on many occasions our own rules not only disagree with themselves but, as well, with the House of Commons Rules, Erskine May and so on. If we rely solely, without going to the usage of this House, on Beauchesne, we also could bring closure to this House, which I am sure no one here would agree to. I do respect the submission by the honourable member for Halifax Fairview, but I do rule that the motion is out of order.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I have made my ruling.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I am raising a different point of order. It clearly is the case that the usage of this House overrides the usage of the House of Commons as reflected in Beauchesne, but I would ask the Speaker that if he is going to cite the usage of this House to override the clear wording of our rule and the clear wording of Beauchesne, perhaps the Speaker would be so kind as to cite examples from this House where that is . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I have made my ruling.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I have never had anyone fight over who was standing up. Here we go. I am back again to talk about Bill No. 68, and to try to drive some common sense, some understanding and some sense of compassion and fairness into the cold-hearted Tory Government that is staring at us across this Chamber. It is nice to see that they are reasonably awake at this hour of 20 minutes to 12:00. Last night, when I had a chance to speak - I guess it was this morning - this morning when I had a chance to speak and then again last Friday night, they were paying attention, and I appreciate that.

I can't understand why they haven't caught on to what we have been saying, not only from this side of the Chamber but what people have been saying to the members as they have made phone calls, written letters, talked to them out in the lobby, in the hallway, have asked them to go to the gallery to have conversations. Yet, they still have not caught on to what this bill is all about.

This is a government that made so many promises and said they were going to be open and transparent, they were going to be just so good to the workers of Nova Scotia. They were going to be so good to the government employees, whether they are teachers or whether they are nurses or health care providers, health care workers or whatever profession they were,

[Page 5267]

they had all the answers. I remember the debates. They had all the simple answers. They had all the quick fixes to the challenges of governing in the Province of Nova Scotia.

So we are seeing the quick fixes all right, when they bring in legislation that takes away the rights of people in this province. There is not one of you across this way that would ever stand for the fact that your rights would be taken away as you are imposing on nurses and health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia. You would want to be able to have an appeal process, no matter if you were charged with an offence of any sort; you would want to have an appeal process about any decision made against you. You ask for fairness, you ask for just treatment, and yet you impose just the opposite to the people who work for you, the people who just a few short months ago you were begging for their support. You indicated to them that you would be there for them.

Mr. Speaker, this government has viewed this game as a contest. Well, I want to make it very clear that this is neither a game nor a contest. It is all about health care; it is all about looking after our people; it is all about a moral fabric of trust and honour; it is all about bringing in legislation that is fair. In this legislation that we have, this legislation that has rolled back labour relations in the Province of Nova Scotia many decades, this mean-spirited piece of legislation has turned a torch, it has caught on as a fire of discontent within the workers of the Province of Nova Scotia. These members of the Conservative Government will feel the wrath of that; they will feel the wrath of that pain and that frustration and that bitterness as time unfolds over the next number of days and weeks and months and years ahead.

In a way, I feel sorry for the backbenchers, because they never knew what this bill was all about. I bet you there are some who haven't even read the bill. I bet you there are some who didn't even understand what the bill was all about. Some were even probably told to stay right in this Chamber, stay right in Halifax this weekend. Don't go home and talk to your neighbours and your health providers. Don't go talk to anybody about this bill, because they don't know what we are trying to do. Well, I want you to know that they know exactly what you are trying to do. When those members do travel back to their ridings, they are going to get an earful, if they haven't already heard some.

The issue of trust is sometimes bantered around quite freely. I know when I talk to health providers and nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia, they feel very much betrayed by Bill No. 68. They are saying, how can this government possibly try to drive down this bill into the health care system when already it is in chaos, by the way, this government is trying to so-call mange the health delivery system in the Province of Nova Scotia.

This morning I had an opportunity to talk to a nurse in the province, Trish MacDonald, who is a registered nurse at the QE II Health Sciences Centre, Unit 7.2, Halifax Infirmary site. She pointed out, and I asked some of the questions about how bad is the situation, what is going on with the number of nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia and health care

[Page 5268]

technicians and workers, and she is saying the problem is much more acute than what this government is even wanting to admit. There are 12 RN positions vacant as of September this year, in the Halifax Infirmary, Unit 7.2. There are five new graduates who are saying they are going to leave this province to either go to the United States of America or to the West Coast; five new graduates who are prepared to leave the province to either go to the West Coast or the United States of America.

[11:45 p.m.]

So what does that tell you about this bill? That tells you that this bill, instead of trying to bring nurses to the Province of Nova Scotia, is pushing our own nurses and our own health care providers out of the Province of Nova Scotia. Let's just put this in another context. What would you say if these were police officers? What would you say if all of a sudden they brought in this kind of a bill for police officers and forced police officers to leave the Province of Nova Scotia? Take away your rights as a police officer. How would you feel? Where would you go? What would you do? If there is a shortage of police officers across this country and in the United States, it would be your market to find where you wanted to go.

Well, let's take a look at another profession. Any profession you want. This bill has the power to turn it on to police or turn it on to anybody who works for government, the paramedics, you name it and this bill has the power, has the ability, this government has the ability to do what it wants to the workers of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Ms. MacDonald goes on to point out that there are two senior nurses who passed in their notice last week. When Bill No. 68 was brought forward in the Province of Nova Scotia, two senior nurses passed in their resignations. They had had it. They have just had it. They are bitter; they are frustrated; they are mad. The slap in the face that this government is doing to the nurses and the health care providers in this province is unacceptable. Their arrogance towards the health care providers in this province is enough to make anybody mad. Two senior nurses have had it and they passed in their notices last week. One senior nurse is leaving in August and is taking off to another part of the world, somewhere where they will be respected for what they do.

I heard that time and time again over the last number of hours and the last number of days. This government is showing no respect, no trust, no faith, no respect. It is interesting, as politicians you would think that they would try to build respect but instead this government with no shame could care less about the issue of respect. They have an agenda, and that agenda does not include the ability to respect employees in the Province of Nova Scotia; this agenda does not respect the nurses and the health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 5269]

I have learned recently that two nurses were denied the opportunity to take ICU programs. One nurse was denied the IMCU course because too many nurses and senior nurses are leaving, and floor conditions are unsafe. These are nurses, the Minister of Health would understand that, need to continually upgrade their capability and their education background, their training for ICU. ICU is a pretty serious situation, when you are in the ICU you have problems, or the IMCU.

Well, these nurses are not allowed to take the upgrades because when they leave the floor there are junior nurses there who are not capable, they need that expertise around them, they need the experienced nurses, the senior nurse to be there. They have no one else to draw from to come and help. They are saying, you stay right where you are. The hospital has put out a nationwide search for nurses for 7.2, for general surgery and general vascular surgery. There are 12 openings that are required right now that have not been filled, and I ask the Minister of Health to check that out. I understand that is an accurate number, according to Trish MacDonald. If no nurses are found, then guess what is going to happen in Nova Scotia to those two areas, general vascular surgery and general surgery? Beds will close.

This is maybe the mandate of this Minister of Health. Maybe this is the template of this government, closing beds. Maybe this is their mecca, their sense of controlling health costs in Nova Scotia, shut the door. Well, I can tell you, people with bowel and breast cancer will have a longer waiting list if those beds are closed, longer than they currently have and that is a serious problem for anybody in this province. Yet they continue to go on with saying that Bill No. 68 is right. Bill No. 68 that doesn't allow for binding arbitration; Bill No. 68 that does not allow the collective bargaining process to have legitimacy; Bill No. 68 that says that the Minister of Health and the Premier and the Minister of Finance and Minister of Justice, and I don't know who else, are the ones who are going to decide how much they are going to get paid, when they are going to get paid, and what they are going to be paid. If they don't like it, we are going to charge them.

I have checked with a couple of lawyers, because the question isn't in this bill, and I understand they are saying that they will not be able to be taken to court by this bill, but the lawyers I talked to have said to me that it will be the court of law that will decide whether this is a legal bill or not. The Justice Minister might say that that is how he interprets it, but I think a judge might interpret it differently. I wonder, how long will it be before this bill, if it is passed in its present form, would be taken to the courts of the Province of Nova Scotia and beyond? I would think it would be challenged very quickly.

But you know this government has a choice and an opportunity by making some amendments, well the first one would be a just to withdraw Bill No. 68 and go back to the table and negotiate and/or make changes in Bill No. 68 that allows for a fair and open process. As my colleague from Sydney made very clear, maybe you have misread the public of Nova Scotia, maybe you have misread this issue, maybe you have misread what the outcome of this bill will be to you. There are some members over there who maybe don't

[Page 5270]

care about the next round of negotiations, but maybe there are some members over there who are quite concerned about what impact this bill is going to have on other negotiations in the Province of Nova Scotia. I am sure there are even a couple over there wondering what impact it is going to have on them and their political career come the next election.

The sad part about it is there are nurses and health care workers in this province worried about whether or not we are going to have enough nurses and health care workers to look after the people of this province. That is where they are coming from. They are not looking at this as a game or a contest, they are looking at this as their career, their future and the future of health delivery in the Province of Nova Scotia. Maybe you have misread what you are doing, and maybe you have misread the public's frustration to this bill.

Nurses roles have changed dramatically over the years, drawing blood, doing blood cultures, intubating patients, inserting IVs, interpreting EKGs, removing epidural catheters and the list goes on. These are some of the activities that nurses are doing now. They are highly-skilled, highly-trained professionals and they deserve to be treated with the respect that anybody in any profession would want to be treated. They deserve the right to be respected as any other professional would be in the Province of Nova Scotia. This bill is not respecting the nurses of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Some members across the way might be very close to nurses. They might know of them and their families.

AN HON. MEMBER: How close?

MR. DOWNE: Very close.

AN HON. MEMBER: How close is very close? Maybe they are sleeping on the couch these nights, huh?

MR. DOWNE: Maybe they are not that close now because of this bill. I can tell you, there are a lot of nurses and a lot health care workers in Lunenburg County who are bitter and they are ticked off, they're PO'd, they're frustrated and I can tell you, the Rambo Minister of Justice had the gall to talk about us over here when he should be talking about his own inability to be able to show justice to this House and justice to the workers of the Province of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker. Shame on that Minister of Justice over there. Shame on that minister. Shame on him.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member for Lunenburg West like to move adjournment of the debate please, due to the hour.

MR. DOWNE: I move adjournment of the debate.

[Page 5271]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for adjournment of the debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet immediately after the House rises on completion of the business on Monday, or 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, whichever is later, and the House will sit until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday. The order of business will be Public Bills for Second Reading and it will be Bill No. 68. That is the adjourned debate and it is called the Healthcare Services Continuation (2001) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If I could, for clarification, the hours again were after . . .

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, to meet immediately after the House rises on completion of the business of Monday, or 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, whichever is later. We will sit until 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday.

MR. SPEAKER: A recorded vote has been called for, so I would assume that the House would resume after the recorded vote. Is that correct?

MR. RUSSELL: Correct.

MR. SPEAKER: A recorded vote has been called for.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[11:58 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: [Are the Whips satisfied?]

A recorded vote was called on the motion of the Government House Leader on the hours of the day. The Clerk will call the roll.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[Page 5272]

[12:58 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Rodney MacDonald Mr. Corbett

Mr. Christie Mr. Dexter

Mr. Baker Mr. Manning MacDonald

Mr. Russell Mr. Downe

Dr. Hamm Mr. Gaudet

Mr. LeBlanc Dr. Smith

Mr. Muir Mr. MacAskill

Miss Purves Mr. Wilson

Mr. Fage Mr. Boudreau

Mr. Balser Mr. Samson

Mr. Parent Mr. MacKinnon

Ms. McGrath Mr. Estabrooks

Mr. Morse Mr. Epstein

Mr. Dooks

Mr. Clarke

Mr. Hendsbee

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

THE CLERK: For, 22. Against, 13.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The House will adjourn long enough for the Speaker to exit and for us to close the gallery.

[The House rose at 1:01 a.m.]

[Page 5273]

NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1710

By: Mr. Frank Chipman (Annapolis)

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

Whereas quick action by two nurses helped save the life of a Harmony, Queens County, man last weekend at a horse show in Lawrencetown, Annapolis County, after he was kicked in the face by a heavy draft horse; and

Whereas Audrey McLaughlin, an operating room nurse at Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville and the injured man's sister-in-law, Helen Uhlman, provided rapid emergency aid on the horse show grounds, enabling an airway to be created and keep the individual from being choked off by blood; and

Whereas Ms. McLaughlin, who was at the show with her saddle horse, ended up providing the injured man with mouth-to-nose resuscitation to get air into his lungs;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs commend Audrey McLaughlin and Helen Uhlman for their quick and decisive action in preventing a tragedy from taking place at the Lawrencetown Horse Show last weekend.