The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Tue., June 19, 2001

HANSARD
01-53

HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

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

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

Second Session

TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2001

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. D. Dexter 5275
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. Manning MacDonald 5276
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. F. Corbett 5276
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. D. Downe 5276
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. H. Epstein 5276
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. W. Gaudet 5277
Health: Nurses - Retain, Mr. W. Estabrooks 5277
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Dr. J. Smith 5277
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. D. Dexter 5277
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. K. MacAskill 5278
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. F. Corbett 5278
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. D. Wilson 5278
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. H. Epstein 5279
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. B. Boudreau 5279
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. W. Estabrooks 5279
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. M. Samson 5280
Health: Bill No. 68 - Regressive, Mr. D. Dexter 5280
Health: Nurses - Contingency Plan, Mr. R. MacKinnon 5281
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. F. Corbett 5281
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. H. Epstein 5281
Health: Bill No. 68 - Concern, Mr. R. MacKinnon 5281
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. D. Dexter 5282
Health - Bill No. 68: Passage - Mistake, Mr. R. MacKinnon 5282
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. F. Corbett 5282
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. M. Samson 5283
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. K. Deveaux 5283
Health: Bill No. 68 - Oppose, Mr. R. MacKinnon 5283
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. H. Epstein 5283
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. M. Samson 5284
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. W. Estabrooks 5284
Environ. & Lbr. - Compost Site (Torbrook, Anna Co.): Impact Study -
Request, Mr. R. MacKinnon 5284
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. D. Dexter 5285
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. R. MacKinnon 5285
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. K. Deveaux 5285
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. F. Corbett 5286
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. H. Epstein 5286
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. D. Dexter 5286
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. W. Estabrooks 5286
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. K. Deveaux 5287
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. F. Corbett 5287
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. H. Epstein 5287
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. W. Estabrooks 5287
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. D. Dexter 5288
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. K. Deveaux 5288
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. W. Estabrooks 5288
Health: Bill No. 68 - Withdraw, Mr. D. Dexter 5288
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1711, Law Amendments Comm.: Critical Role - Affirm,
Mr. D. Dexter 5289
Res. 1712, Health - Care System: Gov't. (N.S.) - Chaos Recognize,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 5290
Res. 1713, Premier - Health Min. (Fmr.): Nursing Shortage -
Description Share, Mr. K. Deveaux 5291
Res. 1714, Warner, Sylvia - Soldiers Mem. Hosp.: Anniv. (30th) -
Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 5291
Vote - Affirmative 5292
Res. 1715, Health - Min.: Bill No. 68 - Effects, Mr. F. Corbett 5292
Res. 1716, Health - Care Workers: Recruitment/Retention -
Med. Soc. Heed, Dr. J. Smith 5293
Res. 1717, Health - Premier: Legislation - Effects Realize,
(by Mr. H. Epstein), Mr. J. Holm 5294
Res. 1718, Pictou East MLA - Bill No. 68: Silence - Condemn,
Mr. K. MacAskill 5294
Res. 1719, Health - Gov't. (N.S.): Care Workers - Warnings Heed,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 5295
Res. 1720, Halifax Bedford Basin MLA - Bill No. 68: Silence -
Condemn, Mr. D. Wilson 5296
Res. 1721, Can. Oxf. Dict. - Gov't. (N.S.): Definition - Submit,
(by Mr. D. Dexter), Mr. Robert Chisholm 5296
Res. 1722, Eastern Shore MLA - Bill No. 68: Silence - Condemn,
Mr. B. Boudreau 5297
Res. 1723, Health - Nurses: Working Conditions - Min. Improve,
Mr. K. Deveaux 5298
Res. 1724, Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury MLA:
Strait-Richmond Hosp. - Meet, Mr. M. Samson 5299
Res. 1725, Premier - Health Care: System Destruction -
Cause Acknowledge, Mr. F. Corbett 5300
Res. 1726, Sackville-Beaver Bank MLA - Bill No. 68: Silence -
Condemn, (by Mr. R. MacKinnon), Mr. P. MacEwan 5300
Res. 1727, Hilchie, Christina/Med. Lab. Techs. - Legislation:
Health Min. - Explain, (Mr. H. Epstein), Mr. J. Holm 5301
Res. 1728, Queens MLA - Bill No. 68: Silence - Condemn,
(by Mr. R. MacKinnon), Mr. P. MacEwan 5302
Res. 1729, Health - Care System Crisis: Gov't. (N.S.) - Blame Accept,
(by Mr. W. Estabrooks), Mr. J. MacDonell 5303
Res. 1730, Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury MLA - Bill No. 68: Silence -
Condemn, Mr. M. Samson 5303
Res. 1731, Gov't. (N.S.): Anti-Lbr. Leg. - Withdraw, Mr. D. Dexter 5304
Res. 1732, Kings West MLA - Bill No. 68: Silence - Condemn,
Mr. B. Boudreau 5305
Res. 1733, Health - Leg. Withdrawal: PC Backbenchers -
Colleagues Convince, (by Mr. K. Deveaux), Mr. J. Pye 5305
Res. 1734, PC MLAs - Bill No. 68: Silence - Condemn, Dr. J. Smith 5306
Res. 1735, Premier/Cabinet - Health Care Workers:
Collective Bargaining - Retain, (by Mr. F. Corbett), Mr. G. Steele 5307
Res. 1736, Preston MLA - Bill No. 68: Silence - Condemn,
Mr. D. Wilson 5307
Res. 1737, Health - Care Workers: Working Conditions - Min. Improve,
(by Mr. H. Epstein), Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5308
Res. 1738, Col.-Musq. Valley MLA - Bill No. 68: Silence - Condemn,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 5309
Res. 1739, Health - Care Workers/Nurses: Gov't. (N.S.) -
Tactics Condemn, (by Mr. W. Estabrooks), Mr. J. MacDonell 5310
Res. 1740, Pictou West MLA - Bill No. 68: Silence - Condemn,
Mr. K. MacAskill 5310
Res. 1741, Health - Professionals: Rights Loss - Leg. Effects,
(by Mr. D. Dexter), Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5311
Res. 1742, Col. North MLA - Bill No. 68: Silence - Condemn,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 5312
Res. 1743, Health - Highland View Reg. Hosp. Workers: Gov't. (N.S.) -
Advice Heed, (by Mr. K. Deveaux), Mr. J. Pye 5312
Res 1744, Health - Min.: Bill No. 68 - Retitle, (by Mr. F. Corbett),
Mr. Robert Chisholm 5313
Res. 1745, Health - Nurses: Overtime - Min. Solve, Mr. H. Epstein 5314
Res. 1746, Health - Care Workers/Nurses: Respect Lack -
Min. Apologize, Mr. W. Estabrooks 5314
Res. 1747, Health - Nursing Strategy: Min. - Rethink,
(by Mr. F. Corbett), Mr. G. Steele 5315
Res. 1748, Health - Min.: N.S. Focus - Premier Advise, Mr. H. Epstein 5316
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 561, Health - Care: Delivery - Plans, Mr. D. Dexter 5317
No. 562, Health - Care Workers/Nurses: Allegations - Min. Apologize,
Mr. W. Gaudet 5318
No. 563, Health - Nursing Strategy: Failure - Prem. Admit,
Mr. D. Dexter 5320
No. 564, Health - Paramedics/Health Care Workers: Treatment -
Fairness Ensure, Dr. J. Smith 5321
No. 565, Health - Nurses: Gov't. (N.S.) Ads - Spending Justify,
Mr. K. Deveaux 5323
No. 566, Justice - Health Care Workers: Interest Arbitration -
Applicability, Mr. M. Samson 5324
No. 567, Health - Care System: Crisis - Explain, Mr. H. Epstein 5325
No. 568, Health - Nurses: Gov't. (N.S.) - Ads Costs, Mr. D. Wilson 5326
No. 569, Gov't. (N.S.) - Nova Scotians Heed: Bill No. 68 -
Withdraw, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5327
No. 570, Health - Legislation: Premier - Reasons Explain,
Mr. D. Downe 5328
No. 571, Health - N.S. System: Unattractiveness - Prem. Explain,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 5330
No. 572, Environ. & Lbr. - Bill No. 68: Labour Relations - Impact,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 5332
No. 573, Health - Nurses: Working Condition - Min. Address,
Mr. F. Corbett 5333
No. 574, Health - Nurses Strike: Contingency Plan - Min. Knowledge,
Dr. J. Smith 5334
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 68, Healthcare Continuation (2001) Act [debate resumed] 5335
Mr. D. Downe 5335
Mr. W. Estabrooks 5344
Mr. D. Wilson 5360
Mr. F. Corbett 5376
Mr. M. Samson 5389
Mr. Robert Chisholm 5405
Mr. K. MacAskill 5415
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5426
Mr. B. Boudreau 5438
Mr. K. Deveaux 5452
Mr. J. MacDonell 5469
Mr. W. Gaudet 5483
Mr. J. Holm 5493
Mr. R. MacKinnon 5504
Mr. J. Pye 5517
Dr. J. Smith 5535
Adjourned debate 5538
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Health - Care: Threat - N.S. Oligarchy:
Dr. J. Smith 5538
Mr. M. Parent 5541
Mr. G. Steele 5543
Hon. M. Baker 5546
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 68, Healthcare Continuation (2001) Act [debate resumed] 5547
Dr. J. Smith 5547
Mr. D. Dexter 5551
Question Put: 5553
Vote - Affirmative 5553
Hon. J. Muir 5554
Second Reading: 5561
Vote - Affirmative 5562
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., June 20th at 2:00 p.m. 5562

[Page 5275]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, JUNE 19, 2001

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

1:13 A.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. Brooke Taylor, Mr. Kevin Deveaux, Mr. David Wilson

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition bearing the signatures of 124 health care workers at the Aberdeen Hospital. The operative clause of which reads, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

5275

[Page 5276]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them."

I have affixed my name to the signatures.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a petition on Bill No. 68 signed by people from the Pictou area, over 20 signatures. I have affixed my name. The operative clause reads, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them."

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on Bill No. 68. The operative clause is, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." I have affixed my signature to some 39 signed petitions.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I wish to present a petition signed by some 23 persons who identify themselves as residents of the constituency of Yarmouth. Many of them identify themselves as RTs. The petition has to do with Bill No. 68. The operative clause reads as follows, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

[Page 5277]

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on Bill No. 68, where the clause reads as follows, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." I have affixed my name to this petition with the names of 52 petitioners.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a petition on behalf of nine graduates of the Class of 2003, Dalhousie University's School of Nursing. The operative phrase is, "To leave is our choice but you have the opportunity to make us want to stay. Please make Nova Scotia a place where nurses want to be employed not a place to receive the education and then leave." I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on Bill No. 68. The clause reads as follows, I will summarize, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." I have affixed my name to the petition with the names of 39 petitioners.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on Bill No. 68 from 25 health care workers from the Queens General Hospital. The operative clause reads,

"Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them."

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

[Page 5278]

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on Bill No. 68. The clauses read as follows:

"Whereas in the Tory Platform John Hamm said health care workers: '. . . will not stay unless they have a rewarding professional environment'; and

Whereas the Tory Platform commits to: 'Working with the nursing profession to make sure 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 clinical practice outcomes.'; and

Whereas the Premier and Minister of Health have continually shown their disrespect for health care workers, especially with the introduction of Bill 68;

Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them."

I have affixed my name to the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table this petition with the names of 15 Nova Scotians, to which I have affixed my signature. The operative clause reads,"Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them."

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition, which the operative clause which states, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." I have affixed my name to the petition, which contains the names of 39 petitioners from communities such as Millville, Little Pond, Sydney Mines and North Sydney.

[Page 5279]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a petition signed by some 33 individuals from various places in Nova Scotia, a number of whom identify themselves as RTs, that is technicians from the health care sector. The operative clause on these petitions reads, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." I have affixed my signature to these various petitions.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on Bill No. 68, where the clause reads as follows:

"Whereas in the Tory Platform John Hamm said health care workers: '. . . will not stay unless they have a rewarding professional environment'; and

Whereas the Tory Platform commits to: 'Working with the nursing profession to make sure 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 clinical practice outcomes.'; and

Whereas the Premier and Minister of Health have continually shown their disrespect for health care workers, especially with the introduction of Bill 68;

Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them."

I have affixed my name to the petition, with the names of the 40 petitioners.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition of 25 residents that vary from the communities of Hammonds Plains to Lower Sackville. The operative phrase is, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this

[Page 5280]

government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." I have affixed my signature to those 25 names.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on Bill No. 68 on behalf of the hard-working employees of the Strait-Richmond Hospital, which I am sure all members are quite familiar with, and also the Guysborough Memorial Hospital. The petition reads:

"Whereas the Premier and Minister of Health have continually shown their disregard for the rights of health care workers in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Minister of Health has now introduced Bill 68 which will remove the right to strike for 9,000 acute care workers, as well as deny them access to free collective bargaining; and

Whereas the right to free collective bargaining is a cornerstone of a free and democratic society;

Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, commit to negotiating fair and reasonable settlements with them."

Mr. Speaker, this is signed by employees of both the Strait-Richmond Hospital and the Guysborough Memorial Hospital. There are 14 names on the petition and I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from the Colchester Regional Hospital employees that state, "We, health care workers at the Colchester Regional Hospital in Truro, are appalled at the legislation proposed under Bill 68 as it is regressive and not proactive to the delivery of quality health care in Nova Scotia." There are 44 signatures and I have affixed my signature also.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

[Page 5281]

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of a number of registered nurses from the Colchester Regional Hospital, I beg leave to table a petition with regard to Bill No. 68. Essentially, and I quote, "Nurses did have a contingency plan in place that management agreed with, where we would provide essential care in the event of a strike."

There are several rather lengthy operative clauses, that would only take the time of the House. I have affixed my signature to this, and I will table it with your permission.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table this petition on Bill No. 68, which has over 80 names on it. It is from the St. Martha's Hospital in Antigonish. The operative clause is, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them."

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I wish to introduce several petitions in the same terms, signed by a total of 35 people. The operative clause here reads, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, as I passed through Port Hawkesbury today, I had the good fortune at stopping at a commercial enterprise and it was suggested that I table this petition on behalf of a number of residents from Port Hawkesbury with regard to Bill No. 68 that raised considerable concern with regard to the introduction and implementation of Bill No. 68. I agreed to do so and I have affixed my signature on same.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

[Page 5282]

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on Bill No. 68 from residents of Westville, New Glasgow, Trenton, Stellarton area. The operative clause reads, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them."

There are 99 signatures on this petition. I have, in addition, affixed my own signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of a number of residents from across Nova Scotia who have provided this petition to me, the operative clause reads, "This note is to voice our opposition to the healthcare bill presently being debated. Be advised that to pass it will cause a critical loss of nurses in Nova Scotia. We are definitely angry and many of us do plan to leave this province. You are making a mistake if you pass it." I have affixed my signature to this particular petition, as well.

MR. SPEAKER: It doesn't mean the honourable member for Cape Breton West is leaving, does it?

MR. MACKINNON: No, I beg leave to table this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: I thought you said that people on the petition were leaving. I thought you were leaving with them.

MR. MACKINNON: No, there are some people that are. Perhaps it is the lateness of the day.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, you are just trying to get us to vote for Bill No. 68. I beg leave to table a petition on Bill No. 68 from workers at the Bayview Health Centre. The operative clause is, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them."

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

[Page 5283]

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on Bill No. 68 on behalf of the good residents of Hantsport, the operative clause is, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." This petition is signed by 23 residents from the Hantsport area and I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of Nova Scotians. It says, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." There are 10 signatures and I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I have several pages of petitions from the residents of Hantsport, Nova Scotia, essentially opposing Bill No. 68 and the operative clause is pretty much in harmony with many of the ones that have been already stated. Not to delay the House I beg leave to table it and I will affix my signature on same.

[1:30 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition, again a petition on Bill No. 68. Although this one is signed by 10 persons, I table it separately because each of them identifies themselves as a physician in the metro area. The operative clause reads,

"Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them."

As I said, it is signed by 10 physicians and I have added my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

[Page 5284]

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on Bill No. 68 on behalf of residents of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. It says:

"Whereas in the Tory Platform John Hamm said health care workers: ". . . will not stay unless they have a rewarding professional environment."; and

Whereas the Tory Platform commits to: 'Working with the nursing profession to make sure 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 clinical practice outcomes.'; and

Whereas the Premier and Minister of Health have continually shown their disrespect for health care workers, especially with the introduction of Bill 68;

Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them."

Mr. Speaker, this is signed by 13 residents of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a petition on behalf of 30 health care worker working on the 8th floor of the Rehab Centre. The operative clause is, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of a number of residents from the Torbrook, Annapolis County community with regard to the request for a complete and public environmental impact study into the suitability of this proposed compost site as proposed and, in the absence of the minister responding to requests

[Page 5285]

from these particular residents, I have been asked to table this petition in an effort to draw the minister's attention to this issue. I have signed my name to this particular petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on Bill No. 68 from 51 Nova Scotians from various communities. The operative clause reads, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." I have affixed my signature thereto.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of a number of residents, anywhere from Dartmouth to Colchester and a number of other communities. The operative clause is obviously with regard to Bill No. 68, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." I have affixed my signature to this particular petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to file a petition on behalf of 20 Nova Scotians, particularly, I think, from the Nova Scotia Rehab Centre. The operative clause reads, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

[Page 5286]

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a petition on Bill No. 68 from employees of the Colchester Regional Hospital. There are 25 signatures and the operative clause is, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, commit to negotiating a fair and decent settlement with them."

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table various petitions signed by a total of 30 individuals, all of whom identify themselves as medical technicians with various specialties. The operative clause reads, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." I have affixed my signature to each of these petitions.

MR. SPEAKER: The petitions are tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on Bill No. 68. This is from 25 health care workers at Armview Estates. The operative clause reads, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, commit to negotiating fair and reasonable settlements with them." I have also affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a petition on behalf of 42 health care workers from the emergency department. The operative clause is, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." As I speak, I am affixing my signature to those 42.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

[Page 5287]

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of 30 Nova Scotians from the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre. The operative clause reads, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." I beg leave to table that.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a petition on Bill No. 68 and some of the signatures are from employees of the Eastern Memorial Hospital. The operative clause is, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, commit to negotiating a fair and reasonable settlement with them." I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to present various petitions with a total 55 signatures on them, some of the signatures being from persons who identify themselves as RNs. The operative clause is the same as some of the others we have seen, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." I have affixed my signature to each of these various petitions.

MR. SPEAKER: The petitions are tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I have a petition on behalf of 40 health care workers, one of them prominently displayed as a resident of Timberlea-Prospect and I have affixed my signature. The operative clause is, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them."

[Page 5288]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on Bill No. 68. This is from 25 health care workers at the Colchester Regional Hospital. The operative clause reads, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and reasonable settlements with them." I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to file a petition on behalf of 29 citizens of Nova Scotia and, I believe, health care professionals at the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre. The operative clause reads, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I have a final petition, for my part, with 28 names of health care workers from throughout the metro area. A number of them are Nova Scotia government employees, who have signed this. The operative phrase is, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on Bill No. 68, signed by 21 health care workers from various parts of the province. The operative clause reads, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned, call on this government to demonstrate their trust in, and respect for, health care workers in Nova Scotia by immediately

[Page 5289]

withdrawing Bill 68 and at the same time, negotiating fair and decent settlements with them." I am affixing my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I noticed when you opened the House tonight that you didn't mention the subject for late debate. Is there going to be a late debate? (Interruptions) Can I ask you why we can't do it now?

MR. SPEAKER: It just arrived at the Clerk's Office. Obviously, they haven't had the draw yet, and I haven't received it. As soon as I receive it I will notify the House of it.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1711

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

Whereas the Standing Committee on Law Amendments provides a vehicle whereby the public can add its wisdom for legislators' perusal during the passage of legislation; and

Whereas the law amendments process is a hallowed tradition in Nova Scotia, now threatened by the Minister of Justice's cavalier decision to restrict the public's access to this committee; and

Whereas the minister's obvious distaste for the law amendments process probably places the Standing Committee on Law Amendments on the Tories' chopping block;

[Page 5290]

Therefore be it resolved that this House affirm the critical role of the Standing Committee on Law Amendments in the legislative process, and refuse to allow the Minister of Justice to limit access to the committee.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South. (Applause)

RESOLUTION NO. 1712

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: A sign of things to come, I hope.

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

Whereas Donna MacKenzie, an emergency room nurse at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital for 28 years, is just one of many nurses who are frustrated and demoralized by Bill No. 68; and

Whereas Ms. MacKenzie has stated publicly, "that when Bill No. 68 comes in, we'll be treated like slaves, not servants;" and

Whereas Ms. MacKenzie feels that this government's actions will mark the end of nursing in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this government recognize the chaos and frustration they have caused in the health care system and immediately correct the errors of their ways before it is too late.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 5291]

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1713

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

Whereas then-wannabe-Premier Blue Book in 1999 stated to the former Liberal Minister of Health, "there is an estimate that between now and the year 2003, we will need 2,000 new nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia . . ."; and

Whereas then-wannabe-Premier Blue Book demanded to know how the minister planned to deal with this nursing crisis; and

Whereas the shoe is on the other foot and now Premier Blue Book has to explain to Nova Scotians not only how his government's nursing strategy has failed to attract nurses, but how his anti-labour legislation is driving them away;

Therefore be it resolved that Premier Blue Book apply to his own failed nursing strategy the words of approbation he used against the former Minister of Health in describing the effects of the nursing shortage, ". . . ORs cancelled, patients not getting into hospitals, unable to take transfers from other hospitals . . . that is absolutely ludicrous."

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

[1:45 a.m.]

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1714

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

Whereas Sylvia Warner is an EKG technician at Soldiers Memorial Hospital in Middleton; and

Whereas Sylvia Warner has provided 30 years of dedicated service at Soldiers Memorial Hospital; and

[Page 5292]

Whereas Sylvia was honoured on Monday, June 18th, with a reception celebrating her 30th Anniversary at Soldiers Memorial Hospital;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend congratulations to Sylvia Warner on the occasion of her 30th Anniversary at Soldiers Memorial Hospital.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1715

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

Whereas the Minister of Health claims he can only maintain our health care system by stripping health care workers of collective bargaining rights secured after years of often bloody confrontation in this province; and

Whereas after 10 years of morale-busting tactics by Donnie Cameron, John Savage and these Hamm Tories, health care workers have reached the end of their tether; and

Whereas stripping collective bargaining rights from health care workers will also strip our health care facilities of their staff, as many of these workers will leave;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health take great comfort in the fact that as a result of Bill No. 68 he will commandeer a health care system second to none in its shortage of health care workers.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 5293]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1716

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

Whereas the Medical Society of Nova Scotia has expressed publicly that Bill No. 68 should not be passed in this Legislature; and

Whereas the Medical Society believes that this is simply the wrong legislation at the wrong time; and

Whereas their fears are focused around the sad reality that Bill No. 68 will create a climate in the province which will exacerbate the shortage of these essential health care workers;

Therefore be it resolved that this government heed the advice of the Medical Society and find long-term sustainable solutions to the recruitment and retention of health care workers, not shotgun fixes like Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

[Page 5294]

RESOLUTION NO. 1717

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

Whereas Lisa Hamblin, a laboratory technologist at the QE II Health Sciences Centre, works in the Blood Transfusion Service and has been working for 19 years now; and

Whereas Ms. Hamblin says that the last four years have seen a major increase in her workload, fewer staff, a lot of overtime because of the staff shortages and low staff morale; and

Whereas this government's anti-labour legislation may be the straw that breaks the camel's back, as Ms. Hamblin says, "I feel . . . that this government is giving me no choice but to move my family to a place where I would be valued";

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier, who prides himself on his government's fiscal responsibility, please realize that a mass exodus of health care workers from Nova Scotia because of his heavy-handed legislation cannot in any way be viewed as a fiscally-sound policy to pursue.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 1718

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

Whereas the member for Pictou East represents a riding that is home to many of Nova Scotia's health care workers; and

[Page 5295]

Whereas the member has been silent through the course of debate on the most oppressive and anti-worker piece of legislation, Bill No. 68; and

Whereas that member is almost deserving of pity as his silence on this important issue will almost certainly be his undoing;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Pictou East be condemned for his silence on Bill No. 68 and consoled on his upcoming election defeat.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1719

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

Whereas an LPN who is a constituent of Timberlea-Prospect can't understand why this government would "demand a balanced budget on the backs of the front line workers"; and

Whereas she says, "she is very angry, as we have done our part for the cause over the past 10 years"; and

Whereas she asks this government to work toward a more effective solution, as "surely you see that this is bad legislation!";

Therefore be it resolved that this government heed the warnings from front-line health care workers who know bad anti-labour legislation and government when they see it.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

[Page 5296]

RESOLUTION NO. 1720

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

Whereas the member for Halifax Bedford Basin represents a riding that is home to many of Nova Scotia's health care workers; and

Whereas that member has been silent through the course of debate on the most oppressive and anti-worker piece of legislation, Bill No. 68; and

Whereas that member is almost deserving of pity as her silence on this important issue will almost certainly be her undoing;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Halifax Bedford Basin be condemned for her silence on Bill No. 68 and consoled on her upcoming election defeat.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1721

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

Whereas, solitaire, is defined by the Oxford Canadian Dictionary as "a game for one player in which cards taken in random order have to be arranged in certain groups or sequences"; and

Whereas this government wants to hold all the cards in the game of collective bargaining and to play them all by itself; and

[Page 5297]

Whereas the Oxford Canadian Dictionary goes on to further define 'solitaire' as "either of two extinct flightless birds related to the dodo . . .";

Therefore be it resolved that this House submit to the Oxford Canadian Dictionary the following additional definition of 'solitaire' for its approval, "a game of farce in which the Tory Government of 2001 in Nova Scotia held all the cards but called its labour negotiations collective bargaining, the result of which made Tory Governments as extinct as the solitaire, a flightless bird related to the dodo."

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 1722

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

Whereas the member for Eastern Shore represents a riding that is home to many of Nova Scotia's health care workers; and

Whereas that member has been silent through the course of debate on the most oppressive and anti-worker piece of legislation, Bill No. 68; and

Whereas that member is almost deserving of pity as his silence on this important issue will almost certainly be his undoing;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Eastern Shore be condemned for his silence on Bill No. 68 and consoled on his upcoming election defeat.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 5298]

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I could be permitted an introduction before my . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Sure.

MR. DEVEAUX: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, in our east gallery there are five members of the health care professionals who are here: Lynn Stanton, who is a staff nurse with the Medical-Surgical ICU, and she is a constituent of Halifax Bedford Basin; maybe they can stand as they are being introduced - Kenda McKinley, who is a staff nurse, 16 years, Cancer Care, from Dartmouth East; maybe Kenda can stand up as well, thank you - Vicki DeGazio, staff nurse, 20 years, Cardiac OR, from Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, at the QE II Health Sciences Centre; Martha Brown, staff nurse, 26 years, PACU, from Dartmouth North; and Ann Marie Murdock, RN, from Pictou East. They are all here, obviously, to listen to the debate and have an opportunity to talk to some of the members on the backbenches, hopefully, about Bill No. 68. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1723

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

Whereas the trend over the past five years or more has been to reduce the number of patients who are admitted to hospital and, as many beds and services in rural Nova Scotia have been closed, patients with more serious conditions are being admitted to the metro facilities; and

Whereas many of these patients would traditionally have been placed in ICU but are now ending up on the units, resulting in an increased workload for nurses; and

Whereas the stress and exhaustion and inevitable mistakes from longer hours and increased workloads make nurses fear for their patients and their careers;

[Page 5299]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health concentrate on improving nurses' working conditions rather than legislating away the collective bargaining protections.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1724

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

Whereas the Strait-Richmond Hospital has gone over six and a half months without emergency room service during the daytime; and

Whereas this government is attempting to sway public opinion to their side by providing misleading advertising; and

Whereas one line in the ad indicates that a strike would close emergency room services in hospitals throughout Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the honourable members for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, Inverness, and Antigonish meet with the residents that have been without emergency room service in the Strait area for over six months to explain just how a potential strike would mean an actual change in available health care services at the Strait-Richmond Hospital.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

[Page 5300]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1725

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

Whereas the one constant of this government is its obsession with getting its own way, come heck or high water; and

Whereas heck has come because health care workers, tired of being abused and neglected, are bridling against this Premier's plan to toss their collective bargaining rights on the scrap heap; and

Whereas the stressed health care system will start to come apart at the seams as these demoralized workers grab better opportunities elsewhere;

Therefore be it resolved that this Premier take great delight that in getting his own way he will destroy the system he promised to protect and improve - our health care system.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1726

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank represents a riding that is home to many of Nova Scotia's health care workers; and

[Page 5301]

Whereas that member has been silent through the course of debate on the most oppressive and anti-worker piece of legislation - Bill No. 68; and

Whereas that member is almost deserving of pity, for his silence on this important issue will almost certainly be his undoing;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank be condemned for his silence on Bill No. 68, and be consoled for his upcoming defeat in the next provincial election.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1727

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

Whereas Christina Hilchie, a medical laboratory technologist, works in clinical chemistry at the QE II Health Sciences Centre and resents the Minister of Health's insinuation that she would not be professional enough to care for the critically ill or injured; and

Whereas Ms. Hilchie is worried about the future of medical laboratory technology here as "a surprising number of my colleagues are currently exploring the option of leaving this province" because of "this contract struggle and this grossly unfair legislation", referring to Bill No. 68; and

Whereas Ms. Hilchie goes on to explain that more than 50 per cent of medical laboratory technologists are due to retire in 15 years, there have been no new graduates since 1996, and any new ones would leave in the face of this regressive legislation;

[Page 5302]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health explain to Christina Hilchie and all medical laboratory technologists why he wants to drive them out of their profession through his medieval, anti-worker legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The resolution was too long.

[The notice is tabled.]

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1728

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, again, on behalf of the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the member for Queens represents a riding that is home to many of Nova Scotia's health care workers; and

[2:00 a.m.]

Whereas that member has been silent through the course of debate on the most oppressive and anti-worker piece of legislation known as Bill No. 68; and

Whereas that member is almost deserving of pity as his silence on this important issue will almost certainly be his undoing;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Queens be condemned for his silence on Bill No. 68 and consoled on his upcoming election defeat.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 5303]

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1729

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

Whereas rural doctors cry out the need for more technical support such as provided by laboratory technicians; and

Whereas laboratory technicians will soon, with the combination of retirement and short-sighted government policies from the 1990's, be as rare as a worker-friendly Tory; and

Whereas this government is willing to make a bad situation worse in rural Nova Scotia simply to satisfy its right-wing ideology;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House demand this government stop blaming the woes of the health care system on collective bargaining for health care workers and acknowledge its own short-sighted and wrong-headed policies are the real reasons health care is in a crisis in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1730

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

Whereas the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury represents a riding that is home to many of Nova Scotia's health care workers; and

Whereas that member has been silent through the course of debate on the most oppressive and anti-worker piece of legislation, Bill No. 68; and

Whereas that member is almost deserving of pity as his silence on this important issue will almost certainly be his undoing;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury be condemned for his silence on Bill No. 68 and consoled on his upcoming election defeat.

[Page 5304]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1731

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

Whereas the Canadian Nurses' Association released a report in 1997 that identified a number of contributing major factors to a predicted nursing shortage; and

Whereas those factors ring particularly true in Nova Scotia where we have an aging workforce of nurses who will retire in large numbers in the next decade, an aging population which will require increased nursing and other health care and an adequate number of new graduates; and

Whereas this government's comprehensive approach to solving the nursing shortage is to throw fuel on the fire by introducing the most regressive piece of anti-labour legislation ever conceived in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved this government pull back from the brink of bêtise before its heavy-handed, anti-labour legislation drives health care workers from this province in droves.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 5305]

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 1732

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

Whereas the member for Kings West represents a riding that is home to many of Nova Scotia's health care workers; and

Whereas that member has been silent through the course of debate on the most oppressive and anti-worker piece of legislation - Bill No. 68; and

Whereas that member is almost deserving of pity as his silence on this important issue will almost certainly be his undoing;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Kings West be condemned for his silence on Bill No. 68 and consoled on his upcoming election defeat.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1733

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

Whereas health care professionals from all over Nova Scotia agree that legislating away their bargaining rights will push many of them out of this province at a time of critical shortage in health care professionals throughout North America; and

[Page 5306]

Whereas the Tory backbenchers may not admit it publicly, but many must be hearing from their constituents how draconian are this government's and are having second and third thoughts about supporting such legislation; and

Whereas the real threat that this Tory Government will cripple our health care system, must be hard to explain to constituents;

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory backbenchers try to preach reason to the Premier, the Minister of Health and their Cabinet colleagues and convince them to withdraw this destructive anti-worker and anti-health care legislation for the good of all Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1734

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

Whereas all Tory members of the Legislature represent areas impacted negatively by Bill No. 68; and

Whereas those members have been silent through the course of debate on the most oppressive and anti-worker piece of legislation; and

Whereas these members owe it to their constituents to speak out on bad legislation and not agree with it through their silence;

Therefore be it resolved that those silent members be condemned for their silence on Bill No. 68, lest they deserve our condolences for their upcoming election defeat.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

[Page 5307]

RESOLUTION NO. 1735

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

Whereas Bill No. 68 raises the question of who is responsible for the delivery of health care in Nova Scotia, front-line health care workers or 12 persons hidden away in the Cabinet Room; and

Whereas the answer is simple and so it is simple to see why those front-line health care workers should be at the bargaining table; and

Whereas when Nova Scotians need health care, they go to front-line health care workers, not to Cabinet;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier, the Minister of Health and all members of Cabinet come to their senses and not rob health care workers of their right to bargain freely and collectively for their working conditions, wages and benefits.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 1736

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

Whereas the member for Preston represents a riding that is home to many of Nova Scotia's health care workers; and

Whereas that member has been silent through the course of debate on the most oppressive and anti-worker piece of legislation, Bill No. 68; and

[Page 5308]

Whereas that member is almost deserving of pity as his silence on this important issue will almost certainly be his undoing;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Preston, better known as the king of charities or the doorstop in the corner, be condemned for his silence on Bill No. 68 and consoled on his upcoming election defeat.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1737

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

Whereas health care workers have families and family responsibilities just like everyone else; and

Whereas they work 12-hour-plus shifts and many are forced to work overtime as well, then must go home and care for their families, to do housework and child rearing; and

Whereas they are frequently absent for the important events in their kids' lives, such as school concerts, trips and baseball games and are often too tired and stressed and unable to give their families the quality time they would like to give;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health act now to improve working conditions for health care workers by ensuring our health facilities are properly staffed before these workers pull up stakes and take up opportunities in places with more family-friendly workplaces.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 5309]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1738

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

Whereas the member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley represents a riding that is home to many of Nova Scotia's health care workers; and

Whereas that member has been unusually quiet through the course of debate on the most oppressive and anti-worker piece of legislation known as Bill No. 68; and

Whereas that member is almost deserving of pity as his silence on this important issue will almost certainly be his undoing;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley be condemned for his silence on Bill No. 68 and consoled for his upcoming election defeat.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 5310]

RESOLUTION NO. 1739

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

Whereas health care workers and nurses labour together to provide for and comfort the sick and the dying; and

Whereas the public knows the services they provide are invaluable and thanks them for their kindness and comfort during these trying times; and

Whereas this government's current course of lack of respect and appreciation for the priceless work threatens irreparable harm to labour relations and the health care system in this province;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House condemn the bully tactics of this government against its health care workers and nurses and hope that this government has not already irreparably damaged our health care system.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 1740

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

Whereas the member for Pictou West represents a riding that is home to many of Nova Scotia's health care workers; and

Whereas that member has been silent through the course of debate on the most oppressive and anti-worker piece of legislation, Bill No. 68; and

Whereas that member is almost deserving of pity as her silence on this important issue will almost certainly be her undoing;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Pictou West be condemned for her silence on Bill No. 68 and consoled on her upcoming election defeat.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 5311]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1741

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

Whereas health care workers at the Colchester Regional Hospital are shocked that in the year 2001 this government could take away their right to fair contract negotiations; and

Whereas one nurse of 33 years is deeply insulted that this government would also mislead the public by telling them health care professionals would not give essential services; and

Whereas they fear the Premier's only concern is his love affair with balancing the budget and legislating away their bargaining rights is the vehicle by which he will try to accomplish it;

Therefore be it resolved that legislating away the rights of health care professionals as a fiscal measure is the final push they need to head South or West.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

[Page 5312]

RESOLUTION NO. 1742

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

Whereas the member for Colchester North represents a riding that is home to many of Nova Scotia's health care workers; and

Whereas that member has been unusually quiet through the course of debate on the most oppressive and anti-worker legislation, better known as Bill No. 68; and

Whereas that member is almost deserving of pity as his silence on this important issue will almost certainly be his undoing;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Colchester North be condemned for his silence on Bill No. 68 and consoled on his upcoming election defeat.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1743

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

Whereas health care workers at the Highland View Regional Hospital in Amherst are seething at this government's introduction of anti-worker legislation; and

Whereas they state that, "this bill declares war on labour"; and

Whereas they go on to say, "it does not attract new nurses . . . it drives experienced nurses out of the province . . .";

[Page 5313]

Therefore be it resolved that this government take its hands from its ears, open its eyes, and heed the sound advice from health care workers at Highland View Regional Hospital in Amherst not to pass anti-worker legislation.

[2:15 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1744

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

Whereas this government claims nothing in Bill No. 68 will prevent it from freely negotiating collective agreements with health care workers; and

Whereas reserving the power to Cabinet to impose whatever work terms it wants upon health care workers is hardly negotiating collectively; and

Whereas the only thing collective about this heinous legislation is the collective gasp of anger, horror and despair it has evoked in health care workers;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health retitle Bill No. 68, the Healthcare Services Continuation (2001) Act, as the Shut Up and Take What We Give You and Be Happy About It Act.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

[Page 5314]

RESOLUTION NO. 1745

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

Whereas nurses are indirectly being forced to work overtime, adding stress to an already stressful occupation; and

Whereas nurses entered this career because they care about people and have a desire to help people, especially sick people; and

Whereas nurses respond to the call to work overtime because they are very aware of the added workload their colleagues are experiencing and that patients need them to provide care;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health provide a satisfactory solution soon to the forced overtime nurses work to ensure patients get adequate care before nurses burn out and leave the health care system.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1746

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

Whereas in a fax to our caucus office, a nurse from my constituency of Timberlea-Prospect advised that she was alarmed at this government's heavy-handed legislation to force her to work at their whim, saying that "this is not a government, it's a dictatorship . . ."; and

[Page 5315]

Whereas this nurse, who relocated here from Newfoundland, went on to say, "we strive daily to provide excellent care for the people in this province, and this is how our government says thank you"; and

Whereas, like many other folks in health care, my constituent thinks "maybe it is time I relocate again to a province that pays their nurses what they are worth, not only monetarily but with respect";

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health apologize to health care workers and nurses in Nova Scotia for the profound lack of respect he has shown them in legislating away the last shreds of their dignity.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1747

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

Whereas, although the number of nurses employed in the province has been increasing slightly over the past few years, there are still fewer nurses than there were in 1996; and

Whereas there has been an increase in the population and an increase in patient acuity, that means sicker folks, so that the increase in the number of nurses is not nearly adequate; and

Whereas the number of casual nursing positions is still unacceptable and many work full-time hours without the same benefits as full-time nurses; another reason recruiters lure them away to benefit-rich areas;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health rethink his nursing strategy and take timely and more effective action to convert casual nursing positions into full-time positions with benefits before these nurses are lured away from Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 5316]

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I might be permitted an introduction prior to my resolution, would that be all right? I confess to being a little remiss, I had noticed that these people were here earlier, I hope they are still here and we haven't lost them due to the lateness of the hour. (Interruption) Well, we could do that. I believe we have present with us an RN, Doris Ernst, who is a resident of Halifax Citadel, and another RN, Sheila Harvey, a resident of Dartmouth-Cole Harbour. I know we had two paramedics, Peter Lindeman and Danny Cassel. Peter Lindeman, a resident of Halifax Needham, and Danny Cassel, from Halifax Citadel. I wonder if they are all here and if they could rise and receive the acknowledgement of the House. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I am happy that we have some visitors here to observe our proceedings this evening.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1748

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

Whereas the Minister of Health stated in this House to the Leader of the Opposition last week that, "To compare Nova Scotia to Alberta in terms of the ability to pay is not reasonable and the honourable member knows that."; and

Whereas even if that were true, it is no excuse for the minister introducing a bill that will allow the Tory Cabinet to force a unilateral contract down the throats of health care workers; and

Whereas the statement places the blame for his own bargaining woes on conditions in other provinces;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier advise his Minister of Health to focus on what is happening here in Nova Scotia as opposed to looking to other parts of the country in an effort to excuse the sorry mess his government created here at home.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 5317]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham on an introduction.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: It gives me great pleasure to rise in my place and introduce to the House Gwen Wolfe who is a resident of my constituency who works in the laboratory over at the QE II in, I think, the Infirmary site. I would ask members to give her a warm welcome. (Applause)

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 2:21 a.m. and end at 3:21 a.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - CARE: DELIVERY - PLANS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is forcing health care workers into a position where extreme action like work stoppages is their only option. Work to rule has already started. All the extras which the system has come to rely on like overtime, extra work and flexible duties will be suspended and again, Nova Scotians can thank the Premier. Surgeries are being cancelled, beds are being closed, tests are being postponed and the system is going into chaos. For the Premier, what does this government plan to do to deliver health care in this province in the wake of its own self-inflicted health care crisis?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, having lived through a hospital strike back in the 1970s, I know that is not an option that any health care worker looks forward to with any kind of enthusiasm. One of the things that will be accomplished by this bill, of course, is to avoid a strike which I believe would be in the interests of health care workers and Nova Scotians. A great number of people agree with me. For example, Jim Smith, the Liberal Health Critic said, a strike by health care workers will have devastating effects on the already strained health care system. The President of the NSGEU, Joan Jessome, indicated even the threat of a strike is causing chaos. It has the capacity to cripple health care. What this bill does is eliminate the possibility of a strike and I think that is a good thing to do. (Applause)

[Page 5318]

MR. DEXTER: It is this government's actions that are the threat to the stability of front-line health care services. It is this government that is forcing people off the job and is forcing health care workers out of the province. The contingency plan that the unions came up with would ensure that workers were present to take care of emergencies. The Premier rejected that, saying nurses can't be trusted. But all he has done in his arrogance is jeopardize emergency care. The only ones around here who can't be trusted to take care of our health care is the government. Since this government has rejected the union contingency plan, what contingency plans of their own are in place to deal with work disruptions?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite clearly doesn't listen. The President of the NSGEU said even the threat of a strike causes chaos, openly admitting that a strike is not the answer for this kind of a situation. It is not the answer.

MR. DEXTER: You can't tell health care workers, we don't trust you to do your job, we don't trust you to exercise your fundamental rights so we are going to bring in measures to put you in your place and we expect you to sit there and take it. The Premier is leaving health care workers with no way out. Will the Premier stand here today and accept full responsibility for any disruption to health care services as a result of his own draconian measures?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite would like to put his own interpretation on what is going on. The intention of the government is to have the collective bargaining process continue, as it has in recent weeks and months, and to reach a negotiated settlement at the table. That is what we are looking for.

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

HEALTH - CARE WORKERS/NURSES:

ALLEGATIONS - MIN. APOLOGIZE

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Throughout this health care dispute, government has been using nurses and health care workers as scapegoats for the Tory shortcomings. Government is spreading unfair rumours that nurses will abandon their patients and walk off the job. This government is not respecting nurses and health care workers. My question to the Minister of Health is, will the Minister of Health apologize to nurses and health care workers for insinuating that they will abandon their patients?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there is no government in the past number of years that has greater respect for health care workers than this government. (Interruptions) The corporate memory on the other side of the House is very short, they forget about wage rollbacks and freezes and things like this. They forget about that, they forget (Interruptions)

[Page 5319]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my supplementary question to the Minister of Health is, if the government is so concerned with health and safety, why won't the Health Minister at least encourage the unions and health authorities to request binding arbitration and put this labour unrest aside?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I was delighted to hear the President of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union earlier this afternoon saying that they wanted to get back to the table on Thursday, and they are scheduled to go back on Thursday. What the President of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union said is that, in terms of her organization, they want a settlement worked out at the bargaining table, and the Premier, in that case, encouraged them and thanked her for that offer.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my final question is to the Premier. Yesterday's press conference was proof that this legislation has infuriated labour unions of all stripes. The protest planned for later today is another indication that Nova Scotians will not take this legislation lying down but, in light of all this civil unrest, nurses still guarantee the health and safety of their patients. My question to the Premier is, will the Premier now show some decency and admit that health and safety has always been, and will remain, the number one priority of our nurses and health care workers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, for 30 years I saw the commitment of nurses and technologists and others who worked in the hospital to provide good health care for Nova Scotians. (Interruptions) It is as a result of that (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. I would ask the honourable members if they would allow the questioners and the answerers to have the floor, because I am sure that the people who are here at this hour of the night would appreciate hearing the questions and the answers.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there is no question about the devotion of health care workers to deliver good health care to Nova Scotians. It is a reflection of that that we have come up with an offer despite the serious financial situation of the province, that reflects the value we put on nurses, that will make them the highest paid in Atlantic Canada, the equivalent or greater than what they would receive in two other western provinces. That, I believe, is a reflection of the value that we place on health care workers in this province.

[Page 5320]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - NURSING STRATEGY: FAILURE - PREM. ADMIT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, if the Premier truly wants a reflection of the value he places on nurses he should listen to this, because nurses have some interesting news about some of last year's graduates from Dalhousie School of Nursing. Of 79 new graduates, 10 went to California, while just 8 stayed here. Think about that. More Dalhousie nurses went to California alone than stayed in Nova Scotia. This government is spending tens of thousands of dollars educating nurses it cannot convince to stay here. These are people who are not unfamiliar with the Minister of Health's lifestyle that he is so fond of talking about. The hard realities of working conditions and wages have forced them to look beyond our borders for work.

[2:30 a.m.]

So I want to ask the Premier, when will the Premier admit that his nursing strategy is a failure and that his draconian measures will only serve to worsen an already critical situation?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the Minister of Health to describe the nursing strategy for the information of the honourable member opposite.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am astonished and really appalled that the honourable member would stand in his place and criticize that nursing strategy. That was developed by nurses in Nova Scotia for nurses in Nova Scotia, and he should listen to the nurses in Nova Scotia.

MR. DEXTER: He has a nursing strategy for California, Mr. Speaker, that is who he has a nursing strategy for.

Retaining 8 out of 79 Dalhousie nurses is a miserable result; it means that the Premier's nursing strategy has managed to attract 10 per cent of new Dalhousie graduates. It seems that the Premier is developing a new motto for our province - Nova Scotia, a great place to get an education, but who wants to work here. When asked where nurses go after graduation, one administrator succinctly summed it up: Up north, out west, down south, anywhere it seems but here. So I want to ask the Premier, why is the Premier taking measures that will drive more nurses out of the province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I believe that nurses want to stay in Nova Scotia, but nurses will only stay in Nova Scotia if, in fact, government is not only able to remunerate them properly, but also to have enough money to properly educate their children, to provide other services that the residents of Nova Scotia want. Nurses won't stay here simply because

[Page 5321]

they would be the highest paid in the country if, along with that, government could not provide other services. The members opposite have never put any balance into any of the suggestions they bring to government, it is always more, more, more.

MR. DEXTER: And what the Premier continues to deliver is less, less, less. Mr. Speaker, nurses like Joanne Keating are telling us that in the United States they are treated with dignity and respect, but here at home the situation is very different. Now nurses want to know why they should even consider staying in this province. In other provinces, nurses are trusted and respected, so why should they stay in Nova Scotia where the Premier treats them like children who are denied the right to strike and cannot be trusted to do their job? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: One of the great values, Mr. Speaker, of being in Opposition like that member, is you can make suggestions to government that you know are entirely impossible. That member knows that it is not in the fiscal capability of this province to pay as much as they pay in the United States, to pay as much as they pay in Alberta. That member knows it, but it is politically expedient for him to suggest it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - PARAMEDICS/HEALTH CARE WORKERS:

TREATMENT - FAIRNESS ENSURE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. I would like to table a press release from the Minister of Health, dated January 20, 2000. I have several copies here. In this release, the minister stated that paramedics deserve to be treated fairly and paid appropriately, and that is why government introduced legislation to establish the mediation/arbitration process. The minister will remember that release. My question to the Minister of Health is, given that it was important to treat paramedics fairly, why does he not feel that other health care workers deserve to be treated fairly?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it has been the position of this government that all health care workers would be treated fairly and this government has taken steps to see that is being done. In the case of the paramedics, we were talking about a first contract and that was a slightly different situation.

In the case here, one of the interesting things, you talk about the short corporate memory of the former Liberal Government, the people across there - and he was a member - Mr. Speaker, do you remember rollbacks and wage freezes, do you remember that?

[Page 5322]

DR. SMITH: It saddens me, the quality of ministers we have on that side, that to this very day, two years later, approaching two years later since they formed government and the best answer they can give you day after day, night after night, is that other government did this and that other government did that. That's really a sad state. Shame on them for that.

Mr. Speaker, the Chairman of the Capital District Health Authority, Peter McLaughlin, said: There would have been some advantage to binding arbitration, particularly because it would give employees some assurance that their input went into the arbitrator's decision, as opposed to a contract dictated by a Cabinet. My question to the minister is, given that this minister believes that health care decisions should be made at the local level, why is the minister ignoring the advice of the Chairman of the Capital District Health Authority?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, people have not forgotten the wage rollbacks, so he wants to know why it keeps coming up (Interruptions)

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

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the Capital District was at the bargaining table with the health care employees and I can say that they had four locals involved in the bargaining for the NSGEU and they reached agreements in three cases: two of them were accepted by the members and one was not. Similarly, the negotiations with the NSNU, a tentative agreement was reached there that was not accepted by the membership. What has happened is that there has been bargaining in good faith . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the answer to my original question is simple, because decisions are not being made at the local level and the district health authorities are having no say. Nova Scotians believe that if you give something up, you should get something in return. My question to the minister is, if you believe that what you have offered to the health care workers is fair, why would you not legislate binding arbitration in exchange for giving up the right to strike?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, and the Premier has articulated very clearly and people understand, that our financial means in this province is not as great as it is in other - but I want to tell you that this government did not roll back wages, it did not freeze wages; there were increases in wages put on the table for health care people in this province which were consistent with the ability of this province to pay.

[Page 5323]

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

HEALTH - NURSES: GOV'T. (N.S.) ADS - SPENDING JUSTIFY

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier, because the Premier, since they introduced Bill No. 68, is talking about the fact that we cannot afford to pay the nurses what they are asking for. Well, the Premier has been using public money to bankroll a purely partisan advertising campaign. My office has learned that the Premier and the government have been spending $43,000 of hard-earned taxpayers' dollars in the past six days to purchase misleading advertising. That's more than $7,000 a day of public money spent by this Premier to try to ease the political damage caused by his self-inflicted health care crisis.

My question to the Premier is quite simple. I want to ask the Premier whether he thinks that the $43,000 of taxpayers' dollars he has spent on propaganda would have been better spent on front-line health care.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is certainly important that Nova Scotians and all health care workers know exactly what was put on the table. The government is making an attempt to make sure that health care workers and all Nova Scotians know what has been offered.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, back in 1999, when the Premier was the Leader of the Third Party, he introduced a resolution condemning the government of the day for wasting scarce health dollars on partisan advertising. He said this wasteful and offensive use of scarce health care dollars is nothing more than a taxpayer-funded PR campaign. That is what he said in 1999. Now, in an astounding about-face, this same Premier has turned around and done the exact same thing he condemned two years ago. I want to ask this Premier if he thinks it is hypocritical if someone criticizes the use of public money when in Opposition and then, when in government, turns around and does the exact same thing he condemned.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would hope that the member opposite would do a little research on the difference between partisan advertising and providing information. There is a distinct difference, and that has eluded the member opposite.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, this Premier knows that what he is doing is a misappropriation of taxpayers' dollars and taxpayers' money. He said so himself back in 1999, when he was here in Opposition. I want to ask the Premier why he refuses to cancel this propaganda program, and spend the money on front-line health care, like he said he would do back in 1999.

[Page 5324]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is always so easy for that Party, that never had the opportunity to be government, to come up with solutions. The problem is none of their solutions are ever workable. What the challenge for this government is, is to provide health care and all of the other services at the same time as we provide some fiscal stability to the province. The bank, right now, is financing what we do; they might finance us next year, but if we don't get things under control, they are eventually going to pull the plug. Even the level of service and the raises that we are able to provide now will not be possible under that kind of a circumstance.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

JUSTICE - HEALTH CARE WORKERS:

INTEREST ARBITRATION - APPLICABILITY

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Justice. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General in this province had a previous history of worrying about the rights of workers, granted that only seemed to last while he was on this side of the House. For example, on October 29, 1998, the member for Lunenburg, at the time, introduced an amendment to the Trade Union Act, where the right to strike by police officers would be replaced by interest arbitration. My question to the minister is quite simple, does the Minister of Justice, today, believe that interest arbitration is okay for police officers but not for the health care workers of this province?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, what the Minister of Justice believes is that it is in the interest of the Province of Nova Scotia to be able to ensure a sustainable health care system. That is what this bill is about, and that is what this Minister of Justice believes.

MR. SAMSON: Ha, and he wonders why we call him the Rambo Justice Minister. On February 1, 2000, this year, the minister said Crown Attorneys perform an important service for Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians. Prosecuting those accused of crimes such as murder, sexual assault, robbery and the like is vital to the public safety, and compensation for doing so should be fair and just. Here is a wake-up note to the Minister of Justice. Health care workers and nurses in this province are also vital to the safety of all Nova Scotians. My question to the minister is, why does the Minister of Justice believe that health care workers should not be entitled to the same type of arbitration that has been offered to Crown Attorneys?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member's question is a question that talks about being fair and reasonable. The government's offer to health care professionals in this province is more than fair and reasonable; it would make them among the highest paid health care professionals in the country. It would accomplish everything that binding arbitration is designed to do, which is to determine a fair and reasonable compensation level.

[Page 5325]

[2:45 a.m.]

MR. SAMSON: Well, how ironic, Mr. Speaker, and what a double standard in this province. Compensation for Crown Attorneys and police, to be fair and just, means to go to interest arbitration, but for nurses and for health care professionals, fair and just is what the Minister of Justice determines that it will be. How can you have a standard for one group of workers in this province and then another standard for the people who are in the front lines of our health care system? My question is, why are the rights being given to one group, while health care workers are considered a threat to public safety by this government and denied binding arbitration?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, in simple terms, what we have offered the health care professionals in this province is a fair and reasonable offer, an offer that puts them amongst the best paid in this country and one that will treat them as fairly and reasonably as we have treated all our workers, whether they are Crown Attorneys or anyone else.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

HEALTH - CARE SYSTEM: CRISIS - EXPLAIN

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: This question will be to the Premier. Mr. Speaker, I am very troubled to have to report to this House that our office is receiving a steady stream of faxes and e-mails from nurses and other health care workers who say this Premier is driving them out of Nova Scotia. This Premier would not deny that he was elected primarily to fix the problems facing front-line health care and he cannot deny that he has failed. John Hamm's self-inflicted health care crisis is causing as much damage as any misguided initiative by the former Premier, John Savage. I want to ask the Premier how a government elected to improve health care could have gotten so off track in two short years that it is now driving health care workers from the province.

THE PREMIER: For the last year and a half, Mr. Speaker, health care workers have been speaking out about job-related stress, the inability to cope with the workload. Much of that has been generated by the failure of the province to attract enough health care workers into the province. That is why, for example, we have a nurse-designed nursing strategy to address that particular problem and to improve the workplace situation for nurses and other health care workers.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I will now table letters from three nurses at the Colchester Regional Hospital: Debbie McCully, Sonya Salter and Erin White, who all say they may join John Hamm's health care exodus if Bill No. 68 passes. John Hamm has recruited so many nurses for Alberta he should be on Ralph Klein's payroll. My question to the Premier is, is he aware that his misguided bill is causing irreparable damage to health care in Nova Scotia by driving workers out of the province, is he aware of that?

[Page 5326]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to ask the Minister of Health to make the member opposite aware of the true facts. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that since the 22 months that we have been in power, one of the things that was concerning nurses in this province was they wanted more full-time positions and there have been a large number of casual positions converted to full-time. Similarly, (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the people in the gallery to not respond positively or negatively to what is happening on the floor, please.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in terms of the actual number of nurses, the number of nurses in Nova Scotia working this year is greater than it was the year before.

MR. EPSTEIN: Well, I hope the minister reads those letters that I have just tabled because Sonya Salter says that she will leave Truro for the United States because of the Premier's Bill No. 68. Theresa Thompson, an RN, says she will simply quit the profession. The Premier backed down on his education cuts last year and he backed down on further cuts to the Civil Service in this budget, but I want to ask the Premier, why won't he do the sensible thing and back down again before he causes irreparable damage to the health care system of Nova Scotia? Do it now.

THE PREMIER: It is the objective of this government not only to have a solution for today, but one that works tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and every day after that. We cannot entertain a solution that does not guarantee the sustainability of the health care delivery system in Nova Scotia. We cannot simply accept that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH - NURSES: GOV'T. (N.S.) - ADS COSTS

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the government across the floor has acted shamelessly throughout the entire course of this fiasco that they are calling a negotiation with nurses. So, we really shouldn't be surprised by propaganda tactics that are underway. Nevertheless, if not shocking, the advertising campaign mounted by this government is certainly appalling. Major daily newspapers across the province, and radio stations have been beset by a slew of propaganda style political ads. It was 669 day ago that bunch across the floor promised that they would not get into political advertising. Not too long ago, the Premier would not answer any questions on this matter, so I would like to ask the Minister responsible for Communications Nova Scotia, what is the cost of the ads that are currently running in newspapers and on radio stations across this province?

[Page 5327]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't have those numbers at my hand, but I will take the matter under advisement.

MR. WILSON: The government claims that it has offered a fair offer to nurses. If their unwillingness to offer binding arbitration wasn't a clear enough indicator that the offer is far from fair, the amount of propaganda that they are producing certainly is. My question again to the Minister responsible for Communications Nova Scotia, with that in mind, can the minister responsible tell this House please, who asked his department to produce those ads?

MR. RUSSELL: It is the function of Communications Nova Scotia to inform the public of what the government is doing. (Interruptions)

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, that was not my question and that certainly wasn't an answer. The cost of those ads is well over $40,000 and counting, and it is clear that this government has lots of money for propaganda but none to give nurses a fair deal. Again, will the minister commit right now that he will table for the House the complete cost of any communications campaign related to health care contract negotiations?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I have no difficulty doing that. The campaign is still underway so it will be awhile before I will have the actual numbers.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

GOV'T. (N.S.) - NOVA SCOTIANS HEED:

BILL NO. 68 - WITHDRAWN

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My question is to the Premier. The NDP caucus has been flooded with letters and calls from angry health care workers. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Halifax Needham has the floor.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the NDP caucus has been flooded with many letters and calls from angry health care workers. Over the past few days we have received letters from across Nova Scotia, from people who are outraged at this government, and that anger is turning to action. Many health care workers are now considering leaving Nova Scotia. Margaret Tsipsti is one of them. A nurse with 35 years' experience, this is what she had to say about Bill No. 68. She says, Dear Premier Hamm: Please do not make me pack and leave Nova Scotia.

Health care workers are telling the government what they are preparing to do, but the Premier isn't listening. My question is, why won't the Premier listen to what Nova Scotians are saying and withdraw Bill No. 68?

[Page 5328]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would hope that Nurse Margaret will encourage her union to get back to the table and negotiate at the table an appropriate settlement with the Government of Nova Scotia, to allow the service to go on uninterrupted and in an affordable way.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, Nurse Margaret is trying to get her Premier to listen to what the impact of this bill will be. It's amazing how two years and a taste of power can make a Party change its tune. In the 1999 election campaign, this Premier promised to address the critical shortage of nurses. Now he is pushing legislation that has nurses, like Debbie McCall from Colchester, promising him, "If this legislation is passed, it's time to look for a safer place to work and live." So why is the Premier supporting legislation that will force our needed health care workers to leave this province when he knows we can't afford to lose them?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I believe we have been listening to nurses; they have made their points over a number of months with the government and with others. It was for that very reason that nurses were offered more than any other group that we have negotiated with, heretofore, and it was a reflection of our appreciation of the difficulties that nurses are experiencing right now and our determination to work with them, as demonstrated by the nursing strategy, to solve the problem.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, if this is the way this Premier and this government show their appreciation for nurses, I would sure hate to see them show their disdain and disrespect. This Premier is breaking his word, pure and simple. Just two years ago this Premier said that with him as Premier, nurses would have a workplace where they know they are valued. When will the Premier stop causing this exodus of health care workers and start treating health care workers with the respect they deserve and the respect that he promised?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, nurses will not stay in a province that does not have a sustainable health care delivery system. Already this year we are borrowing $91 million to run programs. Now, the bank will support us this year, they might run the system next year, but if we don't come to grips with our financial situation, they are going to pull the plug and the whole system will deteriorate, and all of those nurses who have been writing in will not have any choice but to leave.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

HEALTH - LEGISLATION: PREMIER - REASONS EXPLAIN

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, in listening to the answers to the questions today, one would only say it is a pathetic effort by the Government of Nova Scotia to try to respond to the questions that have been asked; absolutely pathetic, their responses.

[Page 5329]

The Minister of Health has told us that the reason the legislation was brought in was to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians. Well, as usual, there doesn't seem to be unanimous consent of that position within the Cabinet. In fact, the Premier, we heard him yesterday, changing his opinion from the issue as being one of safety to one of costs. My question to the Premier is, can he clarify for this House and for those who are watching, which is it, public safety or money?

[3:00 a.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, in terms of public safety, it is not in the interests of health care workers or any Nova Scotian to have a strike. That is an issue of safety. We made no secret when we became elected that we would be asking every Nova Scotian, and that includes health care workers, to work with us to come up with a financially stable situation in this province, something that that government and that member, when he was Minister of Finance, could not achieve.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the pathetic answer of this Premier, again, is echoing in this Chamber. My question to the Premier is very simple. If it is the issue of concern for public safety, why won't this Premier do the honourable thing and allow a proper collective bargaining process to continue and be able to pay nurses and health care workers what they deserve in the Province of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that question would be more effectively delivered by somebody who was not a member of a government, like that member was, that from 1993 to 1997 suspended bargaining rights in the Province of Nova Scotia for all public sector workers by way of unpaid holidays and a wage freeze. There were no bargaining rights whatsoever; there was no ability of any public sector worker, during the period of that government, to negotiate at the table, an opportunity that we are providing the workers.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, obviously the Premier doesn't even want to remember what he said publicly in the last election and how he was going to treat people. He is more interested to know and talk about someone else. The bottom line is that we have all known that has really boiled down not to public safety, but to the fact of finances of the Province of Nova Scotia. We have seen this government, in the last year, have a $249 million increase revenue than what they projected; we have seen hidden tax revenue; we have seen programs to be able to collect additional fees for services in the Province of Nova Scotia. It is projected that the additional revenues could have hired more than 800 nurses in Nova Scotia if properly managed. My question to the Premier is, given his public interest in fairness, why won't he simply do the honourable thing and pay Nova Scotian nurses and health care workers what they deserve?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance will explain some issues that this government is addressing in Finance that the previous government chose to ignore.

[Page 5330]

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable minister opposite does state some things (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Order, please. I had enough of (Interruptions) Hey, order, please! Order, please, the honourable member for Lunenburg West. Order, please! The honourable member for Lunenburg West will stand and apologize for what he just said across the floor. He said he lied. He will stand and take his place and apologize. (Interruptions) It doesn't matter if it was on the record or not, I heard it hollered across this floor, and I would ask the honourable member for Lunenburg West to retract that statement.

MR. DOWNE: I will retract that statement, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, in regard to the honourable member for Lunenburg West, who mentioned that there was $250 million more that we have gotten in the last few years; I agree we have had more revenues. What did we do with that? We put it in health care, we put it in community services, we put it in education. This is not only about health care, it's about many different programs. At the same time, we are trying to bring down the deficit, which was $500 million when we took office. We are finding a balance and, at the same time, dealing with the problems of today.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

HEALTH - N.S. SYSTEM: UNATTRACTIVENESS - PREM. EXPLAIN

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Premier. Letters of protest continue to come in to my office from health care workers, pleading with the Premier to stop legislating them back into the Stone Age of labour relations. Many are convinced they will have no choice but to leave. I would like to table one of those letters now. It comes from a young RN at the ICU at the Colchester Regional Hospital. Her name is Erin White and she has practised there for five years. She is one of the many young nurses that we desperately need in this province, as many other nurses are getting ready to retire. Erin writes, and I quote from that letter, Mr. Speaker, "If you pass Bill No. 68, you may very well lose yet another registered nurse because, I too, will definitely consider leaving.". My question to the Premier is, can you explain to Erin why you, the Premier, has chosen to make Nova Scotia the most unattractive place in North America to be a health care worker?

[Page 5331]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I could say to young Nurse Erin is there will only be a future for her in health care delivery if in fact the province can sustain the service. We are determined to do that so young nurses like Erin and many others like her will have a long, uninterrupted service delivering health care to Nova Scotians.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I have another letter from Lisa Hamlin and I will ask the Page to table that. I am sure the Premier would be interested in hearing from Lisa. She is a long-time lab technician at the QE II. She works in the blood transfusion service. This government says health care workers can't be trusted. Ms. Hamlin feels very strongly these comments "seem almost slanderous to me and my profession.". Like others, Lisa is angry with the shabby treatment by that bunch over there and she is thinking the once unthinkable thought, she writes, "This government is giving me no choice but to move my family to a place where I will be valued.".

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

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Premier, why can't you understand that your arrogance is driving away health care workers such as Lisa Hamlin?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I believe Lisa would have been interested in the answer I gave to the previous question. But, again, I can say that unless we find sustainability in our health care system, there will be no career option for any young lab technician or nurse or any other health care sector worker in this province. The bank might finance something we do this year, but how many years will the bank continue to finance health care delivery? I don't think the health care sectors workers are interested in us providing a solution and then sending the bill to their children, like that member suggests we should do.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, earlier in the proceedings of this House, a tabled a petition from nine young nurses from the Class of 2003. They feel they can't pass up the opportunity to move on to greener pastures. Their plea to this government is simple and it was included in the petition, "Please make Nova Scotia a place where nurses want to be employed, not a place to receive the education and then leave.". Mr. Premier, when will you understand that in driving health care workers away from this province, you have become the real threat to the health and safety of Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I believe the real threat to Nova Scotia is an Opposition Party that every step of the way suggests more spending on education, more spending on community services, more spending on health, even though deep in their hearts they know that bankruptcy is not an option for this province. But despite that, they find it politically expedient to continue to make those suggestions.

[Page 5332]

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - BILL NO. 68: LABOUR RELATIONS - IMPACT

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Bill No. 68 is referred to by labour right across this province as being nothing short of a "frontal attack" on labour in Nova Scotia. My question to the Minister of Labour quite simply is, what negative impact does the Minister of Labour anticipate that this new policy shift may have on the future of labour relations in Nova Scotia?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I am happy to say that this is to deal with a specific situation and a difficulty that we are making temporary in Nova Scotia by virtue of the financial measures that we are taking to bring our budget under control. So, this is specific to address a certain situation and it is not a shift in the government's labour policies.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker (Interruption) That's correct. We believed in co-operation and negotiation, not legislation. One day the Minister of Environment and Labour appoints a mediator and then the next day supports bringing in Bill No. 68 which does away with that entire process. My question to the minister is, how can the Minister of Environment and Labour expect co-operation from employees in the future when his government has treated health care workers and nurses with such disrespect by the introduction of Bill No. 68?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the member opposite, and I thank him for the opportunity to do this, that there is nothing in Bill No. 68 that precludes a negotiated settlement. In fact, it is this government's wish that the parties, as, in fact, they are doing with the nurses, continue back at the negotiating table and reach a negotiated settlement.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, either he is perhaps one of the weakest Ministers of Labour we have ever seen in the history of the Province of Nova Scotia or he is nothing more than a cheerleader for the Minister of Finance and the Government House Leader and a few other senior members in the Cabinet. The fact of the matter is Bill No. 68 undermines the collective bargaining process whether he understands that or not. Labour lawyers from right across this province will state that, whether they are labour or management lawyers, and that's a fact. Will the minister confirm that this new policy shift currently imposed on the nurses and health care workers will not be imposed on other workers in this province?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, as I refer back to my first answer and to be more explicit, this is to address a situation in this province at a time in our history, and it is a health and safety issue.

[Page 5333]

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

HEALTH - NURSES: WORKING CONDITION - MIN. ADDRESS

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, Shannon Bonn is a nurse in a 23 bed unit at the IWK. Shannon, like many of her co-workers, was drawn to nursing because she cares for people. Shannon agrees with the concept of treating the family, not just the child. However, nursing shortages have resulted in less and less time available for anything but basic physical care. I want to ask the Minister of Health, what do you have to say to Shannon and others who go home from work cold inside with the knowledge that they simply do not have the time to care for the child or the families' emotional needs? What do you have to say to that, Mr. Minister?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I know there are some stresses in the system and we have health care professionals who do their best to cope with it. I want to tell you, in light of what the honourable member has described, this is why we put in the nursing initiative program. This is why, prior to the formal onset of labour negotiations, the government called the unions and the employers together and said that we wanted to address these work/life issues. We are conscious that there are work/life issues out there and we have made a particular effort to have the employers and the unions sit down and address these things. You would note, Mr. Speaker, and I go back to this, this is a health and safety issue. But I just want to point out to the honourable member that there was a tentative agreement reached between the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union and the employers and a lot of that had to do with workplace issues.

[3:15 a.m.]

MR. CORBETT: Workplace issues, Mr. Speaker, that is what collective agreements are usually about. On the other side, this same minister is condoning the chairmen of the DHAs to go and track lost time and go after nurses and other health care providers for innocent absenteeism. Shannon and other nurses like her has a family of her own. She tells us it is becoming harder and harder to spend time with that family she loves because she is exhausted and overworked. Shannon, when she is at home, has the phone ring constantly looking for her to come in on her day off. So I want to ask the Minister of Health, when will you realize that without improved compensation and working conditions, more of our nurses will leave this province and less will want to stay?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the current collective bargaining process, the agreements that were talked about, did provide for both of those things, improved wages, as well as improved working conditions. There are a series of about 31 initiatives that have happened in the past 22 months specifically related to nurses to try and, indeed they have, improve some of these things he is talking about. We aren't where we want to be. We know that, but we are continuing to work with the nurses to address their concerns.

[Page 5334]

MR. CORBETT: I wish this minister would get off his high horse, the nurses aren't worried about you, they are worried about their own conditions. The patients, Mr. Speaker, who are being admitted to hospital these days are much sicker than they used to be. Shannon cares for patients that, at one time, would have been cared for on a one-on-one situation in the ICU where the ratio, as I said, is one to one. Now it is not uncommon for Shannon to have six patients. My question to the minister is, will you explain to Shannon why your government will not address the nursing crisis in this province?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this government has done more to address the problems in the nursing profession in Nova Scotia in 22 months than had been done in the previous 10 years. We continue to work with the profession and with the District Health Authorities to improve things for all health care workers in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - NURSES STRIKE:

CONTINGENCY PLAN - MIN. KNOWLEDGE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. I would agree with that last statement - he has done more to nursing in the last 100 years in this province than anybody could ever have dreamed. The minister has made the ultimate insult to the nursing profession, which won't soon be forgotten. Last week, he stated that he could not trust the health care profession to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians, leaving him with his only option, Bill No. 68. All the newspaper ads and radio spots reinforces this government's mistrust for true professionals. My question to the minister is, given that the contingency plans were available on May 10th this year, why did the minister not bother to read them prior to embarking on this government's misguided strategy?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there was an ongoing process to try and develop contingency plans. The position of this government is a health and safety issue and, if you will excuse the expression, you can't suck and blow at the same time. This is a member who stands up there and says you have to have more of this and more of that. Things are being compromised because we don't add, add, add.

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

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I noticed that the contingency plan outlined for the Dartmouth General Hospital, and I would like to table that here, indicated the planned closure for 30 beds from June 30th to September 4th. My question to the minister is, why did the minister's print ads insist on blaming the closure of beds at the Dartmouth General Hospital on a potential nurses strike when it was clear that it is part of the minister's normal bungling business plan?

[Page 5335]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, a number of the District Health Authorities - in the matter of the summer, actually to try to give among other things, vacation time to nurses - have shut down units. I want to tell him that the 30 beds at the Dartmouth General Hospital were being closed for the summer slow-down to allow nurses to have vacation or other health care workers. Now he wants to reduce the beds in that hospital by another 50 per cent, and how, he can tell me that health and safety is being protected, then there is something the matter with that member.

DR. SMITH: Why doesn't the minister stop fear mongering and recognize that his health policies are putting people at risk, not health care workers?

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 68.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I rise to resume debate on Bill No. 68. After listening to Question Period today and the pathetic answers we received, the pathetic attitude of the government toward Bill No. 68 was evident here today. Those in the audience who are there listening to what this government had to say in regard to their position, it is evident that their position is no more than an agenda against health care workers and nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia.

They talked about rollbacks. The first thing the Minister of Health gets up and talks about a rollback, back some 10 years ago or 8 years ago. He forgets about the Donnie Cameron rollback that the Minister of Finance understands all too well, or the Minster of Transportation and Public Works understands all too well. In fact, if they want to talk about

[Page 5336]

the past, anytime they want to talk about the disastrous administration of the Buchanan era, we will stack that up any day of the week.

The bottom line here is that we have a government that said, we don't believe in the ability of nurses and health care workers to negotiate a fair contract. We are going to dictatorially drive, at them, our agenda. We are going to tell them, this is what we are going to do, and we are going to take away any rights and freedoms that they had before, any kind of democratic right that every other Canadian expects to have in a negotiation. It is appalling what this government is trying to do.

The comment was made earlier, and the more I listened to them, the more this will start becoming very clear to them, that they have misread their position on this issue. Some of them are a little long in the tooth, they understand politics very well, or I thought they did, but they have misread this issue. (Interruptions) I don't even think he started to shave yet did he? He is not that long in the tooth. He acts like he is a little child most of the time, so I don't know. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, this government over here laughs while the people up in the audience are back again tonight. It is good to see you again. That same crowd over there, do you see how they are laughing? They are laughing at this bill; they are laughing at Nova Scotians; they are laughing at nurses; they are laughing at health care workers. That is their attitude. A Rambo Justice Minister; we have a Minister of Transportation and Public Works over there who is making fun; we have a Premier who doesn't have a clue about what is going on in his Cabinet; we have a Minister of Finance who is actually calling the shots, along with some other spectators up on that side of the gallery; we have a Minister of Health over there who thinks this whole thing is a joke.

We will see how much of a joke it is when the people of the Province of Nova Scotia express their frustration at how you have mocked and not cared about what they stood for. The minister talks about messes. We could talk about the Buchanan mess; we could talk about the Cameron mess; we could talk about any mess that a Tory Government has had, any time you want Mr. Minister. Let's be real.

As we were talking about the fact that nurses in this province are considering moving away, and if this bill is brought in - and I was quoting from a conversation I had with Ms. Trish MacDonald - two senior nurses have indicated that they passed in their notices last week. One senior nurse is leaving in August, two nurses are denied the opportunity to take upgrades in ICU and IMCU because of the unsafety of the floor. The hospital is now asking for a nationwide search for nurses for general vascular surgery and general surgery. If they don't find those 12 nurses, then what is going to happen is beds will close. When beds close in those areas, it means people with breast cancer and those with bowel cancer will have longer waits; waits for beds and waits for opportunities to deal with the serious problems they are experiencing.

[Page 5337]

As I indicated earlier, in the nursing profession today, their roles are changing. There is more responsibility. The same with the health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia. Their responsibilities are becoming more and more serious and more acute. Yet this government says that they don't want to allow the ability for them to negotiate in good faith. Nurses are responsible for far too many patients; they are short of staff; their workload is greater and the stress is even higher.

I understand now that there are patients on the regular floors who would normally be in the ICU. This is another one of the current government's strategies on sustainability of the health care system. They use that term very loosely. The QE II Health Sciences Centre is surviving on nurses working overtime in order to meet the requirement of a basic health delivery system and some are questioning that.

What is going to happen when these nurses or these health care workers who are working overtime decide they are not going to do the overtime? They are going to say no, we don't want to do overtime. What is the answer to that question by the Minister of Health, or the Minister of Finance or the Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia? They don't have an answer for that. In fact, Ms. MacDonald, tells me that in the last two years she has never had a paycheque that did not have overtime in it. Two years and every paycheque she has gotten has had overtime in it. In other words, she has been responsible to work overtime almost every pay period for the last two years.

These nurses are saying they don't want to do that. They don't want to do that any more. They are tired of that because this government says they don't respect them; they don't care about them; and they are not going to allow a process of fairness to go forward. What they are saying is that they just want them to go and be quiet, don't cause a ruff, we are going to pay you what we think you are worth. Health care workers, we don't want to hear any noise from you. We in the Cabinet will decide how much you are going to be paid. (Interruption)

The Minister of Environment and Labour seems to be lost, he is looking for direction, I assume. The reality is that, Mr. Minister, you don't have to worry about direction, all you have to do is learn to follow the rest of the front bench and they will take you down the garden path.

Mr. Speaker, she goes on to say she came in on a regular basis on overtime not because she wanted to, she came in and worked the overtime, this Ms. MacDonald, because she cared about her co-workers and she cared about the patients.

[Page 5338]

[3:30 a.m.]

I am sure there are health care workers within the health care system, besides nurses, who are doing the same thing. They care about the stress and the pressure on the health care workers they are working with, the technicians and so on and so forth, as well as the patients. There are 20 nurses who have resigned since the strike vote at the QE II Health Sciences Centre alone, 20 nurses have resigned. In fact, in talking to some nurses, they are saying that there could very well be a larger number of resignations of nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia if this bill becomes a reality.

On top of this, there are 24 vacant, full-time RN positions and 6 advertised positions at the QE II Health Sciences Centre, and not enough applications to fill those requirements. What does that mean? What does that mean when you know you have openings now and they not being filled? That means that more beds will close. The services are going to be less to Nova Scotians. Yet, this government said, I remember all too well, that $46 million would fix the problem. I wonder what the Minister of Finance has to say about that. They spent almost $300 million more in health care since they have been in and they still haven't gotten it fixed. They said $46 million would resolve our health care worries.

A simple attitude for a simple understanding of a very complex problem. On Unit 7.3, Neurosurgery, there are seven vacant full-time positions not even advertised as I speak. There are also eight vacant positions for RNS on Unit 4.1. That adds up to over 45 vacant positions at the QE II Health Sciences Centre. Mr. Speaker, 45 vacant positions at the QE II Health Sciences Centre. For some people that might be hilarious, for most Nova Scotians that is a concern. Yet this government says they are going to try to bring nurses to Nova Scotia.

I can assure you Bill No. 68 will not be the bill to bring nurses to Nova Scotia. This bill will not retain nurses in Nova Scotia. As I have already pointed out, just dealing with the QE II Health Sciences Centre, we have had 20 resignations since this bill was brought in. This government has lost its understanding of what it is going to take to make the health care system work. I feel sorry for the many backbenchers who haven't got a clue what is going on. They are soon going to find out.

On June 21, 2001, a recruiter is coming to town for medical laboratory technologists. I understand that when the notice came out about this individual coming to town there was some interest. It is called, Medical Laboratory Technologists, John Chapman of Dynacare Kasper Medical Laboratories will be holding an information session about jobs in Alberta. It is going to be held at the Delta Halifax in the MacKay Room on Thursday, June 21st at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome. This is the ad; that is the ad that has been posted.

Generally that hasn't had a lot of uptake. That is the ad right there, you have seen that before. I understand there were around four people interested in going. As I understand, as of yesterday there were about 20 people, 25 people who are going to go to this job fair, for

[Page 5339]

jobs in Alberta. What does that tell you? You don't have to be overly bright to figure out if people are coming here from Alberta and you are going to have 25 people attend the seminar, and maybe you lose those people, that is going to cause even more pressure on an already squeezed situation in our health delivery system in the Province of Nova Scotia.

This morning there are 25 people who are going to attend this meeting. My only hope is that they stay, but I can understand their frustration in staying in a province that has no caring, no compassion, no sense of morale fabric about the negotiated process. They have no sense of fairness. The collective bargaining process is an interesting one. The situation should have been resolved, in our view, through negotiations not through legislation. This government didn't even allow the process to follow its normal course. They jumped the gun. They either got scared or they got weak or they just didn't care.

So what they brought in is this so-called back-to-work legislation that has a lot more meaning than just back-to-work legislation. It is back-to-work legislation and taking away rights of individuals, meaning that the Cabinet will now deem the salary, the benefits, the package, and no matter what the Premier has to say, if the Premier is so self-righteous in his attitude toward what they are being paid, why are so many nurses and health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia outraged? If this Tory Government thinks they have such a great pulse on the attitude and what they are prepared to offer is being so fair in Nova Scotia, why are there so many people upset?

They are upset not only on the issue of salary, they are upset with the way this government has approached this issue. The nurses have said in their contingency plans that they would leave the picket line if there was a need for help in a hospital. The Minister of Health, the Minister of Finance, the Premier of this province have said we don't believe you, we don't trust you. We don't trust that you will do that. They said that to nurses and they said that to health care workers. These are people who spent 5, 10, 20, 25 years, some maybe only a few years, they are so young but some have been around a little bit longer. How they must feel after giving up that many years of service for the public and to provide health care to Nova Scotians. I think they are devastated; I think they are demoralized by this government's attack on their credibility and their integrity. There are clauses in this bill that are so draconian, that are so wrong.

If the Minister of Transportation and Public Works gets grumpy one morning down in the Cabinet Room and they are negotiating something with some of their employees, that is an essential service all of sudden, maybe, and I am going to tell you what you are going to get. Maybe the Minister of Education has a grumpy morning some Thursday morning in the Cabinet Room and they are in negotiations and says, well, that is enough, I don't want to put up with this any more, I am going to say that teaching is an essential service in Nova Scotia. Bang, I am going to tell you what you are going to get. Maybe the Minister of Justice will have the same attitude with some of his employees, or the Minister of Finance.

[Page 5340]

Well, they have the ability to do that under this bill. They have the ability to do that in this bill. As was mentioned yesterday, now, time passes by here, the one thing this Tory Government has done, it has united the unions in the Province of Nova Scotia. I don't know if that is what they wanted to do, but that is what they have done. This government talks about how this is a health issue. We heard the answers today that it is really a fiscal issue. It is not a matter of health and safety, it is not a matter of health and safety and sustainability, it is a matter of a fiscal issue.

This Minister of Finance has had over $500 million additional revenue since he has been in power over and above what he had projected. He has had $249 million extra revenue in the last fiscal year, notwithstanding the sale of NSRL and the net proceeds of some $140 million that he is throwing into last year's revenue. The minister stands up and goes on about what he spent the money on. That is the same Minister of Finance who said that they will not have overruns in anybody's departmental budgets, they will manage.

We were saying for almost six or eight months that this minister is having a windfall of profits, and what is he doing with the money? Well, the reality between the $249 million of additional revenue, most of which came from Ottawa; the $140-plus million from the sale of NSRL; the hidden tax revenues they are getting; the user fees they are charging, all this government is doing is setting up these slush funds so they can give it back in a 10 per cent reduction of tax.

In the meantime, the health care workers and the nurses in the Province of Nova Scotia are being told, tough luck; we don't want to negotiate in good faith; we don't want to negotiate with fairness, what we want to do is run a dictatorship approach to their view of collective bargaining, which is not working. Mr. Premier and Mr. Ministers, it will not work. Binding arbitration, there is nothing in this bill, Bill No. 68, that talks about binding arbitration. One has to ask the question, why? Why wouldn't they allow for binding arbitration? In Bill No. 68, there is nothing in here about binding arbitration.

I remember the paramedics, when they were here, after the debate in the House and the fact that the operators were in the Law Amendments Committee explaining what their job is, finally, the Minister of Health and the Premier became born again to the realization and the understanding of what those workers, those health workers were doing for the people in the Province of Nova Scotia. They allowed them to have a process of binding arbitration, and rightfully so.

Now we have nurses and health care workers and they are saying no to that ability. Either they don't know what they have been doing or what these individuals have done or are doing currently, or they simply don't care. They simply don't care. The more I listen to them, I think that is really the reality of where they are.

[Page 5341]

Mr. Speaker, this government talked and the Premier talked about trust, accountability, transparency and openness. Do you remember that? Do you remember those words? I remember some of the members of the backbench who said the reason they ran is because of, in their view, the integrity of their Leader. They decided to get into politics because they figured he was someone they could trust, somebody who would bring fairness and integrity to their political Party that has been through so much embarrassment over the years.

Some of the members are right here in this Legislature today, who said they would run because of the integrity of the Premier. Well, that same Premier, Mr. Speaker, has lost his moral fabric when it comes to dealing with nurses and health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia. Either he thought this scheme up or he was convinced by his senior ministers that this is what he has to do, because all the slush funds would be depleted unless they allowed this bill to go forward.

Nurses are upset; health care workers are upset. We have had so many letters that have come in time and time again, to us all, about their frustration. This letter is, "To whom it may concern. This note is to voice our opposition to the healthcare bill presently being debated. Be advised that to pass it will cause a critical loss of nurses in Nova Scotia. We are definitely angry and many of us do plan to leave this province. You are making a mistake if you pass it." This is by a Mrs. MacLean, RN. Now I don't know if anybody is paying attention over there, but there is a nurse who is making it very clear what her position is relative to this bill.

[3:45 a.m.]

We have a Ms. LeBlanc who wrote, "You obviously do not know any nurses personally or professionally if you believe there's even a remote possibility that we, as nurses, would intentionally allow harm to come to our patients. Stop this offensive law, give health care workers what we deserve and then maybe our nurses will stay in Nova Scotia (and maybe some nurses might even be attracted to this province!) All health care workers deserve better treatment. Please stop this legislation before it becomes law!" That is a handwritten letter.

I have another letter from Ms. Lavoie, RN. "I have been nursing for forty-one years and for the first time I fear for the continuation of care for people of Nova Scotia if bill 68 is passed. The younger nurses are not going to stand by and be degraded." - Do you hear the words they are using, be degraded? - "They will up and leave very quickly with all the generous offerings from United States and other parts of Canada. We are a dying profession. It should be a big mandate of the government to retain all nurses we presently have instead of forcing them to choose to go elsewhere. How can we feel respectful of our profession when the government demeans us so?" They are asking them to reconsider Bill No. 68.

[Page 5342]

I have a letter from Colchester Regional Hospital in regard to being upset with the proposed Bill No. 68. This is from Ms. Keating, an RN. "I have worked 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 (i.e.: wages, education, vacations, etc., etc.) It is such a disappointment that my own government does not know this. It is because of your treatment of nurses that I feel I am being forced to once again seek employment in the United States. I will be interested in seeing just what the Nova Scotia government will do when we Canadian nurses leave this province in great numbers. Explain this . . ." - members of the Progressive Conservative Party - ". . . to the public that you say you are so concerned about!!!!" Ms. Keating, who worked in the United States of America and came back home to work in Nova Scotia only to find that her own government treats her with less respect than that of our friends south of the border.

Here is another letter signed by three RNs: Ms. Lewis, Ms. Hutchinson and Ms. Falle. They talk about dictatorship. They talk about how this government has turned into a dictatorship. They talk about the fact that democracy should have been part and parcel of what this Conservative Government should have been bringing forward in dealing with the workers in Nova Scotia. They go on to talk about the Tory platform of John Hamm and he, ". . . SAID health care workers 'WILL NOT STAY UNLESS THEY HAVE A REWARDING PROFESSIONAL ENVIRONMENT.'" How can this Premier, just a few months ago say what he just finished saying, '. . . WILL NOT STAY UNLESS THEY HAVE A REWARDING PROFESSIONAL ENVIRONMENT", and now turns around and says to the nurses, we don't respect you, we don't believe what you are saying is true and we are concerned about the future so we are going to impose our rule of law on you.

It goes on to say, "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." You hear this time and time again. Fairness and respect. Fairness and respect. Is that too much to ask of a government, to treat its people with fairness and respect? Is it too much to ask a Progressive Conservative Party to treat people with fairness and respect? Is it too much to ask this government to treat its employees with fairness and respect? Is it too much to ask a Premier, who is a medical doctor, who dealt with health care workers and with nurses on a daily basis, that he expected them to respect him and treat him fairly and with respect, to now have a Premier who doesn't want to treat the people who work with him with the same amount of fairness and respect?

"We would like to know which way you plan to vote on BILL 68 and your rational behind your decision." Well, if it is any indication of their rationale in this Question Period, then I don't know if the members in the gallery - I don't know if they are still here, I don't blame them, it is now 3:55 a.m. (Interruption) Are there still some up there?

[Page 5343]

AN HON. MEMBER: Three of them.

MR. DOWNE: Three of them up there. Just to show you how dedicated they are, here it is 3:55 in the morning and for many of us it's been a long day. It's been a long two days. But you know, we are here and we are the ones who are doing the talking. You guys are just over there sitting down. You are on a 12 hour shift, some of you are on an 18 hour shift. These nurses and health care workers work 12 hour shifts all the time and they don't get to sit around. They are not sitting down looking at computer screens and playing this or that or reading books, they are working providing health care, saving lives every day; 12 hour shifts every day. It is not easy, and they are not complaining about that. They are complaining of the fact that they were asking to be treated with dignity, respect for those jobs they do, and to allow them to have a fair and open process of negotiation. That's not the way this government wants to deal with it.

I have another letter from an RN, Ms. Salter. "I am an Emergency Nurse at Colchester Regional Hospital." I wonder whose riding that would be in? "I am very disappointed at the way the Nova Scotia government is treating the health care workers. 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. I still have many Canadian co-workers in the United States and cannot give them any positive reason to return to this province. Because of this proposed bill I too am currently seeking employment again in the United States for myself and am sure many more will follow."

This will be on their conscience, Mr. Speaker. This will be on the backs of this government. This will be on their watch. This will be their watch and their agenda that will be accountable and they will be accountable for this.

You know, Mr. Speaker, all they are looking at over on that side of the House is how they can run the clock. All they can think about is how much longer they have to sit here and run a clock so they can get this bill passed because they say they have the power in the House. They have the majority of votes and so what they are going to do is wait it out. We are asking, on behalf of the nurses and the health care workers in this province, to listen to what they are telling us to tell you about this bill.

I talked to a couple out in the foyer, in the front entrance here, this evening, or I guess it was this morning. They are saying why won't that group over there, the Tory Government, listen when you people are speaking on this side of the House because what you are saying is what we are asking you to say and tell them? So they see you, they see what you are doing. They see how you are approaching this issue and they won't forget. We talk about recruiting nurses, we talk about the need of more nurses. We talk about the fact that there is a shortage of nurses and health care workers in our province.

[Page 5344]

Just last month, the Finance Minister from Ontario introduced his first budget. The Health Minister was supposed to allocate $8.4 billion to hospitals. That is $100 million less than last year. The plan didn't last very long. Now that is a Tory Government, by the way, in Ontario. Mr. Clement, who I understand is the Minister of Health, said last week that the hospitals would be given additional money. Now maybe the Tories are smarter in Ontario than they are down here. Maybe we don't have as smart a Tory here as they have in Ontario.

The Minister of Health in Ontario was able to convince the Minister of Finance in Ontario that they needed that additional $100 million to make the health system work. This change was made in response to threats from the hospitals of drastic cuts in services and massive layoffs. How did Mr. Clement and the Minister of Finance and their Cabinet colleagues think the hospital budgets could be trimmed without serious consequences arising? That is the same question we can ask this group over here. How can they think for a moment that there is not going to be a mass exodus or whatever of the health care workers and nurses in the province with a bill such as Bill No. 68?

Mr. Speaker, my time is almost up and now I will turn it over to my other colleagues who are prepared to speak. This is the third time I have spoken on this bill and I will be looking forward to my opportunities to speak on it again but I hope at some point this government will listen to what is being said and pay attention and learn that this is a very serious issue, one that they will be wearing for some time unless they are prepared to accept the reality that change needs to be given and this bill should be torn up and started over again.

[4:00 a.m.]

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Well, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, it is nice to see you in the Chair again. You know there are advantages to having an all-night debate. You get a copy of The Chronicle-Herald fresh and new. I always wondered what time The Chronicle-Herald or The Daily News arrives in my mailbox out at 4909 St. Margaret's Bay Road but, lo and behold, it is here and I encourage members to have a close look at the letters to the editor because I am going to bring a few of them to your attention. My good friend from New Waterford is here and he wanted me to bring this one to the attention of the members, particularly from Cape Breton, but the tone of the discussion that we have to take place during the next hour should be that we should reflect on this legislation. We should look at it carefully and it should be withdrawn and reconsidered.

Check this letter to the editor in this morning's Chronicle-Herald. It says, "On June 11, 1925, police shot Billy Davis during labour unrest. On June 14, 2001, the Hamm government put a gun to the heads of 10,000 health care workers in this province who are engaging in a

[Page 5345]

legal collective bargaining process. We've come a long way, eh, baby?" That letter comes from Cathy Mosher, a social worker in Chester Basin.

I know that my good friend, the member for Cape Breton Centre, the member who lives in New Waterford, knows how important Davis Day is and how long and hard the people of Cape Breton and the people of Nova Scotia have fought for the rights of collective bargaining, but that letter to the editor in this morning's Chronicle-Herald says a lot of things. That's the sort of tone that Nova Scotians are ready to go to the wall about and tomorrow night - or is it tonight, what day am I on? - it's tonight at 6:00 p.m., they will be at the wall. There will be the barricades outside. There will be the police protecting us, Mr. Speaker, I don't know from what; they will be protecting us from these demonstrators who are coming here in numbers in honour of things such as Bill Davis, in honour of the long struggle of Cape Bretoners and Nova Scotians for labour rights across this province.

During the next few moments - 57 minutes is all I have left, Mr. Speaker, time flies - I have many things to say. I want to bring to the attention of the House a few concerns that have been brought to my attention because, you know, I am fortunate enough to only be about 25 minutes from my constituency office. So I took the opportunity on the way home to get freshened up and to change my shirt - I hope you notice, Mr. Speaker, it is not the same one and when you wear two different in one day, I know you noticed the difference but when I stopped into my constituency office, lo and behold, there are more e-mails. There are more faxes and, of course, there are more telephone calls which I was fortunate enough to return during the last couple of hours, and I mean by the last couple of hours before midnight.

I want also to point out to you, Mr. Speaker, that there has been a question asked time and time again, Nova Scotians want to know what happened to collective bargaining in this province. More specifically, one of the questions that I was asked in the evening hours before returning to this House, what was wrong with compulsory or binding arbitration? Is that not something that this government should have considered and that health workers across this province, I believe, or the health workers who I have heard from would willingly have supported that particular step, but we have gone right by that and so we are at this particular juncture where I would like to point out to the members opposite from this morning's Chronicle-Herald these letters to the editor.

I am not going to read them all, Mr. Speaker. I would like to thank the Page for photo enhancing them so that I can read particular sections. Let's begin with a letter that starts from Elizabeth A. McAdam from Wilmot who writes, "Enough is enough"; now, how personal can an attack become, "The government has absolutely no right to remove the right to strike from the health care workers of this province." And here, unfortunately, is that personal attack that Nova Scotians have become so upset that they turn to comments like this. Elizabeth asks, "Is Jamie Muir's middle name, by any chance, Adolf?" That's a personal assault. I know that the Minister of Health finds that a stinging comment, but here it is, it is in this morning's Chronicle-Herald.

[Page 5346]

Let's look at what Crystal Allan from Apple River writes. Her headline says, "Find it ironic? Does anyone, besides myself, not find it ironic that the provincial government does not trust nurses enough to think they would not provide essential services during a strike, but would allow their families and themselves to put their lives into nurses' hands if they are sick? To be their advocate, if there is no one else to do so?"

I don't want to repeat all these because if some of the members return to the House, perhaps they have a copy of The Chronicle-Herald and I know that in many cases members in the gallery are critical of us during these late debates, or these early debates if I may use that in reverse, of reading the paper. Well, I don't think they would be upset if you read the editorial page and if you read the letters to the editor today.

Let's look at "Tyrannical stand" which comes from Marcia Sutherland and Norm Sabowitz in Halifax. Let's look at "Call to action" from Danny Cavanagh, the vice-president of CUPE Nova Scotia. Let's look at "War on labour" from Bill Gray in Halifax. Let's look at, if you could take a moment, Mr. Speaker, and I will table these for the notice of the members if they wish, it comes from Alana MacLellan, "Why should I stay? I have just completed my second year of the bachelor of science in nursing program at St. Francis Xavier University. I am writing in regard to the government's second offer to the NSGEU nurses. Their first offer was eight per cent, retroactive to November." Of course, this young woman goes on and clearly outlines, she has been following this quite through to where we are now, "Two years from now I will graduate from nursing (with a $50,000 debt). Can you give me a good reason why I should stay in Nova Scotia?"

There is after all the member for Antigonish who stands in his place so often and lauds the wonderful accomplishments of St. F.X., whether it is on the football field or in the academic classrooms, but here is one of your potential graduates, Mr. Minister, from the university in your hometown, who is saying why should I stay? Why should she stay in this province when she sees what has been happening to nurses' rights and to collective bargaining rights in Nova Scotia?

David Phillips, a paramedic and volunteer firefighter from Port Hawkesbury has a letter to the editor. He says, "I am no expert, but I think it could be possible that the government is infringing on the rights and freedoms that are supposed to be fully protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms." He goes on to question, of course, what is happening with this collective bargaining agreement.

Joyce Balcom, an RN from Halifax, "I am an ICU nurse at the QE II Health Sciences Centre and a member of the NSGEU. Last Thursday was a sad day for Nova Scotia."

These letters are from average Nova Scotians. These letters come from people who have concerns and they have taken the time and the courage to write to one of the major newspapers in this province and I suppose The Cape Breton Post has letters to the editor in

[Page 5347]

it. I am sure The Daily News has letters to the editor in it, but that's the newspaper that has arrived in this House so early this morning. I hope members opposite look clearly at those letters to the editor and I am sure that if there are people in the gallery, they won't mind them reading the letters to the editor or looking at whatever they have in the way of an editorial cartoon, but let's not go there. Let's talk about the fact that this is a serious concern for Nova Scotians and they want some issues addressed.

Nova Scotians aren't going to be fooled. Very quickly they've made the connection between Bill No. 20 and Bill No. 68. Now, Mr. Speaker, I know your memory is good. Bill No. 20 was that piece of legislation which was brought in here recently by this government and it was a reorganization, or was it a real centralization of power into the hands of the inner circle of the Cabinet, and many Nova Scotians, many in Timberlea-Prospect asked me, what's this big deal about Bill No. 20 and what's an omnibus bill?

Now, Mr. Speaker, those are friends of mine who are asking me questions about what we are doing in this historic Chamber and patiently I would try to explain what I thought an omnibus bill was, but also what Bill No. 20 was attempting to do and Bill No. 20 passed. Bill No. 20 went ahead because they have the numbers on that side. Bill No. 20 has now been in power for a very short time, promulgated and ready to be, after all, a new law in Nova Scotia, but what is the connection between Bill No. 20 and Bill No. 68? Bill No. 68 is taking the power of Bill No. 20, concentrating it, and using it particularly when it comes to labour negotiations and how collective bargaining is being affected by the province's health care workers.

Health care workers have a long history in this province, Mr. Speaker. They will remember, many of them will remember the series of events that they have been enduring over the last couple of days, but last week I had the opportunity to meet a nurse from New Waterford. Actually I want the Speaker to know that she admits that she is a friend of the member for Cape Breton Centre and she admits it in public, so that's an accomplishment. She, along with my good friend from New Waterford and myself, sat and had a talk - I actually did most of the listening for a change - and this veteran nurse drew some very serious analogies for me when she pointed out the lessons that she learned from the June 1975 strike of nurses in this province. The lessons that she learned are ones that she said she will never forget because she believes that history is truly repeating itself.

Mr. Speaker, I made a few notes during that conversation. I have kept them and I must admit I made them on a bit of a napkin because we were at a place where we could enjoy an adult refreshment and we were having a conversation about something that meant a great deal to this nurse. I took them off that napkin and I have made notes of them now. That veteran nurse from Cape Breton has said she will never forget the lessons of June 1975, the growth of the profession, the militancy of the profession, but the bitterness and suspicion that has been with her since those events that many long years ago, 26 years ago if my math serves me right. So I don't have to go into the history lesson here and I know the Minister

[Page 5348]

of Justice was paying close attention the other evening when I was talking about the history of that strike, but 1975 was a watershed mark for nurses in this province.

The militancy, the growth of professionalism, but the bitterness and suspicion that has resulted is something that will not ever be forgotten by that veteran nurse. What is the concern? What is the agenda of the government. The question comes back time and time again, why blame health care workers for the budgetary problems that this group over here inherited from the members of the Third Party? I have heard them many times say that. I have heard the Minister of Finance many times quite correctly point out that many of the problems that this government is dealing with, it inherited from that group there, but why blame health workers? Why blame the long lineups on health workers? Why blame the bed closures on health workers and then why take away their collective bargaining rights?

What is the agenda of this government? Is after all the first target health care workers? Who is going to be the second target? Is it going to be teachers, other government employees, liquor store workers? Those are the sort of questions that Nova Scotians are asking. Those are the sort of questions, Mr. Speaker, that Nova Scotians want answers to.

[4:15 a.m.]

Today at 6:00 o'clock, around this historic House, many thousands of Nova Scotians - not just health care workers but workers in all walks of life - will be here and they will be looking for answers. I can assure you there will be teachers here, there will be government employees here, there will be paramedics here. There were paramedics earlier, Mr. Speaker, as you might have remembered, there were paramedics here earlier in the Chamber as they were, for a few moments tonight, following this debate and listening to what was happening to their fellow health care workers because a short number of months ago they were going through the same bitterness, the same suspicion with this very same government.

Workers across this province, not just health care workers, they want to know what the agenda is of this government. You know it would be a wonderful opportunity, it would be a wonderful opportunity indeed if the Minister of Environment and Labour would stand in his place and reassure Nova Scotians that this is not the first step of an attack on one government employee after another, that this is not the way this government is going to go, that they are going to have respect and faith in workers across this province. Health care workers don't see that. Health care workers are suspicious, they are angry, they are frustrated.

The important thing is Nova Scotians are supporting health care workers. Nova Scotians share those concerns and in spite of these offensive ads, the $43,000 worth of ads that my good friend, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, brought to the minister's and the Premier's attention this evening during Question Period, this offensive ad that has run in newspapers - and I just want to bring it to the attention of the members opposite again, it is offensive. In fact, it is misleading where it says, "A strike by thousands of health care

[Page 5349]

workers would leave Nova Scotians without critical health services - this is an unacceptable risk." Mr. Speaker, that is a falsehood. Essential services, as we have been assured many times, would continue to be guaranteed in this province if there was a labour interruption. That sort of false advertising is inexcusable. It is also inexcusable when you realize that public funds are used to pay for those ads whether it is in the papers or on the radio stations across this province.

Mr. Speaker, I want to bring to your attention, if I may, and I know you are looking forward to hearing from some of these people again, and these are Nova Scotians and health care workers that I have had an opportunity to speak to and listen to. One, in particular, is one that I would like to begin because I know the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank is probably paying close attention to the number of calls that he might be receiving. I was asked to deliver this message. It comes from Kim Pellerine. Kim is a graduate of Sackville High School. Kim and Scott live on St. George Boulevard in Kingswood, an area that the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank and I share the responsibility for, an area that miraculously just received all kinds of new asphalt. That is because they are within the core area, the HRM is showing the initiative there and the Department of Transportation and Public Works had not, under any consideration, taken one lick of the credit for any of that pavement.

Kim Pellerine is a nurse. In fact, she is the daughter of a nurse. Kim works in the intensive care unit at the IWK. She explained to me that she takes care of some of these young children after they have had a major operation, cardiac surgery or some kind of trauma and Kim is concerned; Kim is also very angry. I want you to know that Kim Pellerine, as a student at Sackville High School, an outstanding athlete, real solid student throughout her years at that high school, always wanted to be a nurse. She has now achieved that goal, but frustration and the anger has resulted because of that. This young person and her husband, they are expecting their first child in August, and as they expect their first child, the question Kim asked me is, Mr. Estabrooks, why should we stay?

Now, I mean when I look at the fact that she is polite enough to still call me Mr. Estabrooks, considering my current line of work, she brings the concern to me and I said to Kim, you make sure you call the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, and you make sure that you express your point of view to the other MLA who is also responsible for the growing subdivision in which you live. There is a young health care worker who has reached her frustration limit and that is a very young nurse we cannot afford to lose in this province. We cannot afford to continue to lose young nurses such as Kim as she considers her future in the career that she wanted to be a member of for so long.

I want also to bring to the members' attention Frances Earle. Frances is a graduate from St. Rita's in Sydney and I just want to read one paragraph from Frances' letter which she sent to me. "I have been registered in five provinces" - and she lists them - Ontario, B.C., P.E.I., Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia. I have obtained multiple and wonderful experiences which enabled me to adapt and work well not only in different cultures but in

[Page 5350]

different environments." Here is the key part of the paragraph, Mr. Speaker, "I never felt so abused as here, in Nova Scotia, my home province." That letter comes from another constituent who has brought that concern to my attention and I thank her for allowing me to bring it to the floor of the House.

You know I hear from other members' constituents. There is a part of my constituency in Timberlea-Prospect that is often confused with Chester-St. Margaret's. In fact, I am aware that the Minister of Justice was in the Chester-St. Margaret's constituency the other day to speak to the AGM and he went to the Seabright Legion where he spoke on behalf of his Party to the members present, but you know there is part of Chester-St. Margaret's, the Peggy's Cove Road in particular, they think they belong to Timberlea-Prospect because I constantly hear from them, and this isn't a matter of bridges and roads this time, this is a matter for health care.

This young woman, on Sunday afternoon, paid me a visit, on Father's Day, and came to my home apologizing for interrupting the weekend but sat on my front deck with my wife, myself, and my dog and we had a conversation about her concerns. This young woman has taken the time to put her thoughts on paper. Her name is Paula Hodson and Paula is a resident of Chester-St. Margaret's. I encouraged Paula to make sure that she calls her MLA and make sure that he knows that she is not pleased.

So Paula writes, "On a personal note, if this bill does prevail and become a law in Nova Scotia, it will be difficult for me to continue to work under these conditions of dictation. It is already difficult to work, being continually understaffed as there is a critical shortage of radiation therapists in Nova Scotia. You may think the employees will cower and just live with this decision but you are wrong, you are very wrong." She continues, "Leaving the province altogether is another possibility our household has been thinking of. As I still own a home in British Columbia, moving back there will not be difficult." But here is the concluding paragraph from Paula, "In conclusion, I beseech you to rethink your position on

Bill 68. Think about all we have told you. Put yourself in our shoes, in your brother's shoes, in the shoes of your neighbour. Is Bill 68 the legacy you wish to leave to Nova Scotians." Another Nova Scotian who has taken the time to respond, to put her ideas, her opinions on paper. Hopefully, someone is listening to her.

Notice, Mr. Speaker, who does Paula come to? She comes to the MLA in the adjoining riding of Timberlea-Prospect. She comes to him because she doesn't believe that the member for Chester-St. Margaret's is going to listen. That's a challenge for that member. I hope he is in contact with Paula and I will share that letter with him at the first occasion.

Tonight, actually yesterday - if I continue to make that mistake, my apologies - I spoke to Janice Stewart who works at the QE II and Janice drives that Highway No. 101 twice a day. Janice is from, I believe, the riding of Kings South. Now, Kings South, of course, is a way down the road from the QE II, but Janice has taken that effort, as a specialist in the

[Page 5351]

health care business, with 18 years of experience, she is very concerned about the top-down negotiations; her term, Mr. Speaker. I was speaking to Janice from my home earlier tonight. She is concerned about the top-down negotiations. Well, if my geography serves me correctly, the member for Kings South is the Minister of Environment and Labour. Now it would seem to me, and I pointed that out to Janice, if she has this sort of concern about labour negotiations in this province, she should contact her own MLA. I will share Janice's number with that MLA if he would like to be in contact with her. I wished her the best of luck and a safe drive to and from Highway No. 101 during the many long days and nights that she has travelled that shift work before.

I also want to bring to your attention, and I know that members opposite are listening avidly, here is a veteran from Louisiana. Her name is Jacqueline Morris. Jacqueline Morris is shocked by how uninformed the Minister of Health seems to be. Now I want Jacqueline to be my witness on this. When I had this conversation with Jacqueline from my home yesterday, and when I talked to her about the fact that I knew the Minister of Health in a previous career, I sometimes wonder who is giving the information to the Minister of Health. Is it his high-priced staff who are keeping him removed from the front-line health care workers? Does he actually believe what he says in this place some days? Does he actually believe in the answers that he gives to the media? I mean, who is giving this Minister of Health that information? Is he that badly informed about his own department? Because the Minister of Health, the Minister of Environment and Labour, the Cabinet Ministers have gone too far.

That's the message that Nova Scotians want me, as the MLA for Timberlea-Prospect, to deliver. They have gone too far. It's like going out and beating a hockey player over the head with a stick, when really that is a penalty in more ways than one, when a good elbow would probably do just the same. Now you get two minutes for elbowing, Mr. Speaker, but to continue the sports analogy, you don't have to beat them senseless with a hockey stick. The message can be said just as well. Yes, there were labour negotiations underway in this province and, yes, it looked like there could be the possibility of a labour interruption. Why wasn't the logical step taken. I think many members would have looked at this legislation and said, you know, this is a back-to-work piece of legislation, That is what I expected when I got the call. This is a back-to-work piece of legislation but it is much more than that. It is a concentration of power in the hands of a few Cabinet Ministers. It is allowing a precedent that will not be forgotten by Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the other and that precedent is an interruption to the collective bargaining process.

[4:30 p.m.]

Now, Mr. Speaker, I have other concerns to bring to your attention. I would like to mention Sherri Rose. Sherri is a constituent of mine, from Timberlea-Prospect. She lives in Lakeside and she wants this brought to the Minister of Health's attention. She sent me this e-mail. She refers to him as he but she is talking about the Minister of Health, the MLA for

[Page 5352]

Truro-Bible Hill. "He belittled health care workers with his comments saying he had 'serious doubts' about emergency workers reporting for work in life and death situations. I believe he is trying to scare the public into thinking there will be no emergency services and make the public think we are putting their lives at risk." That, of course, was the infamous, if we can say that now, interview that the Minister of Health held with Jean Laroche of CBC. That was a public relations disaster.

So who gave the Minister of Health the advice to say those sorts of things? Was it his deputy minister, who we have never met? You know it never ceases to amaze me, and I have brought this to the House's attention before, that during estimates, the Minister of Education brings in her deputy minister and with his New Brunswick experience, I know that he, through that experience of estimates, learned some things of how we do things in Nova Scotia. Other ministers sit in this Legislature - as they are allowed - with their deputy ministers but the Deputy Minister of Health never once has shown up here for estimates, never once has he been accountable in a public way. Now maybe he believes the Minister of Health has all the answers anyway, so I don't have to be there, but I truly believe that the Deputy Minister of Health is giving the minister some very bad advice and that if the Minister of Health would only listen to front-line health care workers, if only he would be appreciative of the fact that the people who really know about the system are these health care workers.

Let's be clear on something. It is more than just what they are getting paid. What is really bothering these health care workers, let's face it, Mr. Speaker, it is the fact that collective bargaining rights for that particular group of workers in this province no longer seem to be in the tradition of an open, democratic way of doing things. Now it is chop, now it is off and collective bargaining for these health care workers is finished until April 2004. What a way to treat these people with the lack of respect and that anger, you are going to see it tomorrow. Again, I apologize, you are going to see it today. You are going to see the streets of this city full of workers, not just health care workers but you are going to see them and they are angry and they have very good cause to be angry.

Now we understand that there is more involved than just the amount of money that they are receiving. Don't fall for that red herring, members opposite. That is not just the issue. The issue is they have gone too far. There are clauses in that bill that if they were withdrawn, if they were amended, if they were changed, that piece of legislation could perhaps be much more palatable to this MLA and to other members on this side of the House. So really it is up to some of those members opposite to make sure that that offensive piece of legislation is changed.

Mr. Speaker, you probably heard me read resolutions earlier this evening. I had the opportunity to read a resolution from an LPN from Timberlea-Prospect. She says, I am very angry, as we have done our part for the cause over the past 10 years - surely you see that this is bad legislation!

[Page 5353]

If you want further evidence, let me turn to another constituent of mine. This is not a government, she writes, it is a dictatorship. Now, Mr. Speaker, you are a fair-minded politician. You have a long-standing democratic tradition that you represent in your constituency. When people accuse us, and they are accusing us, not just that side, but they are making comments that are disparaging, disrespectful and they are questioning the democratic principles on which you were elected, they are making comments and comparisons that are unfair, are they not? Do we not still live in a democracy or is this a dictatorship?

Mr. Speaker, I have to share with you a quick note that I received. It is an offensive one and it involves a word that truly bothers me, an e-mail which said, "This whole exercise reminds me of a Gestapo state." There is that sort of terminology again. That is offensive to the traditions of this province, and that is offensive to Nova Scotians, no matter what their job, no matter what they do each day.

I have another letter but I am going to save it because, as you well know, when your time runs out it is important to make sure that you finish with a flourish. So I am going to put that one aside and it is one that is of real special significance for me as the MLA for Timberlea-Prospect.

Mr. Speaker, I want to share with you that I received a phone call from a young woman from Thunder Bay this evening. Now maybe you have heard about this young woman from Thunder Bay. She is the daughter of Carolyn Estabrooks; in fact she even admits once in a while that she has a father named Bill. My daughter is working at CBC Radio in Thunder Bay. She has a journalism degree and a history honours degree from Mount Allison University.

She is alarmed when she knows that one of the lead items on the national news is labour difficulties in her home province, so in the middle of the many other calls that I was receiving and returning, I get one of those long distance beeps on my phone, and when I get a long-distance beep, I know it means one thing, send money, dad. I finished off the conversation with the constituent, pressed *69 and sure enough it comes up, Thunder Bay, Ontario. When I called this young journalist from Thunder Bay who just happens, of course, to be my daughter, her concern comes back to the fact how badly it makes Nova Scotians look because this is the same young woman who has a very close friend who is a graduate nurse and is considering offers to move outside of this province.

The Minister of Justice and I had an opportunity earlier today to watch a television special. It was one of the items on the national news in which the CBC was focusing on Waco, Texas. Waco, Texas, is a big-time recruiter of nurses in Nova Scotia and do you know what some of the things they offer Waco nurses? I mean we can talk about all kinds of special delights. We can talk about moving expenses, and if you live close enough to Dallas-Fort Worth, you can talk about - are you ready? - season tickets to see the Dallas Cowboys.

[Page 5354]

Those are the sort of incentives that young nurses from Nova Scotia and from other parts of Canada are looking at to perhaps consider going to, of all places, Waco, Texas.

As my daughter said, what do you expect her friend to do? Do you expect her friend to say, loyally, I will stay in Nova Scotia because of the quality of life? Yes, that is a key factor. We do have a quality of life here. We do have a special place to live, but I also think that health care workers want to have certain basic rights of collective bargaining that are enshrined in this province and enshrined in this country. It was in 1937, two years before the outbreak of the Second World War, that legislation was introduced guaranteeing the rights of collective bargaining in this province, the very sort of issue that William Davis died for in Cape Breton, the very sort of issue that we recognize historically in this province on Davis Day. Since 1937 we have had the rights of collective bargaining in this province. Now this government brings in a piece of legislation that curtails that right, that makes sure that bargaining rights no longer are going to be open, that no longer are they going to be listened to, that workers in this province are going to say - as maybe that young nurse, my daughter's friend, is considering - hey, I want to have the right to negotiate my salary. I want to have, after all, part of the tradition of this province that can be maintained here, in Nova Scotia.

What is government afraid of? What is this government afraid of? Is this government afraid of allowing this sort of labour dispute to go to arbitration? I heard my friend, the member for Halifax Chebucto, speak at length about some of the many fine people who could step in here and take care of this issue of arbitration. We have examples of it that you and I know of, Mr. Speaker. We have experts in this province, some of them who will do exceptionally well to handle compulsory arbitration, but why wasn't it offered? Why, instead of swatting the mosquito, you have to hit it with a hammer? Why does it have to be so over the top, when you look at labour legislation in this province, when you look at the fact that Bill No. 68 has offended so many Nova Scotians and that it is not just health care workers.

I want to return to this particular theme, if I could at this time, Mr. Speaker. There are other professions that are involved that will be here at the rally at 6:00 o'clock this evening. There are people in the recreation business, there are social workers, there are pharmacists, there are teachers. They will be here because this legislation, in their view, is not just going to affect health care workers, it is going to affect many other people in various other walks of life in this province.

Now I know that members opposite have heard me speak at length on a number of occasions about concerns that I constantly bring to their attention. I am not going to get into the fact of whether they have returned phone calls or how many e-mails or faxes they have received but surely they do have an obligation to address an issue that comes up time and time again. Heaven forbid that someone is at home now watching this but they are probably thinking, my God, he's on his feet again, will he never sit down. They would like to hear from maybe the MLA for Inverness. They would like to hear from the MLA for Preston.

[Page 5355]

How come whenever they turn on TV, it is either a member of the NDP Official Opposition or a member of the Third Party?

That's the question that comes up so many times, Mr. Speaker, from people who watch this - I was going to say carnival, but let's be serious, this is an important piece of legislation, I don't mean to make light of it, but this particular assembly is based on debate; the pro, the con, the for, the against. I have brought that to the attention of the members opposite many times. That to-and-fro argument does not happen here and people who perhaps don't follow the political process, people here in this gallery are probably saying why don't they stand? Why doesn't somebody, aside from the member for Preston, stand in the corner and have his say?

I have given the offer before. I look at the amount of time I have left and I have many more things to say but I will willingly give up my time to any member opposite to stand in their place and say, I am going to support this legislation because of whatever reason. I believe that this would be good legislation for health care workers and the health care system in this province, Heaven forbid the collective bargaining process in this province, for this reason or that reason, but there are no debates taking place in this House. Instead, it is the Opposition pointing out why we have to do the job, why we have to constantly bring to the attention of the members of this House, why we have to stand in our place in the middle of the morning and the night and have our say on behalf of Nova Scotians, because the government members are not doing their job. I know that there are government members opposite who are under a lot of pressure here, but if I (Interruption) Fifteen minutes is all . . .

[4:45 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour on the offer as propagated by the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect on a point of order?

HON. DAVID MORSE: I am not just taking him up on his offer, I am not going to take his 15 minutes, I will just say that it is important to have a safety net in place in case the collective bargaining process does not deliver agreements in this case. So it is a matter of public safety and I thank the member opposite for allowing me this opportunity to get up. (Interruptions)

MR. ESTABROOKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for recognizing that and I appreciate that. That point of order, however, well, I offered my time and he takes two minutes. Let's look at this very seriously, okay. That comment, if that's the reason that you can respond to that constituent and if that's the reason that you can respond by saying I am so concerned about the health and safety of Nova Scotians (Interruption) What about some of the other things that have been happening recently in labour negotiations but, more importantly - and

[Page 5356]

I don't need the member for Cape Breton Centre to help me through this, you will have your time later - I am concerned about the fact (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, bring him to order, please.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I have been requested by the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect to bring his colleague to order, the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre. So, honourable member for Cape Breton Centre, I would ask you to bring yourself to order so your colleague can hear himself speak.

MR. ESTABROOKS: And he is one of us. Mr. Speaker, thank you, and thank you for again giving me a few moments because my time is quickly disappearing here and, you know, the Minister of Environment and Labour has stood in his place, but I believe the opportunity could have been there for binding arbitration. Binding arbitration would have been a step and I have heard health care workers say this, why didn't it go to arbitration? If this was such a major concern, bring in the arbitration. Let both sides listen to a fair and impartial decision maker. That would be a way to bring this possible labour dispute into some real focus but, then again, why do we have to introduce Bill No. 68 with some of its draconian results.

So, Mr. Speaker, I want to look at this and when we look at that famous Greek from so many years ago, when we have an expert who says that Draco's example has been followed, that this draconian way of dealing with legislation is not the way to deal with collective bargaining in this process. It is not the way to assure workers in this province that they are going to have rights. So I want to turn to this wonderful letter. This wonderful letter comes from Tina Delaplante and it is an absolutely touching letter. I am going to table it when I finish and I thank the Page for making it of such print that I can read it.

"We negotiated in good faith, but were told this is how it is going to be . . . Apparently history is repeating itself." It is going to take me a few minutes to get through this so I will get it to you. I thank the Page for being so attentive. You're much more attentive than some members opposite, I point that out. "I was informed that the highlights of Bill 63 propose to remove our right to strike, that a government designated mediator could impose a settlement if both sides couldn't agree, that our collective agreement could be altered at will by the employer . . ."

She says, "I find it funny that the government is going through so much trouble to tie our hands, for now and with our future negotiations. Never has our Union been in a stronger position to negotiate what has long since been our due, and at the hour when our union might be able to demand our due, the government is attempting to cut us off at the knees again."

[Page 5357]

Mr. Speaker, another frustrated Nova Scotian. You personally have heard me stand in this House on so many occasions and bring these matters forward. They are not just from Timberlea-Prospect. They are from all areas of this province. They are from all walks of life.

Health care workers are alarmed and what are they alarmed about? They want to know, and not just in a two minute comment - two minute comment, a 30 second comment from the Minister of Environment and Labour - not a comment, a point of order if I remember correctly in your wise ruling, Mr. Speaker, but what they want to know is what exactly is the agenda of this government and, you know, it comes back to the fact that there are members opposite over there who believe that unions are basically not serving workers in this province.

I have said this to you publicly, Mr. Speaker, I have said it on the airways, I have said it is very important to have this out of the way as we make this comment, union is not a four-letter word. Now, you have heard me say that before. One of the rules I used to have in the schools where I was fortunate enough to teach, there were certain four-letter words that were not allowed. Union, I believe, has one, two, three, four, five letters in it and because you happen to be a union member, you are not necessarily bad, destructive of the economy of this province. Unionism is after all something in this province that we should all be proud of and I know there are members opposite over there who have that strong repulsion to anything that involves unions and after all this Party is, and they say it to us many times, we are only a mouthpiece of organized labour.

Well, I want you to know the NDP is more than a mouthpiece of organized labour. We represent workers all across this province, unionized or not unionized, workers organized or unorganized, and that is part of the mandate that we have as New Democrats in this province. That proud tradition concerns and angers us as New Democrats. Members opposite do not understand what this bill has done to collective bargaining. Collective bargaining is a basic democratic right in this province. People have died defending it. Bill Davis is one of them. There were others. We are talking about people who believe that collective bargaining is part of the process that we should democratically have in this House.

MR. DAVID WILSON: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I think the Rules of this Legislature forbid anybody from bringing something to eat into the Chamber. The member for Preston is standing over there defying those rules.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member does raise a good point, members. I would ask that if you are eating, you do it outside the Chamber.

MR. ESTABROOKS: The decorum of the House, you know, I know we have had a long session here and I thank the member for bringing that up. I understand your ruling, Mr. Speaker, but here we are in the middle of the night, or the middle of the morning now, discussing a piece of legislation that is of real concern. It is a concern that we come back to

[Page 5358]

time and time again and I understand that members opposite have had some long nights. You know a great way to fill out a long night once in a while, is to get up and have your say, to make sure that you're not just sitting there having something to eat of all things, that you're using your mouth for other purposes than for the fact of just digesting a few pieces of popcorn.

Mr. Speaker, I don't want to digress and go in that direction. I thank the member for Glace Bay for bringing it up. I saw it. I found it to be offensive but then, again, at times I don't know, I find that with this member. I don't know if that member opposite has the courage to stand in his place. I see him come in here, I see him make these comments. I hope he realizes that his responsibilities and what he was elected to do, is not to make light of this place, whether it is 4:54 a.m., or 4:54 p.m. We are discussing an important piece of legislation here, a piece of legislation that Nova Scotians are concerned about.

How many Nova Scotians have I brought to the floor of this House? How many members have brought the concern of Nova Scotians to the floor of this House? They are not all from my constituency. They are not all past students of mine. They are not all people who I know personally that I have contacted and said, you know, Kim, past student that you were at Sackville High, I need an e-mail so I can read it in the Legislature tonight, can you tell me about some of your concerns at the IWK in the job that you do as a nurse? These are people who have contacted us. These are people who have been in touch with us, members of this Party and members of the Third Party, and we continue to bring these matters to your attention, Mr. Speaker, so that members opposite will consider the fact that this piece of legislation must be withdrawn.

Mr. Speaker, I am aware of the late debate topic that didn't happen because of the vote that was called earlier. That late debate topic revolved around the Law Amendments Committee and the Law Amendments Committee procedure. I know there are hundreds of people who are looking forward to coming to the Law Amendments Committee and it is very important that Nova Scotians understand we want them to be here at the Law Amendments Committee and if the Minister of Justice is going to go over the top again and say we'll only give them two minutes and they have to come 24 hours a day, you come, Nova Scotians, you come to the people's House, you have your say here.

This is your opportunity, not just at 6:00 o'clock tonight, but to come to this Legislature, to go into the Law Amendments Committee, to sit there and to make sure that those five government members are sitting there and are awake and they are not sitting there eating popcorn, they are sitting there paying attention. Heaven forbid, at the Law Amendments Committee, if one of those five government members happen to ask a question, wouldn't that be an unbelievable event although, Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment the member for Preston.

[Page 5359]

In the long number of sessions that we have had at the Law Amendments Committee over the past number of months, the member for Preston, I believe on two - count them, Mr. Speaker, on two - separate occasions asked a question at the Law Amendments Committee. Now, I want you to know that my good friend, the member for Halifax Chebucto, and myself, we usually ask most witnesses two questions, but I want Nova Scotians to come. You make sure that when your opportunity is here to have your say about legislation, you come, two minutes, you get in there and once you start talking, it will be very interesting to see if the Minister of Justice can hold you to two minutes or five minutes because as Nova Scotians know, usually it is 15 minutes and that particular process is a valuable one.

We have stood in our place. We have tried to encourage debate and if anyone at home or anyone in the gallery realizes, yes, we did hear from the Minister of Environment and Labour, I made him the offer here 14 minutes ago. I made him the offer I would give him the rest of my time. He got up and only took 30 seconds to make some comment about the health and safety of Nova Scotians and that is why this legislation is here. That was his 30 second contribution. That, Mr. Speaker, is not debate, that is an apology for a piece of legislation that is badly conceived, has been badly received across this province.

Nova Scotians are going to tell this government today, they are going to show it with their feet on the streets around this historic Province House and they are going to show it with the numbers of them who are going to come to the Law Amendments Committee and are going to have their say. They are going to make sure that they are listened to so that they can't say - and I know, yes, there will be people from Timberlea-Prospect there. There will be people from Glace Bay and it is a long way to come and I hope that they can - although many of them are out making a living and working hard - but hopefully they will come.

AN HON. MEMBER: They're coming.

MR. ESTABROOKS: But I want members opposite to understand when you have the opportunity at the Law Amendments Committee, you listen, you listen carefully, because health care workers and workers across this province have had it and they have had it right up to here. Do you know that ad that comes from that guy in New York, who throws up the apartment window and he yells out into the streets of New York, we aren't going to take it anymore? That's the message, tomorrow it will be delivered and it will continue to be delivered at the Law Amendments Committee.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your time.

[Page 5360]

[5:00 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, it is 5:00 a.m. and approximately two hours from now my sister, who is a nurse at the ICU in Glace Bay, will just be probably ending her shift and making her way home and still have to continue on with her job as a mother by getting her children up and ready for school. I think the fact that she does that as many times as she has to, the fact that she has taken the time to become an intensive care unit nurse and the fact that she is a caring professional in this province - and she is just one example of the many thousands of health care professionals across this province - is a shining example of exactly what we're talking about and what we've been talking about for the past number of days in this Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, my sister, the nurse, who is about to arrive home in two hours, would not put the life, health or safety of anyone in this province in jeopardy at any time, but that's what this government has accused her, her co-workers and many others of doing and it is just not right. That is not what my sister is about and it certainly is not what nurses and health care professionals across this province are about.

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting also at this time of the morning, as my colleague referred to, that you get an early look at the daily edition of the daily newspapers across the province and what they're saying. Today's is no different than yesterday's or the day before. Today's newspapers are full of editorials and letters to the editor which, if you will take a look at them - and you will get a chance later on - I would say almost 99 per cent are concerning Bill No. 68 and concerning the debate that is happening in this Legislature. I am not about to stand here and read all of those letters to the editors but, you know, sometimes just the caption, sometimes the title of those letters tells it all. I will give you an example of a few of them from The Chronicle-Herald today.

One is called Sad day for N.S., a Step too far is the title of another one. Another letter to the editor, it says Public held hostage. Another one says Call to action, War on labour. Another one by a nurse from Porters Lake, Why should I stay? Draconian measures, Mr. Speaker, is the title of another letter to the editor in The Chronicle-Herald today. Enough is enough is the title of another one, infringes on rights, and I go on and on. Also, Disorder in the House is the title of an editorial in The Chronicle-Herald. Mr. Speaker, from The Daily News today, The Daily News says, and this is a feature in The Daily News, it is "A selection of quotes yesterday about the health-care labour uproar:", that's the headline and that's exactly what this is, it is an uproar in this province.

Before I give you some more of those quotes, let me say that what I have witnessed here today and what I have witnessed outside this Chamber has left me in disbelief. I walked outside this Chamber tonight and saw the Health Minister for this province outside chatting

[Page 5361]

with a couple of nurses. He didn't go to them. That's not what has left me in disbelief. They came to him and they were talking to him. The Health Minister was standing there, listening intently, shaking his head and saying, uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh, but then when he walked away - and I have seen him do it before - he walks back into the Chamber and he is like one of those, what do you call those lizards? What's the name of the lizard I am looking for? (Interruption) A chameleon. No, no, a real lizard, a slimy lizard is called a Tory, but a chameleon (Interruption) That's what you call a slimy lizard in this province right now, a Tory.

The chameleon Health Minister comes back into this Chamber and he is not unlike the Finance Minister who does it himself because the Finance Minister probably taught him how to do it. The Finance Minister walks outside of the Chamber, talks to a few people, comes in here and puts that smug look on his face - never takes it off - but he walks outside, the chameleon again. Changes the colours, tries to fit in with the rest of the crowd, but when he is in here, with all of his Tory buddies that are now shoving this down throats of the people of Nova Scotia, it is a different person altogether. (Interruptions) I hope it is about Bill No. 68.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. When the honourable member opposite says that we shove things down people's faces - or throats, or whatever he wants to say - and he stands there with his so-called friends on that side of the House, that told these same health workers not that long ago that you will take Savage days and you will take unpaid leave, take a 3 per cent cut and you have your wages frozen for three years. Where was he? And why does he sit with people who did the same thing if he is so concerned?

MR. WILSON: Let me tell you something. I would rather sit on this side of the House, in this caucus right now any day than sit with that bunch of cowards on that side of the House right now. Any day I would rather be over here. Any day.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. As I advised the honourable member for Glace Bay yesterday during his conversation with the honourable member for Cape Breton North, the terminology "coward" has been ruled unparliamentary and I would ask the honourable member to withdraw that statement. (Interruptions)

MR. WILSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I withdraw that statement. Like some of the members over there are uttering in the background, I am sure the member for - well, he hasn't spoken here in so long I have to take out the seating arrangement to see who it is that is over there heckling me. Let me see, that would be the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, I believe, who hasn't said anything substantial in this Legislature since he got here. The only thing he can say now is to throw me out because I happen to be standing and speaking on behalf of health care workers in this province. If you threw me out right now, it would be like you are throwing out the rights and privileges and freedoms of health care workers in this

[Page 5362]

province. That member doesn't care. That member doesn't care at all. He doesn't care. If he cared right now he would be on his feet defending his government's actions over there, but he won't do that, like the other members. They are all the same.

There are 18 backbenchers, let me give you another example. The member for Yarmouth hasn't said one substantial thing since he got here to this House. Not one thing on any government bill that has been brought before this Legislature has the member for Yarmouth said anything substantial whatsoever. The member for Shelburne is another example. You know why? Because they have been told, zip it. Zip it, guys. You are not allowed to say anything. Zip, zip, zip. You can't say one thing because you have been told by the terrible trio - the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Finance and the Government House Leader - shut your mouths and don't talk out about this legislation.

As we found out over the last several days, the members - even the backbenchers - have been told by their constituents and they have been told by health care workers across this province, including their own constituents, that they should be saying something about Bill No. 68, that there is something inherently wrong with Bill No. 68, that it is outrageous, that it is all those other things I have mentioned already. (Interruption) It is draconian, that is the most popular word these days.

As I said before, I will, during the course of my next 50 minutes or so, name some of the other backbenchers over there so that we all know who they are because they have never been heard from in this Legislature on anything substantial, so we will make sure before I am finished that everybody out there knows who we are talking about.

What was said in The Daily News today, "A selection of quotes yesterday about the health-care labour uproar:', this is one, "We're considering this as war. The premier has thrown down the gauntlet, and as far as we're concerned all rules are off, all bets are off."

AN HON. MEMBER: Who said that?

MR. WILSON: That is a statement from Joan Jessome, the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union President. (Interruption) The member for Preston, with his babbling again, knows full well who the President of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union is. You know who it is but you have never had the intestinal fortitude to talk to her about Bill No. 68. You have never talked to anybody about this bill and you have no right to be sitting over there right now heckling me when you have not stood on your feet and talked about Bill No. 68. Now if you are going to stand up, you make sure that you talk about nurses in this province.

[Page 5363]

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member for Glace Bay said I never spoke to anybody about this particular bill. No, I did not have a chance yet to speak in this House and I will be speaking in this House when the time is right for it.

AN HON. MEMBER: When is that?

MR. HENDSBEE: You will see. All good things come in good time. (Interruptions) Just this past weekend, I was on beautiful Cape Breton Island speaking at the annual general meeting of the Victoria PC Association and the number one topic that I spoke on for about 15 minutes was Bill No. 68. So don't tell me I didn't speak to anybody about it. I speak to my constituents at the local Legion, I speak to my people at local bingo halls. I have been talking to people about Bill No. 68. I don't need to listen to this particular member saying I don't talk to anybody about Bill No. 68. I think that honourable member deserves to give an apology to this House. (Interruption)

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, there is no apology coming from me over here to that member and I hope that the two people who showed up at your PC meeting enjoyed your talk, by the way. I hope the two of them enjoyed your talk on Bill No. 68. (Interruption) You want to talk about Bill No. 68 and about what is happening with health care professionals, you talk to the health care professionals in this province. You have the intestinal fortitude to go out there and explain to health care professionals in this province, okay? At least your seatmate over there, the member for Cape Breton North, your seatmate over there, I would like to know . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. He also alluded again that I don't speak to the health care workers. I have been speaking to them out here in the lobby, even from the member's riding of Timberlea-Prospect, they even called me at my office on Saturday morning, the person he made reference to. I have been speaking with the health care workers about this particular bill, so that gentleman over there should be apologizing for his assertions.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, it is funny that in the two times he has been up now he hasn't said what he told them. He told them it was going through, no matter what, whether they like it or not, the same thing as the member for Cape Breton North told the nurses who he met with. This is going through, whether you like it or not. Whether you like it or not, this legislation is going through and that is what that entire government has told health care professionals and nurses in this province. It doesn't matter whether or not you like this legislation. We are going to force it, shove it down your throats. Who is next? That is the question right now. It is health care workers and nurses now but who is next? Who is next for that crew across the floor right now? Who are they going to do it to next, teachers, liquor

[Page 5364]

store employees, government employees? Who are they going to do it to? They can't do it to us because as Opposition MLAs we get up and we speak in this House. They can heckle from across the floor but it doesn't stop us from speaking, because we have a job to do.

As I was saying, Mr. Speaker, some of the quotes from The Daily News today, one of them was from Joan Jessome, as I read. This is from the Canadian Auto Workers Union, Regional Director Larry Wark, "I've always said that democracy in Nova Scotia on the best of days is fragile. We're on the border of extinction with this legislation." Here is one from the Service Employees International Union, Gerard Higgins, "Do the right thing, John, pull Bill 68." Here is one from Rick Clarke of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, the President, "Tory times are sorry times, and the sooner we flush this toilet the better it is for all of us." Here is another one from Brian Forbes, the President of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, "With Bill 68 . . .", the Premier, " . . . seems to have chosen to kill a mosquito with a sledgehammer." That is a very good quote.

[5:15 a.m.]

Here is one from Roger Neeley of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Regional Director, "The government is heading down a road of confrontation, and if this bill is passed there can be no happy end to this tale." Here is one from the Finance Minister, the Honourable Neil LeBlanc, "We realize that this is not without controversy. At the same time we have to deal with the financial situation that we have." That is the quote from our Finance Minister, Mr. Speaker, in The Daily News today.

Now you see not all Tory MLAs are cheering this Legislation. We know, as a matter of fact, that there are some Tory MLAs over there - and they have to do this secretly, they have to do this behind closed doors - who have to talk to other people to tell them that look, I am really not happy with this legislation. They can't do it out loud over there right now because they have been threatened by their own Cabinet Ministers. Their own Cabinet Ministers have threatened Tory backbenchers that if you don't go along with this, you are gone, you are out of the caucus, history. That is true, absolutely gone. You know it is true.

The member for Preston shakes his head no but you know it is true. You know it is absolutely true. You know that the backbenchers on that side, on the Tory caucus, on the government side, have been told, you toe the line and vote with us on this or else you are gone. You know that is true. Mr. Speaker, it doesn't actually stop them from thinking because some of them are thinking and some of them know that this legislation is wrong. We shouldn't even be speaking, we shouldn't even be here with this legislation in this House, let alone at this hour of the morning.

Again, outside of the Chambers today, being scrummed by the media, the media asked him the question, what happens if there are negotiated settlements here, what do you do? Do you pull the bill? The Premier answers, yes, we would table the legislation. We would table

[Page 5365]

the legislation if we reached negotiated settlements. Now what would you call that? Would you call that a threat? Would you call that blackmail and a threat to unionized workers in this province who just happen to be health care workers and nurses?

What you are telling them is that if you don't go along with our legislation, unless you agree, we will continue to ram it through this Legislature and take away your right to strike and impose a settlement on you, whether you like it or not but because we brought this legislation in before a strike even occurred, we brought this legislation in to use it as a hammer and as a threat and as blackmail to force you into negotiating a settlement. That is what it is. There is no other way to put it. That is a threat and that is blackmail by the Premier of this province and that is outrageous, absolutely outrageous that the Premier of this province has resorted to that, absolutely outrageous, but that is what we have.

At the same time, while all of this is going on, they are trying very hard, with propaganda, to sell it to Nova Scotians and they have continued to put ads in the newspapers and they continue to run ads on almost every radio station in this province. Those ads continue to total up and, as we heard during Question Period, well over $40,000 that they have added up to already and by the time this is over and done with, I would say, if you add another few days into it, you will be up around $100,000 without even thinking about it and that is assuming that we are going to get the actual true figure from the minister responsible for this.

The minister happens to be the Government House Leader, who is the Minister responsible for Communications Nova Scotia. If he will actually tell us the truth at some point in his life - this may be the one point when it happens - if he will tell us the truth about how much it is going to cost for this propaganda campaign, you will find out that there is going to be a lot of money spent on advertising to try to get the Tory message across. Well, it could have been spent on nurses, it could have been spent on health care but no, instead it will go into newspaper and radio advertising that will tell us absolutely nothing and just try to put across the government line, about what they say is happening in health care in this province and about what they say Bill No. 68 is all about. That is exactly what we know it is not about.

Mr. Speaker, among the many things that we have been receiving in our caucus over the past few days are a number of faxes and so on that have been coming to us. If I may, this is one from a person who resides in Judique, Cape Breton. Her name is Lorna Poirier and she wrote to the Leader of the Liberal Party. She says in her letter that he is probably, " . . . familiar with the community of Judique, a community who fought so hard to keep their school not very long ago. As the old saying goes, 'you can't go down without a fight'!!" She is writing as a registered nurse working at the Inverness Consolidated Memorial Hospital. The fight, she says, is against Bill No. 68.

[Page 5366]

She goes on to say that she read the message from the Leader of the Liberal Party in The Chronicle-Herald, that it was very good and she really couldn't add that much to it. But she goes on to say that the Premier, having read the information that said that health care workers would provide excellent essential services should there be a strike, got excited and has tried to make himself " . . . look Good and the Nurses look BAD in the eyes of the Public.

Now Lorna Poirier goes on to say she is very disappointed with that and she mentions the costly advertisements in the media and she mentions that that is an example of that. "Nurses WILL leave the province." she says. "Some have resigned already. Anyone who can, will go!!" She also says, "PLEASE fight for us to STOP Bill No. 68 if you can at all!!!!!! She has had some experience, she says, travelling in an ambulance with patients who were barely alive. "There is not enough money in this world for trips like that but we do it because it is our job! We at least deserve to be equally paid across the country. A Nurse's work does not change from one province to another." Again, that was a letter from Lorna Poirier in Judique, Cape Breton.

Mr. Speaker, I have heard those stories over and over again. As I have mentioned to you myself, I have another sister. I mentioned my sister who works at the ICU in Glace Bay Hospital and I also have a sister who works in the emergency department, in the inhalation therapy department at St. Martha's Hospital in Antigonish.

I understand that one of the members would like to make an introduction and I will allow for that.

MR. SPEAKER: Just before I recognize the honourable member on the introduction, the honourable member for Glace Bay is required to table the letter that he read from.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic on an introduction.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, if I may, I want to introduce four health care workers who are here. First of all, Maxwell Caravan, a nursing attendant, a husband of a nurse, father of two, works at the VG Hospital operating room; Marilyn Perry, an anaesthesia tech, working in health care for 21 years at the VG Hospital site; Ethel Tompkins, operating room tech, LPN, 20 years in health care, presently in the QE II operating room - Ethel indicates she is working a 10 hour shift after she leaves here today - and Heather MacDonald, registered nurse, operating room, QE II, at the old VG Hospital site, nurse for 15 years.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important that we recognize these health care workers, recognize the commitment that they make to our province and the commitment they make to their profession by coming down here at this hour of the night, either before or after their shifts at the hospital. They come down here to talk to us, to listen to us, to let us know how

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opposed they are to Bill No. 68 and what it will mean to them, to their jobs and to their professions. I would like to ask the four individuals who I introduced to please rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, indeed, welcome to our guests as introduced by the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic and welcome to all guests in the gallery.

The honourable member for Glace Bay has the floor.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I, too, join with other members in welcoming our guests to the gallery this morning.

As I was saying and telling you the experience of my other sister, who works in the emergency department, inhalation therapy department at St. Martha's Hospital in Antigonish, again referring to that letter that I wrote, my sister does many similar trips to Halifax with some very severely injured people at times. Again, as one nurse said to me outside of the Chamber here in the last couple of days, we have put in some long hours and we put in some long days and this nurse in a very nice way said to me, put in a few more days, add on top of that a whole lot more hours and then go to work and try to work with somebody who is dying. Try to work with somebody who needs your attention all of the time. Try to work with so many patients that you simply can't handle the number, you can't handle the caseload. Then, maybe, you will have some slight indication of what it is like to be a nurse in this province and what it is like to be a health care professional in this province at this time.

I think that was a very poignant point that she made. It drove home the fact that what we are talking about here is perhaps one of the most serious things that has come before this Legislature in quite some time. It is not a subject to be taken lightly. It is not one to be laughed at. It is not one to just put aside and forget about it and think that this does not affect a lot of people - it does. It affects everybody in this province because at one time or another, unfortunately, we are probably going to have to end up using our health care system. And that affects you, Mr. Speaker, it affects me, it affects everyone else. I am hoping that no ill health will fall upon anybody in this Chamber, but, indeed, if that should happen, then we would have to put our hands in the hands of these health care workers and professionals that this government is now doing this to. Those are the people we would have to trust to take care of us on a daily basis.

There is another letter that I would like to read to you at this time. This is a letter that was faxed to our caucus and to our Liberal Leader. Actually, it is a copy of a letter that was sent to the Premier. It is from Glenn Legge who is a paramedic at the QE II Health Sciences Centre and he says that he is writing this e-mail regarding the latest tactics by the government to take away the rights of the average working citizen. He is a front-line worker at the QE II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, as I mentioned, and he is part of the health care bargaining unit.

[Page 5368]

He goes on to say that he considers himself and all other health care providers in this province " . . . to be professionals. As a professional health care provider I feel obligated to patient care." He is writing to the Premier and says, "Your recent comments about the Emergency Contingency Plan in which you and your government stated, that we, the professional health care providers of Nova Scotia would not provide emergency care to patients was a slap in the face."

Mr. Legge goes on to say that he knows " . . . for sure that if you or one of your members were to become ill and go to the nearest hospital, even if a strike were ongoing, you would not be neglected or refused emergency care. We, as professionals, would treat any citizen with the greatest respect and proficient care that is needed." And, he goes on to say that he feels neglected by the government and tells them that it is time to throw away their ignorance, " . . . and look at the issues facing us today. We have assured you that nobody's life will be endangered by any work action."

Mr. Legge goes on to say, "Furthermore, I would like to say that by ramming a bill, that takes away the democratic right to job action is digging your own grave. The QE2 Health Sciences Centre is the largest employer in Nova Scotia. You have angered alot of the employees of this institution, not to mention employees of other hospitals in the province as well as union members province wide. I am supporting my union in its fight for a democratic process. I never thought communism would prevail in a democratic country." That came to our caucus, a copy of a letter that was sent to the Premier and I will table that as well for the House.

[5:30 a.m.]

Another one, Mr. Speaker, comes from a person by the name of David Phillips who is a P2 paramedic. This is what he wrote, and I think that government members are aware of these letters as well, but I haven't seen any of them tabled by government members. They have been sent out because you can see the billboard from the e-mail that goes to government members, not only Opposition members, I think they've made a point to send it to government members as well. This one says, again from David Phillips, a paramedic:

"I think most Nova Scotians are getting the message now! Bill 68 is nothing less than an attack on every Nova Scotian's fundamental right, the right to strike! I don't fully comprehend the logic behind your decision to even attempt to pass a Bill such as Bill 68. You must think that the people of Nova Scotia are really gullible, to try and pull a fast one, again. You got away with what you did to the paramedics of this province, but rest assured the good people of this province will not sit back and allow this to happen again!"

Mr. Phillips goes on to say, "I really think that Mr. Hamm and Mr. Muir should do what's best for the people of Nova Scotia, and that would be to resign! It's the only sensible thing they can do, and about the only thing I would agree to with them at this time!" There's

[Page 5369]

a PS here from Mr. Phillips. He says, "Mr. Chisholm, I certainly hope you do not agree to Bill 68!" - my guess would be that he is referring to the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury - and, "Mr. Muir and Mr. Hamm, Shame on you!" Again, it is signed by David Phillips, a P2 paramedic. I will table that copy of that letter that Mr. Phillips sent to our caucus, Mr. Speaker.

So you can see by the letters that are coming into our caucus, you can see by the letters to the editors in the papers and you will see today what's going to happen outside of this Legislature. If there's anybody in this province, with the exception of the government, the front benches and now the backbench, with the exception of them, if there's anybody else in this province who agrees with this legislation, would they please stand up and say so. Where are they? The vast majority of people in this province don't want this legislation. They don't think it's good. They think it's wrong.

Mr. Speaker, I find it baffling why that message is not getting across to the government. I don't expect it to get across to the government front bench, I don't expect it to get across to the Minister of Tourism and Culture, the Minister of Community Services, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, the Minister of Human Resources, the Premier, the Finance Minister, the Health Minister, the Education Minister, the Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, the Economic Development Minister, the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, or the Minister of Environment and Labour, I don't expect it to get across to any of those people, because those are the people who bunkered down in the Cabinet and approved this silly piece of legislation to begin with. They put it forward, so none of them are going to change their mind now. Their backs are against the wall and they have dug in. Their main spokesman, the Premier, has said, if there is a negotiated settlement, we will back out and we will table it and we will be out of here lickety-split, we will be gone home. We will be out of here, but I don't think that is going to happen because I don't think that the workers in this province, the health care professionals and nurses, are going to kowtow to that kind of a threat and demand. I don't think they are going to let it happen.

So if the members on the front bench, the Cabinet members, aren't going to do anything about it, then, obviously, the only thing we are left with, heaven help us, the only thing we are left with to rely on in this province to try to bring about some change and get rid of this nasty piece of legislation is government backbenchers. As I have said before, Mr. Speaker - and this is the third time I have been talking on this nasty piece of legislation, but I have said it before - all it takes is one backbencher, one member on the government side to stand up and say, I am voting against this bill. It will start that chain reaction among backbenchers and finally they have the numbers, Mr. Speaker, they outnumber the frontbenchers, there are 18 of them on the backbench, and if that chain reaction started, and again as I have said before, if the Premier lived up to his promises, his blue book promises of allowing more free votes in this Legislature, and that was one of the main promises in the blue book during the election campaign when he snookered Nova Scotians into believing that

[Page 5370]

he was going to provide better health care and do all of these marvellous things, when he snookered Nova Scotians into believing - he told them, as one of his promises - that he would allow for more free votes in this Legislature.

Well, this is a perfect opportunity, Mr. Speaker, this is not a confidence bill. This is not a money bill. The government of this province cannot be defeated on this bill although I am sure there are tens of thousands of workers in this province right now who wish they could be and are going to see that they eventually will be, but on this particular bill it is not a matter of money. The government cannot be defeated. What that means is that if the Premier of this province, who promised Nova Scotians and who promised every one of those government members - you fell for it too, you fell for the blue book, you helped make up the blue book, and in that blue book there was a promise that said, it promised you - as individual MLAs, that you would get more free votes in this Legislature. Am I right or am I wrong? I am right. It promised you that you would get more free votes.

So if you go to the Premier now, bypass the terrible trio, the dastardly Minister of Finance, okay, he is the kingpin here, Mr. Speaker. He is the one who is calling the shots on this one. He has told the Health Minister, you're not getting any more money. He's the guy. The Minister of Finance is Bill No. 68, let nobody forget that. If you bypass the Minister of Finance and you bypass the Justice Minister, who, for some unknown reason said this bill was okay and it's constitutional, which makes me question what he knows about law in the first place but, anyway, bypass the Minister of Finance, bypass the Justice Minister, and skip over the Government House Leader, who is trying to say that this is a good move, politically, unbelievably, but that's what he is trying to say, bypass those three and go to your Premier.

Go to your Leader and explain to your Leader, Mr. Premier, I am having problems back home. I am having problems in my constituency, because the people in the health care industry who we are forcing this legislation upon are telling me it is the wrong thing and, Mr. Premier, if I don't vote against it I may not get elected again. I may not be able to possibly help you form another government. Now, if you convince the Premier of that and enough backbenchers get together and say, look, Mr. Leader, Mr. Premier, we have problems. Will you allow us a free vote on Bill No. 68? If the Premier is the man he goes around saying he is, Mr. Speaker, if the Premier is the great leader that he purports to be, then he will allow his backbench members - okay, I am freeing you from the chains here and I am letting you have a free vote on Bill No. 68, you can vote your conscience or you can vote what people in your constituency are telling you; the majority of people are telling you that this wrong.

What would happen? I don't know if that would be enough. It might be. It might be enough to defeat this bill, but at the very least what would happen is, come the day, and the day will come, we only have a certain amount of time to debate, the day will eventually get here when we vote on Bill No. 68 for the final time and wouldn't it be great if enough backbenchers stood in their place and voted against this bill with Opposition MLAs. That would be pure democracy in action. A finer example you could not find and, as I said, you

[Page 5371]

wouldn't be defeating your own government, this is not a confidence bill, this is not a money bill, so your government would not fall, but you would send a message to health care professionals and workers in this province that you believe them, that you trust in them, that you believe in a collective bargaining process, that you believe in a democracy and that you believe in things like consultation, negotiation and being fair; you are that kind of people, you are that kind of a government, that you believe in those principles and you are willing to show it by standing up and voting no against Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, there may not be enough - although I firmly believe there is - will over there to do exactly that. I believe there are enough numbers on the backbench. As I said, leave the front bench alone, they are entrenched on this issue. They can't see the forest for the trees, but the backbenchers know they can defeat the smugness and arrogance of that front bench by simply going to the Leader, the Premier and asking him for a free vote. It's not something out of the ordinary, it's something that the Premier has promised time and time again, it's part of your strategy, your overall strategy in your blue book, which you said is now your government strategy, to allow for this.

So, there are the two scenarios. One, it could defeat this bill, and the members, the backbenchers who join in defeating it would be treated with the respect they deserve from the people in this province and from the health care workers in this province. The other scenario is that maybe just a few of those backbenchers would be able to vote their conscience, would be able to cast a free vote in this Legislature, and by doing that they would still get the respect and trust of their constituents and of health care professionals across this province. I dare say that by doing that, Mr. Speaker, that they would be elected again. It would be a small, narrow victory for them. They would not have defeated the bill, but they would have done what they were put there to do in the first place, that is to vote what the majority of their constituents want them to vote.

Now, there is another scenario, too, and this is what we are headed for, unfortunately, and that is the scenario that the government backbenchers have been given a story and they have been told a bunch of mis-truths by the government, by the Cabinet, and they have been told that you have to go along with this because this, as the Cabinet would say, is the right kind of legislation and without it our health care is in jeopardy. We don't want to place, as the ads have said, anybody's health at risk, it is too great and so on and emergency room closures and bed closures and all of the things in the ad, which I have already said in this Legislature are already true anyway. Those are not happening because of any threatened strike or because of any health care negotiations, those are happening in our health care system because that government is in power right now, that is why those things are happening in health care.

The other scenario is that you are going to drive this province into the most turmoil that it has been in a very long time, with this legislation. You have thousands of people who are preparing to gather en masse at the Legislature later on today, and that drives a wedge

[Page 5372]

between any kind of negotiations that you can have between organized labour, between health care professionals or whoever is next, and the government and the people who are negotiating contracts. That wedge may become just too much. Eventually there won't be any kind of talk, there won't be any discussion or consultation. That is going to be a big problem in this province. That is going to be a huge problem.

Mr. Speaker, if the government would respect the process and respect the individuals who are at the table and, ultimately, respect nurses and health care professionals in this province, then none of this would be necessary. As I have said before, this bill should not be before this Legislature at this time. There was no strike on, there was no strike; there was no threat to health care; there was no threat to anyone's life in this province before this bill came. That is why you are seeing, right now, that so many people are angered by this legislation. That is why I don't think it would be difficult at all. If I was a union leader right now I don't think it would be difficult to muster the troops. I don't think it would be difficult at all because they are raring to go.

[5:45 a.m.]

They saw from the outset that this legislation is wrong. Not only is this legislation wrong, this legislation is outrageous. For instance, this legislation will take away the right to strike, it doesn't even offer any such thing as binding arbitration, which was offered before in back-to-work legislation by this government, but not this time. Not this time because, again, let me go back to the kingpin, let me go back to the face behind Bill No. 68 here, the one and only face, the Finance Minister. He is the face on this one, too. He knows full well that if they had included binding arbitration in this legislation that any kind of arbitrator or mediator worth his salt would have given those workers more money to start with.

He is the guy who said that is it, no more money. If we go to binding arbitration, I can hear him now at the Cabinet meeting, listen guys and girls, if we go to binding arbitration, you will get more money, so we can't go down that route. What we have to do here is we have to put a clause in there that says this Cabinet will impose a settlement on the workers of Nova Scotia. The only person on that side of the House who would come up with something as draconian as that is the Finance Minister. The only person over there who would come through with a dictatorial measure such as that, the only person on that side who could come up with an idea like that is the Finance Minister, the Premier-in-waiting, as he likes to think of himself.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know how he is ever going to make that dream come true, because, let me tell you, Nova Scotians will remember this for a very long time. They will remember that the Finance Minister was the key guy, he was the kingpin behind all of this. He was the guy who pushed it through, and they will have some very long memories when it comes to that.

[Page 5373]

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that bothers me most about this, and one of the pieces of propaganda that the government is putting out there is that nurses are greedy, looking for more money. Health care professionals in this province, this is what the government is saying, they are greedy and they just want more money. That is all they care about, more money. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have talked to nurses and I have talked to my sisters, who are in the health care profession, and I have talked to their friends, and they have told me, and the Premier admitted outside of this Chamber tonight, that there are some other smaller measures that could be negotiated here that could settle this whole thing.

They may seem small to the Premier, but I am sure they are pretty big to health care professionals in this province. They are such things as hours of work, mandatory overtime, and just in general a better quality of working life for nurses and health care professionals, who are stressed out, maxed to the limit and overworked in this province right now. Money is obviously a factor, but as I understood the Premier outside of this Chamber tonight, it is not the only factor and there could be more negotiations that go on here in other areas that possibly would settle all of this.

Mr. Speaker, if that is the case and the Premier is saying it now on this particular day, after we have gone through all of this mess, why wasn't it said at the very beginning? Why wasn't it said on behalf of Health Department negotiators, on behalf of the authority negotiators who are there at the table, that some of these things could be dealt with? If that is the case, once the collective bargaining process reaches the point that you decide to negotiate in earnest, and you are really at it, and you are bargaining back and forth, and you are making offers and counter-offers, once that really begins, then it is amazing how quickly the process can move.

There are talks that go on for months and months and months that are settled, sometimes within hours, because something has been put on the table that will make you start to think, that will make you start to come up with a counter-offer. That was possible, that was possible in this situation. I don't know if it is possible right now, because of where this government is taking us. Where they have taken us is that they have shown a distaste, a dislike for professional health care workers in this province by introducing this legislation.

I can't blame nurses and health care workers in this province right now if they feel as though their backs are against the wall. They are frustrated. They have to demonstrate. They have to let government members know exactly what is going on. I sincerely hope that it would never reach the point where we are into some sort of turmoil that would boil over into any kind of violence whatsoever. I think every member in this House agrees with that.

We also have to be realistic, we also have to realize that the potential is always there for that. But, what we have seen here is because this government has decided to crack down on nurses and health care workers in this province. What we have seen now over the last few days is increased security at Province House, and we will see it again later on today, just the

[Page 5374]

threat of large numbers of people coming to this House has been enough for the government to dictate that there be extra security measures at Province House.

I hope it is not only the largest but the most peaceful demonstration that this province has ever seen because I think that will accomplish two things. It will show government that they mean business. It will also establish one more time that these are professionals we are dealing with. We are not dealing with people who are going to go out there and start cracking government members over the head. That is not what we are dealing with.

If I may enquire, Mr. Speaker, exactly how much time I have remaining? (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, if I may enquire as to exactly how much time I have remaining please? If you think that I would trust the member for Preston to tell me anything, you have another thing coming. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: I apologize, honourable member. You have approximately seven and one-half minutes left.

MR. WILSON: Thank you. Again, the member for Preston shows his real stripes by sitting over there or standing over there, as he usually does, babbling on in the corner about absolutely nothing and watching the door to make sure that all the good little Tories are in their seats so they have enough for a quorum. Mr. Speaker, I don't even think he is qualified to do that job, but he is the only one they have to do it.

I have gone through a few of the people who haven't said a thing on this legislation so far and haven't had too much to say on the legislation in this period in the two years I have been here, including the member for Annapolis who hasn't had anything substantial to say. The member for Queens, Kings West, Pictou West. Obviously - and I think it is the most outstanding one - the member for Preston, if there were an Academy Award for having nothing substantial to say, I would give it to the member for Preston.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. This gentleman from Glace Bay has made assertions once again during his hour of dissertation and bafflegab. To say that I have said nothing in this House substantial on any legislation, I should remind the honourable member not only he had a piece of private legislation go through as a bill, I had one too for the Preston Area Housing Fund in the first session. I spoke on that legislation so you had better get your story straight, buster. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That was not a point of order. It was merely a dispute between two honourable members. The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I think that exemplifies and that is further proof of exactly what I have been saying - that the member has nothing substantial to say. Buster. You know what I am talking about, buster? That is exactly what I am talking about. The member

[Page 5375]

for Cape Breton North has had nothing substantial to say except the only thing substantial that the member for Cape Breton North has had to say was to call me a coward. That is the only thing substantial that he has said in the Legislature so far, had to resort to that. I would never resort to anything like this. Absolutely not would I take the member's picture and put it on a Web site. That is not my style at all. It has been done (Interruptions) Look, I don't even want to go there. I really don't want to go there. But, it has been done and that is the result of me speaking on behalf of health care - I would like to table this, as a matter of fact, but I will refer to it just for a minute. That is a result of me speaking in my place on behalf of health care workers in this province. To be called a coward for standing in my place, I will gladly be called a coward by that member or by any other member over there. As I said before, the real cowards will come out in the wash. The real cowards will come out in the wash.

This comes with a warning, an explicit warning, you may want to be very careful before you see this or before you take this picture. The last member over there who appeared on this same Web site in the same sort of pose went on to become a Cabinet Minister. So, this may be indicative of things to come. I would warn the government backbenchers, please, when I table this, take a look at it. You know what happened the last time and we have seen what happens there. We have seen what happened with that minister, so this could be a prediction, this could be something to come - because this happened the last time on the Web site, this could be the next Cabinet Minister in Nova Scotia. That could be the lucky Web site and I would like to table that for everyone in this Legislature to have a look at and for it to be on record. The fact that it wasn't referred to that I was the one who was being called the coward, but, as the member for Cape Breton North full knows, and I think you know too, Mr. Speaker, because you were in the Chair at the time, that those comments were directed towards me, because you did the appropriate thing and ruled them out of order and then asked the member to retract them at that time.

Mr. Speaker, again, it's a further example - I haven't finished naming everybody yet, there are members for Chester-St. Margaret's and Colchester North and Eastern Shore, if you wish, because of the fact that you are in the Chair, Mr. Speaker, I will skip your riding. (Interruptions) As I said, I am not the type of person who wants to go down that road. There is the member for Pictou East, Dartmouth South, Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, Halifax Bedford Basin and Kings North. All of those members, not only have they not said anything substantial whatsoever in this Legislature, but they also have - especially in the metropolitan ridings - a very large number of health care workers who reside in their ridings.

Halifax Bedford Basin would a perfect example. I would take it there would be a large number of people who live in that riding who work in the health care industry because of its close proximity to some of the larger health care institutions in this province. I would guess it would be about maybe 600 or 700 people who would live in that riding alone that . . .

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: A lot of votes.

[Page 5376]

MR. WILSON: And you better believe it. As the member for Timberlea-Prospect said, that's a lot of votes. That's a lot of votes that are going to be remembered for the next whenever it is how long before we get to defeat these turkeys over there. They will remember just how long it is and they will take that with them, those 600 or 700 people.

Mr. Speaker, as the member for Preston continues to babble on over there, remember the government backbenchers in this instance now hold the key to defeating this bill. If they don't, they will pay for it. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect on an introduction.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Thank you. At this time of the morning it is refreshing to see that we still have, in fact, some new visitors who have come this morning who have been listening and watching the people's House in action. Incidentally, these are residents of Timberlea-Prospect. Isn't it ironic the number of health care workers that I have the opportunity to introduce or to speak about or receive e-mails from . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: They are probably very disappointed they missed your speech.

MR. ESTABROOKS: No, they heard my speech, I was told this morning, they picked it up through the airwaves, obviously. First of all, I would like to introduce Jean MacDonald, QE II nurse. Jean is here and her husband, Dan, is not with her, because Dan, a good trade unionist who works with Metro Transit, I hear from on a regular basis. We also have Carolyn and Ray Doucette from Greenwood Heights who are here and I thank them. Carolyn and Ray could you stand and I thank them for being here this morning. (Applause)

[6:00 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. Yes, indeed, welcome to the guests as introduced by the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: I have been here all night and I have been listening to the speeches and . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Which one did you like the best?

MR. CORBETT: Obviously, the member for Timberlea-Prospect. I could barely contain myself during it.

[Page 5377]

Mr. Speaker, some of the speeches talked about people within the Cabinet who are to blame for this. I fundamentally disagree with that. The person who has led the attack on these workers is the Premier himself. The Premier has played a game of rope-a-dope with this piece of legislation that would make Mohammed Ali proud. He has dodged everything, he has hurtled back and forth, corralled inside and outside of this House and he has been flacked around; when he leaves here with the people around him, it looks like when the boxers are coming into the ring in a professional boxing fight, that is what it looks like. But, truly, he is, and should be portrayed as, the villain in this whole process.

Someone would say, why would you want to do that? Because, through the process from Opposition into government, this Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party portrays himself as this kind-hearted, friendly, country doctor whose primary concern is the health and welfare of Nova Scotians. Well, as we saw earlier this morning in Question Period, this kindly, friendly country doctor is anything but. His whole act there tonight was, well, we have to be fiscally responsible. That wasn't what he was saying when he was over in the Third Party. He was saying he was going to do this for health care workers.

Someone had joked to me from the NSNU last week that they thought he was on the payroll when he was in Opposition, he was over hanging around their offices so much, looking for information and going to correct the ills of the health care system. Somewhere - and maybe he is the one who can explain it to us because he is a medical doctor - how it is possible when you walk from that side of the floor over to there, you can get some kind of selective amnesia. That is the only way to describe what that Premier is doing. That Premier is anything but this fine, friendly country doctor. What he is, is in a wolf's clothing, because in less than two full years he has been responsible for chaotic incidents with workers in the health care system. It is him and him alone.

He has no understanding. I daresay he would never compare himself to an ordinary Nova Scotian, I am sure that financially he is much better off than most of these people that are being forced into losing their collective bargaining rights. I am sure he is much better heeled financially than them, so how can he even understand their predicament? I think with the lack of understanding of their predicament, he has a laissez-faire attitude towards it.

He says things like, we are not going to allow an increase for the health care workers to affect health care provisions down the road.

Mr. Speaker, again, I have to go back to the fact that that Premier, when in Opposition, said the complete opposite. That is ground zero, you have to look after your workforce. It is different now when he is sitting over there. One thing, I think he would have gained a bit of respect from Nova Scotians had, last night in Question Period, he said, well, I really didn't mean that, I just wanted to get elected. Maybe, begrudging and as distasteful as that may be, people may have respected that. There is no worker in this province who respects that

[Page 5378]

Premier's leadership tonight, or this morning for that matter, because he hasn't been forthright with them. He is the one responsible for this.

Mr. Speaker, you have to realize, last week when the members from the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union went to mediation with Mr. Outhouse they went in there in good faith. In good faith there was a media black-out on it, but there was also an understanding that at midnight the talks would end. The government knew that, the workers knew that, the Capital District Health Authority knew that, and Mr. Outhouse knew that, but they thought it was an agreement and it should stay as part of the media black-out.

What did this Premier do when these people sat down in good faith to bargain collectively with a mediator? What does this government do? It hunkers itself down with Cabinet and says, okay, we are calling the House back and, in effect, we are going to introduce what we now know as Bill No. 68. Then he has the unmitigated gall to tell the public, by way of the media, that what he was doing was right.

Mr. Speaker, he gave the workers no other choice. He pushed them, he bullied them into this situation. It is all right for this Premier, because he is financially much better off than any of these workers who are here this morning or work in the system. He can absorb loss, he can afford the proverbial hard times. This Premier, as other Tory Premiers from Pictou County are fond of trying to do, is trying to balance the books of this province on the backs of workers.

Now, it is a strange thing, you know, when people find out that the province is in a deficit situation. Do you go, as most right-thinking people would do, to the people who caused the overspending and help them, the people who can financially most afford to get the deficit in order? No, Mr. Speaker. What do governments like this do? They attack the working men and women of this province. They take away their rights. Have they said to groups like Scotiabank, we are not going to give you millions of dollars? No, no, we are going to leave you with that money. (Interruptions) We are going to give Sobeys money for creating work that is already here.

When it comes to looking after workers in this province, we can't trust them. So what we are going to do is take away the few basic rights that you have. There are very few basic rights that organized women and men of this province have, and we are going to take it away from you. We are going to take those away. Then, another thing, after Question Period, he gets scrummed outside and he tells reporters, well, if those workers settle, we may withdraw this legislation. Again, two things are evident here, Mr. Speaker, either he doesn't know what is in this legislation or he is not being honest. So I don't know which one it is. (Interruptions) There we go, the clown prince from Preston has said this, he is being practical. (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, I wish he would come to a microphone and say it because here is the flaw. You know somewhere in this province there is a village without one.

[Page 5379]

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that there is more than just this union that has to have the tentative agreement. There are other bargaining units throughout this province that are just starting to get to the table that are impacted by this and obviously, the member for Preston understands so little about the collective bargaining process that this goes over his head. He doesn't understand and I would make that same assertion about the Premier if he is making those statements outside the House.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is being practical.

MR. CORBETT: If you call that being practical, I would hate to have you do my books if that is being practical, but yet he is saying that outside this House. So he either doesn't know the legislation or he is not being honest with the people out there, Mr. Speaker. Shouldn't there be a partnership here? The Premier is telling these people the financial situation of the province is such that the people have to make sacrifices.

There was much toing and froing between the Third Party and the government during Question Period earlier this morning about who is responsible for the debt. I guess it was one of those things we sit back and say, well, you both have a good point because you have both driven it. What is amazing is that you folks on the government side almost want to wipe out any memory of the Buchanan and Cameron years and yet they want the workers of this province to help them unburden the province of that financial fiasco by those two administrations. So that is not fair. There is not one iota of fairness in that, but yet the Premier thinks that is all right when he moans outside this House about the fact that he thinks he made a fair offer to these workers, but why should the workers believe him?

Let's go back a short week ago when money wasn't an issue according to this government, it was the contingency plan that was the issue. But when this government was proven wrong that there was a contingency plan because there were two, there was one already built into the collective agreement and there was another ready to be signed off on that said, look, anything we disagree about the contingency plan will be sent to binding arbitration with the ruling within 24 hours. It makes sense to me that they are trying to bargain collectively, but the government didn't trust them on this. The government decided, no, we have to bring in this piece of legislation because we don't trust the workers of this province.

Could you imagine if you were to do a referendum with the workers and see what kind of trust they have in this government, when government after government after government ran this province into the ground financially and then are trying to blame that on the workers. You know, Mr. Speaker, the health care workers in this province didn't buy these automatic toilet seats. The health care workers in this province didn't negotiate a lousy deal with the oil companies over our natural gas resources. As I am fond of saying to the Minister responsible for Sydney Steel, it wasn't the workers who spent $3 billion at Sysco; it was the

[Page 5380]

Tory Government that spent hundreds of millions of dollars with the Tippins group down in Pennsylvania.

[6:15 a.m.]

This whole idea that for some reason when there is a debt in this province, it is the workers who have got to resolve it for you. There is no such thing as shouldering any blame. There is no idea of going after the ones who aren't paying their fair share of taxes; Heaven forbid, would they ever do a structure that would do that, that would make people pay their fair share of taxes. No, what this government would rather do is take away what little rights workers have in this province and tell them, look, that is it.

Another thing I found mildly amusing during Question Period and some of the Premier's answers were this is about health and safety. We're worried about the health and safety of Nova Scotians. You know, Mr. Speaker, that almost has a slight chance of plausibility, it may be right but, do you know what, I think back to just before the House rose in late May when we were asking this government to move the people of Laurier, Cartier and Hankard Streets in Whitney Pier. Their health and safety didn't matter to this government. Oh, we have to do more testings, we have to do this and we have to do that, we can leave them there. But all of a sudden it becomes paramount to them.

Mr. Speaker, I will come back later and talk more about that. They have a real problem when it comes to believability, because so far we have seen about three scenarios of why they are invoking this legislation and not sitting down with the unions. They pulled the trigger too quickly, Mr. Speaker, on the paramedics. They panicked and brought in a piece of legislation that didn't work. One thing that was going on that's completely absent here, because of the attitude now, is that there was ongoing negotiations to do two things - to get a collective agreement and to change the legislation that would make it somewhat more palatable. This time the government just put this piece of legislation in, didn't bother talking to any of the principals about it, and now they are not willing to move off it one little bit. They are saying to people, that's it. This is what we are going to give you and this is what we are going to do. This is the heavy hand of this Hamm Government.

So, you know, I have to think there is only one person who is to blame for this legislation, and that is the Premier of this province, who has no regard for the working women and men of this province. As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that he holds them in distain, that he has no respect, no respect to the value of their work. If he did, if he respected the value of their work and what they do, then he would certainly have said, look, as Leader of this province, I have to take charge of this situation, because the proverbial buck stops with him.

[Page 5381]

So he would have taken charge of the situation, Mr. Speaker, he would have gone and sat down with the parties and showed leadership but instead he was too busy playing the rope-a-dope game and hiding from the workers and now we see what we have here. We are stuck here with a bad piece of legislation that is not going to do anything to help cure the ills of the health care system in this province. I would make the assertion that it would go much further to hurting it, and I will get into that later on. This Premier bears the blame for what is happening in this province as we speak.

Mr. Speaker, about 12 hours from now there will be workers gathering around this Legislature to voice their disapproval of this. That could be a time when this Premier could, once and for all, show some leadership. He could go out, and if he honestly believes in his heart of hearts that this is good, useful legislation, then he could address that crowd, and they would probably turn around and go to their respective homes. People aren't coming out here tonight, the women and men of this province, and some children probably, to this Legislature because they have nothing else to do and don't have other things to do, like taking their children or grandchildren to soccer games or baseball games.

They are in a fight for their lives, and you have a Premier telling them, well, just wait, the time will come. Again, I have another quote from the Premier, last week, saying even after this legislation people want to stay here. That is a misguided thought. They can't afford to stay here after this bill. Again, it goes to the trust factor, when it comes to this idea of trusting the government, they are going to give themselves the ability to impose a collective - I keep have to correcting myself - an agreement, not a collective agreement, it is an agreement. They are going to impose one.

Mr. Speaker, we don't know what is going to be in that. They can actually give them less than what they have already negotiated. Now, something that the Minister of Justice said last night, speaking on a motion from the Third Party, he said well, we are not going to give them anything less. Well, if we trusted them on that, that may not be so bad, but they have flip-flopped on so many things since we came back in this House last week why should anybody believe them? Why would the workers trust them to get a fair deal? On the other side, they are saying there is nothing in here that prohibits them from bargaining collectively now. Well, again, it shows you, one would only hope, it is naive, but I don't think it is naive I think it is very cruel.

Why would any of the DHAs want to sit down and bargain collectively now, because there is no reason for it? They know they can sit back and the government is going to impose a settlement. They know the government is the ultimate employer and, therefore, this government is going to give them the deal that is going to fall on the side of the middleman, the DHAs.

[Page 5382]

We now have a bill that will take away all their rights. I think it is also worth commenting on the Minister of Justice's speech from last night, his theory around no matter what the contingency plans were, that wasn't enough. I think those comments spoke volumes. What it tells you, really, is the mentality that emanates from the Premier and goes through the whole Cabinet, what it is is that workers shouldn't have the right to strike. He tried, in his own way, to put forward a convincing story that there would be bedlam if they didn't bring in this legislation. Well, thanks to this government, what started out as an earnest way of trying to get a collective agreement has escalated into a real brouhaha. It has nothing to do with finding a way to get a collective agreement, but everything to do with this government sticking its nose in the collective bargaining process.

Another quote from the Premier is that we are going to make them the highest-paid nurses - the word he uses - in Atlantic Canada, yet when you sit down and you say that is not who your competition is in the marketplace, he shrugs that off. It is astounding. From time to time, when this government purports to be this kind of bastion of free enterprise and understands how markets work, and then realizing that when the markets are forced upon them, they don't like the scale of that market and they bring it back to one that would reflect what they see as their position and not the real world position, only theirs.

Mr. Speaker, again, we see this Premier to be the villain in this. Clearly, he is the one that has caused this problem, and he is going to be the one, whatever happens in the way of labour stoppages or anything else, the person who has to wear this. He is the one who has intruded in a system that was working. He likes to trot out the fact that the workers rejected an agreement. Well, that is democracy. I think they rejected and, clearly, sent their leadership back with a message. It is the fact that before this bill was even introduced, two weeks ago this Saturday coming up, when the NSNU membership rejected it, at that point they already started the wheels going, of getting a conciliator together and getting back to the table.

That wasn't pushed forward by this Bill No. 68. I would say to you that it was impeded; that process has been impeded by Bill No. 68. They want to go and think that this is going to go some way in helping to find a solution to the health care crisis within this province. All this is doing is making a bad situation worse. It is not about safety in the workplace, it is about taking away workers' right; it is about a heavy-handed, dictatorial Premier who doesn't respect workers and who says how dare you, that you would do such a thing as to challenge this province in its offer and, therefore, I am going to beat you down. That is exactly what he is doing. He is a tyrannical, mean-spirited Leader, by doing what he is doing.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is that bad?

MR. CORBETT: Oh, that is bad. It is real bad. Mr. Speaker, we have talked about the workers and their ability to stay focused on their jobs while all this is going on. It almost galls me sometimes when we introduce some of the health care workers, and I see the

[Page 5383]

government members applaud as if they respect what they do because I get the feeling they don't. If they did, this bill wouldn't be before us. These women and men have agreed that they were not going to endanger anybody's lives or not work to make sure the health care system is going. All they want is to be respected and remunerated for what they do. I don't think that is too much to ask. This government would rather fight them and draw the ire of just about every political analyst from across this country who have decried that this bill is overkill.

[6:30 a.m.]

We have had the Premier's own organization, a member - I am sure he is still a member - of the Medical Society of this province saying that this bill did nothing to help the health care system in this province. As a matter of fact, it will hurt it. I think it seems more like the Premier is trying to settle a score than settle any labour dispute. If this government was serious about bringing in some changes that would help these people, they would take some of our suggestions we put in here when the House was sitting before we were called back, about workers' rights, whether it was the Trade Union Act or the Labour Standards Act because we have eliminated some things here.

Let's talk about how this system is manufactured to abuse part-time workers. Mr. Speaker, these people - and there are many of them in the system - many health care providers are in the system who do not get any benefits whatsoever. They don't have extended health care; they don't have dental, they don't have optical; they don't have pensions. So, why wouldn't the government, if it really wanted to help these workers, why wouldn't it do something and say look, if you work so many hours, you automatically are covered. But no, the government wouldn't do that, so you have got to question the sincerity of the government; you have to question the sincerity of the leadership, therefore you question the sincerity of the Premier who says that he wants to do something about this.

In one instant he is saying, we made an offer, it was a fair offer. The next instant he says oh, we weren't at the table. Well, which we are we talking about? There is so much double-speak coming from the Premier's Office. I wonder if he should go and be checked for multiple personalities because certainly he says one thing and does another. It is like The Many Faces of Eve.

So why this attack on workers in this province, Mr. Speaker? You know earlier today my colleague from Timberlea-Prospect was reading some letter, I think from today's Halifax Chronicle-Herald. He spoke about someone who wrote a letter and talked about the death of coal miner Bill Davis in New Waterford. That was a seminal point for the trade union movement in this province. I think it is what everything else is measured against. I think we have to understand where we were then and put it in the context of today because in some ways there are some similarities. I am not saying that the Premier will have the provincial police, because we don't have provincial police anymore, come in and do anything dastardly.

[Page 5384]

Later I will get into talking about the heightened security around here when anybody in this province wants to protest.

At that time what you had in Cape Breton was a complete imbalance of the economic system. What you had was a company, a foreign company if you will, the British Empire Steel and Coal Company, that was mining coal from the grounds that we owned. It was a Nova Scotia resource not unlike our natural gas today. We gave the right to that fossil fuel away to these carpetbaggers, and that is the best way they could be described. They have been described in many historical journals as carpetbaggers. When these workers struck and tried to bring balance to this situation because at that time you lived in a company home, you bought from a company store, you burned company coal and that what it was, your life was controlled by them.

I won't go too much more into the exact history of that, but the day that, on June 11th, when William (Bill) Davis was murdered by provincial police, the citizenry of New Waterford had gone out and were in the process of taking over the power plant because this company, the British Empire Steel and Coal Company, had shut off the power to the families in the Town of New Waterford. There was no economic balance here, you had a heavy-handed company and yet, that was the idea. I think most fair-minded people would say, jumpins, I would have to do that if I was there. I would have to go if I had children and I couldn't get water for them to bathe, to cook them a meal and so on. That is what you would have had, you would have had to take things into your hands.

Did the government of the day come to the support of those workers? No, just the opposite, it came down on the side of the employer, it came in and what little dignity those workers had left, they tried to shred. To the chagrin of that government those residents stood their ground and turned that around. I say that because that is important, because we have the situation arising in this province, and it is coming close upon us. The same thing, where we have a government that is abandoning the workers. While these workers may have a few more rights today than they did back in 1925, 76 years ago, this government is trying to take some of those rights away. The government is trying. It is in the legislation, that it will be a full three years before they get any of these rights back.

Why should the workers of this province have any respect for the government if the government doesn't respect them? We all grew up, I would hope, with the idea that you don't get respect, you earn respect. This government is doing nothing to earn the respect of its own employees. It is taking a heavy-handed approach to it. I think, quite honestly, had the government sent meaningful people to the table, and I will get into this again later, but sending a messenger over to the Dartmouth Holiday Inn almost put the tentative agreement on the rails because he didn't know what he was doing, but Mr. Speaker (Interruption) The Government House Leader is telling me you have agreements, but you know that is not uncommon, Mr. Minister, to have them rejected. (Interruption) I didn't hear what he said. (Interruption) No, no, you see you have only one really that was rejected, it was the nurses.

[Page 5385]

Now let me finish. The other one, I know he wants to go on about the NSGEU that was rejected on Saturday, he is going to say is two. Well, the reality with that, my assertion on that, and I believe I am correct, is that that was a rejection from the heart instead of the head maybe, a reaction to this bill. You have to think of it in those terms, Mr. Minister, but that is what it was. You have pushed them in a corner and they said watch us, because you didn't respect them, and that is exactly what I am saying.

Did anybody - and I know they didn't - but I will say this to you, did anybody of substance from the Department of Health sit down with NSNU, after they rejected by 75 per cent their tentative agreement, saying well how are we going to resolve this? They didn't. You had a knee-jerk reaction and brought in this piece of terrible legislation, and that is why we are here today, Mr. Speaker.

I have often had arguments with the Government House Leader and that is fine, it is fine to have disagreements. I think you, as the point person who brings a lot of the bills and brings the Orders of the Day to this House, I think you are wrong on this. I think you are way off base, and it is as wrong as you were over the EMT legislation. I think if you sit down these people could come to an agreement.

So, you haven't showed the respect, I think, that these people deserve. I go back, I believe this is the handiwork of the Premier and he doesn't understand the situation. He has this, probably, cavalier attitude of what that level provides, where they are supposed to be in the health care strata. There is no talk here about nurses and lab techs and other people within the health care system, what they have to do when they are working 12 and 16 and 18 hours a day and they finally get a day off and they are getting called back in, Mr. Speaker, what that is all about. Does the Premier even care? I don't think he does. If he cared, he would have waited off on legislation until the mediation process was finished.

That is the fly in the ointment here. You can't say that they rejected this agreement on its face value; they rejected that agreement because they were pushed around by a government, and, quite honestly, with good or just cause, I am not sure, but they just said look, enough is enough, we are tired of being bullied by governments. We have been rolled back, we have been frozen, we have been blamed, and enough is enough. We are just not going to take this stuff any more. This government just isn't getting it; it is not getting it that these people are frustrated and that they deserve better.

Mr. Speaker, I may read some letters in a bit, but when we read affidavits and we read compelling stories about people who have been in the health care system, working in it. I heard one quote this morning: 41 years and talking about getting out of it. Not retiring. You would think if you were at a job 41 years you should have a decent retirement package but, quite possibly, they don't. But they are talking about getting out of it and going into some other line of work or going outside this province. There is something fundamentally wrong when you have people telling you that.

[Page 5386]

[6:45 a.m.]

Whether the government is going to take an attitude of, well, they are just a little angry with us now, give them six months and they will cool off. Well, if that was the case then they would have agreed with out hoist motion, so that, obviously, is not where they are going.

Yet, they don't look at a factor that I like to talk about a lot, Mr. Speaker, and that is the investment - I talked about the older workers, but I am going to talk about the younger workers for a moment and come back to the more senior workers, but they don't even look at the fact that these younger workers - we, as a government, through our tax dollars and as Nova Scotians have invested in their education. We have invested in their education probably 15 to 16 years. So, what do we do? Do we get a chance to recoup the investment? No, we see them go off to Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maine and California.

I was talking to my niece on the weekend and she is writing - I forget the technical term for the exam but, basically, it would be the same as writing an interprovincial ticket here in Canada and would allow them to take their skills throughout the United States. I asked her are you going to eventually come home? She says, I will come home for a visit.

Here is a case of a bright, young nurse who got caught up in a system we have in this province where she just couldn't take it anymore. She worked almost three years in the system as a part-time nurse. She was getting, on average, 60 hours a week but she was getting absolutely no benefits. As she said, that doesn't bother me today, I am still living at home, it is not a direct financial burden for me today. She said, what it is, someday, I would like to think about moving out and maybe getting married and having a family and so on, and have benefits, but it wasn't presenting itself. Everyone knows that in any kind of financial planning, the earlier you start to invest for your retirement, the more your money will accrue. This idea of not having any benefits, you don't have access to any kind of pension plan or anything. It is gone.

We have to wonder, how can we trust this Premier who leads Cabinet and they are going to be the ones, after this legislation is passed, to put forward the agreement. That is where it is going to happen. The DHAs are not going to have any interest, or the AHO, as it happens to be, when they are dealing with the NSNU, they are not going to have any concern or enthusiasm to bargain collectively because they know the government is going to do their heavy lifting for them. They are going to come in and say, here is the agreement. That agreement might very well be a series of rollbacks. We don't know because, as I said earlier on Monday, the government said they wouldn't do anything less. We have seen the flip-flop here so often, that you really don't know or can't trust the government as an employer to do the honourable thing.

[Page 5387]

What we have is, in approximately 11 hours from now, a group of citizens of this province who will be coming to this House, and they are going to tell this government how repugnant they feel, the repugnance they have towards this legislation, how they feel betrayed by this government. Quite honestly, maybe some of these people - not maybe, I would say for sure - who would be outside of this House 11 hours from now will have voted for this government, will have voted for members because maybe some had bought the blue book line, we are going to look after health care. Some others may have, as the case is in this province, voted for the candidate because they find them personable or trusted them as someone who would go to this House and represent them.

Mr. Speaker, that is what is going to be interesting. That latter group I talked about, when the rubber hits the road, whenever there is a final third reading on this vote, what are the independent people on the backbenches of the Tory Government going to do? Are they going to vote Party line or are they going to vote the way the voter voted back in July of 1999? They said that this government - this person, not this government - that this person, that this member I voted for, you know, I am not really a Tory at heart but I know this member from over here I voted for will represent my needs in the Legislature. He is not going to be, or she is not going to be just a duck on the pond, this person is concerned about what is going on in my community, in my workplace, and will represent me.

So that is the crux of what is going to happen here in a very few days time, how these people will react. If they don't do the right thing and represent the workers who voted for them, then I believe that they will have no right to go ask those people for a vote the next time when they go knocking on doors for the next general election, whenever that will be, because they have abdicated the trust put in them.

There is an old saying in politics: none of us are elected here simply because of what Party they belong to, we all got here because people will cross Party lines and vote for you because they feel that you are the best candidate, you are someone of substance who will go and represent the people of your constituency, of your community, reflective of where you live, and your concern is not Party solidarity but your concern is for community. That is what I believe the backbenchers have to come to grips with in a very few days. Is their trust, is their loyalty to the Hamm Government or is your loyalty to the people who elected you? Do you think it is more important that you buy into this notion that the debt and deficit of this province can be in some way be wrestled down and solved by taking away rights from workers? If that is what you believe, then you support this bill.

On the other hand, if you believe that the people, the women and men and students and so on, who voted for you back in your community put you there because they thought you would do the right and honourable thing in looking after their concerns, not the concerns of 12 people in a Cabinet Room but their concerns, then you will vote against this bill.

[Page 5388]

The government is not going to fall if you defeat this bill, as has been pointed out before, and I would also say to you that what you would do is you would go a long way to regaining the trust of the workers who are in the health care system, Mr. Speaker. These members could then go back and hold their heads up and say, do you know what, I did the right thing, I stood my ground and I am supporting what the ordinary Nova Scotian wanted us to do, not what the 12 people around a Cabinet Table have told us what they wanted done, but you, as my ultimate boss, the voters in my constituency, would want me to do.

It is evident, Mr. Speaker, if not scientific, it is certainly evident that Nova Scotians don't agree with this bill. If you pick up editorial after editorial, letters to the editor, radio show call-in lines, just reactions, it is overwhelming that Nova Scotians see this bill as negative. I have often said in this House, you know, when sometimes members of government want to stand up and say, but you have got to make tough decisions, and that's fair, you have got to make tough decisions. You don't have to make mean decisions and this is one of the decisions that is a mean decision. This is blaming people who have no control over 10, 15 to 20 years of debt in this province.

These are people who have gone to work every day and helped put the broken people of this province back together and all they want is a little time and space to give them what most Nova Scotians, who have joined a trade union, have the right to do and that is to bargain freely and collectively, Mr. Speaker. If you are going to vote for this bill, you have got to realize that you are taking away some fundamental rights these people have. This is not a group of fringe radicals who want to do something here. You are turning them into a radical group because you're failing to sit with them and trying to find common ground.

You're going to impose - and that's what it is going to end up being - a settlement, Mr. Speaker, so you try to impose a settlement which will not help anybody. It will not help a health care system that is not working. It is not going to help the government to balance its books. No, what you are going to do, as we've seen in editorial after editorial, provincially, regionally, nationally, we're being seen as the Nicaragua North when it comes to labour legislation. It is time for the backbenchers and the Tory caucus to stand up and be counted and do it for the people who you represent back home.

There comes a time when you have to put Party loyalty aside and say this is what's best for all of Nova Scotians. This is what's best for Nova Scotians, not what's best for the Tory Party, Mr. Speaker. They have to stand up and vote against this legislation and support the women and men in the health care system. Thank you.

[Page 5389]

[7:00 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and good morning at the same time I guess. It is 7:00 a.m. now. It has been an interesting few days. The first time I spoke on this bill it was 2:30 a.m. The second time I spoke on this bill was, I believe, around 10:30 a.m. and here again for the third time at 7:00 a.m. I certainly want to commend the previous speaker, the member for Cape Breton Centre, who delivered again quite an eloquent speech and was able to go his maximum hour time.

Mr. Speaker, it is a shame, it is disgraceful that one has to be here again at this hour, that the government backbenchers are once again forced to endure these long nights as the government tries to ram through Bill No. 68. It is simply amazing the amount of different messages that have been given over the last few days from the government. Last Friday when the Premier was asked, because he kept musing, both he and the Health Minister, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Justice, they were hoping that the bargaining process could work and they hoped agreements could be reached before the passage of Bill No. 68. When they said that, naturally the question came up and they asked the Premier, well, if you do get those agreements, will you withdraw Bill No. 68. Well, on Friday his answer was no, regardless of whether they resolved it or not, I will still pass Bill No. 68. Not until this morning in an interview the Premier suddenly now is saying if there are agreements in place, I will not pass Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, health care workers are asking will the real John Hamm please stand up. Which one is it? Is it the Friday Premier who said no, I am still ramming the legislation through, or is it the Monday morning Premier, or Tuesday morning Premier, who says that he will withdraw the legislation. The Government House Leader shakes his head. When I ask which one is it, he says no. It reminds me of my old science teacher I had in Grade 7. When we would ask him, his writing wasn't always comprehensible on the board and we would ask him, sir, is it this word or that word and his answer was yes. So that was about as straight as an answer as what the Government House Leader gives us there when we ask which Premier is it, is it Premier Hamm of Friday or is it Premier Hamm of Tuesday morning who says that they will withdraw this legislation.

Imagine, Mr. Speaker, the new Premier Hamm saying, you know, settle your contracts, take what we have given you and shove it down your throat and whatever it takes to swallow it, whatever drink, whether it be orange juice or maybe Javex in this case, because of the poisonous feeling that I am sure this has for those who have been negotiating here, that if you accept those, then we will withdraw Bill No. 68. That would require nurses and health care professionals involved in this to have trust in this government. I think the Government House Leader, the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Justice and the Premier are sadly mistaken, considering the fact that we're in day number three of 24 hour sessions, that anyone would

[Page 5390]

actually believe the government in saying settle your agreements and we will withdraw Bill No. 68.

The Government House Leader says yes, yes, we will do that, honestly we will. Well, Mr. Speaker, let them put that down on paper. Let them write that to the Leader of the NDP, the Leader of the Liberals, and an open letter to all Nova Scotians saying that. They are making enough advertising as it is. What was it today, a one-half page ad in The Chronicle-Herald? You might be able to fool Nova Scotians into believing that that's not an expensive ad, but the problem is that all members of this House, and I know certainly all members in the Opposition, at least most of the Opposition members, have gone through at least two elections and we know how much those ads cost and they are extremely expensive.

A one-half page ad in The Halifax Chronicle-Herald is not a cheap ad. Yet today a one-half page ad with some graphs, once again, the government still hasn't accepted the idea that they can shout until the cows come home that nurses will be the highest paid in Atlantic Canada. The gig is up. It has already been shown that what nurses are making in New Brunswick and Newfoundland is about to change in the very near future so that their claim to fame that they will be the highest paid in Atlantic Canada today, they know that within a few months that won't even be a factual claim.

Yet today when asked during Question Period, the Minister responsible for Communications Nova Scotia, the Government House Leader, who would know if there was one obvious question, Mr. Speaker, that any member of the government could say, what's the obvious question we are going to get today, okay, can you guys think of one obvious question, anyone with any reasoning would have said, well, they are going to ask you how much those ads cost because they have been talking about those ads. They are on the radio. The one thing they are going to ask you is how much are those ads costing.

You would have thought that a responsible minister, a responsible government would have said, here you go, you want to see how much they cost, I will table them right now. Each day they have been running, here is the cost, here is how many radio ads we have run, here is where we have run them, and here is what we have paid for them.

I don't think that is unreasonable. I don't think you, Mr. Speaker, feel that that is unreasonable. Yet, in a wonderful Tory fashion the minister responsible says, I don't have that information, I will obtain that for you. I would be prepared to predict that it will be the month of July or August before that reaches either the NDP caucus office or the Liberal caucus office, or the government hopes that it will be long gone by then and as far away from Province House as possible.

Yet, they ask for the health care workers and nurses to trust them. The question, as a backbencher on the government side, has really become, how much more can you take? How much more? You have to know that they are punch-drunk by now. You have heard that term

[Page 5391]

before. It is a very famous term, a boxing term. You can only take so many shots to the head, eventually it starts to boggle your brains a little bit and throws off your balance a little bit, throws off your speech, and you lose a little bit of comprehension. I think with the three days of 24 hours, I think all of us might be a little bit punch-drunk, but I still think that the members on the government side have many more scars and are suffering much more from being punch-drunk than the members of the Opposition.

The members over there are frustrated, they are tired, they have been asked to sit hours for a bill, when most of them don't even agree with what the government is doing. How can you agree? The problem is, as I have said before, it is fine when you are in the House of Assembly, the Government House Leader can sit 24 hours to keep you from having to go home and to protect you from having to be outside talking to Nova Scotians, and he can shield you as much as he can, but look over at the government side. The vast majority of you are from rural Nova Scotia. The House Leader won't be there with you.

The Minister of Justice - what is it today - in one of the articles, which I will quote at length later on, it said, referring to the minister, Baker is notoriously irkable and fast becoming one of Cabinet's least popular ministers. (Interruptions) See, well, it is so early in the morning for the Minister of Economic Development to be making these little shots here and there. I will let history judge, I guess, my own performance in Cabinet. History is the ultimate judge of us all. Somehow, in my time in Cabinet, they didn't cut my budget by 50 per cent, and I didn't lose everything there was in the department from when I first walked in. We will let history be the judge there, because at 7:00 o'clock in the morning it is a little early to be judging what the Minister of Economic Development's performance will be viewed as.

I know how the people of Richmond County view it. I know many other areas of the province that once relied on the government to assist in trying to establish an atmosphere of economic development, it is ironic that he throws that out across the floor. In fact, today is June 19th, I believe it was either today or yesterday that was the very last day for the clerical employee in the Office of Economic Development in Port Hawkesbury. She was just fired, let go. There was only two of them there, and they cut one. He still sees it appropriate to hurl insults across the floor about people's performance, as a Cabinet Minister. In the Strait area, he is just doing wonderfully right now, and they are certainly singing his praises as to how much he has dedicated efforts to economic development in our area.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, it is early in the morning, 7:00 o'clock. These backbenchers all have to go home, and they all have to face the music. We saw earlier today how frustrated the member for Guysborough-Port Hawksbury was. I sympathize with that. I can't tell him it is going to get any better for him. Some of the comments I am getting and the e-mails I am getting from constituency makes it quite clear that it is not going to be an enjoyable summer of doing the barbeque circuit for the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, as it certainly will not be for the member for Inverness.

[Page 5392]

One of the e-mails said that the members reminded him of an old period in history where a certain gentleman played the fiddle while a city burned. One of them said that the minister from Inverness is playing the fiddle while our health care system goes up in flames. We will have to see this summer how much fiddling he can do and how much talking he can do to justify what his government is doing, and to be able to stand in front of his constituents and say, yes, I am proud to be a member of the John Hamm Government; Bill No. 68 was the right thing to do, I fully agree with it, I agree with all the provisions. I think the Minister of Justice is just absolutely wonderful and he has brought wonderful legislation to the floor of this House.

Mr. Speaker, I know I don't need to remind the member his victory in the last election was certainly by no means a landslide. In fact, all three in the Strait area; 300 votes in Inverness, I believe; 120 votes in Guysborough-Port Hawksbury; and the landslide winner in Antigonish, 16 votes. Needless to say, those ridings are not safe Tory ridings. In those ridings, if you did polling today, health care would be the number one issue in all of those ridings. I would say unemployment and employment issues would probably be second; housing issues would be up there; education would clearly be a top issue; transportation would certainly be a top issue. If the Minister of Tourism and Culture is doing the barbeque circuit I hope he is quite careful in his driving of the roads of Inverness because, unfortunately, since July 1999, there have been a few bridges fixed, but for actual roads in the county, let me tell you.

I almost feel as bad for him having to explain Bill No. 68 as I feel bad for him having to try to explain the road situation in Inverness, and how a government that said all the tax money from fuel, from gas, from the registering of motor vehicles, license registration, vehicle registration would all go towards new paving. You remember that. My God, if anyone remembers that, it is you. Yet, go to Inverness and tell them just how much money was spent on their roads down there.

Mr. Speaker, already it is ironic, because so many times the government will say, look, it is just the Opposition. The Minister of Transportation and Public Works, the Government House Leader will go back and say, look, guys, I have been here since the 1970's, I have seen it all. It is just the Opposition, they are trying to scare you. Don't pay any attention to them. It will all be alright once it passes, forget about it.

Mr. Speaker, all of a sudden, it is not just the Opposition any more. Open up any one of the daily newspapers, listen to the radio, look at the editorials, listen to what Nova Scotians are writing. You don't have any support for this anywhere. A very few right-wing individuals may think this is the right way to go, that this is a perfect bill, that this is the way legislation should go, the way collective bargaining should go. The majority of Nova Scotians just aren't buying it.

[Page 5393]

We have proven during estimates, in case any of the backbenchers missed it, that your Minister of Finance misled the House with his budgetary figures. He has continued to do so. We have proven where that occurred; we have proven the additional revenue through the federal income tax bracket creep, through the money which has come from Ottawa. What was more amusing than watching the Minister of Finance say, because the gas prices are approaching 90 cents, it is not bringing any extra revenue for the province? I am not very good at math, my math teacher would be the first to attest that I am not very good at math. Gas prices go up, more tax revenue is collected and the Minister of Finance tells us we are not bringing in any extra money.

Because of the efforts of our caucus, questioning them on their budget, suddenly now he admitted during the budgetary process under those questions, oh, yeah, I have an extra $20 million or something like that. Yet, you sit there and he goes to your Cabinet or caucus meeting and he tells you guys there is no more money. And, you guys believe him. Really. You have to go back to your ridings and you have to defend what the Minister of Finance tells you. You have to ask yourself, just look at the history of events since your government has come to power. Your government - and especially the Minister of Finance - has continually not given the full accurate figure of the finances of this province. Yet, where did they learn that? Where did they learn that? What administration did he learn that in? The same one that the Government House Leader was part of.

[7:15 a.m.]

I am reading a most interesting book right now. Most interesting book. Mr. Speaker, you might have read it and I do suggest that you read it. A certain Mr. Ripley who wrote a book about the Tory days in this province and the heydays of the Buchanan Administration and a look from the inside of how the government operated; The Bag Man. It gives quite an interesting, historical account from someone who is most intimate with the Tory Party during the days of John Buchanan. To lift the veil and to show you what really happened and what kind of government it was and what principles their whole government was based on.

I will tell you if someone were to write a book, I won't say who it might be, I am sure there must be Tories out there who are disenchanted enough like Mr. Ripley to possibly provide us with a book in the next few days that will tell us the John Hamm years. I don't know what they will call it - the bag man, it might be the empty bag by then - and tell us what the principles of this government are. There will be a chapter about who really ran government, I can tell you right now who that chapter will be about. The Minister of Justice, the Minister of Finance, the Government House Leader. Not even the Premier.

Again, when they write the chapter about the fall of John Hamm, these three individuals will be the ones named. You will recall, not that long ago on this side of the House, there was a possible coup - a palace coup, one could say - where the members of the Tory caucus were prepared to oust the now Premier of this province. Ironically, if the

[Page 5394]

Premier sits there today and looks over to his left and looks over to his right, up and down, it is those same faces that sat behind here that tried to get rid of him, and came on the brink of getting rid of him. The now Premier of this province. And yet, he can't understand why he has image problems. Why it is that the good country doctor which he tried to portray himself as, eating cookies and drinking milk, just ain't selling anymore. Nobody is buying.

The sad part for him is that Nova Scotians are comparing him to Don Cameron - one of the people, I have to say having observed politics long before being elected - and maybe he is the finest gentleman you will ever meet. I can't judge that. I can tell you the impression that came across the TV was one of a mean, nasty individual. Maybe I am wrong, but the history accounts now of his time in power are not very kind to him, to say the least. Especially Mr. Ripley, in his book, is not very kind to Mr. Cameron and the fact that Nova Scotians are now saying - not the Opposition - that Premier Hamm is worse than what we saw under Don Cameron.

Because when you bring a bill like Bill No. 68, this is not just - you have heard of kicking someone when they are down? Well, this is not just - kicking someone when they are down. This is kicking them in the face. Because, when you go clause by clause of this bill, it hits you one after the other. You are not only kicked once when you are down, there are 13 clauses here, it kicks you 13 times. It is not good enough for the Government House Leader, for the Minister of Justice and Minister of Finance to say, we are not going to allow strikes. No, no. That is not good enough. They say, we are really going to show Nova Scotians this time who is in charge. You, the rest of the front bench, you will toe the line. Already the Minister of Finance and the House Leader have told the backbench, this is a vote of confidence; if you vote against Bill No. 68, pack your bags, you are gone out of the Tory caucus. Yet this is the same Premier who said, I will allow for open votes.

I asked the member for Preston to challenge, to see if that will really happen, to just say, I want to see. I ran on the ticket that John Hamm said he would allow for open votes, now the Minister of Finance and the Government House Leader tell me I am going to be booted out if I vote no. Let's see if that is going to happen. I know he used to test Walter Fitzgerald all the time, it used to drive him crazy. He used to test him and say he would not accept being told these norms and you will do this. He pushed the envelope all the time.

Here is a perfect opportunity for him to say, I want to really see who is in charge here; John Hamm told me that I could have free votes; the House Leader, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Justice tell me I can't. So who is running this government? I think there are a lot of members in the backbenches who decided to run because of John Hamm and what they thought John Hamm was going to offer them and their constituents. I think they have to ask themselves, who is running this government? I think that is a question that the Minister of Tourism probably has every day, who is running this government? They put me in a department saying that they wanted a stand-alone Department of Tourism yet they have left me out to dry with that. They haven't given me the support, the Minister of Finance or

[Page 5395]

the House Leader or the Minister of Justice, to finally be able to achieve the success in tourism they should have. That is not a slight against him personally; I think if he was given the proper supports necessary, considering his own personal talent, musical talent and everything else, his age and everything, I think he could really show that the tourism numbers in this province could soar, which they should. Yet, that wasn't a top priority for the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Finance. The Minister of Finance is more interested in making sure he looks good, not the Minister of Tourism because he sees himself as the would-be Premier, unfortunately not the Minister of Tourism. Only time will tell how that will all work out.

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting, and I have told you before when I hear the government and when I heard the Minister of Justice stand in this House and say if there was any strike action that the Opposition would be to blame for anything that happened; to talk about beds being closed and emergency rooms being closed and the long waiting lists and front-line care not being available. I can accept that in the many times I have spoken on the issue of health care, maybe they didn't listen the first time or the second time or the third time, the idea that I addressed the issue about a dozen times, I would have hoped that at least one would have kicked in, where they could have said yes, there is a big problem down in the Strait, there is a serious problem there; the emergency room is closed, beds are closed, there are long waiting lists, their health and safety are at risk, we have to do something. The Minister of Tourism could have been there at Cabinet to tell the Minister of Health that we have to do something, my God, it has been a month, and then two and then three and then four and then five, now six and a half. The Minister of Service Nova Scotia, who himself was first elected, I believe, in either the 1970's or the early 1980's, could say look, this is unacceptable.

The Liberals dealt with physician shortages in the Strait area, in fact, from the Minister of Service Nova Scotia, I know that he just wanted to be at that announcement when we announced a CAT scan at St. Martha's Regional Hospital to tell the Liberal Government how great he thought it was that we were putting the health and safety of his constituents as the number one priority by putting a CAT scan at St. Martha's Regional Hospital.

I know he wanted to stand up and clap and applaud that and say what a wonderful decision that was, yet he has managed to sit there himself in silence and allow one hospital in Richmond County to go six and a half months with no doctor, yet now they put ads trying to scare Nova Scotians as to what would happen in the event of a strike. It is a shame because for my constituents it is a slap in the face, it is a mockery. They are saying that this government now stands and says what a terrible thing and all the bad stuff that could happen, and yet they have allowed us to go six and a half months without emergency room coverage.

A place like Stora Enso Industries, I think it is safe to say that the member for Inverness has more constituents working there than I do, I think he knows that; also, the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury has a significant number of constituents who work there; the member for Antigonish has a significant number of constituents who work

[Page 5396]

there. Yet, they are willing to put that all on the line to risk it. The wonderful thing is that Stora Enso has a wonderful safety record when you look at the type of work that they do and the danger involved; and how quite easily a serious accident could occur. In this case six and a half months and yet, when you hear the Premier and the Minister of Health say we did not feel comfortable enough that we could trust nurses to provide critical acute coverage for emergencies.

Imagine, what a message, what a slap in the face. We can't trust you, yet the Nurses' Union provide all members of this House with an essential services agreements document dated back in May of this year. Since May of this year your government has been dealing with this and has been aware of this yet the Premier will go to caucus, the House Leader will go to caucus, the Minister of Justice, Minister of Finance and tell you guys, look backbenchers this bill stinks, it smells. I think stinks was ruled out of order the other day, Mr. Speaker, by yourself, so I will say smells, it smells, if stinks is not an appropriate word, it smells. They said but look there is nothing that we can do, this has come upon us at the last minute, negotiations aren't going well and we have to react and we have to react quickly and swiftly, I think is how they responded.

My God, since your government has been elected, they knew this was going to happen. Yet, you guys are being told to go home and defend Bill No. 68 because, if I could use the terms, the gun was to your head as a government. You had to act and you had to act quickly, this suddenly came up upon you. It didn't suddenly come upon you, it is an agreement that is going to expire. The minute that John Hamm took office he knew this was going to happen. From day one he should have been dealing with this and doing everything possible to make sure that this did not occur. Yet, that is not the Hamm way, that is not the way the Minister of Finance likes to run the show. He likes to say, look I told you there is no more money, you are not going to get any more money and by God you are going to accept that and if you don't, just watch me. Famous words used by, and I don't want to put the two in the same company because clearly it is not a fair comparison to the late Prime Minister to be put in that company but, imagine, that is the attitude.

Yet, this is a government that introduced a budget last year in Education, there is no more money, look we are on a four year plan. That was the message from the Minister of Finance, four year plan, no more money, suddenly he found an extra $20 million. This year another Education budget, no more money, we are on a four year plan, look $91 million deficit, there is not a cent left, we spent it all, then turns around and the Minister of Education in two installments for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board finds $1.5 million, yet there was no more money. As I said yesterday, mark my words, there is some news that will be coming out, let the backbenchers be aware now, there will be news coming out very shortly that your government has once again mysteriously found an additional $1 million to give out. I will leave you in a bit of suspense, maybe you can go and ask the Government House Leader, what is the MLA for Richmond talking about? You guys told us there is no more money, there is not a cent left, the Minister of Finance said no that

[Page 5397]

is it, I can't squeeze, it is like getting money out of a rock, there is no more money. You go ask him, if there is no more money, where did you find that $1 million? You said there is no more, which one is it? You told us, yes, the first year, in the Education budget, I said there was no more money and I found $20 million. So there was more money. In the second, yes, I did it again. But no, no, now, I am serious, come on guys, trust me. I am serious this time. Well, you will judge that for yourself before the end of the day as to just how serious that really was.

[7:30 a.m.]

There is no Nova Scotian out there who does not know that the Minister of Finance is building up a reserve, that he has cash that he has been putting aside and that the income tax cuts that he has told you all, hey, don't worry about the nurses, we are going to bring in an income tax cut just before an election. You are all going to be re-elected just on that because Nova Scotians will have forgotten about those nasty nurses being cranky at us. They will have forgotten about the Education cuts and increases to classroom sizes, cuts to teachers and support staff. They will forget all that. That income tax cut, that is our ticket to re-election.

Nobody is fooled, Mr. Speaker, the gig is up. We showed, in this year's budget, that what he will offer to us as a tax break, he is taxing us now for it and he is building up that reserve. No one is going to be fooled, yet it is always said that the voter only has a six month memory. I think you have heard that before, some say a two year memory. So do everything bad in your first couple of years, your tough decisions, and then the next couple, try to do as many good things as you can. The voters won't remember the nurses. They won't remember the paramedics. They won't remember education cuts. That used to be the way.

We have a wonderful thing now called Legislative TV. We have a wonderful thing called media technology and today, Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the next election, I can tell you right now, I envision the campaign slogans and the ads in the Strait area already, when the ads will be running on the cable stations in Inverness and in Port Hawkesbury and Antigonish. It will show how your member voted on the paramedics strike. How did your member vote on the nurses strike? How did your member vote on the budget which eliminated 20 teachers in our constituency? That is a good way to make sure they don't forget. That is not just putting it on a flyer and hoping they remember. What better effects than visual effects to show people exactly what their members did when they were in Halifax and how they will try to say, pay no attention to Bill No. 68.

I hear some of the backbenchers saying, make him stop. We don't want to think about our re-election, for the love of God. We don't want to think about that. It is 7:30 a.m. and we have been sitting here since midnight and probably some hours before that. Tell him and make him stop. We don't want to think about our re-election, because they already dread having to go back to the polls. The other wonderful thing we have, Mr. Speaker, is when all

[Page 5398]

of the new members came into this House, they stood in their place and they gave these eloquent speeches. They gave these speeches about the principles, morals, what they saw in themselves as an elected official, what they saw their goals were, what the positives were, what the negatives were, the vision that they saw for their province, for their people, for the constituency, for the areas they represent. That is all on the record.

I would invite some of them to pull out Hansard, and if they can't find it, just let me know and we will certainly find it for you, and read over what you said when you first came in this Chamber in 1999. Read over what you said your principles and your objectives were, your priorities were and where you expected to go under John Hamm and then look at where you are at today. Because, once again, come election time, let it not be a surprise to you that your words during your first speech in this House will be used to remind Nova Scotians of what you said and what you did while you were here. For a number of members on the backbench, Mr. Speaker, I think their constituents will judge them quite harshly as to what they said when they came here and what they ended up doing in this House. So if they don't care about re-election and they don't care about what their constituents believe and they figure, look, I've got a free ticket in here. I am going to do whatever I want, and pay no attention to whatever I said because I made that speech and then the Premier sat with me and said, whoa, whoa, whoa, what is all this crazy talk about principles and morals and priorities and good government and honest government, whoa, whoa, whoa? What is all that crazy talk? Let's put an end to that right now. Don't be talking like that anymore in this House. You are a Tory.

Haven't you read Don Ripley's, the Bag Man? Haven't your read other such illustrious Tory writers who have talked about the Tory way? It is crazy talk, principles and morals, egad, you're a Tory. What part did you miss about being a Tory that you think you are going to be able to do that, stand in this House and maintain that, and go from election to election and still say, I've got my principles, I've got my morals, I've got my objectives and my priorities. They are all in check. What I brought when I first walked into Province House, well look at me walking out, I have still got them. No, no, not if you are a Tory, not when you were with John Buchanan, not when you were with Don Cameron, and Premier Hamm is quickly showing that as bad as we thought those administrations might have been, his is becoming one the history books will judge quite harshly.

Bill No. 68 is a perfect example. You look at Bill No. 68 and you look at what some of the government members said in their Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne about their principles, their morals, the background of their constituents, what they felt their objectives were, what they felt their personal priorities were as members of government under John Hamm. I challenge one of them to stand and to say, what I said in my Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne is reflected in Bill No. 68. I don't think there is one of them. I will challenge them, whichever one would like to stand, whether it be a backbencher or even a minister, the Minister of Tourism and Culture to stand here and say,

[Page 5399]

when I first walked in this House, Bill No. 68 is a reflection of where I wanted to go under Premier Hamm.

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . give them the rest of your time.

MR. SAMSON: If I give them the rest of my time? What an offer. Do you think I should accept that? Do you think that is sincere? He wants me to give the rest of my time for him to speak. Well, Mr. Speaker, he knows very well that he can stand in his place and speak an hour. Once again, unfortunately, and nothing personal against him, but considering the fact that he sits in the Cabinet of that government and he is now hollering to me, well trust me. Unfortunately, with Bill No. 68, I can't do it, and that is not a slight against him. I think he might see the light, one would hope, this summer, a few tunes, a few barbecues, a few little jigs. Something might just trigger that conscience to say, wait a minute. What is happening here? I can't be part of this administration anymore. This is not what I expected.

Those people in Inverness told me that politics was such a wonderful thing and Dr. Hamm was such a good country doctor. He only drank milk and ate cookies, all healthy stuff, and he ran every day. He is a good country doctor. A milk and cookies Premier can't possibly do anything bad. Finally, they say, wait a minute, Bill No. 68, oh, what were they thinking, putting the screws to nurses and health care workers? A government and a Finance Minister that have been sitting on this nest egg. I wonder because the Minister of Tourism and Culture wasn't here, Mr. Speaker, he wasn't part of your caucus when you sat here, so he kind of missed out on the dynamics of what happened.

I remember one day, Mr. Speaker, the Premier was sitting here as the Leader of the Third Party and we were sitting across the floor and the Minister of Health, then the member for Truro-Bible Hill, he had appointed him as his lieutenant on the right-hand side. He put him on the front bench. You remember that, I think you were kind of seated almost directly behind the Premier. I remember during a debate, the Premier was jousting with some of the government backbenchers and the Minister of Health, then the member for Truro-Bible Hill, pointed over and he said, John Hamm is not scared of you guys. I remember at the time, without missing a beat, I said, he has got nothing to fear on this side. His biggest fear is the fellows sitting behind him. Remember that? I remember the Premier laughing and he looked at me and just shook his head to say, how right you are. I know I don't have to fear the Liberals across the way, but the ones sitting behind me and sitting on either side me, that is my greatest fear in this House (Interruption). Yet, for the Minister of Tourism and Culture, see he missed that. I don't even know if he was at that annual meeting where they saved the Premier. From the brink of disaster, they saved the Premier.

Mr. Speaker, remember there was even a funny phone call made to one of the daily papers? There was this fellow talking like Elmer Fudd. Remember that? A mysterious call, I don't know if they were able to trace it. It seemed to have been traced to a garage somewhere, but I am not sure if they are actually able to identify who it was. A member of

[Page 5400]

this House, in fact, was asked to go do some sort of test, a voice analysis, and I think they refused. I always though Elmer Fudd was a cartoon character. I didn't know he was a Nova Scotia politician, but anyway, you learn all sorts of stuff in this business.

That is what happened during that time, for the Minister of Tourism and Culture and even the Minister of Community Services, who happened to miss out on that. Yet, when the Premier sits there, Mr. Speaker, and he looks on his left and he looks on his right and, unfortunately the Minister of Health who used to be his right-hand man and he felt was almost his safety blanket, having him close to him and he is all of sudden moved a little further away from him, now when he looks at who is on his side, he says, wait a minute, what were they saying when they were sitting behind me? Did they say they supported John Hamm for Leader of the Tory Party or were they the ones plotting to get rid of me?

Mr. Speaker, when he looks at the backbenches, those sitting in the last row, not one of them was here to see that. They missed out on that, but I would encourage them to look back through the media reports to see what it was like because I sat here and I saw what happened. I don't know if they were all at the annual meeting where the Premier was saved. (Interruption) I know the member for Preston was there but, at the same time, he was at all the Liberal annual meetings, also. I can't attest for the NDP, but I know the one thing you could be sure of, he was going to show up at the Liberal annual meeting and everyone was going to say, for the love of God, what is that doing here again?

AN HON. MEMBER: Never misses a party.

MR. SAMSON: Well, well, well, it wasn't a party when the member for Preston was there. It was, how do we get rid of this guy? What do we have to tell him to make him go home? But he kept coming. He didn't come to the last few, but I still expect that at the annual meeting, it would be nothing for him to show up and to come out again.

Mr. Speaker, what is happening here? Bill No. 68, I predicted it shortly after the election when I said John Hamm will not lead the Tory Party into the next election. The backbenchers right now have to ask themselves, is there any truth or any possibility to what the MLA for Richmond is saying? Is it possible that the fellow whose coattails we rode to office on will not be there? (Interruption) The member for Yarmouth says that is the Liberal way and that is the NDP way. Well, you don't have the most illustrious history either when it comes to getting rid of Leaders or getting rid of fellow colleagues and that, so I am not going to go down that road. But I think living in a glass house would be best if you don't start throwing stones and I think that goes for all of us.

I said I wouldn't go there, Mr. Speaker, but I am sure the member for Yarmouth and his colleagues will recognize that their own history is not a glorified history either when it comes to some of their Leaders, and especially in light of what I have just told them about what could have happened to their own Premier when he was in the Third Party. Again, I

[Page 5401]

would say (Interruption) What I am trying to say is that when I told the Premier, then as the Third Party Leader of this province, that you have nothing to fear from the other side of the House, your greatest fear are those behind you and sitting next to you, if the Premier looks across this way now, looking at the front bench, I would tell him the very same, that you have nothing to fear from this side of the House, your greatest fear are those next to you and those sitting behind you and the Minister of Economic Development says, that's right. I would be curious to see where he stood when he was right against the wall here underneath the picture of Gladys Porter, whether he supported the Premier or whether he was one of the ones pushing to get rid of the Premier also, then the Third Party Leader. That is what Nova Scotians have as a government and the backbenchers are led to believe that John Hamm is in charge. Imagine. (Interruptions)

[7:45 a.m.]

Well, Mr. Speaker, we hear musing from the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury and the Minister of Tourism and Culture. I know the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury is sensitive and for me to take advantage of that or to pick on him again, it probably wouldn't be fair.

AN HON. MEMBER: Take the high road.

MR. SAMSON: No, I am going to take the high road. (Interruption) No, I can't see him being in a fighting mood at 7:46 in the morning. (Interruption)

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh-h-h!

AN HON. MEMBER: There is another threat, Mr. Speaker. Another threat. That man lives on threats. That is all he does.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, that member, if we put him on the Yuk-Yuks circuit or on Comedy Central, what a career. He is voted the most invisible MLA in the House of Assembly but now all of a sudden, we have found a feisty side . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Tough guy.

MR. SAMSON: All of a sudden he is the new tough guy and the enforcer of the Tory Party.

AN HON. MEMBER: Stone cold Ronnie.

MR. SAMSON: Imagine, Mr. Speaker, at 7:46 in the morning, the stuff you hear. (Interruptions) Most interesting. (Interruption) Well, you know, let him stand in his place, let him speak to us and tell us what he has to say, if he doesn't like what he is hearing and

[Page 5402]

he can always stand and tell us, explain six and a half months, no doctor, 48 hours in Cape Breton North (Interruptions)

The justice centre is not built yet plus the justice centre, the mayor wanted it to be a community civic centre at the same time, wasn't able to do that, couldn't deliver on that for Billy Joe. Call centre, all federal money. They like to take credit for that. Well, that is fine, Mr. Speaker. He is frustrated, Mr. Speaker. I can see my colleagues across the way are giving me helpful notes here to assist me in my speech and telling me really, we wonder who the real John Hamm is also. If you read this, who is the real John Hamm, signed a backbench Tory. That is a good question because you have the backbench starting to ask it, really. It says here, PS, is it Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? That is a good question. I would like to know that myself. I think all the nurses here would like to know that because when they were told July 27, 1999 to vote for the good doctor who jogs every day and drinks milk and eats cookies, he couldn't possibly do anything bad to nurses.

Then again, Mr. Speaker, as I tried to point out to my colleagues in the Strait, try to be helpful to them, try to assist them, is to tell them that your words and your actions in this place can always come back to haunt you. Even the Premier himself is not immune from this sort of thing.

So, you wonder, well, what is he talking about now? What do we have? Well, I want to quote from an article, if you will allow me, just to make my point. When you see Bill No. 68 and you see what the Tories are now doing, and you wonder why the nurses are saying, who is this John Hamm today? Who is the guy we voted for? Where did he go, really, is the question? I am going to quote. What I have here was downloaded by our staff. It is from The Halifax-Herald Limited, Thursday, February 19, 1998. That was during the campaign, that is where I first got elected. I remember that. What does it say here? Well, guess who wrote the article? You wouldn't guess, Mr. Speaker. A gentleman by the name of Dale Madill. I wonder who that might be. Anyway, it says, "Hamm pledges more funds, more staff in health care." The reason I bring this up is because it was interesting in Question Period today how the Premier was saying that a health care strike would be devastating, how it would be terrible, just the mere mention, he was quoting Joan Jessome, he was quoting Jim Smith, oh my God, a strike, what a terrible thing, even the thought of it is why I brought Bill No. 68. I can't even fathom the thought. We have to put a stop to it even before it even becomes a chance of being a reality.

So what did he say about strikes? Well, it says here, talking about the nurses at the QE II, "They are becoming desperate to get the attention of government, to get the recognition they deserve." Mr. Hamm said of the QE II employees. Then it said, "But he hedged when asked if he supports wildcat-strike action." So the Premier, today, this morning, you heard what he said, just the mere mention of a strike, my God, puts shivers up his spine. That is why he is asking you guys to vote and support Bill No. 68. He said, "I don't like wildcat

[Page 5403]

strikes. I don't think it would be appropriate for me to suggest a wildcat strike, but I certainly am sympathetic to the way they feel, and I think it is genuine."

What else did he say, though? He said, "Somehow, if a wildcat strike brings this government to its senses, then it is good strategy." It is good strategy if a wildcat strike brings this government to its senses, it is a good strategy. It is right here for anyone who wants to see it. February 19, 1998, the Minister of Economic Development was elected that year. That was the campaign. He will remember that statement. He was elected for the first time in that election also. If a wildcat strike gets the government's attention, then it is a good thing. Who, Mr. Speaker, was the gentleman sitting there in the place of the Premier who answered questions this morning about a possible strike? Who was that guy? Who was that imposter? How did he get past security? My God, we have a dozen armed officers here. How did he possibly slip by? It went on further to say, "Health care workers have been abused by this government." Well, well, well. If he thought they were abused, then let him go ask them now how they feel.

Imagine, Mr. Speaker, somehow, if a wildcat strike brings this government to its senses, then it is good strategy. So which one is it? Is it the gentleman who says a wildcat strike might be a good idea to bring the government to its senses, which I would argue would be an appropriate thing for this administration under that logic, or is it the gentleman who stood there today? I am not sure who he was. He sat in the seat of the Premier and people seemed to recognize him, he looked familiar; who said, my God, the mere mention of a strike, people will be dying and those nurses, they won't take care of people, they will be on the picket line with their pickets and the ambulances will go in and there will be nobody there. Imagine.

Do you know what, Mr. Speaker? Come the next election - well, no, because that goes against my theory. It goes against my theory. The Premier, there is no use even trying to advise him of the evils of what he is doing and its affects on him in the next election because, as I said, the Premier will find a way to step down as the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party before those individuals who threatened to get rid of him when he was the Leader of the Third Party finally say, okay, we've had enough, we've painted you with all of these bad government decisions, now you have to go. So that is what is going to happen there.

Now who, clearly, is the replacement? Is it the Minister of Economic Development? I don't think so. The Minister of Tourism and Culture? Well, he could mount a fight; he has the age, he could mount a fight. Is it the Minister of Community Services? I don't think so. Maybe he could mount a fight with the big Bedford vote and the big Bedford money behind him. But, we all know who, in that caucus, sees himself as having the divine right to replace Premier Hamm and lead the Tory Party, and that is the Minister of Finance.

[Page 5404]

The question is whether the backbenchers who got elected, saying that we are elected, we are part of the John Hamm team and the government is going to be open and accountable and that is why we ran - the member for Kings North, the member for Kings West, the member for Annapolis, Pictou West, they all ran for John Hamm - the question is, do they want to run for the Minister of Finance, a minister who has continually not been up front with them, a minister who doesn't talk to half of them. He doesn't talk to half them. They have to ask themselves, how many times has he invited me out for dinner or given me an extra ticket to a banquet or brought me to this place or asked me over? He doesn't have time for you guys. You are almost a hindrance. You are an annoyance but he needs you. Then he will come at the right time, he will pat you on the back and he will say, hey, how are you, buddy, how are things going and way to hang in there, way to go team. That is what is going to happen. The question is, will someone like the member for Preston, when he pats him on the shoulder say, hey, how are you? Or is he going to say, who do you think you are? (Interruption)

He is going to say, hi, I am Mr. Hendsbee from Preston and who might you be? They might get to meet officially for the first time. That is what the government backbenchers have to ask themselves, Mr. Speaker. I can tell you, how is it they would say in baseball that someone hit for the cycle? I can almost see in this House that I have hit for cycle. I have gone from government backbench to government front bench and now I am on the Opposition side so I would feel it safe to say that I have hit for cycle. When I talk about the government backbenchers, I can tell you I have been there.

The Minister of Economic Development can't tell you that though. He went from Opposition straight to the front bench. He doesn't know what the backbenchers are going through. When the members say, look, we are frustrated, we can't speak, what are we going to do here? Our people back home are wondering why aren't we talking, why aren't we doing this? He can't sympathize with them. He can't say, I know what you are going through because when he was on this side of the House he spoke whenever he wanted to, just as you did, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker. So there is not that level of understanding there.

I don't know if the Government House Leader was ever a backbencher himself. He has been elected for quite a long time and he has held several portfolios. I am not sure, the Clerk would probably know better than I whether he was even a backbencher or not. I think he went straight to Cabinet upon election. Now I think the Minister of Finance, though, might have sat as a government backbencher but I can't be sure because he may have gone (Interruption) Okay, the member for Preston tells me yes, so I am getting a bit of help with history here and that is always helpful. So he sat as a backbencher.

So you have to ask yourself, the Minister of Finance sat as a government backbencher so he knows how frustrating it can be at times. You are not allowed to speak, you are frustrated. So if the member for Kings North or the members for Annapolis or Kings West or Chester-St. Margaret's who are frustrated, you know, look, we want to play a bigger role

[Page 5405]

in this government, we have a lot to contribute and I think they are sincere. I think there is a lot of talent there that they could contribute to the debate and contribute to the direction and they are saying, look, why won't you let us talk? The member for Preston, all his years on HRM Council, I think he would have something positive, possibly, to contribute yet he is told no, look, we don't have time to listen to you. That is what they are being told.

At the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 68 is what this government will be judged on. So will the Minister of Tourism and Culture when he goes back to Inverness, the people of Judique and those who were told they would get a school, or their school wouldn't close. That issue which got him elected, that in itself, could be the defeat. (Interruption) Well, the Minister of Tourism and Culture says it didn't get him elected. I would say it got Charlie MacDonald defeated because I would say that is how that election went, Charlie lost, but that is my own opinion, I could be wrong.

Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day, my colleagues in the Strait, I have said it before, that those seats, which combined, all three of them, their margin of victory was less than 450 votes, that come the next election, those seats could all return back to the Liberal fold. Bill No. 68 paves the way for that to happen. If they believe Nova Scotians and people in the Strait will not remember, I assure you, I will continue to remind them as much as possible of what is happening today and who they voted for are not the individuals who have spoken on their behalf in this House.

[8:00 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to speak at second reading, probably for the last time. My opportunity now is to speak on the main motion. I wish to take some time to raise my concerns about Bill No. 68, a bill entitled, An Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia. This bill was tabled in the House on June 14th, last Thursday, with an explanation from the government that they believed that negotiations between the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, representing nurses and other health care workers at the QE II and other tertiary care facilities within the capital district had broken down, or were to break down, that the negotiations between the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union and the capital district and the tertiary care facilities therein were breaking down or would break down and that they anticipated that strikes, or withdrawal of services by those workers would cause irreparable harm to the health care system in the capital district and that they did not trust the workers to be able to put in place the normal level of essential services required by and expected by the hospital administrators and the unions. So they felt it necessary to bring in Bill No. 68.

[Page 5406]

Let me say that Bill No. 68 does a few things. Bill No. 68, in Clause 5, removes the right to strike. It effectively removes the right to bargain fairly and collectively, and it also removes the right of the employer to lock out.

Clause 6 of the bill, in turn, gives authority to the Governor in Council, to the Executive Council, to the Cabinet to put in place, arbitrarily, the terms and conditions of a collective agreement between whatever bargaining unit and employer is still subject to an outstanding set of workplace rules and conditions. It is an unprecedented move, in effect. The governments before the Liberal Government under John Savage, in 1993 and 1994, froze collective agreements, prohibited collective bargaining, rolled back, unilaterally, wages, but they did not take upon themselves the responsibility of determining the terms and conditions of a collective agreement.

I don't know if it is all that worthy of any energy that may be required to distinguish whether the measures taken by the Liberals were any less onerous or odious than the ones taken by these Tories, but certainly in this case I would suggest to you that this government is going even a step further in inserting itself into the collective bargaining process, into industrial relations between health care workers and hospitals or, in this case, district health authorities in a way that is unprecedented in this province and, as we understand, in this country.

While health care workers have had their rights trampled on to some significant degree by previous governments, this government, the group opposite, the sponsors of Bill No. 68, have taken the trampling of rights to whole new level; that is clear in the various clause of Bill No. 68. The government has suggested that the disputes at issue are the ones between the NSGEU and its nurses and health care workers and the Capital District Health Authority, the QE II Health Sciences Centre, the IWK-Grace, the Nova Scotia Hospital, and the Nurses' Union and their members and the same employer.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to you that as a result of the language in Clause 12 and in Clause 3 this bill, in all likelihood, and I would say, in fact, without question will impact on all health care workers employed by district health authorities, which effectively means all health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia will be affected by Bill No. 68, those currently in negotiations and those about to enter into negotiations with their employer. Legal analysis of this legislation has even begun to raise the spectre that because of the widespread and extensive authority provided to the Governor in Council, through Clause 6 and the regulatory authority provided in Clause 12, that Bill No. 68 may very well be applicable to all public sector workers in the Province of Nova Scotia.

When you take into consideration these sections in Bill No. 68, together with a bill that we have already dealt with in this House, Bill No. 20, which gives the Governor in Council extraordinary authority over public sector employers in the Province of Nova Scotia, Bill

[Page 5407]

No. 68 will, in all likelihood, be extended to affect all public sector workers in the Province of Nova Scotia.

You have to wonder what this government is thinking about when it brings in such an expansive piece of legislation, a piece of legislation that so clearly and so thoughtlessly takes away the rights of working people in the Province of Nova Scotia. It takes away the rights of workers in the province, health care workers and, public sector workers; it takes away their rights to bargain collectively, to bargain fairly, and their right, under the Trade Union Act in the Province of Nova Scotia, to withdrawn their labour, withdrawn their services in the event that their efforts at fair and free collective bargaining are not satisfactory. It is a dynamic, it is a process that has been determined over many years in this province to be the most effective at achieving, at maintaining the balance between employers and employees, and for regulating the conditions of work, and the wages and benefits of working in these circumstances.

There has been talk over the years by industrial inquiries, by various experts who have reviewed relations, bargaining in the health care sector, there have been examinations of the whole idea of compulsory arbitration, of going in the direction, for example, that Ontario has gone in the hospital sector, where all matters with respect to the terms and conditions of employment are subject to binding arbitration. The two parties make submissions to an arbitrator, to a board and the determination is made on the basis of those proposals, the arbitrator independently sets the wages and terms of conditions at individual hospitals and health care institutions in Ontario.

In Nova Scotia, it was felt by both the hospitals, represented by the Nova Scotia Association of Health Organizations, and by the unions representing the health care workers, as well as experts in industrial relations who examined the issue, it was determined that, in fact, the best way to maintain the balance between the interests of the employers and the employees, to ensure the freedom of the employees to bargain collectively that, in fact, it was best not to go down the road of compulsory binding arbitration.

Studies have shown that the wages and benefits levels in the health care sector in Nova Scotia have, in fact, maintained a level lower than might be expected under conditions of compulsory binding arbitration, as was the case experienced in Ontario. Therefore, it was a position that this government has supported over the years, and governments before this have supported over the years, rather than subject the issues of wages and conditions of work to an independent third party, who were influenced less by decisions about ability to pay, that they would leave bargaining and negotiations up to the parties involved.

In 1991, there was an inquiry established under the chairmanship of William Kydd that was asked to look into the whole question of collective bargaining in Nova Scotia hospitals. It resulted from some disputes that had begun with negotiations in 1989, primarily in six hospitals in Cape Breton, where health care workers had gone on strike. William Kydd was

[Page 5408]

asked to examine the whole question of central bargaining, more of a central and collective form of bargaining with the central provincial table across the spectrum in health care, and he was also asked to examine the whole question of compulsory arbitration and those other models of resolving disputes.

[8:15 a.m.]

In the process of his examination, Mr. Kydd looked at the whole question of essential services and how essential services should best be maintained. What Mr. Kydd found, and is reported in his study, is that in the dispute of 1989 and in the dispute of 1981 and in the nurses strike of 1975, what they found was that the parties themselves, voluntarily, were able to negotiate a level of essential service, the provision of essential services, which ensured that the general safety and health of Nova Scotians was not put in jeopardy. He said in his report that there is a difference, with respect to essential services, between work stoppages which affect the safety, security and health of a community, and work stoppages which cause public inconvenience, and that where the parties are able to negotiate circumstances to provide essential services in the event of a work stoppage, that what they determined over the years is that the general safety and health and security of a community was not put in jeopardy, but that what was generated was, in most cases, public inconvenience.

Let's be clear that no one in the health care sector, no industrial relations experts examined the issue, no hospital administrators, no union executives, no health care workers take the issue of work stoppage lightly. None of the people involved in decision making in this area would suggest to you that the decision is not inconsequential, and that the responsibility by all involved is very significant. That is why there has been a history in this province of the parties involved in collective bargaining being prepared to and successfully negotiating proper terms and conditions for the provision of essential services in the event of a work stoppage.

I think that is why many involved in this dispute, in particular on the side of health care workers were so incensed by the Minister of Health when he questioned the responsibility and the professionalism of nurses and other health care providers, that they would not look after the safety, security and health of the community of their patients in the event of a work stoppage.

Mr. Speaker, they have already, both in the case of the NSGEU and the case of the Nurses' Union, the case of all health care bargaining units, negotiated the conditions under which a work stoppage would take place. As I raised here before, in the case of the NSGEU and the Nurses' Union, those people directly involved, right now, in negotiations, the capital health district had already reached agreement with the employer outside of the terms and conditions that had been negotiated in their collective agreements providing essential services, had already agreed to reconcile a major concern of the employer, which was what happens in the event of a dispute over the level of staffing or the level of service to be

[Page 5409]

provided under those essential services agreements. The commitment made by the unions representing those health care workers was that in the event of a dispute the matter would be resolved by referring the issue to an independent third party arbitrator who would be under an obligation to respond within 24 hours and that both parties would accept the decision of the arbitrator.

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly the kind of recommendation that was made by William Kydd when he deliberated on the issues of collective bargaining in the health care sector back in 1991 in his industrial inquiry commission. Where he said that the experience has been that essential services, the conditions under which essential services will be provided are negotiated, had been negotiated, will continue to be negotiated, but recommended that there be provisions established ahead of possible work stoppage whereby there is a strategy for resolving disputes. This has been done in the health care sector in this particular instance.

So, for the government to say as it tables Bill No. 68 that it is concerned and it is acting out of the interests of the public safety is, to use a term that this government often uses against us in the Opposition, I would suggest to you that they are scaremongering. They are trying to heighten the concern of the public on the whole matter of the potential of a dispute between health care workers and their employers. That is simply - particularly because the evidence is so contradictory to that position - irresponsible in the extreme. If this government were so concerned about ensuring that there is no disruption, then they should be prepared to resource the district health authorities sufficiently so that they can remunerate, compensate health care workers for the job that they do and that is the bottom line in all of this.

We have been through a decade of disruption and dislocation in the health care sector in Nova Scotia. I have talked about how public sector workers, health care workers have had their wages frozen, rolled back, and they have had their ability to negotiate frozen for nearly that full decade. At the same time the previous government and this government - in fact going back to the Tory Government under Don Cameron back in 1991 - have been initiating what they refer to as health reforms at a level unprecedented in the country. I say unprecedented not because they are the only province, we are the only jurisdictions that have engaged in health care reform, not in the least, other jurisdictions, other provinces have been responding to the two-pronged pressures of fiscal challenges and pressures brought on by, I would suggest to you, global and economic circumstances, as well as changes in the population, in the health needs and demands of the population, and in the uncontrollable - in some cases - cost-drivers in the health care system.

There has been an attempt to try to change the way health is delivered in this country to make it more effective and more efficient. What has happened in this province and in other provinces is that while the government of the day has been mouthing the words of responding to the changing needs, to modernize health delivery, to make it more responsive and efficient by being able to meet the needs of the population, they have not, while they have changed, for example, the focus of health care from one based on acute care, to one

[Page 5410]

based on primary care, from one based on treating sickness, to one based on prevention and treating the symptoms. Instead of doing that, what we have seen this government and the government before it focus on, is trying to deal with fiscal pressures.

We have seen layoffs in the health care sector. We have seen the number of hospital beds in acute care slashed by over 30 per cent. We have seen hospitals closed. We have seen access to nursing training, to doctor training, to training in other disciplines like in medical laboratory technology, restricted. But what we have not seen is the commensurate reallocation of resources to properly accommodate the shift from acute care to primary care.

The result of all of this has been a deepening pressure, a piling on of burden on the health care workers who remain within the system.

The acuity level of patients has increased in hospitals, in homes for special care, mental care facilities and those facilities who care for the physically challenged. We have seen the pressure on care providers increase, that acuity level has increased, this technology has changed and the number of workers in the system has decreased.

We have seen the number of nurse managers and administrators decrease. We have seen the number of support people for the health care team decrease, which has meant a greater number of duties and greater responsibility for duties other than the strict responsibilities of those in the nursing sector, for example, increase. All of this has lent itself to the pressure both emotionally and physically. I know that in the nursing home sector, for example, as well as in hospitals, with a decrease in the number of staff available, with the kind of equipment that is available, with the increase in the pace of work, you see more injuries, more back injuries, more sickness within the health care sector, within long-term care and within the acute care sector.

As workers are being asked to do more with less, they are being asked to do more by themselves. They have been placed as a result in less safe and healthy work conditions and that has shown itself.

[8:30 a.m.]

We have heard about an increasing casualization in the nursing sector where nurses, the number of new permanent nursing positions has not appeared, there has been an increase in the number of casual positions. So what we find is that the opportunities for new graduates from nursing and from other health care programs, their opportunity to avail themselves of permanent positions has not resulted over the past decade. All of these situations have resulted in an increase in work, an increase in pressure on those individual health care workers. At the same time they have seen their incomes either decrease, stay the same or increase only marginally over that decade.

[Page 5411]

Why should this government, or anybody for that matter, be surprised when health care workers say to them, we are tired, we work our guts out to provide for our patients and we are tired physically. We are tired emotionally because we constantly are asked to do more and we do more without question. But when we ask for some consideration of the impact of those workload issues our employer is silent. When we ask for some recognition through our wages of what it is that we do and the role we play in the provision of the quality of life in this province, we find our employers, and ultimately the government, silent in dealing with those issues. The result is exasperation, frustration and in some cases anger on the part of health care workers who feel that this government, like the government before it and the government before it, is disrespectful to them. It undervalues what it is that they provide to this province.

Mr. Speaker, the reports dating back to 1989, the Royal Commission on Health, the Blueprint Committee on Health, and I don't know if we have received the footprint or not, but I am sure that it says the same thing that all the studies in health care have said. If a government is going to undertake reform, which it should, to shift the emphasis in the health care system from a priority on acute care to primary care, when any changes taking place in such an integral system, in a system where the parts are so integrated, where all of the workers regardless of what they do are essential to the effective operation of that system, that if you are going to change it, if you are going to reform it, you need to have the buy-in, you need to have the involvement you need to ensure that decisions are made on the basis of input of all of those participants in the health care system. It is essential and it has been described as such by all of those who have examined health system reform in this country, in this province, around the world.

While those recommendations were made and have been made over the past decade to governments in Nova Scotia, those recommendations have not been heeded. The governments have gone forward and they have imposed change on the workers in that system, they have given lip service to consultation, but when the rubber hits the road government has not paid attention, has not involved the participants in health care, they have not involved them in key decisions that need to be made.

This move, Bill No. 68, is an indication of that type of attitude. This government has said, as governments before it said, that health care workers are not responsible enough to be left with the right to strike, to be left with the right to bargain freely and bargain collectively their own conditions of work. While on the one hand this government will expect nurses and technicians, others in the health care system, to look after their loved ones, to look after themselves, to see to the health care needs of the population in this province, on the one hand they will recognize the responsibility that they have, on the other hand they won't recognize the responsibility by ensuring that those health care workers have the commensurate rights to be able to have input in and some control over their conditions of work and terms of remuneration.

[Page 5412]

It is a terrible contradiction. It is not unlike how much parenting takes place, where a parent will say to the child that you must do this and you must do the other thing and that if you don't then you will suffer the consequences, that there is a level of expectation that the child will do what they are told but yet when it comes to asking that child to participate in the rule setting, when it comes to allowing the child to have some autonomy in and take some responsibility for their actions a parent may not allow that to happen. That is much the same way that this government is treating health care workers.

This government feels that it must set all of the rules, that it cannot leave health care workers to their own devices, as they are in other provinces, in other jurisdictions in this country and around the world, this government has determined that only it has - and for that matter only the Governor in Council, only the Executive Council, only the Cabinet has - the real wisdom and the knowledge and the responsibility and the experience and the maturity to be able to determine the level at which health care workers will be paid and the conditions upon which those health care workers will perform their duties.

It is a shocking admission by this government that they have so little respect for the women and men who carry out the duties that make up the health care system in the Province of Nova Scotia. I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that this sets an alarming precedent in this province and, in fact, across the country. Even in Mike Harris' Ontario, as I suggested last night when I spoke, the jurisdiction that has been described by some as the neo-conservative capital of this country, they have not gone so far to usurp all the rights and responsibilities from workers in the health care system.

Maybe that is down the road, maybe those who believe that workers should not have any rights to bargain collectively, maybe they have gathered together in a small room somewhere or maybe they have a chat room on the Internet, the neo-conservative policy makers in the country, and they have said, well, let's set up a test case. Let's have Nova Scotia be the laboratory for us, determining whether or not we can strip working people entirely of their rights, to gather collectively, to unionize for the purposes of bargaining, to participate in free and open negotiations and to have the right of withdrawal of their labour or their services in the event that negotiations do not prevail, that what we are going to do is we are going to try to outlaw in Nova Scotia the rights of working people, the rights which working people in all parts of this country now have with some conditions in some sectors, in some jurisdictions.

We are going to take away those rights in their entirety in this province, in this laboratory, in this neo-conservative laboratory, where we are going to impose on workers rules and conditions that we, the government, believe are the correct ones. Maybe that is what is going on here. Some have suggested that that is the case.

[Page 5413]

Let me tell you that working people from one end of this country to the other, as they learn about the contents of Bill No. 68, are very concerned about that very fact, are very concerned that if the Government of Nova Scotia is allowed to get away with this, is allowed to treat a group of workers in this fashion, that it will be the thin edge of the wedge, that it will just be the beginning, and it will provide an opening for other governments. Other governments will be emboldened by the actions of this government to begin a process of stripping away the rights that have been obtained by working people across this country over the past 125 years, rights that have been obtained through great struggle, through great hardship, through much bloodshed.

Mr. Speaker, many of these rights began here in Nova Scotia. We were the first jurisdiction to establish, by Statute, in 1937, the rights of working people to organize themselves, to bargain collectively and to have the right to strike. Those rights here in Nova Scotia which spread throughout the country, were developed as the result of bloody struggles in the coalfields in your community, Mr. Speaker, in Springhill, and in communities throughout Cape Breton.

[8:45 a.m.]

Coal miners fought with their bosses to attain some rights to have control over the terms under which they worked and the level of remuneration that they would receive. I suggest to you here again today, that these are rights which are not going to be given up that easily by working people in this province or in this country. If this government is intent on proceeding in this fashion, that it plans on carrying forward with Bill No. 68 in its entirety, that they will raise the wrath of working people, not just in the health care sector, not just in the public sector, but all health care workers in this province and not just this province, I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker.

I suggest the implications of Bill No. 68 are such that they affect all working people who recognize the struggle it took to get their hard-fought rights and workers who recognize that these rights will not be easily given up. The ramifications of this bill don't simply apply to the industrial relations question to the issue of the relationship between employers and unions. It applies to the attitude, to the conviction, to the commitment that all employees have toward their jobs and toward their employer, and in the case of the public sector toward this government.

I suggest to you we have some significant issues in this province with which to wrestle, with which to resolve, not the least of which is the health care system itself and how we are going to meet the promises that have been made by all political Parties, to ensure that we have a health care system that is there when people need it and that is there where people need it. If we are going to ensure that we have such a health care system, we are going to need the participation of everyone in that system to make sure with their commitment, with their conviction, to make sure those quality services are available to Nova Scotians.

[Page 5414]

You can't continue to kick these workers, to turn your backs on them, to laugh at them in the face, to dismiss them and to dismiss the contribution they make, to put them off, to try to pacify them. You can't continue to act in this fashion and expect those workers, those women and men, to keep coming up to the table and giving 120 per cent, which is what they do every hour of every day, to the people of this province, whom they serve. You can't expect that to continue.

No matter how much people love this province, no matter how committed they are to their profession in health care, there is a breaking point. There is a point at which people say, we are not going to continue to work at this pace, to give up, to sacrifice our lives, our families, in return for this kind of treatment, that we will go down the road, that we will go to other jurisdictions where our efforts are more appreciated and where we are going to be able to do our jobs, to perform the duties of our profession in a responsible, respectful manner and get the level of remuneration that we feel we deserve. We can then, as individuals, as citizens, contribute to our families, to our communities, and to our country. Ultimately, that is what we all want to do, that is what we all want to be able to do.

I suggest to you, that everyone has a point at which they will say, enough is enough, a point at which they will say, we have sacrificed a great deal as a result of our commitment, of our conviction, as a result of our love of the province, our love of the profession. But there comes a point in everyone's life at one time or another where they say and they will be forced to say, enough is enough. What we are expected to do and the way we are being treated is such that we can no longer, as humans, as citizens, agree to participate in our communities in this fashion. I say to you and to members opposite, that you are contributing to pushing these people to that point, as other governments before you have done.

The past 10 years have seen a series of decisions made by government which have pushed those workers, who toil in the health care system, to the limit. I think it has been a testament to their professionalism, to their commitment and to their conviction that many of these workers have continued to struggle on. I am concerned as I listen to the people who come here and visit us. I listen to the workers who call me, who e-mail me. I hear the stories from others here in this House, from friends in the community, from health care workers. I am concerned that many of these workers are being pushed beyond the point of no return.

We are not simply talking about a disruption in services, we are talking about this government carrying on, on the heels of previous governments, affecting the relationship with health care workers to the point where it will impair the quality of health care in the Province of Nova Scotia. In other words, if Bill No. 68 goes through as it is, I would suggest to you that we will feel the repercussions in the short term, in the immediate term, but as importantly I fear the repercussions that will be felt down the road, as workers are faced with making decisions in light of the way they are being treated by their employer, by this government, and that ultimately it is that long-term consequence which will be the legacy of this government.

[Page 5415]

This government will be known as the government that finally pushed health care workers beyond the point of no return. They weren't the first government to take away the rights of working people in the Province of Nova Scotia. The Liberals did that time and again, throughout the 1990's, but what this government did is they added insult to injury, they took it beyond even what the Liberals had done by promising, in the summer of 1999, health care workers to their faces that they would deal with the problems, that they would recognize the fact that health care workers needed to be properly compensated or that they would leave, that the working conditions under which health care workers toil needed to be improved, that they were the ones led by their Leader, Dr. John Hamm, that they were the ones who truly understood the dire circumstances, the pressures upon which health care workers were functioning, and that only they would be able to come up with the solutions, and they were committed to doing just that.

I will tell you that a great number of Nova Scotians, a great number of health care workers, I believe, bought that line. They heard what Dr. John Hamm said; they believed that Dr. John Hamm understood the medical system, understood the health care system, understood the stresses and strains of health care workers and would respond. He hasn't responded. His government hasn't responded.

The first time that workers say, we have given you two years, you promised us, we have given you two years to respond and you haven't, this government, Dr. John Hamm's Government turns around and says, too bad. We have changed our minds now, we are not going to respond to your concerns, in fact, what we are going to do instead is completely strip you of your rights as working people in the Province of Nova Scotia, completely strip you of your rights to bargain collectively and your right to strike in support of your own demands. That is shameful. The Government House Leader shakes his head. You can call it what you will, the evidence is clear. Bill No. 68 stands out for all to see.

Mr. Speaker, I realize that my time is coming to a close. I want to ask members opposite to consider what it is that they are doing, to consider how it is that Bill No. 68 will impact on health care and on health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia, and step back from the brink, listen to what your constituents are saying, pay attention to what experts have offered and recommended. This is not the way to go. Pull Bill No. 68, and let's try to deal with these issues in a responsible, mature, constructive manner with respect. Ultimately, that will serve us to the best end for the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, this is the second time on my feet in less than 24 hours to talk and to remind members of government the opposition we see to Bill No. 68, an Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia.

[Page 5416]

[9:00 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, as we dissect the bill or go through it, the very powerful and very strong piece of legislation, there are a couple of sections I just want to briefly touch on. This bill says, "Where there is a conflict between this Act and the Trade Union Act, this Act prevails." That is very strong stuff. Again, on Page 2, "no employer shall declare or cause a lockout of its employees or continue a lockout of its employees declared before the coming into force of this Act;" Again, what do we see before us today? That is why we fight and we will continue to fight this bill.

Mr. Speaker, this morning when I was talking to my wife she mentioned hearing on the news that the Premier had said if there was a resolve, within the next day or two, at the bargaining table, that Bill No. 68 could be withdrawn. That is good news to many of us, and I think it would be good news to many Nova Scotians, if it is true. What we have heard from the Premier the last number of days, indeed, he had no intentions of pulling Bill No. 68.

Mr. Speaker, the backlash from Bill No. 68 is very evident, not only in my riding. I must say and must admit that health services in my riding are very good. We don't have much to complain about, except we have some paramedic shortages north of Smokey. I hope the Minister of Health is working on that. Other than that, we have health care workers that we hold very dear, and we appreciate the efforts they make, the efforts they make to provide a service to the people of Victoria.

Mr. Speaker, I am not talking only about Victoria, I am talking about all of Nova Scotia. As we go through the papers today, we find many letters and many comments from many Nova Scotians, all over Nova Scotia, about the reaction to Bill No. 68. I just want to touch on a few of the comments in the press today. One is entitled, a Sad day for N.S., and it is from Joyce Balcom, RN, Halifax, "Last Thursday was a sad day for Nova Scotia. The bill the government has introduced will make Nova Scotia no better than a communist country by taking away some of our rights . . ." That is a pretty strong statement.

Another letter is from Laurie Malloy, "I am a Nova Scotian at heart and love my province; however, I am finding it easier to live with the decision to leave, given the way this particular government is treating its health care providers." Laurie goes on to say that, "This legislation is raping not only health care providers, but potentially all Nova Scotians of their legal rights given to them through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms."

Mr. Speaker, another letter is entitled, Step too far, from C.A. Crowell of Halifax. I will just read a small portion of it, "With a single, cowardly piece of regressive legislation, these legislators and their bureaucratic 'yessirs' have set in place a process to thwart toward any legitimate adjustments to the compensation and benefits of health care workers - adjustments which would enable their recruitment and retention."

[Page 5417]

Another letter is from Marcia Sutherland and Norm Sabowitz, "Re: 'Tories strike against unions' . . . The nurses and other health care workers are not the only ones who are hopping mad. Many of us health care consumers are outraged at the astonishing unfairness of the government's bill, . . ."

Mr. Speaker, another letter is from Danny Cavanaugh, "Labour relations in Nova Scotia have hit an all-time low under the Hamm Tories. Trade unionists thought that Bill 20 was unprecedented; then comes along Bill 68, the worst piece of anti-worker legislation this province has ever seen." Mr. Speaker, it goes on and on.

Another letter is from Alana MacLellan from Porter's Lake entitled, Why should I stay? "Two years from now I will graduate from nursing (with a $50,000 debt). Can you give me a good reason why I should stay in Nova Scotia?" The letters go on and on. "The nurses of Nova Scotia provide incredibly good health care to the people of Nova Scotia. They do this even as their work is devalued by the representatives of the people of Nova Scotia."

Another letter says, Come a long way? "On June 11, 1925, police shot Billy Davis during labour unrest . . . the Hamm government put a gun to the heads of 10,000 health care workers in this province who are engaging in a legal collective bargaining process." That is from Cathy Mosher, social worker, from Chester Basin.

Also, from the Medical Society of Nova Scotia, they strongly recommend that, " . . . Bill 68, Healthcare Services Continuation Act, introduced in the legislature on June 14th, not be passed . . . The Medical Society believes that an act that prohibits any group from negotiating a contract through the full negotiation process, including the right to strike, is fundamentally wrong.

Another letter is - and this is all out of today's The Halifax Chroncile-Herald and The Daily News - Enough is enough. "As a retired registered nurse, having given over 44 years of my life to health care delivery, I am completely outraged at the action of our so-called government. When did Nova Scotia stop being a democratic province?" Elizabeth McAdam of Wilmot says, "Workers, stand up for what you deserve - enough is definitely enough."

Another letter is from Crystal Allan of Apple River; she finds it ironic, "Does anyone, besides myself, not find it ironic that the provincial government does not trust nurses enough to think they would not provide essential services during a strike . . ."

Another letter is from David Phillips, a paramedic, "I am no expert, but think it could be possible that the government is infringing on the rights and freedoms that are supposed to be fully protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms." Mr. Speaker, these are all opinions of regular Nova Scotians.

[Page 5418]

The bill before us, an Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia, is not your average, run-of-the-mill, back-to-work legislation. It is not bad enough this bill takes away the right to strike, but it also gives the government unprecedented power by allowing a small group of people in the province to impose a wage settlement without negotiation, and I am referring to the Cabinet of this government.

The precedent being set here is very dangerous. As we see from the articles I referred to from the newspaper of today, the precedent is dangerous because it will poison worker/employer relationships for years, maybe decades to come. In the case of health care workers, this means that the quality of care will suffer. When the quality of care suffers, we all suffer.

No one can deny that there is no profession with the respect nurses hold in this province today and indeed, all health care workers. This legislation means that already overworked and, many Nova Scotians believe, underpaid workers will know their employer has no respect for their years of training and their years of dedicated services.

Some nurses will put up with a lot to remain in their hometown and raise their children in the fine communities of Nova Scotia. For many, 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 that they did. Some nurses will put up with what Shakespeare called, "The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune . . .", because they know that in less than 10 years they will be able to retire and that is saying a lot when our workforce is looking forward to retiring. In fact, many will be able to retire within 5 years. It is not right, it is not fair, and it is downright mean in the opinion of many Nova Scotians.

What the Health Minister, the Premier and the entire Tory caucus do not realize however, is those few nurses who are graduating, will not put up with the abuse, disrespect and the scorn being heaped on them by this government and by this minister. These new nurses now know that there are opportunities all over the globe, where they will receive a much higher wage than they do in Nova Scotia. So there are opportunities out there for graduate nurses and there are high salaries out there that attract nurses to other jurisdictions.

[9:15 a.m.]

They know that many American hospitals will pay anywhere between $3,000 to $10,000 just for signing bonuses. They know nurses can go to the Eastern Seaboard of the United States and receive over $60,000 in salaries for their services. Nurses know that if they go to the United States, they can work two 12 hour shifts and know that they can't be called back for a third shift without overtime pay. They also know that they can work flexible hours and spend more time with their families, their friends and their loved ones. They know that they can take education upgrades, paid for by their employer, knowing full well that they will have time to study and to upgrade their skills. What else can they look forward to, Mr.

[Page 5419]

Speaker? They know that if they leave Nova Scotia, they will probably get what they won't get here and that is respect. We firmly believe that is what the nurses and the new graduates will do.

There is no doubt that we will see some reaction on Bill No. 68 before darkness falls this day, but the nurses will vote with their feet. They will leave Nova Scotia and not because they want to, but because they feel they have to because the Nova Scotia Government does not care about the nurses or they don't care about health care service in this province. That is what this bill is all about. It is about attacking the integrity of the nurses and all the health care workers in this province. This bill is the threat to the health and safety of all Nova Scotians, not the nurses, because we believe, Mr. Speaker, by driving nurses out of the province this bill will close beds and it will further increase waiting 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 and the great fortunes of our nurses. Huge amounts of money have been spent advertising, but before I get into that issue, let's look at what the Tories promised in the last election in the Tory blue book. "A John Hamm Government will . . . Stop spending taxpayers money on politically-motivated advertising;" Well, what happened to this promise? As I was driving from Fredericton on Sunday, a number of times I heard radio ads sponsored by the Department of Health. Today I heard the former speaker of our Party talking about a huge ad in the Halifax papers today. So what happened to the promise of John Hamm in the blue book where we will stop spending taxpayers' money on politically-motivated advertising?

Mr. Speaker, the advertisements in our newspapers are politically-motivated advertising and this is exactly what the Tories said that they wouldn't do. In typical fashion they have ignored this promise and there were others, but now I want to turn to some salaries for a few moments. This bill before us today, Bill No. 68, is basically about limiting the salaries of nurses, but there are other issues and probably more important issues, but the government says it can't afford to give money to the nurses or our health care workers.

A backbencher told the media yesterday in the scrum the well is dry, we can't afford salary increases for our health care workers or nurses but, Mr. Speaker, 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. These are maximum salaries, but that is what the government used as a figure in the House.

Our Deputy Health Minister, a huge salary, a salary of almost $200,000 a year; the Associate Deputy Minister of Health, $100,000; an Assistant Deputy Minister of Health, another $100,000. Pretty comfortable salaries. The Chief Information Officer, another $100,000; CEO of the Capital Health District, $350,000; Vice-President of Human Resources, Capital Health District, $145,000; Vice-President, System Development and Performance, Capital Health District, $145,000; Vice-President, Public Affairs, Capital

[Page 5420]

Health District, $145,000; Vice-President, Administration, Capital Health District, $165,000; Vice-President, Diagnostic and Support Services, Capital Health District, $165,000. But we have no money for front-line health care workers.

We will go on. What about the Vice-President of the Capital Health District, $200,000? We don't even know what this person does. Vice-President of Medicine, Capital Health District, $260,000; District Information Technology, Capital Health District, $80,500; Director of Finance, Capital Health District, $80,500; Director of Human Resources, Capital Health District, $80,500; Director of Environment Services, Capital Health District, $80,500; Director of Laboratory Services, Capital Health District, $80,500; Director of Pharmacy Services, Capital Health District, $80,500; Director of Diagnostic Imaging, Capital Health District, another $80,500; Director of Pharmacy Services, Capital Health District, $80,500; Director of Food and Nutrition Services, Capital Health District, $80,500; and the CEO, District Health Authority, $126,000.

Mr. Speaker, if any of the above employees missed work for a week, do you think that health care in the province would suffer? Not likely. Now I am sure they are all good people, and probably committed to the system. But let's face it, a public affairs vice-president does not have to deal with life and death on a daily basis, as our front-line workers, such as doctors, nurses and other health care workers do. Many Nova Scotians know and believe that we need fewer spin doctors and more nurses. After this bill, we will have less and less nurses. If this bill goes through, it is a severe threat to the nursing profession in this province.

Mr. Speaker, we need fewer CEOs and more physiotherapists. We need fewer vice-presidents and more technologists. In fact, that is what the government promised; they promised more front-line health care workers and fewer administrative positions. What happened to that promise? What happened to the promise of the Premier when he was campaigning, when he said, fewer bureaucrats and better and more front-line workers?

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. RHBs will be replaced with volunteer/community-driven boards (as opposed to bureaucratically driven) boards." Can you answer that, Mr. Speaker, after I just read the list of bureaucrats and their salaries? What happened to that promise?

What do the community health boards have to say about this bill, about Bill No. 68? It doesn't really matter because community health boards have no real authority in dealing with health-related issues. This bill is a creature of the Cabinet, or some would refer to it as a monster of the Cabinet. It is a politically-motivated, neo-conservative bill that takes away the collective bargaining rights of its workers and our workers. Community health boards have no say in the system, but CEOs do. In fact, the CEO of the Capital Health District

[Page 5421]

claimed that this bill does not take away the collective bargaining rights. Well, it is pretty clear that the CEO has not read the bill, as we read it.

The Tories made many more promises. In the speech during the last campaign, in the campaign of 1999, the Premier said in Yarmouth, "That is why our health care platform lays out very specific commitments . . . with very specific time frames . . . that include caregivers as an integral and important part of finding answers to our health care challenges." That is what the Premier said. How many caregivers did the Cabinet consult with when they introduced this bill? Did they consult with any Nova Scotians? Did they consult with any professionals in our health care system?

Mr. Speaker, this bill is about telling health care workers that they have no voice. It says that we, the Cabinet, will tell you when you will work and for how much, and if you don't like it, tough. In fact, if you don't like what is in this bill, you have no choice. You have two choices, take it or leave it, because you can't appeal to the courts. In other words, 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. What is worse is that this bill is being forced on health care workers with the full complicity of the backbenchers.

Mr. Speaker, imagine the member for Halifax Bedford Basin supporting a bill that will impose a contract on nurses and other health care workers, when within that riding there are hundreds, probably thousands, of nurses or health care professionals. We believe that that member owes it to the workers, at least, to explain why she supports such draconian legislation. She, like others, is hoodwinked by Cabinet members into believing that the well is dry, there is no money. There is no money except for bureaucrats. If she won't explain her position to the people of Nova Scotia on the floor of this House, she can explain it on the doorsteps during the next election. If we can't appeal to the humanity, we can at least appeal to our political instincts, if those members have any left.

[9:30 a.m.]

The member for Kings North has become the self-styled conscience of the Tory caucus. He has a column in The Daily News where recently he talked about the power of apology. Mr. Speaker, this member can apologize to nurses for forcing them to take a contract without any negotiations or without any consultations. I am sure this member has a conscience, I believe he has, but I hope he would at least speak or write a column about this bill. The member for Kings North always says that substantial debate never happens in this House. This would be a good time for that member to break that chain and speak about this bill. If there were ever a time to speak in this House, it is now.

This is perhaps the most substantial piece of legislation to hit the floor of this House this year - and we thought Bill No. 20 was bad - not because it protects the safety of Nova Scotians, but because it jeopardizes the safety of Nova Scotians. It means that there will be

[Page 5422]

fewer nurses and more overworked nurses. It means delays in lab tests, it means delays in surgery and delays for every procedure, Mr. Speaker, and it is already happening, but for some reason or another this government just doesn't get it. There is a nursing shortage throughout North America and I am sure the Tory members understand that. It is very obvious in the media. There are opportunities for all professionals in the nursing profession.

Mr. Speaker, we believe that the Tories are big fans of the marketplace and they are big supporters in the laws of supply and demand, but it is too bad they don't respect the laws of the land by taking away the right of appeal to the courts. Simple supply and demand dictates that this government is going to have to pay nurses what they are worth, but most of all the government will have to ensure that there are better working conditions for our nurses. If they do not do that, nurses will simply go where they will get the price that supply dictates. We may be able to keep our existing nurses, but no nurse will come to Nova Scotia and no new nurse will stay in our province.

The government's default defence is simply we do not have enough money, Mr. Speaker. Well, whose fault is that? It is not the nurses and I don't think it is the taxpayers. If this government is short of money, it is because they are mismanaging the funds of the province. We have heard over the last number of days that this government may not be short of money because the Minister of Education came up with $1 million here and $1 million there whenever she gets under pressure, or when the heat gets too heavy.

Since the fall of 1999 this government has received over $600 million in additional revenue. In fact, if you add up the $140 million on the sale of NSRL, this government has received $753 million in extra revenues and if you can't balance a budget with that kind of money, Mr. Speaker, I doubt they ever will and if you can't balance a budget and you have no money left for health, I don't believe they ever will.

It is not bad enough, according to the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, that 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 so we can pay for a tax cut before the next election or just before the time when we are to go to the polls in four years - but it is bad enough that taxes are going up through the back door because of bracket creep and it is bad enough that the provincial portion of the federal tax cut was taken away from Nova Scotians, and now what are they doing but picking the pockets of our health care workers to pay for the tax cut in four years or before the next election.

Mr. Speaker, the nursing crisis is about supply and demand and you know this government is comparing the salaries of Nova Scotia with other Atlantic Provinces, but we are not losing nurses to New Brunswick. We are losing nurses to New England where they get paid $64,000 a year - or it could be better - and we are losing nurses to Ontario where the

[Page 5423]

maximum salary is $60,000 and we are losing nurses to Alberta where salaries are $55,000 and there is no sales tax.

Mr. Speaker, the government can bury their heads in the sand if they like, but Nova Scotia will lose nurses and other health care workers and we will pay the price for that. 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 nurses will continue to leave our province. Not only is there a shortage of nurses, but the United States also needs 46,000 pharmacists, lab technicians, X-ray technicians and physiotherapists.

Mr. Speaker, here is what the Premier said about health care workers on Sunday, June 19, 1999, at the QE II Health Sciences Centre: 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. What is the Premier saying now? So far the Premier has not spoken about this bill in the House and that is unfortunate. I think it would be wise and I think it would be good for the Premier to stand up in defence of this bill, but the silence is deafening. In fact, the Health Minister has not stood in his place and defended the bill. I noticed in Hansard, on the tabling for second reading, the Minister of Health had little to say or nothing at all. This bill is an attack on health workers and an attack on health care in general.

This government is saying they need this bill to protect public safety. Well, Mr. Speaker, from what I am hearing through the media, television and the papers, this bill is just doing completely the opposite. This bill has nothing to do with public safety. 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 rollerblades, really cares about public safety?

If this government cared about public safety, it would twin Highway No. 101 with or without federal help, just like the member for Hants West promised before the last election; we will pave Highway No. 101, we will twin Highway No. 101 whether we have federal help or not. If this government cared about public safety, they would not have lowered fines on tobacco smuggling. If this government cared about public safety, they would ban the sale of alcohol in pharmacies as has been promised. If this government cared about public safety, they would clean up the tar ponds and the coke ovens. If this government cared about public safety, it would implement concrete crime prevention initiatives instead of dumb legislation like we have seen in the johns bill that was tabled a number of times.

If this government cared about public safety, they would devote every new tobacco tax to help fight tobacco use among our younger generation. If this government cared about public safety, they would not allow cuts to physical education programs. If this government cared about public safety, they would treat our health care workers with respect and dignity. If this government cared about public safety, they would not require nurses to work four to five 12 hour shifts in a row. Government requires truck drivers and bus drivers to limit their

[Page 5424]

hours on the road, but nurses keep being forced to work shift after shift without any overtime pay.

This bill is about government flexing its muscle, Mr. Speaker, and this bill is about taking away collective bargaining rights. This bill is about taking the right of appeal away from Nova Scotians and it is about dictating the terms of a contract with no input from the health care professionals. This bill has nothing to do with public safety and everything to do with satisfying the ego of the Cabinet and the Premier.

Mr. Speaker, many Nova Scotians are disappointed in the Premier because people in Nova Scotia voted for a good, kind country doctor who became Premier, but people have a different opinion today as I stated earlier on, as we went through some clippings out of today's paper, but health care workers aren't going to do what this government wants them to do. Health care workers are going to stand up and they will be counted. They will continue to demand that their human rights be respected. The government may not listen, but if that's the case, then they are the ones who are putting public safety at risk.

Mr. Speaker, we have seen in the paper yesterday, The Daily News, that "Health-care workers work to rule" and I will table this. It says, "Nurses and health-care workers are refusing overtime, declining to work through breaks and restricting their work to duties outlined in their job descriptions in an effort to short-circuit the government's proposed anti-strike legislation. The Nova Scotia Government Employees Union - representing 2,900 lab technologists, orderlies, unit aids and other health-care workers and 2,100 nurses at the QE II Health Sciences Centre, . . ."

Mr. Speaker, again we go down in the article a little further and it says that, "'We are not going to be intimidated any-more,' said Andrew LePage, a unit aide at the QEII's ear, nose and throat clinic. 'I'm all for anything that will get that message through to (Premier) John Hamm and (Health Minister) Jamie Muir.'" So that is the beginning of an attack on our health care system and where we are going to see people standing up for their rights.

Mr. Speaker, over the last number of days we have received many letters and many e-mails from health care workers across the province. Many of these are sent to the attention of the Health Minister or the Premier. I am just going to read a few portions of them. If it is your wish for me to table them, then I will, but these letters are already sent to the Premier and to the Minister of Health.

This letter is from Jeanette Stone, Colchester Hospital, CCU, in Truro: Once again I am infuriated by the actions of this Hamm Government. How does this elected government try to banish such a fundamental right as my right to fair negotiations. This country that we live in and are so proud of is based on the concept of democracy, not dictatorship and provides us with a Bill of Rights which I might add includes health care providers. How does this government lead the public to believe that in the event of a strike essential services

[Page 5425]

would not be provided. This is a blatant and deliberate attempt to scare the public and provide them with misinformation.

Another letter from Margie Douglas, RN, CCU at Colchester Regional Hospital in Truro says: Once again I would like to express my outrage at the action of the Hamm Government. The very fact that this elected government is trying to take away my right to fair negotiations of the new contract is appalling. This government is acting like a dictator and not providing us with a Bill of Rights which should include fair bargaining. How dare this government lead the people of Nova Scotia to believe in the event of a strike essential services would not be provided.

[9:45 a.m.]

Basically, Mr. Speaker, all these letters for the most part are talking about that very thing, that these nurses and health care workers care about Nova Scotians and I am sure that they would not refuse a person in need their services and that is very obvious in all these letters and all the information that we have seen in the paper today and the clippings.

Another letter from Charlotte White, RN, at the ICU Colchester Regional Hospital, says: I find this latest action by the Hamm Government to be unbelievable. Is this the year of 2001? To take away my right to a fair contract negotiation and push on health care workers this dictatorship is truly unbelievable. We are dedicated health care professionals and how dare this government lead the public to believe that we would not give essential services. I have been nursing for 33 years and I am insulted by this. It is particularly hard to take at this time when we are all overworked.

Mr. Speaker, another letter from Barbara Pyle says: I really find this latest action by your government to be demoralizing. It is bad enough you take away our right to strike, but also you, the government, can decide what my salary will be. That is really going to attract nurses to Nova Scotia or keep the few we already have. The nursing shortage is worldwide and new graduates have the opportunity to go wherever they wish. Do you really think they are going to stay in Nova Scotia with such opportunities elsewhere? I don't think so.

Mr. Speaker, a letter from Debbie McCully, a registered nurse at the Colchester Hospital says, "I would like to express my outrage at this government. Do you really think that pushing this legislation through, you will solve the nursing shortage? This legislation will only push more nurses out of Nova Scotia." She concludes by saying, "If this legislation is passed, its time to look for a safer place to work and live."

Mr. Speaker, there are many of those letters and I don't think it is appropriate for me to take up too much of the time of the House to go through all of them because I am sure that the Minister of Health and the Premier are receiving the same letters. So let's hope they read them and let's hope that they understand the message that Nova Scotians are trying to get to

[Page 5426]

the government. This is a very draconian piece of legislation. This is a piece of legislation that has all Nova Scotians angry, not only our health care workers, but all Nova Scotians. If there is anything Nova Scotians fear, it is the loss or the lack of health services. They are used to good health services in this province and they look for nothing less.

So, Mr. Speaker, I hope that what my wife is telling me she heard on the newscast today, where if there is an agreement reached at the bargaining table within the next two or three days, this bill will be withdrawn, this bill will be pulled from the Legislature. I think that is what a lot of Nova Scotians would want this government to do and I think it would be the right thing for this government to do. If not, this government will pay the price. They will pay the price at the polls in the next election and this government could be a one-term government if this bill is allowed to continue through this Assembly. With that, I will relinquish the floor to another speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place to speak here on the main motion in second reading on Bill No. 68. I would like to start by saying that we have been sitting here for many long hours and I am sure for people at home, for people in the gallery, they must feel some sense of frustration and perhaps even confusion, particularly since the Premier keeps changing his tune with respect to Bill No. 68. It is hard sometimes to really know if there is one train of thought in the government's mind with respect to this bill and what they're doing or if, in fact, as we have seen since the onset of the Hamm Government, that it is a government that's profoundly unsure of what it is doing and is often open to a fair amount of flip-flopping around on what it is that it thinks it is doing.

In the course of the debate on Bill No. 68 I have heard the Premier indicate that this bill is about public safety and nothing else. I have then heard the Premier say that this bill was about money and fiscal responsibility and nothing else. I have heard the Premier indicate that this bill will go ahead regardless of what the opposition might be, not only on the floor of this House, but in the population at large in the province because the Premier indicates it is the right thing to do.

Here last night, in the early hours this morning during Question Period, I heard the Premier say that really what this bill was about was the sustainable health care system that Nova Scotians need. I have heard the Premier say that this bill was about keeping the banks from pulling the plug on Nova Scotia's bond rating and on my way down here for my morning shift, Mr. Speaker, I heard on the radio that the Premier is now saying that perhaps he will consider withdrawing the bill if negotiations proceed and collective agreements are arrived at in the course of bargaining that is going on or is about to go on.

[Page 5427]

So, Mr. Speaker, if members of the public, who are not quite as intimately involved in this process as those of us participating in the debate, feel somewhat frustrated and confused, there is no great wonder because the message from this Premier, a message that he pretty well consistently fails to deliver on the floor of this Legislature, but does deliver outside of this Chamber when the media can break through the variety of people he has around him attempting to protect access to him, when he breaks that silence and has the odd rumble to say.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think there is anybody here in this Legislature who is any more committed to a sustainable health care system than members of the New Democratic Party. My colleagues and myself, we take some pride in the pioneering of our Party with respect to health care in this country. There is nothing that we want to see more than a sustainable health care system and by that we recognize the importance of having balance in the health care system between the acute care system and a primary care health care system. We recognize that health care restructuring, in theory, was an attempt to redress an imbalance between acute care and primary care, particularly in the Province of Nova Scotia. We also recognize that we are a long way from achieving that balance.

However, I think that the philosophy of the New Democratic Party would differ quite significantly from the philosophy of the current government in our approach to securing a sustainable health care system in that it is our philosophy, our belief, our ideology, if you will, that the only way to secure a sustainable health care system for Nova Scotians is to build a strong and sound foundation that is human-resource based, not based on credit ratings, not decided by the faceless, remote bond managers in New York and elsewhere but one that starts with your human resources and one that values the human resources in your system in that it makes their participation a central part of a sustainable health care system.

Mr. Speaker, I was astonished last night to hear the Premier suggest that really what is driving the approach in Bill No. 68 is that the banks will pull the plug on Nova Scotia's bond rating and the result is that we will have no health care system at all in Nova Scotia. This sentiment that he expressed during Question Period in response to some of the questions was echoed by the Minister of Justice who I must say, by his comments, demonstrated that he knows even less about finances and health care, apparently, than he knows about justice. This is an approach that certainly I reject and members of my Party reject, the idea that health care policy has to be solely, fiscally driven. This will be a very sad day for Nova Scotia if this government continues to pursue that kind of agenda with respect to health care, education, community services, public policy generally.

It is not to say that finances aren't a consideration, they obviously always are a consideration, but they cannot be the sole or primary consideration. There has to be some balance and this government has lost all perspective in terms of balance. The result is this horrible piece of legislation, Bill No. 68.

[Page 5428]

We have seen this approach in Nova Scotia before. We have seen it far too often. We have seen it in the past 10 years. We have seen it under the John Savage Government and we know the absolute chaos that resulted from that approach. Mr. Speaker, this will be the impact and the outcome of Bill No. 68 if this government is not prepared to really see the error of their ways . . .

[10:00 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will ask honourable members to take their conversations outside, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham has the floor.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: . . . and withdraw this bill.

Mr. Speaker, I have had many conversations with people about Bill No. 68, people who have come here to the Legislature and people who have called me in my constituency office where I try to put in an hour or two every day between my time here in the Legislature. It has been interesting to reflect on not only the bill and the emergency session that we have been called back here for but to look at this bill in the context of what our work has been since March 22nd, really, when we came here for our spring session.

Mr. Speaker, as you will know, the Legislature recessed not long before the House resumed on Bill No. 68. We recessed on June 1st. We recessed following a fairly lengthy session and a period during which we primarily dealt with a budget that members of the Opposition were able to demonstrate contained extensive new user fees. For example, the $50 per day user fee to a person in an acute care facility who was unable to be discharged, the user fees for cancer care or other types of patients at the QE II staying at Point Pleasant Lodge and various kinds of user fees that have increasingly become a source of revenue for the Minister of Finance and the Premier in an attempt to deal with the deficit. In spite of these things, this year we still had a deficit.

Last year's deficit was put onto the province's debt and we went through a period of reviewing the revenue of the province and, in fact, the provincial revenue picture was much stronger than expected or at least than publicly anticipated by the Minister of Finance, partly as a result of a very strong economy, contributed to by Sable and offshore activity, but also because equalization revenues were up, reflecting the strong economic position of Alberta and Ontario.

Yet, Mr. Speaker, in spite of this strengthening fiscal picture, we continue to see Nova Scotians suffer and particular Nova Scotians suffer, Nova Scotians who are often either at the low end of the wage scale or certainly in the middle class of the wage scale. We have seen the school bus drivers, for example, in the Valley regional board, many of those drivers

[Page 5429]

lose the benefits and their hourly wages reduced. The amount of paid work that they actually had reduced significantly and we saw the same thing occur while we were here in the House with the school bus drivers, with the Halifax Regional School Board. We saw a prolonged and a somewhat bitter labour dispute with the custodial workers, the cleaners, the maintenance people and the Halifax Regional School Board, a strike that can be directly attributed to the unwillingness of the Minister of Education to provide adequate funding to the Halifax Regional School Board to keep pace with the rate of inflation.

So, Mr. Speaker, we see in this government an approach that is very much prepared to put the public at risk, to inconvenience the public and in these cases we are talking about children, we are talking about parents, we are talking about people who are on the lower wage scale and it is clear the level of respect and the level of concern that members of the government, members of the Cabinet, the Premier and members of the backbench in the Conservative Party, the regard that they hold for people in their constituencies and people in this position all across the province.

It is very apparent, votes are taken and we see that of the 31 members of the governing Party, they stick together like Krazy Glue, there are no members who have inhibitions about the direction of this government, the public policy approaches of this government, the impact that these policies are having on people in their day-to-day lives in their communities, no inhibitions whatsoever of supporting the direction of this government. Therefore, it is important, I think, for the public to be very aware of who is responsible for what is occurring.

Yes, the Premier is ultimately the Leader. The members of Cabinet are the people who sit around with the Premier and make these decisions, but they rely absolutely on the support from the other Tory members of caucus, the members who are not in the Cabinet, who don't get to make these decisions, but their decisions would have no force, no effect, no potential without the silent, complacent and dubious support of members of their backbench in their caucus.

So I think that for people - and there are some members of the government caucus - who like to play the game that these aren't really their decisions and that they are very sympathetic and that they really wish that there was something they could do and that they are doing their best to talk to members of the Cabinet about what else they might be looking at. I say to that kind of manipulation with members of the public, don't you be fooled.

There is essentially one thing that you need to look for in the members of the government and that is, when the chips are down, who stands in their place in this Legislature and speaks on a piece of legislation on behalf of their constituents, who knows that their job is not to come here and represent the Premier and the Cabinet but it is to represent the hard-working men and women in your constituencies to stand up to have your say and when legislation is brought forward, to vote on that legislation and if that legislation

[Page 5430]

is going to have a negative impact on people in your constituency, those are the people to whom you are accountable and don't you forget it.

So, Mr. Speaker, it is important that members of the public recognize that and on Bill No. 68, at some point, we will have an opportunity to test the sincerity of those members of the government Party who like to give a sense to people in their constituencies and people who come here to the House that they are sympathetic. We will see quite shortly just how sympathetic they actually are to the reality of such a horrendous piece of legislation as Bill No. 68.

You know, Mr. Speaker, back in the session, one of the primary pieces of legislation we dealt with was Bill No. 20. During the debate on Bill No. 20, many members of the Opposition raised concerns, as did members of the public, about the real agenda of the Hamm Government with respect to the concentration of power in the inner Cabinet, the fiscal policy agenda of this government, the concern that ultimately this was a bill that would, in fact, be declaring war on public sector workers far beyond the Civil Service and, in fact, would have implications for teachers, for university faculty, for workers in non-profit organizations and, in fact, for workers in the health care sector. Although Bill No. 20 has passed, all of the subsequent sort of reorganizational requirements, the technical aspects of giving Bill No. 20 force and effect have not, in fact, happened yet. I am sure that they will occur over many weeks and months.

But Bill No. 68 now shows us the absolute intent of Bill No. 20 and the fact that members of the Opposition were not at all like Chicken Little crying the sky is falling. We knew full well that this was the real intent of the government. Not a full two weeks later, we see legislation that in fact consolidates an unprecedented amount of power in the hands of the Cabinet. I mean Bill No. 68 is a bill that will allow members of the Hamm Cabinet to impose on all health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia, a collective agreement. If you think about who makes up the Cabinet, if you think about the performance of Cabinet Ministers in various portfolios, Mr. Speaker, this will give no comfort to the workers in the health care field.

We have a Minister of Economic Development whose department has all but disappeared, who will be part of that decision making. We have a Minister of Education who has seen to it single-handedly that children with special needs in the Province of Nova Scotia have gone without the additional supports that they needed, a minister who had no difficulty suggesting that students bring their own toilet paper and soap to school during a custodial and maintenance workers' strike. We have a Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries that saw the decimation of agricultural technical support services and inspections in his own department who will be there making decisions about what a collective agreement for health care workers should look like. We have the Minister of Health who knows as much about health as my two cats know about the health care system. This person will be making

[Page 5431]

decisions about the collective bargaining process and about the collective agreements for health care workers.

[10:15 a.m.]

I could go on, Mr. Speaker. We have the Minister of Community Services who, with

respect to poverty and inequality, uses nothing but feel-good jargon clichés, the win-win clichés, the moving forward clichés, and can't provide the fundamental information that people living in poverty need to know about: what the rates will be for food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and how the rules of the social assistance program will actually be starting August 1st so that people can try to make some arrangements and some planning.

These are the men and one woman that Nova Scotians are being asked to trust their safety and the quality of the working life and the remuneration for health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia.

I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that I am not the only member of this Legislature, or the only Nova Scotian in this province, who is more than a little worried about what that means, given the quality of the decisions that these members often make in their portfolios for whom they have an enormous staff to provide them with support and have been for two years on the job in these areas but still seem to be performing at a fairly less than optimal level, if you will. I have no comfort in knowing that Cabinet will be making these decisions. This is highly inappropriate and anybody who knows anything about back-to-work legislation understands that generally speaking such legislation places the decision-making with a third party arbitrator who at least has some expertise in the area and who also has a somewhat unbiased approach to imposing or arriving at a collective agreement.

Mr. Speaker, it is quite ironic, I think, that the market forces that have created this situation are now the market forces that this government now wants to ignore or to legislate against. By that I mean that health reform in Nova Scotia has particular features. There has been a huge preoccupation with reducing costs, not about improving service, not about better outcomes necessarily, but really it has been very much cost-driven and that has been fairly well-documented in a number of studies that have been done by various academics around the region, including Dr. Barbara Keddy who is a nurse and is at the School of Nursing at Dalhousie. Dr. Keddy and others writing in the field, Fran Gregor, have indicated that the introduction of more market approaches into public sector settings such as health care settings have had certain consequences.

One of the consequences, of course, is increased competition and competition that initially resulted in the beginning when all of the cuts were made in an attempt to reduce costs and close hospital beds and so on. Between 1993 and 1997, approximately 800 nursing positions were lost in Nova Scotia, and most of those positions were full-time positions. Mr.

[Page 5432]

Speaker, this resulted in a casualization of nursing, so that a greater and greater number of people doing nursing work in particular were not full-time workers.

There is an astonishing figure, Mr. Speaker, given in an article done on this situation. This is an article called Health Care "Reform" and its Impact on Nurses in Nova Scotia and British Columbia: Market - Dependence and the Exploitation of Nurses' Work, by Frances Gregor, Barbara Keddy, Suzanne Foster and Donna Denny who are all nurses here in the metro area. They indicate by looking at the Registered Nurses Association statistics for the years 1990 to 1995, they found a marked decrease in the percentage of new graduates finding regular full-time employment, from 61.6 per cent to 14.6 per cent, and a corresponding increase in new graduates finding casual work, from 24.3 per cent to 67.9 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, that is phenomenal, but this is the direct impact of bringing market forces into the public sector and creating this kind of rapid and radical change in the work that is available that has a profound impact then on the workers themselves and it results in the kinds of feelings that build over time as people really struggle to get more control and bring back some stability into their workplace that they have been lacking. This is, in fact, the context or the situation in which health care providers find themselves and they have, through their union, gone back to the bargaining table and attempted to bargain in a way that would see a redress of some of these issues that would see that, okay, if you are going to introduce market forces into the health care system, then part of market forces is paying what the market will bear for the labour that is required to provide services. In this context we're not dealing with just a Nova Scotia labour market, we are dealing with a North American labour market.

This is a fundamental result of globalization, Mr. Speaker, the ability for workers, particularly skilled workers, to be able to move not only from province to province, but also to move from Canada to the United States. This is something that this government fails to understand. So you have to ask, is it that they are failing to understand because they don't know? I don't think so. I think that they do know. I think that they choose not to see this because it is not in their fiscal interests to see this because they have quite another agenda and it is a political agenda. It is an agenda where their ultimate plan, as other members have said, is an attempt to balance the budget in the timetable that they said in the election campaign, to provide a 10 per cent tax cut in year four and go back to the electorate and say we did what we said we were going to, re-elect us, and hope that the impact of all of these other things that they have done throughout their mandate will be forgotten, will be forgiven and will be overlooked.

Mr. Speaker, I certainly see that as a very cynical approach to providing good government in the Province of Nova Scotia and clearly they are playing political roulette with the health care system and the fact that you only build a sustainable health care system that is human-resource based. What Bill No. 68 will do, and we hear this over and over again from the people who most know about what Bill No. 68 will do, is that it threatens the very

[Page 5433]

stability of the human resources that are required to provide adequate services to Nova Scotians in our health care system. It will poison the relationship between employer and worker. It will poison the relationship between government and health care workers, and this is not the kind of relationship or the kind of environment in which we can build a sustainable health care system.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, when I had an opportunity to speak on one of the amendments to the bill, I expressed my regret that there are no members of this Legislative Assembly elected here who are nurses or from the nursing profession, or from the health professions, although as a social worker I am probably a person who comes closest to the health professions, although I make no such claim that that is my profession. It has been very many years since I practised front-line health care in a mental health facility and the bulk of my work as a health care provider, if you will, was really in community-based health care services and more primary health care. But that's not to say that I don't have many contacts throughout the health care field and it is not to say that I don't care very deeply about these professional groups and try very hard to understand what it is that they are trying to deal with in a day-to-day way.

Mr. Speaker, I have nothing but admiration for the work of the Allied Health Care Workers and the nurses, LPNs and registered nurses. I feel very strongly - and I said this before as the NDP Status of Women Critic - about the dimension of this issue that is about women and I think it is very important that is articulated and voiced here in the Legislature as part of the debate, that 97 per cent of nurses are women and 80 per cent of the allied health care workers are women. There is in our society a sexual division of labour, if you will, where women are predominantly the people who end up doing the caring work in our society, both unpaid caring work in the household and paid caring work in the marketplace or in the labour market.

With that, we know that over time there has been this idea that it is a female culture of care, it is an obligation that somehow is attached to being a female in our society, and I must say that I listened to things that the Premier has to say about the health care workers and their obligation to tend to the needs of others and to stay on the job because it is the right thing to do and I get my hackles up a little bit, Mr. Speaker. I think, well, how noble for him to say this, but at what price is he saying this, and at whose cost is he saying this? I think when we start to peel away much of the Premier's misguided and frequently patronizing musings on what Bill No. 68 is really all about, then I have to say quite simply to the Premier, or anybody else, you can't order health care workers to care, you can't order nurses to care.

They have cared and they have cared, and they're tired of caring because nobody seems to be caring about them, not their employer, not their government, and perhaps sometimes not even some members of the public, although I have to say that when you read the letters to the editor and you read comments and hear comments in the media, and we get these calls

[Page 5434]

in our constituencies and in the caucus office, certainly the members of the public who care about the health care workers and the nurses are running, you know, easily 9 to 1 for the health care workers and for the nurses. So I would say to the health care providers that members of the public do care about you even if this government appears not to care for you and we are hearing your message.

[10:30 a.m.]

Many of us are hearing your message that you understand you have options and one of your options, in fact, is to stop caring and to withdraw your services in an effort to get government, your employer, and the public to care for you. We don't want to lose you. We don't want to see you go someplace else because you will be respected and valued there, we want you to stay and there are those of us here in the Opposition who are certainly prepared to fight very hard to keep you here and to keep you as valued members of not only our health care system, but of our communities and our province. We have in many cases invested in your education through the system of funding nursing education and we don't want to be training nurses for Calgary, California and Texas. We want to be training nurses for Nova Scotia and we believe that we need to do what's necessary to retain you in this province.

So this is a message, Mr. Speaker, that I certainly would like to relay to members of the health care professions. You know last night, I came in for the Question Period that happened at whatever time - I am sort of losing track now of time and what day we're on and stuff like that, but I came in - and there were a number of health care providers here last evening. I had an opportunity to talk to two very fine young men who are paramedics. I have to say we went through a situation where we had paramedics in a not unlike situation that we're in now, a situation where this government prior to their legal right to strike, swooping in and attempting to impose a piece of legislation, force it through as quickly as possible, to take away their right to strike and we know what happened in that situation.

We know that that legislation resulted in binding arbitration. It meant that in some cases paramedics received up to a 99 per cent increase in their wages, not because that was like this unbelievable giveaway, it reflected just how poorly some of those workers, those highly skilled workers, workers who are given an enormous amount of responsibility in our health care system, how undervalued their work was in relation to their counterparts elsewhere and, Mr. Speaker, a third party arbitrator recognized that. They realized wage increases of anywhere between 20 per cent to 99 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, last evening I met these two young men who were here who are paramedics and I thought, mistakenly, that they had come to lend support to their colleagues, other health care workers. In speaking with them I discovered that, in fact, in one of the three bargaining units at the QE II, the bargaining unit that is in a legal strike position as of June 27th, Wednesday of next week, that are in the countdown right now, that in that bargaining unit there are, in fact, 81 paramedics. So not all paramedics in the Province of Nova Scotia

[Page 5435]

work for Emergency Health Services which I had mistakenly thought would be the case, but these paramedics, in fact, work for the QE II and they do triage in the emergency unit and they also are part of a patient transfer system.

I had an opportunity to talk with them, not for a long time because I was a little tired and I had to go home and get some sleep and prepare for my next shift, but enough time that I got a sense of why they are concerned about Bill No. 68. Neither one of these young men is what you could ever characterize as militant unionists or as radicals. They're good, decent hard-working young men who are trying very hard to provide the best quality health care services they can and they simply want respect and they want fairness. They were very concerned about Bill No. 68.

They had never been to this Legislature, Mr. Speaker, and this was something else that really bothered me when I spoke with them. They had never been to the Legislature before and they were disturbed at the behaviour that they observed here on the floor of the Legislature. They were disturbed that members of the Opposition could stand in their place and speak about Bill No. 68, but members of the government were not standing in their place and speaking. They observed that members of the government were playing games, were reading books, were having chats down in the back corner that often were quite disruptive to the speaker, and they questioned whether or not the bill in front of us and the seriousness of this bill was getting the kind of attention and respect that it deserved here in the Legislature. I said to them, you know, you're right. I know that some members of the government have complained about members of the Opposition, the quality of the comments. They find the comments repetitive and not helpful.

The solution to that is to stand on your feet and raise the quality of the debate, participate in this debate, and have your opportunity to say what it is that you find is important to have recorded here and not sit back and be a critic without offering anything on this debate. When I think about some of the behaviour that I have observed during this debate, exchanges back and forth, I must say I feel a little embarrassed sometimes to be a member and having to go and meet the public and know that people are wondering if this is the level of intelligence or commitment or seriousness that their elected members bring to the important business of running the Province of Nova Scotia and representing the interests of Nova Scotians who have given us, Mr. Speaker, a great privilege, a privilege that the vast majority of people will never have an opportunity to experience. So I think it is incumbent upon us to recognize that we do have a privilege and to treat the matters in front of us with the seriousness that they deserve.

Mr. Speaker, in the next few days, in fact this evening, I think we will have an opportunity and members of the government will certainly have an opportunity to meet face to face with many of the members of the public and many of the health care workers who will be impacted by Bill No. 68. I hope that members of this Legislature, particularly government members, will take every opportunity to meet with the people who Bill No. 68

[Page 5436]

will be affecting and will actually talk to them about their work and talk to them about their lives.

We have talked a great deal in this Legislature about nurses, which is proper because nurses, numerically, make up the largest group of health care providers in the health care system but, as I said yesterday, there are many other professional groups who are involved in health care provision who are very angry, very frustrated and very concerned about Bill No. 68. Included in this group are laboratory technicians, X-ray technicians, radiation and ultrasound technologists, physiotherapists, pharmacists, social workers, occupational therapists, psychologists, dieticians. I mean to run our health care services, the kinds of professional groupings are quite extensive and there are very many groups that have been affected by these changes.

Mr. Speaker, many of these workers have invested heavily in their education. In many cases they have more than one university degree, they may have two, they may have three university degrees. They have many years of experience working in the health care fields. They have seen, in the last 10 years, an extraordinary large amount of reorganization and change. In some cases, some of these workers have been shuffled from one area of service provision to another. They have had to compete for their own jobs, in many cases, and in some cases over and over again. They frequently participate in continuing education. They may belong to professional associations that require that they do so many hours of continuing education every year to maintain their licence and maintain their ability to practise. Often these requirements cost money and often they do it at their own expense.

In addition, many of these workers are women and men who volunteer, they sit on volunteer boards, they do a lot of really important work in the community. When I think about social work and psychology, for example, Mr. Speaker, because I have some contact with . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber. I would ask the members to take their conversations outside, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham has the floor.

[10:45 a.m.]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: When I see the amount of volunteer work that many of these groups do, for example I know there are some social workers and psychologists who have been active with non-profit organizations around eating disorders, helping to set up networks, support groups and do public education and these kinds of things that go far beyond their everyday work, where they are meeting directly with clients and they are doing counselling and they are doing family counselling and group work and what have you. Quite often many of these people at the end of the day go home, they grab a quick bite and they

[Page 5437]

dash out to meetings and they lend their expertise and their talents to a whole host of non-profit organizations, be it women's shelters or other organizations that perform really important, valuable work in our society.

I am very concerned to hear the response to Bill No. 68 in terms of work-to-rule and I totally understand it, because people have been contributing and contributing and when they see a piece of legislation like this that orders them to care, that orders them to do what they have so willingly been doing on their own, when no one has been caring for them, then I think our community is going to be worse off as a result of this bill. It is going to do real harm, Mr. Speaker.

I know my time is getting short, Mr. Speaker, and I would like to take the last moments of my time to say to the government that it is not too late to do the right thing with Bill No. 68. There is no shame in saying that you have made a mistake and that you are big enough to recognize that you have made a mistake; that you are prepared to back away from decisions you have made that are wrong decisions; that sometimes people have a lot more respect for someone who is prepared to acknowledge that they were wrong, that they made a wrong decision, that they got panicked, that they weren't thinking clearly or whatever, and I think we certainly have an opportunity to do that here with Bill No. 68.

We do have an opportunity to back away from this piece of legislation, a piece of legislation that is bringing, well it is bringing a kind of, I don't know if you can say shame, but certainly it is casting the Province of Nova Scotia in a less than attractive eye all across the country. The fact that this legislation is here before us and that it is so far-reaching in what it is attempting to do and to whom it is attempting to impose quite draconian measures, it has caught the attention of the national press and we are getting a reputation, Mr. Speaker, as being a bit of a backwater again, when we really had broken free of that kind of image in Nova Scotia.

It is not an image that we have had to contend with since the Buchanan days I would submit, and for all of the faults that you can lay at the feet of the former Liberal Government, I don't think that it would be fair to say that one of their faults was to be portrayed nationally as a bit of a backwater banana republic-style approach to government. I think that this bill, in fact, takes us back to that kind of characterization which, ironically, will harm us economically, financially. It will harm us in ways that the Premier would like not to be portrayed and would like the province not to be portrayed.

So, Mr. Speaker, I think that we have heard the brave, tough words from the Premier but this bill is not for our own good and it will do irreparable harm. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Just before I recognize the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Lunenburg West:

[Page 5438]

Therefore be it resolved that when it comes to health care, the greatest threat to public safety is the Nova Scotia oligarchy represented by the Premier, the Government House Leader, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Justice, or the lack thereof.

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill No. 68. Normally it is an honour for me to rise in this place to speak on any matter, however, I have to admit today I am a little ashamed of having to stand in my place to debate such a piece of legislation. I have spoken to many of the nurses and health care professionals over the weekend and yesterday in telephone calls. Actually, I am trying to keep track of the newspapers and letters to the editor and I am trying to find where this government is getting support for this bill and I haven't had one, one individual walk up to me or send me an e-mail or a phone call or a letter, not one, who came forward to suggest that they support this government in its action. So, it is rather alarming.

The most common reference that I hear from people is that they are shocked that the comments that a doctor would make toward the nursing profession in particular and all health care workers in this province, when both he and the Health Minister indicated very clearly that they didn't trust the nursing and the health care workers in this province and that is alarming. As a doctor, John Hamm should know that the nurses in this province are among the best in our country and he should be proud of their accomplishments and their efforts. Instead, he lays the blame of the health care chaos that his minister is creating in that particular department and he lays the blame right on the doorstep of the health care professionals in this province.

The attitude of this government, especially of his minister, proves that he doesn't give the health care professionals the respect that they deserve. They don't have any respect for them and they don't have anything. What is more alarming to me, personally, is when I look across the floor and I recognize many of the former municipal colleagues who I had the pleasure of serving with through various meetings as a municipal councillor and I have said this before in this House, a municipal councillor, we all boast that we are the government closest to the people and we are in the community each and every day and a municipal councillor really does play a very important role in a community. They have the advantage because they are in the community every day. As I indicated before in this House, it is obvious that some of those former municipal councillors who are over there, they must have done something right because they certainly wouldn't have been elected to this House if they were a failure in their previous life.

[Page 5439]

So it is alarming, Mr. Speaker, for me to realize that those individuals allow the Premier and the Health Minister to get away with the comments that they have, in particular to the nursing profession and all health care workers in this province.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier called this legislation less than 24 hours after appointing a mediator to settle the dispute with the health care workers, less than 24 hours. One nurses' union was in the midst of conciliation and the other union was set to begin conciliation this week. It is important also to note that these nurses and health support workers still had over two weeks to negotiate a possible settlement before any strike would take place.

Mr. Speaker, one would think that this government wants all Nova Scotians to believe that this is the nurses' fault, this is the health care professionals, the support team, it is all their fault that I am in this House this morning speaking on this bill, it is their fault that the health care system in this province is in a mess and in shambles. They lay the blame everywhere else but where it should land. It should land right at the doorstep of that minister and that Premier. We must not forget that that Premier is also a medical doctor and if I am correct, I believe he has over 30 years experience in the medical profession in this province. He has the audacity to even suggest that the chaos in this health system in this province was created by the professionals who work within that system. It is very clear when I read the newspaper, the letters to the editor, the e-mails that the government members are receiving, they are receiving the same letters and telephone calls and e-mails that I, as a member of the Opposition, I am sure all 52 members are receiving these from all over the province.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, just this morning, areas that include Pictou Centre, Pictou West and Pictou East have voted 95 per cent in favour of a strike action. Now does that sound like the professionals working in the system have any kind of respect for that minister or any kind of belief in his ability to run the health care system in this province? I would suggest those numbers are extremely high, 95 per cent of those health care professionals voted in favour of a strike action. The chaos continues.

The nursing profession had a plan in place in case there was a strike. In case there was a strike, they had a plan to make sure the patients who were in facilities now would be cared for and that any emergencies that would arise could be dealt with immediately. Now, because of the actions of this government, we don't know where the health care system is, if there is an emergency response plan in place now or not. So the mess gets greater, not smaller, greater and it is because of the mismanagement. I hope that the backbenchers over there are going to listen to sooner or later, maybe one sentence, maybe not mine but another member of the Opposition.

We, on this side, realize that that gang in the front row there, there is no getting through to them. They proved that when they dealt with the steelworkers in Sydney and I spoke to a few of them over the weekend and they feel much better now because they thought they were being singled out but it is obvious now when we see how the teachers and the

[Page 5440]

education system was dealt with in this past budget process and now the health care and the offshore, you could continue on; the bag is brimming over with problems that are being created by that gang up there in the front row.

What concerns me more than anything is it is obvious the backbench, which is really the nucleus, the real stronghold that can really create and force the government to be the best that it can be, that is not happening over there. Those former municipal colleagues that were elected to this House at the same time I was are not raising the issues and they are not raising the concerns of the constituents that they represent. If they were, Mr. Speaker, that gang over there on the front row would not be operating the province of Nova Scotia in the manner that it is.

[11:00 a.m.]

So it is alarming. It is very alarming and all Nova Scotians, every man, woman and child, should be here today at this protest. This is alarming because it affects each and every Nova Scotian, not only the people who work within this profession are affected by this, Mr. Speaker. In fact, who is next? The nurses were following the process that has been traditional in this province for many years and fought for by our forefathers, and the people who came before us in this House supported those initiatives and the process is clear and fair; conciliation, mediation, arbitration, if necessary, but no, this government seems more intent on operating like a government that we are familiar with that operated in the 1940's where you don't tell people small lies, you tell them large lies and they will all believe you and go away and leave you alone.

That is not going to happen. It is very clear just by the comments, if you read the newspaper, and I am sure they can read. All you have to do is buy a newspaper, any newspaper in the province, in any municipality, anything local. You can buy the provincial ones, locally there are several. Read the letters to the editors. It is clear what Nova Scotians believe about this government. They are out of control. They don't know how to manage. The Health Minister is spending over $300 million in his department in less than two years and what has he got to show for it? If somebody gets sick here right now, we don't know, when we get to the hospital, if anybody is going to be there because of the actions of this government, not the actions of the health care professionals who deliver the service, they are not to blame here.

This government created the confrontation with the health care professionals. It is hard to believe that you would create so much corruption in such a short time. Health care is actually that unstable at the present time, that the minister should be relieved of his duties. It is coming to the point where this is urgent. This is not a funny situation and it is about time those backbenchers over there realized that. There are individuals sitting over there who were in their communities before they were elected here and talked to nurses on a daily basis, just as I have and they know that they put their effort and they are overworked and underpaid.

[Page 5441]

They know that, yet the Minister of Finance will stand in his place and say, oh, it is all about money.

It is all about money, we don't have any money but he had the money to go to B.C. and import a high, I don't know if he is a gun-slinger or what he is, Mr. Speaker, but I certainly do know one thing, he is well paid. He is well paid along with the staff he has around him. There is over $0.5 million per year in that minister's office and this is the type of advice and direction he is receiving. Now all we have to do is look at B.C. and look at the chaos of that health care system. They go out there and they get an individual to come in here and what happens? The very foundation of our health care system is under attack. Why? Ask yourselves why, and I hope the backbenchers, I know the ministers are looking at me, but they're not going to do anything anyway, that's obvious, because we shouldn't even be here. That Cabinet should have never even considered this, and it is up to that backbench to play the role that they should play and force that government to be the best that they can be for the people they represent, and they do have the power to do that because they have the numbers out there.

I don't know how many are up there now, a baker's dozen, it doesn't matter, there are approximately 20 backbenchers back there and they better grow some backbone real quick. They're even jeopardizing the very lives of the people they represent, and that is not why they were elected to this House. Do you remember your council meetings when you used to stand up and fight for the people you represented? Well, do it now because they need you now. Don't take the lead from those leaders, because they're not leaders, and they're taking you down.

Mr. Speaker, when they were municipal councillors, they had the stamina to stand up to people like that and that's why they are here in this House, and they better pinch themselves and wake up. They have people like the honourable member for Preston. Did anybody ever used to watch a Halifax Regional Municipality Council meeting when he was a member? He was a very aggressive member of that council and, when the mayor made a mistake, he was there for the people, but where is he today, where is he? He has a muzzle on him and he won't open his mouth because he is afraid. He is afraid, and what is he afraid of? The people of Preston didn't elect that member to come here and allow these guys to run this province and to treat health care professionals the way they are. Those backbenchers over there should demand changes in that department right away.

Mr. Speaker, if those backbenchers really believed that the people they represent are not realizing, are not listening, are not paying attention and that they are going to forget - that's the common phrase I hear from over on that side, oh, a lot can happen in two years, they will all forget about this - well, they better smell the roses and the hot coffee very soon because Nova Scotians have shown in the past that they don't forget. They didn't forget about Donnie Cameron in 1993 and they won't forget what has taken place in 2001.

[Page 5442]

I was summoned to this House last night twice, Mr. Speaker, with the bells ringing for votes and that's fine over there, that's great, that's wonderful, but you know something that they better realize? Sooner or later the bells are going to ring for Nova Scotians and they will be voting, they will show their displeasure, and there's no need for it because I have said it before in this House and I will say it anywhere, they are not bad people. I have coffee with them and I talk to them in the hallways here, and you meet them on the sidewalk, and they're not bad guys or ladies. I can't say anything bad personally about any of them and I have said it before, they are just plain Tories. If I look back prior to 1993, the Tories were mean, nasty and sleazy. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes knows full well to use the word "sleazy" is unparliamentary and I would ask him to retract that, please.

MR. BOUDREAU: Which one, Mr. Speaker, which word?

MR. SPEAKER: Sleazy.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mean and nasty?

MR. SPEAKER: Sleazy.

MR. BOUDREAU: Sleazy?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes.

MR. BOUDREAU: I will take the sleazy back.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mean and nasty, Mr. Speaker. But this government, I have learned, I am here two years, the difference between that group and this group is that this group is just plain crazy.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point or order. For the edification of the members and our caucus, when the Liberals in 1994 introduced the rollback in the Savage days, can he tell us which one you were, were you mean or crazy, just so we know that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Just before the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes continues his debate, I would ask the member to choose very carefully his adjectives that he is using in his debate.

[Page 5443]

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable minister for rising on that point, but in 1993 or 1994, whenever it happened, I can't answer for that, I wasn't here. I wasn't part of it. I wasn't part of the Liberals. I was always a Liberal, but I wasn't over here. I don't know the circumstances, I don't know why, but I do know the rollbacks were universal and there was an action taken by that minister at the time to deal with the corruptness over there, the borrowing and the buying of votes from the previous government that they inherited the mess from and that minister knows that because he still has some of the mess. It is a very difficult issue to deal with and we realize that over here.

It is not easy to deal with the amount of debt that John Buchanan created in this province. We know that and that minister knows that. That minister knows he created it, that's who created the financial mess in this province, Tory Governments, and this one is not doing a bad job at it either. This honourable gentleman over here is not doing a bad job at that, $3.5 million a day on an average, an extra cost of $70 million last year in interest that I, through my tax dollars, along with all Nova Scotians - not only I - paid to the banks. We paid that to the banks.

Mr. Speaker, imagine for one minute, just sit and think for one minute, if that minister had $70 million to give to the Health Minister, then I don't think he would have a problem with money, would he, in the Health Department? That's the minister who went to New York and spent $900 one night in a motel and he got the gall to rise and talk.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member has said something which is not true. I stayed in New York for two nights. The member opposite knows that. I know that it is expensive staying in New York, but if the member is going to talk about facts here, we should talk about facts. We should also probably talk about the fact that his counterparts in Ottawa haven't helped the situation here in Nova Scotia by giving themselves a 20 per cent raise which is totally unacceptable. So if you want to talk about issues, talk about those.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is not a point of order, but certainly a clarification of the facts.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the minister if I said one night, but I am glad he clarified, $450 a night is not bad. I know people on social services down in my constituency who don't get $450 for the month and that minister has the gall to go and spend $450 for one night at a motel. Thank you for clarifying that, Mr. Minister, and I will also talk a little bit about the 20 per cent raise. I don't support that raise. I didn't have any input whatsoever with that 20 per cent raise for the MPs or anything and it is just as alarming to me as it is to any other Nova Scotian, I believe, or any other Canadian, but the important point, if the minister had the ability to negotiate with the federal government, maybe then, you know, the Campaign for Fairness, do you think Nova Scotians are going to forget that? Where's that at? Complete failure, a complete failure, complete.

[Page 5444]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before this thing gets too far off the tracks, I would ask the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes to bring his comments and the level of debate back to Bill No. 68, please, that is before the House at this time.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I don't have a problem doing that because I am sure that minister doesn't want to talk about the Laurentian Sub-basin and the mess they made out of that.

Mr. Speaker, I will quote from an article in the paper on March 4, 2000 and I won't say which paper, it is a newspaper, of course. The minister didn't want to discuss the rationale behind the blowing of $1.1 billion by previous Tory Governments. He didn't want to talk about that, but the minister said that you have to stay focused on the present. He didn't want to talk about the history. He wanted to focus on today.

[11:15 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I don't have a problem focusing on today. I will focus on today and I will focus on the decisions being made by that minister along with his colleagues in Cabinet. They are basically an embarrassment, is what they are, everything they touch; I don't think they like to govern, to be honest with you. Those backbenchers back there, like I indicated before, they better smell the roses or the coffee, pinch themselves, do something, wake up, do something with these guys. We have got the Minister of Community Services who used to be a mayor. Unfortunately, . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Was he a bad or good mayor?

MR. BOUDREAU: Yes, he probably was a good mayor. I never followed his career, but he must have been doing something right. He is like the rest of you over there, he is here. It is like I said before, he wasn't here because he was a failure, but the problem and the good member who made that comment, and I won't name him, but he should realize because he was a pretty high level municipal councillor and he came from a poorer region than that honourable member, he came from the richest area, one of the richest in Nova Scotia, and he is up there and how can he identify with that municipality that you represent?

Mr. Speaker, through you to that honourable member, it is up to that member to remind that minister of the difficulties of ordinary people who struggle each and every day in this province, that's that member, that member is not to sit there with a muzzle on. That is what his caucus meeting is for. They meet every day before the House comes into session so he has ample opportunity to tell that minister and the whole gang of them over there, because that's what they are, they're a gang. They're like, I don't know, the Jesse James gang or something, like they rolled into town in 1999 and it is nothing but chaos ever since. (Interruption)

[Page 5445]

The main problem over there, as I see it, they're graduates of the John Buchanan school of learning, the political school of learning, of course, and they certainly didn't forget a lot of the elements of that particular time they spent in those governments. (Interruption) I would suggest, honourable member, by the letters and the impact that we're getting in our caucus office, my voice mail on my telephone, my e-mail and the letters I am receiving, and open the newspaper, I don't think you're going to be getting too many more terms, honourable member. Nova Scotians will rid themselves of you very shortly because, as I indicated before, the bells are going to ring, not only for members of this House to come in, but that Premier sooner or later has to ring the bells for all Nova Scotia and they will be summoned to their place of voting. Then we will see how tough they are.

Here are some of the comments, Mr. Speaker, that I am catching in the local newspaper. "We're considering this as war." Does that sound like re-election, honourable member? "The premier has thrown down the gauntlet, and as far as we're concerned all rules are off, all bets are off." That comment came from the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union. They have to realize they don't set the rules. That's the message. They think they are going to dictate, create a dictatorship here in the Province of Nova Scotia. They had better pinch themselves because the members on this side of the House, and particularly this caucus, are not going to allow it to happen and, more importantly, Nova Scotians are not going to allow it to happen. Nova Scotians are not going to take too much more guff from over there.

A few more comments, Mr. Speaker. "I've always said that democracy in Nova Scotia on the best of days is fragile. We're on the border of extinction with this legislation." That came from the Canadian Auto Workers. "Do the right thing, John, pull Bill 68.", and that is the right thing to do. Take this bill and flush it down one of John Buchanan's toilets. That came from the Employees International Union. They're watching you all over the world. It is not only in Nova Scotia or in Canada, it has expanded. This bill is an assault on the democratic process that our forefathers fought for and, yes, some even lost their lives to defend that democratic right.

If they think Nova Scotians and the people in the rest of Canada and, in fact, the world are not watching, then you are out of touch, you are out of reality, honourable gentlemen. Smell the coffee for heaven's sake. "Tory times are sorry times, and the sooner we flush this toilet the better it is for all of us." Doesn't that sound familiar, Mr. Speaker? That comment comes from the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour.

"With Bill 68, (John Hamm) seems to have chosen to kill a mosquito with a sledgehammer." Imagine, hitting a mosquito with a sledgehammer? Iron fist, where did we see that before? The last time I witnessed it, Mr. Speaker, was in the 1940's and we know where that came from, we know what happened and the destruction that was created during that particular time. I don't want to mention that country or that leader in this House, because I don't think it deserves even a mention, because it was just a total disgrace what took place

[Page 5446]

and that is what is going on here with this bill, it is similar. The government is heading down a road of confrontation, and if this bill is passed there can be no happy end to this tale. That came from the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

"It really tears me apart to see what's going on." That comment came from my colleague, the critic for the Liberal Party, Health Critic Jim Smith. Mr. Speaker, all those honourable members have to do is just watch this individual for a day and see how upset he is with how that Premier is treating his colleagues in the health care system.

Negotiations are always difficult at the best of times. We all know that, but you can't do that. Maybe the honourable member for Yarmouth might be interested in this, Mr. Speaker, just in. The district health authority down there voted in favour of a strike, 78 per cent and that honourable member is defending what that minister, that Premier, and that gang is doing over there and 78 per cent of the people he represents, who work within the health system in this province, voted to go on strike. It is about time they smelled the coffee. This is so needless. It is so needless. That backbench has more power than they understand. All they have got to do is tell these guys that this is wrong and they don't want to treat health care professionals like this. They don't want the health care system in this province destroyed. There is destruction everywhere. It is nothing but chaos. Today, not Tuesday coming, it is today.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated a couple of times when I rose in this House, the waste, they don't know what they're doing over there. It is that plain. You can look at the Campaign for Fairness. You can look at the Laurentian Sub-basin. You can look at bracket creep. You can look at the fact the debt is increasing six years to the year 2007 and the minister didn't even know. He didn't even know until my honourable colleague, the member for Lunenburg West, told him.

What in the heck is happening to the people's government in Nova Scotia? What is going on? I can't figure it out myself and I am a member of this House. I am in here each and every day when the House is in session and I watch the workings of this government. They're confused. They are out of control. They couldn't manage a vacant farm and, do you know what, Mr. Speaker, the backbenchers don't need to think they're going to get away with going on doorsteps and saying, well, the minister, they are going to blame everything on the minister. That doesn't fit, gentlemen. It doesn't fit. You have to accept the responsibility of what your Cabinet, it is your Cabinet, not mine, I am not over there to tell them. I would love to be over there just for two days because they wouldn't get away with that with me as part of the caucus and I will tell you another thing, you wouldn't get away with it with any of my colleagues.

The problem is they have no experience perhaps and they don't understand the power that they really do have in the backbenches. Tell those ministers, don't let them tell you, especially when it is issues like this. This affects every man, woman and child in the

[Page 5447]

province. It affects your neighbours, your family, their children, everybody. Do you understand that? Can't you come to grips with the reality of this? I see it is a big joke to the honourable minister, I won't even identify him, but he is only a John Buchanan graduate. He was one of the first who graduated out of that school, he and the Finance Minister, but they're doing a pretty good job over there teaching the rest of them, I have got to say that. You certainly took advantage of the time you spent around John Buchanan, I can tell you that. It is unbelievable. (Interruption)

We have got reports coming in here, Mr. Speaker, health care workers are voting in excess of 95 per cent in favour of a vote action. Now, do you people really think you are going to scare all the health care workers in this province and, you know, okay, nurses, you just run along over there and you do what we tell you. Can you people really grasp the reality of this situation? Even those ministers, the Minister of Health was a school teacher, Mr. Speaker, he was part of a collective bargaining unit. In fact, I believe he was involved with the Teachers Union at one point. What is going on over there? For that minister to even propose legislation such as this, let alone coming into this House and presenting it and forcing the House to sit 24 hours a day, Mr. Speaker - they got those backbenchers over there, I don't know what they're telling them, like do these backbenchers realize that most of these, there are a lot of these collective agreements that were up since last fall - November, October, last year before Christmas, gentleman.

[11:30 a.m.]

These people who were without a contract were working all winter. There is no chaos being created other than the fact the minister has mismanaged the system and he is not recruiting anybody to provide support to them, but they go to work every day. They do their duties every day. They go beyond any imaginable point with their efforts even since the contracts expired. Now, all of a sudden, the minister wants those backbenchers to believe that all nurses and health care professionals are big bad wolves and they are going to eat everybody all up and they are going to throw them away.

That backbench, what is wrong with you honourable gentlemen and lady - there is one lady over on their backbench - what in the heck are you eating over there? (Interruption) Really. Are the apples down in Annapolis that bad or what is going on here? I can't figure it out. The last time I ate apples from the Valley, in fact I buy them all the time, they're great. My thinking is not corrupt because I eat Valley apples, but what the heck is going on over there? What exactly is happening?

You wonder why people in the Province of Nova Scotia don't trust politicians. They don't even like politicians and I can hardly blame them really. You have got a system here that is in place, you have got health care professionals working in the province since November, October, I don't even know, I see them all looking at me over there like they are mystified, they don't even realize and they better get some history on the facts here. These

[Page 5448]

workers, you don't have to take a club and beat them back to work. Many of them have been working since November and October of last year without contracts. They didn't realize that over there? They didn't they know that? Are they being properly briefed by their Cabinet colleagues?

It is scary, Mr. Speaker, and the scariest thing is this is just one other battle that we're having with this government. What's next? We suspect the next assault is going to come in the Department of Education and we are only speculating at this point in time, but they've got plans for the school boards. We know that. We know what is going to take place next year with the education system in this province. The backbenchers are looking at me. They don't know maybe, but you're going to know, gentlemen, get ready, brace yourselves, because teachers are likely next. They are the next on the hit list.

As I indicated before, Mr. Speaker, steelworkers now feel much relief because they thought they were being singled out because they were steelworkers first and, two, because they were Cape Bretoners. Well, this government has shown over the past two years, and particularly with this issue, they weren't treated any differently than this government treats all Nova Scotians regardless of where you live or work.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated the other day, we have many of the best doctors in the country and even they are getting fed up with the direction of that minister. That was proven down in North Sydney in Cape Breton North when the recruitment efforts weren't even nowhere to be seen because there are none. There are no recruitment efforts. There are none and the minister says there is no money. He was going to fix health care with $46 million. He has already spent in excess of $300 million and look at health care today in this province - total chaos.

I see the honourable minister looking at me because he should look at me, and you should look at a lot of other people, too. You want to take a visit to the hospital today and visit the patients in there and see what you're doing to them. You want to take a walk up the corridor and talk to the nurses and see the stress you're creating for them. That's what you should do. Don't look at me. Look at yourself in the mirror because it is your direction that is taking this health care system down the chute in the whole province.

He is taking a system that all that had to be done, the foundation was solid with the nursing profession in this province, all we had to do was shore it up, support the system and give the nurses and the other health care workers the tools that they need to support the doctors that we have and then we would have the best health care system in the country. Instead he has taken the opposite direction, a U-turn in the road, and he is now assaulting the very foundation that our health care system was built upon in this province.

[Page 5449]

It is not only me saying that, Mr. Speaker, not only me, they are all right here, you know, any group of nurses who will vote 95 per cent in favour of strike action, then I would suggest that they recognize, and they are the people who work within the system, not me, but I would suggest that they work within the system and they recognize what that minister is doing to their jobs and not only their jobs because any nurse I know is not just a job and that minister knows that. You have to be a special person to be a nurse and that's where that minister can't identify. Maybe he should be back in the classroom, maybe that is where that good minister should be, maybe back where he should be - maybe he is good at that, I don't know, I would suggest that he is - but he certainly is no good at making decisions for the health care system, that is obvious. He is a failure, an F.

Mr. Speaker, I indicated before that this mess started last week when they presented this bill in the House. In fact, some of the contracts, as I indicated, were expired since October, gentlemen. Now, backbenchers, are you hearing me, because it is obvious your minister is not telling you this. That system operated very functionally, given the support that they need, taking that into consideration, it worked the best it possibly could. The best level it could since October with no agreement. No agreement and all of a sudden the big, bad wolf comes along and whoof, there is a big problem here.

He has created nothing but a mess and the whole system is in shambles because of his decisions. He will wear it, because from the rumours I hear, they are not too happy in Truro, either, Mr. Minister. They are not too happy anywhere, and I hope you hear that. I hope you are listening as well as looking at me. You can look at me rudely, I don't care. The Minister of Justice - and I witnessed it, Mr. Speaker - he was rude to nurses out there.

I would like to know who that minister thinks he is, to be rude to anybody, especially when he is supposed to be representing all Nova Scotians, even though he is the Justice Minister. He still represents all Nova Scotians, not just a few Tory hacks in a back room somewhere. Maybe the two Georges were around, were they? Maybe that is what is going on here, because they are certainly out of touch and out of control. They are out of touch with the people they represent and they are obviously creating the chaos because they don't know what they are doing. They couldn't run a vacant farm; in fact the rumour on the street is they would be better off haunting homes and houses instead of running government.

Mr. Speaker, I don't want to sound too disrespectful because I like the Minister of Health, he is not a bad guy; he is not. Anytime you see him or meet him anywhere he is friendly, he is very warm and I have some respect for an individual like that. I don't want to stand here and, I am not assassinating his character in any way, shape or form. I was fortunate enough to meet his wife at one function in Truro that she attended with the honourable minister, and I can tell you she is a real gem and she is probably his backbone. So, I am not standing here assassinating that minister. Really I am not, but his ability to manage health care has to come into question. It must, along with that doctor over there we have for a Premier.

[Page 5450]

Can you imagine a doctor working in the health field 30 years saying he doesn't trust nurses? My heavens, what is going on? Like they say in Glace Bay, what's goin' on, boy? It is crazy. It is crazy. They took a normally operating health care system and they have it in shambles over there. Now we realize, the Health Critic in our Party realizes the difficulties in health care and it basically surrounds the support system we have to put in place for the nursing profession and the other health care workers in the province. We have to provide the support and give them the tools that are required, so that they can be the best that they can possibly be. They are committed through their efforts to become that anyway, but we need as a government, as a people of Nova Scotia to give the tools that they require, come in here with a plan to recruit nurses, not chase them out of their homes and away to other provinces, to go away to work.

Mr. Speaker, I see that you are looking at the clock, could I ask how much time I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: You have seven minutes.

MR. BOUDREAU: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Seven minutes to beat up on the Health Minister.

Mr. Speaker, as I said when I rose in my place, I am not proud to stand here today. I am not proud to be a member of this House and have to rise in this place to criticize that minister because, as I indicated, personally I don't have a problem with him. I am afraid for the health care in this province because of his abilities, his ability to manage that system. It is the largest system in this province and it is obvious I have to take into question his ability to manage that system, because in my opinion he, along with that other gang he is with over there, they couldn't run a vacant farm. It is like they are running a farm and the lights are all on and nobody's home.

[11:45 a.m.]

It is rather disturbing for all Nova Scotians - Cape Breton is represented in that Cabinet over there, but I don't even know if he knows how to spell the word Cape Breton because I haven't heard one issue that that honourable gentleman took to his caucus with regard to any issue regarding Cape Breton. He is there and he has a muzzle and he is only a puppet for the top five over there, I guess is the best way to put them. They have a lineup over there like you would see on a football team. It is like they have the football and they are fumbling it. They toss it around - here, you take it, no, I don't want it, you take it.

But to turn around and stand before the people in Canada - national news - and tell those Canadians, other Canadians, that we have nurses who are not trustful, that is a shame. That minister owes those nurses an apology and - right on national TV at that. Along with his good doctor Premier, because I know nurses don't write prescriptions, we all know that,

[Page 5451]

but I can tell you one thing, they have a prescription for John Hamm and that gang over there. Guess where it is going? Right down John Buchanan's toilet seats, gentlemen, because that is where you are all going.

Unless, of course, and I only have a few minutes left and I will plead on behalf of the people I represent in this House for the backbench to take these guys, these people and hold them accountable for what they say and do to the nursing profession and the health care workers in this province.

If they have any backbone, we are about to find out. We are about to find out what they really stand for on that side of the House, what they really did learn as municipal representatives in their communities. Let's just find out. And we are going to find out in the next couple of days, and yes, gentlemen and lady, you will be judged. Because as I indicated earlier, the bells are going to ring but it is not going to be just for the members of this House to be summoned to a vote. It is going to be ringing for all Nova Scotians to judge that team, all 31 members of that government. So don't think you are going to go home this weekend and blame the Premier and the minister because it does not fit. It doesn't fit and those backbenchers know it. So, if they have any backbone whatsoever, they will act like they were taught by their municipal colleagues that they worked with and will stand up and fight for the people that they represent. That is not too much to ask.

I know my time is about to run out and I believe I have about 10 seconds and I just want to say one last time that I am pleading, I am pleading with those backbenchers to please get those guys under control. With that, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for the opportunity

to speak.

Oh wait, Mr. Speaker, I still have a minute left. Is it a minute? Can I ask how many minutes I have?

MR. SPEAKER: You have about 35 seconds.

MR. BOUDREAU: I have 35 seconds. Mr. Speaker, I think it is very important for all health care workers that I eat the 35 seconds, because in 35 seconds, that gang over there could drop any kind of a switch and you don't know what they would do. It is clear that in the two years that I have witnessed the happenings in this House, like I indicated before, they are Tories, but they are crazy Tories.

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

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, if I might be permitted an introduction or two before the next speaker rises. I am pleased to present to the House a general worker in the

[Page 5452]

health care sector who lives in Pictou Centre, which happens to be the Premier's riding. Like many health care workers, she is upset about Savage days, rollbacks, wage freezes and the minimal wage adjustments that the workers have gotten over the years. Sitting in the east gallery, I would ask Beth Purvis to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, also in the east gallery today, I am pleased to introduce to the members of the House, Mr. Wayne Thomas, a CUPE staff member who lives in Pictou West, the area of the honourable member for Pictou West, who is here very concerned about the fact that Bill No. 68 eliminates the democratic right to strike. I would ask Wayne Thomas to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, finally, also in the east gallery, I would like to introduce to the House an X-ray technologist from Colchester North, who has come to Province House today to show her grave concern for health care in the province and she, like many people, is concerned that the passage of Bill No. 68 will deter young people from entering the health care sector, as well as retaining the people who are already there. I would like to introduce to the members of the House, Karen MacKenzie. I would ask her to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to the members of the House of Assembly, Debbie Wilkes, a clinical diabetic day worker in Antigonish. She writes that this bill infringes on a worker's fundamental right to collective bargaining. The Government of Nova Scotia has once again proven its lack of leadership by hiding behind a bill that has demoralized health care workers across this island. We ask that the government do the right thing by withdrawing this bill. I would like to ask Debbie Wilkes to stand and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

Also, Mr. Speaker, Carl Crouse is with us this morning in the gallery and he is an LPN at Soldiers Memorial Hospital. He states that he is here in hopes that the government will withdraw Bill No. 68; he has practised for 15 years and for almost 10 years, he has had wages frozen and rolled back. He says, I am not sure how much longer I can bear the burden of government mismanagement. I would ask Carl to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I certainly welcome the visitors to the gallery today.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, welcome to our guests. I think it is important that we recognize the people who are coming here to this House, the people's House, as my

[Page 5453]

friend, the member for Timberlea-Prospect likes to say, who are here to listen to this debate and to look in the eye of the members across the way and the government, as later today, most likely, they are going to be voting for Bill No. 68 on second reading which, in principle - let's remember second reading is about the principle of the legislation, and what in principle this legislation does is - rips away the democratic workplace rights of workers, destroys our health care system, destroys the morale of our health care workers and, quite frankly, I don't think it is so harsh to say it will condemn Nova Scotia to years, if not a decade, of more serious health care problems.

How can you build a health care system on a foundation of workers who are unhappy, demoralized and feel the government does not respect them or give them the dignity they deserve? You can't and what will happen is that this government - you know, this Premier, earlier today during Question Period, Mr. Speaker, was talking about the fact that we have to make tough decisions now so we can have a health care system for the future. Well, quite frankly, that is not the right attitude. The Premier cannot sell out our health care system on the basis of a fiscal obsession. We need a health care system that works and, yes, maybe from time to time, that means investing some money, whether it be in salaries or in equipment or in facilities or in new programs, so that our health care system will continue to grow and change and reflect the needs of Nova Scotians.

But, instead, we have a government, we have a Premier that wants to take the time now, in Bill No. 68, to try to stop workers from getting what they deserve in the free market, try to stop workers from having the dignity and the respect and the working conditions they deserve. And, in response, workers will vote with their feet, workers will vote at the next election and they will send the message of what this government is trying to prevent them from saying now - our health care system is not working, waiting lists are growing, surgeries are being cancelled and doctors are leaving. We have people in this province who do not have doctors. We have a lack of nurses. We have a shortage of lab technicians and other health care workers and this government is trying to avoid all those problems and thinks Bill No. 68 will solve all of its problems.

Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, it is the complete opposite. It will do the opposite. It will worsen our problems. It will destroy the morale. It will destroy the fibre of our health care system, the workers that keep it running. Just remember, I don't know whether it was one of the people here or was it someone outside, one of the nurses or health care workers might have said outside today or in the last day or so, who are you going to believe, the politicians that are passing Bill No. 68?

Think about all those health care customers or clients or patients or whatever you want to call them, that are going to be going to hospitals in the next month or year or two years, Mr. Speaker. They are going to be there. They are going to be talking to doctors. They are going to be talking to nurses. They are going to be talking to laboratory technologists. They are going to be talking to people who are maintaining the hospitals. They are going to be

[Page 5454]

talking to paramedics and they are going to trust them because these are the people who are ensuring, quite frankly, that when they are sick, and sometimes very sick, they're the people who are going to make them better.

When they quietly say to them, you know what? There is another nurse who is leaving today. There is another technologist who is moving away, or maybe they curse under their breath at a government that has taken away their basic, democratic rights, Mr. Speaker, the people of Nova Scotia, the people who deal with hospitals, whether they be the patients, whether they be the children of patients, maybe seniors, or maybe they will be the parents of children who are in hospitals, are going to hear, on an ongoing basis, from the health care professionals who are going to remind them constantly of what this government is doing to our health care system, what this government is going to do to destroy our health care system.

Up until 1999, in many cases, these same workers had a lot of problems with what the Liberal Government had done. They had frozen their wages. They had rolled back, in some respects, they had frozen them from being able to collectively bargain for many years and they paid the price, the Liberals did, in 1999. This government promised they would do it differently. We will do things differently. We heard the Premier during Question Period at around 2:30 am. or 3:00 a.m. this morning say, quite frankly, he has to do the same things as the Liberal Government has to do, but that is not what he was elected to do, Mr. Speaker. He was elected, he promised he would do things differently, that he would resuscitate our health care system, that he would fix our education system and people said, we are tired with what the Liberals are doing, we will elect the Tories. This government, on those promises, was given an opportunity and now, less than two years after that election, we have this exact same government, exact same rules, exact same attitude towards the workers of this province, towards our health care system.

[12:00 noon]

It makes you wonder if the politicians are actually running things, Mr. Speaker. Maybe they are just bureaucrats who were under the Liberals and now are under the Tories, but just keep having the same solutions. They go to the same play book and there is only one play - to put the boots to the workers, squish them under your heel, make them feel that they don't have any rights and, if that doesn't work, then take away their rights through legislation. In return, hope like heck that, come the next election, people forget what you have done to them. Well, that is not going to happen. It didn't happen to John Savage, it didn't happen to Russell MacLellan, and it is not going to happen to this Premier as well, and this government will pay the price.

Maybe it is because there are so few members on the benches who actually were in government before - two of them, the Minister of Finance and the honourable Government House Leader, Mr. Speaker - maybe because only two members of Cabinet actually were in government, maybe it is because a lot of the members back there don't remember the 1975

[Page 5455]

nurses' strike or the 1981 strike of health care workers, maybe it is because this government has a lot of members who are in their first term that they are going to be condemned to repeat history. It is a tough lesson. It is going to be a tough lesson when the member for Queens, well, I won't say Queens, because with redistribution his seat won't be there anyway, but the member for Kings West or the member for Yarmouth, come the next election, if they decide to run again, they are going to have to actually give that concession speech to whomever, a Liberal or a Tory or maybe it will be the Nova Scotia Party, it is pretty clear.

The member for Cape Breton The Lakes was just saying that the Yarmouth area has just voted for a strike. That is what is so interesting, Mr. Speaker, that you have a Premier who, outside this House, earlier today after Question Period, said, I am willing to put this bill aside if these two or three locals, the health care technicians, the nurses and the QE II and the Nurses' Union, if they are willing to negotiate an agreement and we can get a signed, voted-on agreement, then we won't pass this bill.

Mr. Speaker, I said in response to that, I don't think this Premier has actually read his own legislation because this is more than about the QE II, this is more than about nurses, this is about all health care professionals in Nova Scotia. That is why we have people from CUPE, from Pictou, they don't work at the QE II, they are not nurses, but they know that they are affected by this legislation, just as well as anyone else, and that is why this Premier, I believe, hasn't even read his own legislation.

He seems to think that as long as the nurses settle, as long as the QE II technicians settle, everything will be fine. But his own legislation makes it quite clear that every person who works in the health care field in Nova Scotia will be prevented from having a collective bargaining process and a collective agreement negotiated at the table until 2004 which, by the way, coincidently is just shortly after this government will finish its term in office. I am sure that is just a coincidence; I am sure no one actually would think that this government would stall and rip apart people's democratic rights just so that it maybe can get itself re-elected. I don't think that that would be the case.

But, Mr. Speaker, this Premier clearly has not read his own legislation. When he thinks that he can kill a bill - those are his words - that he will set it aside because he thinks as long as we can get agreements, he is trying to blackmail, quite frankly, the nurses and he is trying to do the same thing to the health care professionals at the QE II and at the various hospitals around this province. But let's be clear, they know better than that; they know what this government is doing. They are not buying the $43,000 that has been spent on propoganda, the $7,000 a day this government is spending on propoganda. Why?

It is funny. The Premier, outside as well, when he was being scrummed, Mr. Speaker, said, we have to convince Nova Scotians that we are doing the right thing. I would suggest to you that if this government was doing the right thing they would not have to convince Nova Scotians of that fact; Nova Scotians would know and accept that this is the right thing

[Page 5456]

to do. Yet this Premier believes that he has to spend taxpayers' dollars in order to convince Nova Scotians that their money is being spent wisely, that their tax dollars are being spent wisely when, in fact, Nova Scotians know differently.

Nova Scotians know that what this government is doing is quite the opposite. It is being reckless, its fiscal obsession may save us a few pennies now, but as our health care system deteriorates, as our buildings and hospitals collapse and fall apart, as our nurses move away, as our technicians retire and there is no one to replace them, as our doctors move away, as our support staff begins to find other work that pays better, the people of Nova Scotia will realize that their health care system is falling apart. It is that government over there that they will blame.

It is not the district health authorities, which is the favourite whipping boy of the Minister of Health, it is not the unions - because that is the other attempt that this government is trying to blame - that did not work, the propaganda isn't working. They will blame this government and they will not forget in one year or two years or three years, when this government goes back to the polls, they won't forget what this government has done.

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a minute to talk about laboratory technicians. It is a group that we have heard a bit about in this House - there has been a lot of talk about nurses as well, but I have some information that I am going to rely on and I will table after I'm done, if that is okay with you, with your indulgence, Mr. Speaker. I got this information - I talked about them yesterday, but I didn't mention their names, Ruth Edmonds, who is a laboratory technologist with the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union, she works at the QEII, and Tracy Lemmon, who is also a lab technologist - I went to high school with Tracy and I recognized here there outside the House. I think they are both in the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank's riding in the Hammonds Plains area. They have had their opportunity to talk to him, but I have chatted with them as well, since I went to school with Tracy.

We were having some really good conversations about the laboratory technologists and the issues facing that profession and some of the problems that this government and governments that preceded them have caused for the profession and, quite frankly, in broader scope, for our health care system. You know, these technologists are doing lab results, blood tests, maybe it is pathology lab, maybe - I think Ruth worked in a chemistry lab, I think is what it is called. There are various different labs in a hospital and 70 per cent of all the decisions being made by physicians rely on some form of a lab test.

That is the beauty of our medical system, that we have the science in place to ensure that our medical doctors are able to make good diagnoses, are able to make good decisions, but that is based on lab results and those lab results are done by laboratory technologists. Seventy per cent of all the decisions have, in some way, had to be based on a lab result, and yet here we are, treating these laboratory technologists like dirt. They don't deserve a pay raise or they don't deserve a pay raise in real dollars - let's be clear, Mr. Speaker. The

[Page 5457]

inflation rate in this province - this government in its budget assumed the inflation rate would be 3 per cent this year. Yet what has it offered the laboratory technologists? Two per cent, next year 2 per cent, next year 2 per cent.

Inflation is already over 3 per cent; it is almost at 4 per cent and rising. We have a serious situation here. We have a government that hasn't even budgeted to give our workers enough money to keep up in real dollars. What does that mean, when a worker gets a 2 per cent raise and inflation is at 4 per cent? That means that those workers are taking a pay cut. Everything else is going up, the cost of food, the heating of their home, the gas for their car, that is all going up. Their clothing prices are going up, Mr. Speaker, their salary is not - it is all going up by 4 per cent on average, their salary is only going up by 2 per cent. That means they have less money in their paycheque to ensure that they can pay for the things that are going up by 4 per cent, that is a pay cut.

This government tries to hide it, they try to cloak it, they try to make it sound like it is not a pay cut - look how generous we are being, 2 per cent each year. In fact, over the next three years inflation will probably rise by close to 12 per cent and the workers are getting 6 per cent. Well, do the math, that means that in the next three years, these workers are taking a 6 per cent pay cut. The government doesn't want to hear about that, the government doesn't want to talk about the fact that these workers just need money to keep up with the rate of inflation.

Here is the problem, in our system today, those lab technologists can go somewhere else. They can go to the United States, they can go to Ontario, they can go to Alberta, they can go to British Columbia, they can go overseas. Because of the shortage of workers, Mr. Speaker, they don't have to stay here, they have a skill that they can transfer to some other jurisdiction, and this province is offering them, in real dollars, a cut in pay. That is a shame; that's a real shame. But it gets worse.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to get into the details of this, but do you know that by 2015, 65 per cent of all the laboratory technologists in Nova Scotia will have retired, 65 per cent of them who are now working will retire by 2015. That means we need to replace them. (Interruptions) Well, I am going to get to that in a minute. I think it is important to reflect on that, that Nova Scotia, I think it says in these statistics, has the fastest rate of retirement. In Nova Scotia, a lot of them can retire at 50 because of the system we have in place, the 50/80 rule. That means that they are retiring faster and that means that Nova Scotia, more than any other province or jurisdiction in Canada, has a greater percentage of its technologists retiring by 2015, which is only 14 years from now.

Some would say 14 years, that is far off but do you know what, it isn't. And that is assuming we are going to have the same level of demand for our health care system, but let's be quite honest, we have baby boomers now, the average age is between 41 and 56, and in the next 15 years they are going to average between 56 and 71 years of age. You know that

[Page 5458]

that difference of 15 years is going to make a major difference in the demand on our health care system. Those baby boomers are going to need a lot more health care; they are going to need a lot more hip replacements; they are going to need a lot more cardio-vascular surgery; they are going to need a lot more cancer surgery, oncology, and that means a lot more lab tests, and that means we are going to need even more laboratory technologists than we have now.

Yet, we are losing 65 per cent of our laboratory technologists in the next 15 years. Does the government have a plan for replacing them? (Interruptions) Yes, of course, those same baby boomers who are also going to have greater demands on the health care system are also the ones who will be retiring between now and 2015, the medical laboratory technologists.

Mr. Speaker, laboratory technologists are the third largest group of health care professionals in Canada. It doesn't say which are the other two, I may assume it is nurses and someone else but I am not sure. They are the third largest group of health care professionals in Canada. My colleague, the member for Hants East, pointed out age is one of the reasons why we are going to have a shortage - and this is clear - the shortage of health care lab technologists is greater than the shortage of nurses. This isn't a game of who is in worse shape, but we talk about the nursing shortage, we talk about teacher shortages, lab technologists have a major shortage problem as well.

Of course, the aging population of the technologists is one of the reasons that we have this problem. As the baby boomers get older, they are going to be retiring. We had a government that only a few years ago was offering early retirement. Not this one, let's be clear, it was the predecessor. They were offering early retirement and, as I said, in Nova Scotia the package here is 50/80. There are a lot of technologists who are retiring between the ages of 50 and 55. That means they are going to have an opportunity to retire earlier, which means we have to replace them more quickly. Of course, as I mentioned, we have the ones who are moving to other provinces and other jurisdictions. They also have the same demographics, they have the same demand on their systems, and they are paying their technologists more than we are. Probably, they are giving them, in real dollars, a pay raise, while we give them a pay cut. We are not even in the game.

Well, I want to talk a bit about some of those details of the cumulative retirement. I will table this. This comes from the Nova Scotia Society of Medical Laboratory Technologists, and it is a projected workforce retirement, between 2002 and 2016. There are 810 technologists - this was probably earlier this year - in Nova Scotia. Next year, 4 per cent of them, a little over 4 per cent, 4.07 per cent of them will be retiring. By 2005, which is only four years from now, that number will go up, 16.17 per cent of all the technologists will be retiring. If I do the math quickly in my head, a little under 200, maybe 150, 160, of those technologists are going to be retiring by 2005.

[Page 5459]

By 2008, seven years from now, that number goes up to 28 per cent of all technologists will be retiring. By 2012, it is 44 per cent; and by 2016, it is 66.3 per cent of all technologists will have retired. That is the biggest percentage of retirements in the next 15 years of any jurisdiction in Canada. Nova Scotia has a crisis with regard to its shortage of technologists, and it is only going to get worse.

What are we doing about it? Well, that is a good question. The previous government eliminated Nova Scotia's program for training medical lab technologists. That was a short-sighted decision. I am not going to blame it on this government, but that was a short-sighted decision. Probably at the same time they shut down most of our nursing schools, probably at the same time they shut down half of our university education programs, thinking we had too many, we had a glut, so let's shut down the number of seats and then we will all be better off. Lo and behold, a few short years later we have a shortage of nurses, we have a shortage of teachers, we have a shortage of laboratory technologists.

[12:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, what makes it more difficult is that we still have nursing schools in this province. Not many of them are staying, evidently. We heard earlier today that of 79 graduates at the Dalhousie Nursing School last year, only 8 stayed in this province, 10 per cent of the entire graduating class. That clearly shows that this government has a problem with regard to the nursing strategy. At least we have schools here that are graduating nurses, teachers are the same thing. We reduced the number of seats for teachers, but at least we still have schools here that are training teachers. We don't even have a school here that trains medical laboratory technologists.

What have we been doing? Well, this is very interesting. Since 1996, 18 Nova Scotian students were enrolled in a New Brunswick program. Nova Scotia purchases three seats a year in New Brunswick at a cost of $14,000 per seat. Nova Scotia pays $14,000 a year, presumably to the New Brunswick Government or the New Brunswick community college system or what have you, maybe it is the university, I am not sure, but $14,000 per year for seats at the New Brunswick school that trains medical laboratory technologists. That gets us three seats, $14,000 per seat, so that would be $42,000 a year that Nova Scotia pays to New Brunswick to have three seats so that those laboratory technologists in Nova Scotia can be trained.

Well, that is great. At first blush you say, well, it is a small point considering we are losing 67 per cent or 66 per cent of our technologists, but at least it is a start. Here is the kicker. Since 1996, that means 18 students from Nova Scotia were enrolled in the New Brunswick program. How much did that cost us? Almost $600,000, we have paid to the New Brunswick Government to train 18 medical laboratory technologists. Again, that is an investment, we have talked about the need to invest. But here is the real problem, only 2 of those 18 students returned to Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia has paid almost $600,000 over the

[Page 5460]

last five years to train Nova Scotians to be laboratory technologists. We should be getting thank you letters from North Carolina, from California, from Texas, from Ontario, from British Columbia, thanking us for investing in training people so that they could go to work in those provinces.

That is a serious problem. We have paid $600,000 in the last five years to train medical laboratory technologists, and we only have two of them returning to this province. Basically, we have paid for seats at schools in New Brunswick, and we have no guarantee that the students who take those seats are going to return. Clearly, they are not, 16 out of 18 went somewhere else.

Mr. Speaker, that is shocking. The people of Nova Scotia are paying their tax dollars to another province, and we don't get guarantees that those technologists are going to come back here. Why should they, given this Bill No. 68 and what this government is doing? This is before, these are statistics before this government actually started their draconian legislation.

What is the Nova Scotia Society of Medical Laboratory Technologist trying to do? I will just make a quick quote from - they are talking about the statistics that I have talked about - in a letter from Fran O'Brien who is the Chair of the Entry Level Training Committee for the NSSMLT, which is short for Nova Scotia Society of Medical Laboratory Technologists. She states, the statistics point to a critical situation by the year 2005. As I said, that amounts to almost 17 per cent of all the technologists will have retired by then. "We are lobbying the Nova Scotia government to provide a mandate to Dalhousie University, Faculty of Health Professions, to initiate an entry-level training program for these professionals."

So the society that represents medical laboratory technologists wants a program in Nova Scotia because they believe that if we have the program here, and we are already investing money in New Brunswick, we have a school of health professionals at Dalhousie, I am sure that it could be fairly cost-effective for us to put in a program that trained medical laboratory technologists here. What would that get us? It would get us a better chance of having technologists staying here, it would give us an opportunity to produce technologists. That is not the only step. Clearly we see that 90 per cent of our nurses are moving away, but maybe first we have to have a program here in this province, then after that we can talk about the fact that Bill No. 68 is doing such draconian things that we are scaring and pushing those professionals away from Nova Scotia. Let us at least first talk about the need for a program here in this province.

It is funny because sometimes these things come across our desk and we don't notice them until a little later. The NSSMLT also put out, I guess it is a press release, "Critical Shortage of Nova Scotia Medical Laboratory Technologists by 2005" and they refer to a report by the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science, which presumably is the national body, "A Call for Action", which was published on May 10th, that was less than two

[Page 5461]

months, a month and a half ago. "This report provides data supporting the need for immediate action by the federal and provincial governments to avert a crisis in the supply of medical laboratory technologists across Canada. Nova Scotia, with no training program and the highest percentage of technologists eligible to retire in the next fifteen years, was identified as being in the most precarious position of all the provinces." This was before Bill No. 68 came out, this is before we basically are taking a broom to sweep away any technologists that are left and telling them to go somewhere else.

Mr. Speaker, clearly there is a problem and this government isn't even beginning to address it. We have a Premier who says our health care system can't afford to invest in professionals, let alone their salary. We don't even put in programs to make sure that we are training them here and we are going to have a crisis as they begin to retire en masse. This government is only concerned, is obsessed with the bottom line and some belief or hope that that will make this province more prosperous. As I said yesterday as I spoke to the amendment from the member for Dartmouth East, prosperity is not based on austerity. Prosperity is based on investing in essential services so that Nova Scotians can be healthy, can be well-educated and we can begin to provide our children and our grandchildren with a place to stay with a buoyant economy.

Mr. Speaker, that won't be done in a year or two through austerity measures, it will be done in 5, 10, 15 or 20 years. These are symptoms of bigger problems. It starts by providing Nova Scotians with a laboratory technologist program and providing those technologists with the dignity that they deserve to ensure that they are able and willing to stay here in Nova Scotia. They will go somewhere else. Yet I see these members across the way glassy-eyed, without any real sense of exactly what they are doing by imposing Bill No. 68 on a health care system.

It is funny. I remember the old - it wasn't that old - This Hour Has 22 Minutes has a great skit talking about men particularly not appreciating the health care system. Let's face it, there are 31 members across there and I believe there are three women. So, that leaves 28 men, and most of them are middle-aged men, and the joke was that men never seem to remember or care about the health care system. They seem to forget that in 10, 20 or 30 years they are the ones who are going to be sitting in those beds. They are the ones going to be relying on those health care professionals to wipe their bums and change their bedding and make sure that they are going to be healthy and maybe, just maybe, they will be able to go back home and live a few more years.

They seem to forget, they seem to think the health care system is something that is a problem until unfortunately they are the ones who are going to be lying in those beds. They are the ones who are going to be having to deal with a cancer or heart disease and yet they think the health care system will just be tickety-boo. Well, when you vote on Bill No. 68 you had better think about what is going to happen in 5 or 10 or 20 years when you are lying in

[Page 5462]

that hospital bed and they are the ones who are going to have to deal and cope with a health care system that is falling apart.

The federal government is not just going to keep bailing us out. Other provinces aren't going to keep bailing us out. If the Premier is serious about trying to make this province a have province, if the Premier is serious about making this province prosperous with a strong health care system, then Bill No. 68 is clearly going in the wrong direction.

Here is the document that talks about the amount of money that the government is paying out. It is also from the NSSMLT, the Nova Scotia Society of Medical Laboratory Technologists, again from Fran O'Brien, dated June 2001, so this month. A couple of quotes from it, "There has been no training of medical laboratory technologists in this province since the program was cut in 1996." She goes on in the next paragraph to say, "The Nova Scotia Community College has purchased eighteen seats in the New Brunswick Community College program at a cost in excess of $560,000. To date only two technologists have returned to practice. This will not compensate for the projected retirement of 131 technologists by the year 2005."

That is only 16 per cent, but 131 technologists are retiring by 2005 and in the last six years we have produced a grand total of two new medial laboratory technologists in this province and spent almost $600,000 in the process. Is that fiscal responsibility? Is that good investment? Is that good use of tax dollars? I don't think so. We have wasted $600,000 to the New Brunswick Government and gotten two technologists and in the next four years we are going to lose 131 of them. That is a critical shortage in our health care system and it is getting worse.

Why are there waiting lists? Yes, maybe there are waiting lists for surgery, there may be waiting lists for MRIs, but there are waiting lists for blood work, tests, because we don't have enough technologists. Maybe some surgeries are being delayed because we don't have the technologists to do the tests either. It is only going to get incredibly worse. Yet, this government is only helping to add fuel to the fire. They are not trying to put out any fires with regard to the shortage, they are adding fuel to it.

Just a couple of more quotes. This is from an article from the Medical Laboratory Technologists' National Human Resources Review - A call for action, by Kurt H. Davis, CAE, CSMLS Executive Director, that must be the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science, Executive Director. He talks about a national overview and he says, "Medical laboratory technologists are Canada's third largest group of health care professionals. They conduct sophisticated medical tests on blood, body fluids and tissue. Test results are used by physicians to evaluate and make informed decisions about their patients' health and possible treatment and to help further advances in medical research. Medical laboratory technologists are graduates of accredited training programs at the college level, although many also have university degrees. Most of them complete the national certification examination

[Page 5463]

administered by the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science." There are three disciplines they can receive certification in: ". . . General Medical Laboratory Technology, Diagnostic Cytology and Clinical Genetics."

[12:30 p.m.]

He goes on to talk about the fact that the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science urges the Advisory Committee on Health and Human Resources, or ACHHR, which is an inter-provincial committee of deputy Ministers of Health to deal with the shortage of laboratory technologists. This report was produced by the ACHHR in May 1999. The report concluded that, " . . . the anticipated rate of retirement in the baby boom technologists work force in the next five to ten years . . .", this is 1999 now, ". . . is expected to create a significant shortage, which is already being felt." He goes on to say that, "It recommended that a national strategy be developed to address this impending human resource crisis." He also states that this is the same problem in the United States and in Britain. I mean they had baby booms, as well, at the same time we did.

So what did we have? This isn't a problem just in Nova Scotia. It is a problem in Alberta, it is a problem in British Columbia, it is a problem in Quebec, it is a problem in Texas, in California and in England. That is why Bill No. 68, at this time, is so draconian. It is so bad for our health care system. It would be bad at any time but these workers now are getting recruiters coming from different parts. I talked to a laboratory technologist yesterday who lives in my riding, Catherine Burke, and she said that in the two labs that she is aware of, just in her little part of the QE II, out of 40 technologists, 21 of them are being seriously recruited and are seriously considering moving to Alberta. Well, there you go, that is not retirement, that is just moving away, 21 out of 40.

Of the others, if you do the math, in the next 15 years, 67 per cent of them are retiring, two-thirds. That would leave us with, what is that 19, two-thirds of 19 would be 13, that would leave us with six technologists in Nova Scotia, 6 out of 40 in those two labs who will still be here in 2015, roughly. That is not going to allow us, considering today's demand on the medical system but, as I said earlier, as the baby boomers get older, there is going to be a greater demand on our health care system and we are going to be doing it with a staff of six where it used to be 40, all because this government, through Bill No. 68 and its short-sighted fiscal obsession, is destroying our health care system.

He goes on to talk, Mr. Speaker, he says a looming crisis, "According to recently published data, the total number of medical laboratory technologists was reduced by at least 29 per cent over the last 10 years because of health care cuts." That's 29 per cent, even before we get into retirements. In the last 10 years, governments have cut 29 per cent of the health care technologists. "Medical laboratory technology sustained more cuts than any of the other health care professions." So they are taking the brunt of it. "The current work force has been downsized to such an extent it is extremely vulnerable to a shortage." Well, of course, we

[Page 5464]

know that, and "12 per cent of the total work force will be eligible to retire in five years; 15.8 in ten years, . . .", and these are numbers that are federal, they are much worse here in Nova Scotia.

Just to give you a specific number federally, between now and 2005, 2,551 laboratory technologists in Canada are going to retire. That is 510 per year, which works out to 12 per cent of the entire number of laboratory technologists. Between 2006 and 2010, 3,357 are eligible to retire. That equates to 671 per year or 16 per cent - 15.8 per cent or 16 per cent, if you round up - of the workforce that will be retiring in that period. In 2011 to 2015, 3,513 are eligible to retire, that is 705 per year or 16.6 per cent of the laboratory technologists workforce that will be retiring. That is federal, it is worse in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, that shows again that this is not just a problem in Nova Scotia, that other places have shortages, Alberta has recruiters in here working to take away our technologists and yet Nova Scotia doesn't stop the problem, doesn't invest in our technologists, doesn't create programs to create more technologists, train more technologists. To the contrary. They put in Bill No. 68, they cut health care funding so we can't put in programs that create and train more technologists and Bill No. 68 is the icing on the cake that will destroy technologists' morale and will force them to leave. They don't want to go but they will for the sake of their family, for the sake of their retirement and yet this government will do nothing to help them and in fact, with Bill No. 68, will make things much worse.

He goes through, Mr. Speaker, in a table, training program positions currently available, this is November 2000. This would have been for the previous school calendar year. Newfoundland has one training program. It is creating 27 new positions, potentially 27. It had 22 in the last year. New Brunswick has one training program and there are 20 potential positions and 21 are graduating this year. Three of those are Nova Scotian evidently, but none of them seem to want to come home. Nova Scotia, as I said, has no training programs and, therefore, is training no laboratory technologists. P.E.I. is the same. Quebec has one English program with 40 positions, 33 will be graduating this year and francophone, nine programs, 350-plus positions and they will be graduating 350-plus technologists. Ontario has three programs with 93 positions available and 82 graduating this year.

Again, clearly Bill No. 68 is going to cause a lot of problems when we have these sort of shortages and I will get to more of that in a minute. Manitoba doesn't have a program either. Saskatchewan has one program that produces 16 students a year. Alberta has three programs producing 47 and that is not enough because they are coming out here looking for new recruits. British Columbia has one school producing 40 students a year. That means in total, in English, anglophone schools, there are 261 positions being produced and in francophone schools, 350. Well, I may say something about the Quebec Government, I give them credit. I don't know if it is enough, but 350 in what is one-quarter of the population of Canada, where in 75 per cent of the population in Canada we're producing 261 technologists,

[Page 5465]

clearly Quebec seems to have at least some understanding of the problem and is trying to address it.

Between now and 2005, Mr. Davis goes on to talk about the fact that there are 287 positions available per year. The number of graduates are 406 per year. This is per year, I see. So that means that in the next five years there is a need in Canada for an extra 595, almost 600, technologists that we don't even have the seats to train, Mr. Speaker, in English Canada, anglophone schools. Between 2006 and 2010 there will be a need for an extra 1,120 positions and we don't have the seats to cover those either. Between 2011 and 2015 an additional 1,330 technologists that we do not have the seats currently to train and, again, this is federal, this is national. It is a little better in francophone schools, but I won't bore people with the details of that.

So they talk about some of the reasons and some of the considerations. He goes on to say, and I think it is important, he talks about an aging population. Technologists are aging. They are all going to retire. It is the same with teachers and nurses, yes, but as I said, there are programs in place to train them. It is a lot easier once a nurse is trained in Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, to keep them here with proper incentives. Bill No. 68 doesn't do that. Nurses are going to leave as well, but the technologists are in a unique situation because we don't even have a school in place to ensure that we can train them as a first step and then Bill No. 68 slams the door and prevents us from actually keeping the technologists we have.

They talk about the fact that new instrumentation and new technology in the medical labs and in medicine generally, has resulted in the need for lab technologists or the growing demand. Add that onto an aging population, it is going to create greater demands on our health care system, as I talked earlier about all these middle-aged men who are going to be lying in beds hoping that there is someone who can look after them, Mr. Speaker. These are both impacts that need to be dealt with. We haven't even gone through most of the health reform. We have talked about the fact that this province doesn't even have a plan for health reform. Technologists took the brunt of the cuts before. We only know how bad the cuts are in this budget because the district health authorities have submitted them, but the minister is hiding them until we get out of this House in hopes that we don't see exactly how bad the cuts are.

I mean how is he going to keep the backbenchers in line if the hospitals in Kings West, or Guysborough - I guess Guysborough doesn't even have a hospital, sorry - or Kings North, or Yarmouth, if those places take cuts and close beds, lay off staff, how is he going to keep those backbenchers in line? How is he going to get them to vote for Bill No. 68? But at the same time he is producing budgets and signing budgets for district health authorities that are actually cutting the number of beds and the number of staff in those places. He is hiding the district health authority budgets, Mr. Speaker, until he gets this bill through and I hope that the members on the backbench realize after they see those district health authority budgets

[Page 5466]

and they see the cuts that are going to happen in their communities, I hope they realize that they have been duped by the Minister of Health.

Then we get into the whole issue - which is a little more subjective and harder to define - of worker fatigue and the shortages we already have and the cuts that have already taken place and the demands on the technologists. Now we have many of them moving away from Nova Scotia because of Bill No. 68, greater demands on those left behind and retirements. Mr. Speaker, from all that it creates fatigue, it creates stress and that really makes a lot of problems.

Mr. Speaker, these are all issues that we need to talk about and Bill No. 68 doesn't even allow a debate. It slams the door, prevents Nova Scotians to have a full and open debate.

AN HON. MEMBER: That would be a good idea, wouldn't it?

MR. DEVEAUX: It would. Well, I know my time - I think I have about 12 minutes left or 11 and a half minutes so I just want to touch a bit more on the Nova Scotia subsection of the Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Sciences or the NSSMLT. Mr. Speaker, here is their specific numbers with regard to - as I said earlier, between now and 2005 there will be 107, they say here - I think the Nova Scotia branch says 131 - members eligible for retirement. That is 21 per year, according to the federal system, and there is no one to replace them. We have no training positions and of the two of 18 that actually came back to Nova Scotia, that means that we have a great number of them who don't return. So we have 21 a year retiring on average and we are going to be replacing them, on average, with less than one technologist per year. Clearly, we are going to increase the problems of a shortage in Nova Scotia.

Between 2006 and 2010, 36 people are eligible per year, on average, to retire. Again, without a program, that means that Nova Scotia has zero or, if you take into consideration the $600,000 we spend on the New Brunswick program, less than one technologist a year who will be coming back here, on average. Between 2011 and 2015, Mr. Speaker, 36, on average, per year, technologists will be retiring and again, less than one technologist to replace them. Our medical system will be shut down and the waiting lists will be longer. Maybe this Premier will blame it on strikes, blame it on threats of strikes, but let's be clear; the problem is a government that has no plan for our health care system.

The problem is a government that has no plan for dealing with a shortage of technologists or nurses or doctors or support staff. The problem is a Premier and a government that does not have the vision or the leadership to think beyond the next election. Bill No. 68 is specifically made to kill democratic workplace rights until this government maybe can go back to the polls. It is purely a political piece of legislation. Yet this government tries and tries with its propaganda of $7,000 a day to blame Nova Scotians, to

[Page 5467]

blame health care professionals for the health care crisis that they don't have the gumption to fix.

It is one thing if you see a fire and you walk away because you don't think it is important enough to put it out; it is another thing to take a can of gasoline and pour it on it. That is what Bill No. 68 is doing, Mr. Speaker. It is pouring gasoline on the fire that is our health care system. This government seems to think that the only thing that is important is austerity, is tax increases - $120 million a year, user fee increases, but none of that is being invested in our health care system. None of that is actually accomplishing the kind of success and prosperous and healthy health care system that people voted for in 1999.

[12:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, as I say, those documents I will table as well, but it is important to remember what Nova Scotians want. This government, as the Premier said in his scrum, is trying to convince Nova Scotians of what they want, trying to convince them that the nurses, the lab technologists and the health professionals are destroying our health care system. I talked about this when we did the budget before the House closed a couple of weeks ago, but this government tries to blame people. I said there were five envelopes - municipalities, district health authorities, school boards, individuals, federal government. They had five different groups they tried to blame. Well, let's add to that health care professionals, a sixth one.

The district health authorities can't be blamed for our health care crisis. Then let's blame the nurses. Let's blame the technologists. Let's blame the technicians. Let's blame the health care professionals and after that, of course, Mr. Speaker, it will be the doctors. Maybe John Hamm has a little inside scoop for them as well or maybe he is going to treat them the same way he has treated all the other professionals. Well, I will tell you if he doesn't, the Minister of Health ends up giving the doctors more and more respect and more dignity than he is providing the health care professionals, then he has created a formula for really truly ripping apart our health care system.

All health care professionals need to be treated with dignity. They need to be treated with respect. That's more than salary, it is part of it. It is more than working conditions, that's part of it. It is about shortages that I have talked about. It is about ensuring that our system is there when people need it and ensuring that the professionals are there, to ensure that when people are sick, when people are scared, when people are upset, when they find out they have cancer, when they find out they have diabetes, when they find out they have got a heart problem, when their child breaks their leg, or when their child has an unknown illness, Mr. Speaker, when their parents go into a nursing home, these are all heavily traumatic times in people's lives. This government should be doing things to ensure that that nurse, or that LPN, or that support staff, or that technologist who is going to be taking the blood (Interruption) Yes, tonsillitis as well.

[Page 5468]

All these things, Mr. Speaker, the people of Nova Scotia are going to be scared when they have to go to a hospital. They're scared anyway, they're nervous, and who comforts them, who is there to reassure them, who is there to make them feel like they're human beings, like they have dignity? Our health care professionals, our medical technologists, our nurses, our doctors, our support staff, and this government is going in the wrong direction. It is destroying their morale. It is treating them with a lack of dignity, with a lack of respect and this will only result in the destruction of our health care system.

They maybe can pass Bill No. 68 and think that that is going to kill any collective bargaining issues, but people won't forget. I have said it in my other speeches here and I will say it again, this government has not learned from history, whether it is the Gerald Regan Government in the 1975 nurses' strike, whether quite frankly it was Roy Romanow and the Saskatchewan Government. Clearly, they paid a political price as well. Let's talk about the Liberal Government here that froze civil servant wages, public sector wages and nurses' wages for, oh, so long and barred them from collective bargaining as well. They paid a price too. That is why they are down to 10 members now because of those very actions and yet this government seems to have forgotten all that and thinks that somehow it is immune. You know John Savage had 42 seats, a much smaller Opposition. Where I am sitting now would have been Liberal members. The backbenchers would have been sitting here.

That little plot of the House of Assembly would have been just left for the Opposition Tories. I am sure the Government House Leader would have been here at that time and, Mr. Speaker, you would have been as well. You were a very small number and I bet you, you probably stood in this very House, Mr. Speaker, when they tried to ram through some of the draconian things they were trying to do with regard to health care. I think it was back in December 1995 they were trying to ram through that bill on health care and education, where they are trying to take away the collective bargaining rights, and you probably stood in this House and debated much like we're debating and probably pointed to that Liberal Government and said you are going to pay that price. Well, I am going to say the exact same thing.

Maybe I should go back and look at Hansard, Mr. Speaker, and dig up one of your old speeches from back in 1995 and refresh people's memory, but the point is that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. That's an old saying but, do you know what, it is a good one because this government has not learned from history and it is going to be condemned to repeat it, to repeat the Gerald Regan political collapse of 1978, repeat the John Savage political collapse of 1998, repeat the Roy Romanow political problems that he faced going from a strong majority to a minority, coalition situation.

All these things will happen because this government doesn't understand. You cannot, in a democracy, ram through the elimination of democratic and workplace rights, particularly for the health care profession. It is a noble profession. These people care. It is a vocation. They do this not for the money, God knows that's not the reason, but for their compassion,

[Page 5469]

for their willingness and desire to help people, Mr. Speaker, these are all the reasons they do it. They want to stay in this province. They want to live here. They want to raise their children here. They want to retire here, but this government must work with them to ensure that our health care system is there for them and, in return, it is there for us when it is our turn to have to go to a hospital.

Mr. Speaker, this government has not done that, it will not do that, and Bill No. 68 is the penultimate in what they are doing to the people of Nova Scotia and our health care system will pay the price. The laboratory technologists who I have been talking about for most of this hour will either be chatting with recruiters from Alberta, B.C., or Ontario; nurses will move away. Nurses who are in school, technologists who are in school, not here, but somewhere else, will continue to go away and our province will continue to destroy and chip away at our health care system.

Some would say this is the final straw on the back of a health care system, that can't take any more, but I assure you there are plenty of straws that have landed on this back already, but this government continues to go that extra mile to keep adding that extra weight onto that horse's back. Our health care system cannot take it any more and yet this government continues to try in undemocratic, draconian ways to prevent our health care system from burgeoning, from growing, from succeeding. As I said many times, the foundation of our health care system, the bedrock of our health care system, are our nurses, our lab technologists, our support staff, and if you are unable to respect them and give them the dignity they deserve, you, as a government, and we, as a people, will pay the price. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I welcome an opportunity to still make some comments on this piece of legislation, but at this moment I will relinquish the floor to my colleague who wishes to make some introductions.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview on introductions.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, since Bill No. 68 is all about people, it would certainly help for us to introduce some of the people who have come down to the Legislature to watch the debate on Bill No. 68. I would like to draw the House's attention to the east gallery where Ann Marie Murdock is sitting. Ann Marie is an RN in maternity nursing at the Aberdeen Hospital in Pictou County. She has been there for 26 years and lives in the constituency of the member for Pictou East. She also works as a clinical associate for St. F.X. She notes that of the 33 students in the third year, not one is planning to stay in Nova Scotia. I would like to ask Ann Marie Murdock to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

[Page 5470]

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to introduce a constituent of mine. Normally, of course, politicians have to go out and meet their constituents and around Bill No. 68, I am very glad that many of my constituents are coming down here to see me. In particular, in the east gallery at the moment, is Lynn Thorne who is an RN. She works at the QE II Health Sciences Centre in the cardiovascular, general and plastic surgery operating rooms. Lynn has pointed out to me and has asked me in my remarks later this afternoon to talk about the 2.8 per cent wage rollback for the specialized nurses, like herself, that they haven't actually explained to the people of Nova Scotia in their ad. So I would like to ask Lynn Thorne to rise and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, also in the east gallery is Angela Pleasant who is a constituent of the member for Halifax Needham. Angela is a postal worker who is here in support of her union colleagues in the NSNU and the NSGEU, and is opposed to Bill No. 68 because it takes away what little democracy we have and the rights of all workers. I would like to ask Angela Pleasant to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce another gentleman sitting in the east gallery, his name is Jeff Kades. He is a social worker and, among his many other distinctions, he is a member of the Halifax Fairview NDP executive. I would like to ask Jeff to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the member for Hants East.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I too would like to welcome all the visitors in the gallery and certainly hope that the comments made by Opposition members will be helpful in their cause for those who are involved in the health care sector. I think they would be encouraged if members of the government side were willing to stand and defend this piece of legislation, defend the indefensible.

I want to start today with some comments that I had made yesterday as well, that come from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which is the Constitution Act, 1982. In the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, there is a guarantee of rights and freedoms. "1. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law and as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society."

In that there are fundamental freedoms. "2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (a) freedom of conscience and religion; (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and, (d) freedom of association." As I stated yesterday, in the case of freedom of peaceful assembly, we would assume that Nova Scotians can come to this House and assemble here and listen to the proceedings in this House without worry of being barred from this House. I want to say that the recent history of this House has been locked gates

[Page 5471]

keeping people away, and we can see by the barricades outside that the government is intending or expecting that it will have to do that again, prevent a right that Nova Scotians and Canadians have in writing in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Freedom of association, which I would interpret that this would still cover the ability of Nova Scotians to form unions, although the Supreme Court has made a decision that that cannot be the interpretation, and the Minister of Justice yesterday acknowledged across the floor that my interpretation of that is correct, that the Supreme Court has said that freedom of association does not give people the right to form unions. Although there is other legislation in every province, in every jurisdiction under trade union Acts that allows for unions to occur and for the procedure to allow those unions, so under laws of each jurisdiction, people do have the ability to form unions, this piece of legislation, Bill No. 68, is one that takes that right away from Nova Scotians and, in particular, from these health care workers.

I have to say what a difference a day makes, or perhaps less than a day. When I came in this morning the Premier had shown some movement in that he was willing to withdraw this legislation if the unions were willing to accept the last offer.

[1:00 p.m.]

Well, I have to say, what kind of a deal is that? Even if we assume that the unions were willing to do that, to accept their last offer, then they really still don't have the right to strike in this province because we know that when the next contract negotiations come around, if the Premier so feels justified, that he will just introduce another piece of legislation to remove the right to strike. So the unions have gained nothing in accepting an offer like that.

If the Premier really wanted to show respect for health care workers in this province, then he would let the collective bargaining process continue and hope that reasonable thinking would prevail on both sides. Already he has indicated that he is not a reasonable thinker, so why would health care workers assume that they could get a fair deal from this government, at any rate. The Premier, being a doctor, certainly should be well aware of what it is to work in the health care system and, in particular, what the nurses have to put up with. I would say it would be difficult if they have to put up with doctors like him.

My colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, made the statement, prosperity is not based on austerity and that is true. There is an old expression that my father used to say that you can't starve a profit out of anything. I think that that's what this government is trying to do with health care workers, trying to make them produce as though they are valued but indicate, by the way you treat them, that they absolutely have no value. I want to remind the members opposite and, in particular, the members who were here prior to the 1999 election campaign, because they probably were more in tune with the things that

[Page 5472]

the Premier might have been saying and, actually, these comments that I am going to relay to them are comments that happened in 1999.

Members who ran for the Tory Party in 1999 election campaign may not have been as perceptive or politically tuned as some of their colleagues who had spent some time in the House, but I think it would be interesting for all members opposite to be aware of some of the comments the Premier made prior to becoming Premier. So I will start with June 19, 1999 - this comment is about Russell MacLellan, the former Premier - maybe this time around, he will find a few minutes in each day to keep up with what is going on in health care. Maybe he will notice that nurses in this province are still overworked and under-appreciated. Now that was the Premier, John Hamm, prior to becoming Premier.

June 25, 1999, he said that working 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 clinical practice outcomes. Well, I will say one thing for the Premier, if ever a group feels empowered, certainly nurses feel empowered now because of the treatment this government has shown them.

The honourable Government House Leader is asking me to be nice and I want to assure him that I am not firing all my guns, that I am holding back a little bit and I want to leave some for my colleagues and I think if he stops and thinks that the information I am giving him are not my words but the Premier's words, then he shouldn't find anything insulting about the Premier's words. June 29, 1999, this was at the Dartmouth General Hospital, he said, I am here today because institutions across this province, like the Dartmouth General Hospital, and the front-line health care workers who provide service, should have the support of government. They shouldn't be expected to struggle through each day without it, as they have in the last six years. They need and deserve leadership, respect and trust and, as Premier, I intend to see they get it.

Well, if the treatment that they are getting with Bill No. 68 somehow indicates the leadership, the respect and the trust that the Premier intended to give them, he didn't make it clear in this statement. I fought my first campaign on health care. I am fighting this campaign on health care and I will be fighting the next campaign on health care. I think he probably will find that may be a bit difficult.

June 28, 1999, this was at the Aberdeen Hospital: We will address, as our most urgent priority, the need of new full-time nurses. In our platform, Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course, or at least on Friday, I identified the kind of practical, concrete and innovative steps needed, not only to secure the nurses we need today, but to keep them here for tomorrow. Most importantly, nurses want a positive, rewarding environment where they know they can properly care for their patients, where they know they are valued and where they know they will have a meaningful voice in shaping change.

[Page 5473]

April 11, 2000, the Budget Address: "Front-line caregivers will be protected to the greatest extent possible, particularly our nurses. This government is committed to more, not fewer nurses. We are committed to making sure that the overall number of nurses working across Nova Scotia goes up, not down . . . We will continue to work with the nursing profession to improve their work environment and to provide them with a greater opportunity for influencing clinical outcomes."

Well, Mr. Speaker, I have to say that talk is cheap. I guess at no time in my life have I really felt for Nova Scotians and, in this case, for the health care workers in Nova Scotia. I think, for the first time, I have really thought about what it is like to be a voter. Now, that is not to say that I haven't been a voter, I certainly have. I was a voter long before I ever got interested in politics in this form. I want to say that, as a voter, I listened to the message of the Liberals, the Tories and the New Democrats for many years and I think, for the first time, probably because of this forum, I actually started to feel for voters in Nova Scotia because, how would they ever know who to vote for in this province when the message from all Parties seems to be so much the same? No wonder there is so much apathy among voters.

I have to say that voters, I think, were hoping that they would get a Tory Government that would deliver an NDP platform. The problem is, I think voters were looking for what they thought would be a fiscally responsible government that had a social conscience. Well, what they get, when you vote for Tories, you get Tories and that is the problem; no conscience. I want to say that I hope that next time around, Nova Scotia voters will remember the things that their government has done to them because perhaps it will make it easier for them when we try to remind them, they will say, yes, I remember that and they won't consider our platform or our message to be just spin, so they won't vote for the other guy.

I think it is sad that when voters look for integrity in their politicians, they have to get a slap in the face, after putting a government in power and find out the message they got during the campaign was so radically different from the product that was delivered once the government came into power. In the case of health care, I think that maybe Nova Scotians and Canadians, generally, have become complacent in thinking that the system would always be there for them, but that system isn't run by people and that it must be run by robots. We don't seem to consider that because of the changes in the health care system and the way it has grown and the specialists that we have developed and educated to take care of our health care needs, that they are an integral part of what it is that the health care system provides.

Yesterday, I read a quote from this book, "The First Decade", and it was a story that was relayed by Tommy Douglas. I think it was the seed for the Medicare system in Saskatchewan, which became the Medicare system in Canada. His story was a story that was very common in this country for many years because even though there was private health insurance in Canada, there were many people who either couldn't afford it or they didn't qualify because they would have to sign a disclaimer stating what their health condition was

[Page 5474]

at the time. If they had any condition that would term them ineligible for health care, they couldn't get a policy. So, therefore, they basically couldn't get insurance and if they couldn't afford health care on their own, then they were out in the cold.

Tommy Douglas' story was of being a boy in Winnipeg after his family had moved from Scotland and his father was an iron molder. He had fallen and hurt his knee while he was a boy in Scotland, in and out of hospitals for three years, and when he came to Winnipeg, that condition worsened. Actually, when he got to the hospital again, at one of these times when it was at its worst, one of the doctors there said that the leg would have to be removed, amputated. Another doctor came along who wanted to use Tommy Douglas' condition for teaching medical students. He said that he thought there was a chance to save the leg and so that is what his parents agreed to and they were able to save his leg. But he said it was only because of a chance meeting of this physician that his leg was saved or otherwise, because of no money, he would have had his leg amputated. As a small boy, I think this sowed the seed for him to think about a medical system that took care of all people in the province and, thereby, all people in the country.

I want to thank the Minister of Environment and Labour. He did raise a good point and he asked that I raise the issue of the federal government in this and their introduction of Medicare and why we have come to the position that we are at and I will do that. I will tell the minister and I want to also encourage the minister that I would expect that if he feels he wants to speak on any issue on this topic that, at some point, he will get to his feet and address those concerns. But he did raise a valuable point and that is that the history of Medicare in this country, until recently, was that the federal government paid 50 cents on the dollar and shared the costs equally with the provinces. I think, at our present level and the level that we have had for our most recent history, has been a dwindling of their 50 cent share so that, presently, we are down to about 12 cents on the dollar, is what the federal government is contributing and that is shrinking every year.

The minister is right, as much as I intend to hammer the government on this piece of legislation, I do want to say that the federal government has abdicated its responsibility to the provinces by not contributing its share that health care requires and for the federal government to talk about a surplus that it has and wondering where they should spend it. From consistent polling of Canadians, they have indicated that health care is the number one issue. So the federal government actually has no reason that it can't wake up and address the health care concerns in all provinces across this country.

I will let the minister, if he wishes, when I am done, speak on this. It may be quite insightful. I have to say that I envy the members on the government side. I always assume that when you get to form a government that you actually get more information made available to you than perhaps those of us on the Opposition side do, in particular about the circumstances of the province, as well the relationship between the province and the federal

[Page 5475]

government. So, I will appreciate if the minister, when I am done speaking, if he would like to rise and address some of those issues, I think I might find that quite educational.

[1:15 p.m.]

The minister did raise a good point and I won't try to sidestep that point. He is right and I think it is something that my caucus, even though we will hammer the Tory Government, it does beg raising the issue that the federal government really has sidestepped its responsibility in delivering proper funding to the health care system for the provinces and it is something that should not be ignored. With that being said, that is not the reason to bring in a piece of legislation like this.

If the Premier is true to his word about respect for those working in the health care system, then I would say that this piece of legislation is not something that would indicate that word. That brings me back to the original point that I was trying to make as to how difficult it must be for the Nova Scotia electorate to figure out on election day, who it is they are going to take a chance with.

We do know that there are people who follow all three camps and it wouldn't matter if you ran a goat, they will vote Tory if it is a Tory goat, or Liberal if it is a Liberal goat, or NDP if it is a NDP goat. But, there are, thank God, a lot of people in this province who are actually starting to stop and think before they mark their ballot and decide what is the record of this government previously, and do I want this bunch of bandits to run the province of another term. We certainly hope over time, that more Nova Scotians will analyze the record of the government and hold them accountable for what it is that they have done.

I want to say that there is not escaping your legislation. You can't go back to your constituents and knock on doors and say, oops, that wasn't me, that was somebody else because in the final analysis, this bill is going to be voted on and I know it is going to be a recorded vote. So, that means all members opposite are going to have the opportunity to say yes or no to this piece of legislation and depending on what your response is, which I would say that in two years I can only think of one piece of legislation that two members voted against on the government side, but every other piece of legislation that I would consider to be a substantive piece of legislation, a piece of legislation that clearly marked the government for what it is, every member on the government side of the House voted in support of that legislation.

So, if this piece of legislation turns out to be different, that there are members who will vote against it, then I would certainly say that, number one, I encourage you; and number two, I definitely will want to be here to witness that. I am not expecting anybody on the government side to vote against this piece of legislation. I think I would enjoy the opportunity to go door to door with members on the government side when they go around to their constituencies, to find what their explanation of their voting for this has been. I

[Page 5476]

haven't heard anyone stand in their place from the government side and explain their position on this piece of legislation and I think that they have to start to think a little bit about the people who provide this service. You can't treat them any longer as though they have no value.

It wasn't the health care workers in this province who ran up the debt, it was a previous Tory Administration before the Savage Liberal Government and it was the Savage Liberal Government. Both those governments ran up the debt. The Premier has made the promise to Nova Scotians that he wants to give them a tax break. I don't think that tax break should be delivered on the backs of the health care workers in this province.

I think if anybody took the time to ask them, they are taxpayers, they are people that the Premier, I assume, intends to give a tax break. I think that they would surely like to have a fair wage for what they do, better working conditions, conditions that have deteriorated over time and that fact that the conditions are as bad as they are, has been because of the direction that this government has taken, which was the exact same direction as the previous government. It has done more to devastate the health care system and drive health care workers out of this province. That has only increased the burden for those individuals who have been left here to work in the health care system.

When the Premier talks about valuing nurses or valuing health care workers to try to create a better environment, to add more nurses to the system, to show that what they do is meaningful, then this piece of legislation is not going to do it and I would say that the reaction that he has gotten from the unions would indicate that he is definitely going down the wrong road. I would say that the ads that this government has paid for to try to spell out their case, has not worked. Nova Scotians for too long now have gone to hospitals to have loved ones taken care of. They have sat for four, five, six, seven, eight hours waiting for someone to look after them.

They know the health care system is in a shamble, they know that health care providers are overworked, they know that they are underpaid, they know they are undervalued and one of the things that you will hear people say - one of the positive comments they will make - is how the health care providers have treated them. They have always treated them kindly and with respect and compassion. They have no argument with their health care providers in this province. They don't blame them for the way the system runs.

They have seen it deteriorate long enough and they know that those who are there have tried to do all they can to provide the best service they can. I think that the members of the government themselves must know people who work in the system, I mean acquaintances, friends, spouses, et cetera. Therefore, none of this is new to them.

[Page 5477]

Yesterday, Rick Clarke, the President of the Federation of Labour, said that the provincial government has drawn a line in the sand and then it stepped over it. I think that all Nova Scotians are starting to get the feeling that the government has really gone too far with this piece of legislation.

I want to say that the clause in this piece of legislation that prohibits anyone from going to court on this question - I wish I could say it is unprecedented, but it is not. Certainly, those members who were here in 1998, Mr. Speaker, you would be one of those and actually those members of the Tory Government who were here in 1998, would remember which I think was Bill No. 90, but I might be wrong on the number, but it certainly would be identified as the workers' compensation legislation where I think about 800 chronic pain suffers were written off in that piece of legislation. They were not allowed to claim for injuries with chronic pain, but as bad as that was, there was a clause in that piece of legislation that said they weren't allowed to sue. They weren't allowed to sue the Workers' Compensation Board because of their claims for chronic pain being denied.

I remember that piece of legislation because it was brought to this House by the Attorney General at the time, or the Minister of Justice, the Hon. Robbie Harrison, who was the Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee. If anybody remembers that Law Amendments process, it went on for days. I would say that 99 per cent of the presenters who came in to speak to the Law Amendments Committee spoke against that piece of legislation. It had absolutely no effect on the bill that was brought forth by the Liberal Government. I remember that the Tories, who were in the Third Party at the time, voted with us against that clause that would have taken away the right to sue.

There were other clauses that we would have liked to have removed or amended which we didn't get much support on that the Tories voted with the Liberals. But that one, taking away the right to sue, the Tories agreed with the New Democrats and because it was a minority government situation, together the two caucuses had more votes than the Liberals who had 19 seats. So we were able to eliminate that clause from the bill. Here we have a situation where the Tory Government has a majority and they bring in an equally draconian, or even more so, piece of legislation that removes the right of people to use the courts to address their concerns in this legislation.

As one of the messages I got from, I think from one of my constituents actually, was that even criminals have a right to the court system to address any injustice that they feel has been done to them. Yet, here are these people that the Premier in his comments where he talks about how valued they are will deny them access to the courts to address an injustice that is occurring to them. These are the very same members of the Tory caucus that were here in 1998 and actually more of them now, enough to form a majority, who voted against taking that right away from people under workers' compensation, but yet would have a piece of legislation drafted to remove the very same right from health care workers in this province.

[Page 5478]

I have to say that we were appalled when that bill came forward with that clause in it because it was the Minister of Justice who presented that bill, brought back from the Law Amendments Committee, when it was under the Liberal Government. The Minister of Justice brings back that unamended bill from the Law Amendments Committee with a clause in it that we deemed unconstitutional to say that you didn't have the right to go to the courts. Here we have a Tory Government bringing the same clause, you might as well say, worded differently, taking away the rights to the courts.

It brings me back to my statement about how would people ever know who they could vote for because when the two Parties trade places, I think I have used this analogy before, that people have referred to this Chamber as theatre. I think nothing could be more appropriate because when an election is called, it seems like we all drop our script, we change sides, we pick up the script that was there and we read it as though we believed it. In my experience of being in this House after two elections, that is exactly what I see as happening, in particular with the Liberals and Tories. I would love to have an opportunity to get to the other side and see what the script says, but certainly in the cases of the two traditional Parties that govern in this province, no one seems to have any problem picking up the other script and reading it. (Interruptions) The honourable member for Lunenburg West, I think we have seen the downside of government.

[1:30 p.m.]

Now, I want to relay to the members across the floor - they would know, I guess, if their memory is good at all - Question Period in this House over, I guess, last fall and the spring session for sure, the questions that we brought to the floor of this House on health care issues. Health care questions by the Opposition, I would say, ruled the day. All that comes to us, I think, from constituents across this province from every jurisdiction, every constituency, are concerns about cuts: cuts in long-term care beds, cuts in acute care beds, there was a nutritional program here in the city.

I have copies of clippings from across the province for the year 2000. I won't read all what is in the text, but I will read the headlines: Nurses exhausted by All Saints cuts; Nurses shortage critical, says union; MLA, nurses spar over Dartmouth cuts; Healthy solutions to unhealthy cuts; Henderson encouraged but skeptical after meeting with Premier Hamm; Critical care nurses double up; Nurses documenting safety concerns; Recruit nurses, don't drive them away; Bursary program to keep new RNs in province disappointing, says university nursing societies; Nurses frustrated, demoralized. Now, this is 2000: Survey shows concern common - on and on and on it goes, I am about halfway through this - Nurses inject their anger into politics.

Now, I want to say, this government is only completing the second year of its mandate. The question is, what did you campaign on? What is it that you thought that you were going to deliver to Nova Scotians? It is certainly obvious that Nova Scotians no longer have any

[Page 5479]

faith in what this government could deliver, let alone what it should deliver. The government has set out its own agenda which is a completely different agenda than what it campaigned on. I think that Nova Scotians now, after two years, certainly are realizing that.

There should be a honeymoon period for the government. There should be a time at which their popularity would stay high and that Nova Scotians would be willing to give them a bit of a break in the transition from the previous government. It was only within months of this government coming to power that the polls indicated that Nova Scotians were not impressed. What was the effect of that? What was the effect of the message from Nova Scotians to let the government know that we are not pleased with what you are doing? It has been one Draconian piece of legislation after another. Just about the time I think it got as bad as it could get, then there will be another piece of legislation that is worse.

This government has not listened in any way, shape or form. Not only not listened to the Opposition, but it has definitely not listened to the message that Nova Scotians have tried to send it. I know from watching the news clips last evening on television, that there are MLAs who got an earful from the government side.

My colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, raised a few interesting points. The Chairman responsible for Priorities and Planning, and I know that Human Resources is all going by the wayside, but the minister made the statement during the budget estimates that out of 8,000 civil servants, I believe that less than 20 were less than 30 years old, which meant we are actually not training any experienced people to take over as people retire in the Civil Service. If those numbers apply to the Public Service, then this province is going to be in trouble in a big way.

In particular, if the area for nurses is in the exact same shape because, not only are we driving away the young, healthy nurses who have been only shortly in the system or driving away those who have just graduated, but we have a lot of individuals in the system who are reaching a stage where they are going to want to retire. There is not going to be anybody to replace them. It isn't that we aren't training them, we are, but probably not enough of them. I think yesterday someone mentioned that of the 79 who graduated, only 6 stayed in the province. So, what we are doing is we are using taxpayers' dollars to train nurses for other jurisdictions and I think that point was well made by my colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

There is the whole question around increased health care needs because of the aging population, baby boomers are getting older and their demands on the system are going to be greater. Also, we have to realize that those very same baby boomers are the people working in the system and they are getting older and they are going to be leaving the system due to retirements. So, all the way around, this government is going to be in a serious state, Nova Scotians will be in serious trouble when it comes to trying to get the health care that they are paying tax dollars for.

[Page 5480]

I want to encourage the Premier to think about not necessarily giving a tax break to Nova Scotians, but to give them service for the tax dollars they are paying. That is something we haven't got and we haven't gotten it from the federal level, but certainly we are not getting it at the provincial level.

The health care system was created for a reason, to deliver health care to the citizenry. It wasn't to develop a bureaucratic monster that was supposed to be distant from the people. It was to deliver effective, efficient, appropriate service to all citizens, no matter what their stripe, no matter what their economic or their income level and therefore, they would never have to worry about whether or not their children or their parents or themselves would ever be left in a situation of poor health or life at risk because they couldn't access the health care system.

What we have done, I think, is move completely away from what the intention of the system was. I would say that the government has not realized that the health care system, although it is based on new technologies and equipment that wasn't thought of when the system was first created, but one of the major components of the health care system is people. They will come to a point that they will realize that all the equipment in the world cannot replace people at the bedside.

This government, I think, is going to have to come to grips with the fact that in order to deliver appropriate, compassionate health care, they are going to have to take care of the people who deliver that service and not try to run the system on a shoestring and expect those individuals to carry the load for that, or those individuals to actually give the tax break to Nova Scotians off their backs. It has been done far too long and I think that Nova Scotians are reasonable people.

I want to say that in my constituency I am not overly abused. When people call me, for the most part, the things that they ask if I can help them with are things that are reasonable. They are not expecting the world and I would say to the members of the government that that would be the case for all Nova Scotians, that they are reasonable people. The health care workers in this province have been reasonable, they have gone above and beyond the call of duty in delivering that service to Nova Scotians. At some point they have to draw the line and they have done it. Nova Scotians have tightened their belts long enough for governments to get their act together and I think they are not willing to do it any longer.

They were willing to do it when John Savage came into power, didn't like it but did it thinking that in a few years it will be better. What was the result? Another $4 billion or $5 billion added to the debt. I think that Nova Scotians thought that the Tory Government would be reasonable as well. They didn't expect the world offered to them, they were expecting that the government would be fiscally responsible, they didn't think that the government would be draconian in that regard, they expected that they would still have services delivered to them, quality services in the appropriate manner.

[Page 5481]

Certainly those people working in the health care system who knew better than anybody else what a shot that system had taken over the previous few years, that there was nowhere else to cut. You can't get blood from a stone. So, now the time has come, health care workers have their backs to the wall and they are not backing up any more. They are asking this government to be reasonable with them. If the Premier believes any of the comments that he made prior to election day in 1999, then he will meet them halfway. As a matter of fact, he should meet them better than halfway because they have gone better than halfway for the people of Nova Scotia and that is what the government should do.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member, I would advise him, has approximately nine minutes left.

MR. MACDONELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, I want to read some of the points again that my colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage read from this fact sheet which was information that I hadn't had.

Laboratory results contribute up to 70 per cent of all medical decisions made by physicians, 70 per cent. Approximately 65 per cent of medical laboratory technologists will be eligible to retire by the year 2015. Medical laboratory technologists are the third largest group of health care professionals in Canada. Factors that affect the need for more technologists: an aging population requiring more testing, early retirement and increased sick time due to burnout and fatigue, loss to other provinces or countries, loss of training programs in Nova Scotia, only three seats in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia of all provinces in Canada has the largest percentage of its workforce eligible for retirement over the next 15 years. Statistics indicate that it is a global problem; however, Nova Scotia is in a precarious position as a result of no training programs.

Nova Scotia purchases three seats per year in New Brunswick at a cost of $14,000 per seat, which is $42,000. There is no obligation on the part of the students to return to the province. I think I am accurate in saying that the province spent somewhere in the range of $600,000, I think for - and my colleague would correct me if he was here - training for something like a dozen students. I think two stayed in the province, so we spent $600,000 for two trained students and basically subsidized other provinces or the United States where the other students went for work.

[1:45 p.m.]

Since 1996 18 students were enrolled in the New Brunswick program - well, I'll take that number - 18 students at a tremendous cost to the Nova Scotia taxpayer. Only two have graduated and returned to Nova Scotia. So, there it is. We paid for the training of 18, two stayed in Nova Scotia and I think that cost was in the $600,000 range.

[Page 5482]

Other professions that are involved in the health care sector: CSRA, biomedical technologist, biomedical technical assistant, respiratory assistant, respiratory therapist, diagnostic imaging technologist, instructor diagnostic imaging, darkroom radiology technologist, senior radiology technologist, EKG tech, lab assistant, lab technologist, health records administrator, health records technician, nuclear medicine technologist, morgue attendant, occupational therapy aide, recreation therapy assistant, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, physiotherapy assistant, senior physiotherapist, recreation coordinator, ultrasound tech, vascular technologist, dietician, audiovisual technician, assistant medical photographer, medical photographer, nursing orderly, specialist orderly, lithotripter technologist.

Then there are OR technician, OR-anaesthesia technician, pharmacy assistant, pharmacist, psychology worker, psychology tech, social worker, psychometrist, project developer, pulmonary technologist, EEG technologist, product coordinator, licensed practical nurse, nursing aide, health records technician, health records administrator, information processing, ward aide, technician, radiation oncology technologist, radiation therapist, cesium curator, assistant radiation officer, dosimetrist, electronics tech, medical technologist, X-ray technologist, speech therapist, physics assistant, nursing aide, physiotherapy aide, therapy aide, therapist, materials manager, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, X-ray technician, chief technician, social worker, psychologist, psychologist technician, recreational therapist, recreational therapist aide, staff dietician, biomed engineering tech, rehab orderly, health records technician, nursing attendant, librarian. Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has approximately four minutes.

MR. MACDONELL: Okay, I think I can finish this: computer services officer, psychological services officer, public information officer, health care social worker, program administration officer, patient representative, capital equipment controller, coordinator of psychological services, staff psychologist, orthoepist, coordinator of volunteers for palliative care, staff chaplain, pastor, adult upgrading instructor, colposcopy program coordinator, printing technician, dental assistant, information processing technician, data control technician, buyer, library assitant, equipment repair technician, drafting and illustration technician, pharmacy assistant, planner/scheduler, audiovisual technician, supply technician, financial services officer, coordinator of life support training program, senior equipment repair technician and sterile processing. Those are the other professions that are affected by this piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, in my summary I want to say that I guess I wonder what it takes for politicians to do the right thing or how it is that so often the difference between what we perceive to be the right thing and what you perceive across the floor to be the right thing can be so diametrically opposed, but it is my hope that the longer I am here, my naïvety around these issue will disappear and that Nova Scotians will become more aware about who it is

[Page 5483]

that they elect and ask questions as to why it is they deliver a different program than what they campaigned on.

This piece of legislation, I would say, is the worst piece of legislation that ever came before this House of Assembly and I think that health care workers deserve far better treatment than this government has shown them. I want this government and Nova Scotians to know that I will definitely not be supporting this legislation. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on second reading of Bill No. 68, An Act to Continue Healthcare Services in Nova Scotia. I just want to review what has taken place here for the last couple of days.

Last Thursday this government introduced the bill. The bill came back to the floor of the House for second reading on Friday and then the marathon started; 24 hours, midnight Thursday night until midnight Friday night. Since then, Mr. Speaker, the Opposition has brought two amendments forward to try to delay the bill and at the same time we have tried to allow the Premier, the Minister of Health, members on the front benches and Cabinet, members from the backbenches, Tory members, to rise and make a few comments on this bill, to tell the members of this House and tell all Nova Scotians why Bill No. 68 is before you, sir. Anyway, as we have seen from Friday to yesterday and here again today, we haven't had the opportunity to see too many people from across the floor stand and enter this debate.

Here we are today under another marathon. We started at midnight last night and we're going to go probably until late tonight. I don't think we will get to midnight, but then the vote on second reading will take place. What happens then, Mr. Speaker? To the people, to our guests in the galleries, the people who are watching, people who have been following this debate, what happens after when second reading of Bill No. 68 takes place sometime today?

Well, Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, is one of the few provinces that has a Law Amendments Committee that allows the opportunity to the public of Nova Scotia to come before the Law Amendments Committee and make a presentation - either they are in support of the bill, either they are against the bill, or they would like to bring some type of an amendment forward. That is an opportunity that Nova Scotians have that other provinces don't have built in within their parliamentary system. In Nova Scotia the public is invited, if they so wish, to appear before the Law Amendments Committee and make a presentation.

So once second reading takes place later today, a recorded vote will be called for on this bill, Mr. Speaker. At that time we will know who truly supports this bill. I know there are members on the backbenches on the government side who have been questioning which way they are going to go. As you are aware, every member in this House, including the

[Page 5484]

Premier, only has one vote. At the end of second reading the votes will be tallied and then we will know which way the bill will go. There is still an opportunity that this bill would be defeated at second reading, but the chance of that happening is mighty slim and I will explain to you why and to everyone who is listening.

Why is there a slim chance of this bill getting defeated? This government is a majority government and they have the majority number of seats in this Legislature. Regardless of this side of the House, all members of the Opposition, my friends to my right, my colleagues from the New Democratic Party, and my colleagues from the Liberal Party, chances are in the end we will still be short a few numbers. So the bill will, more than likely, go through this House, go through second reading. Then, starting tomorrow, according to the Minister of Justice - the Minister of Justice is also the Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee, so on that committee the majority of members, of course, the members on the government benches, there are representatives from this side of the House - the Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee, the Minister of Justice indicated yesterday that the Law Amendments Committee will meet tomorrow and tomorrow only. We still don't know what the hours will be but I can only suspect, again, it will be long hours.

Whatever happened to providing an opportunity to the people of Nova Scotia who are interested in appearing before the Law Amendments Committee to make a presentation? Well that is not going to happen here, Mr. Speaker, it is not going to happen. The Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee said yesterday in the media that the Law Amendments Committee will be restricted to one day. I suspect probably many people have called - many health care workers, many nurses, many members of unions, many members of the public have probably called - to see if they could appear before the Law Amendments Committee. I would suspect based on the comments of the Minister of Justice that these presentations will be restricted to tomorrow. Unfortunately, there will be many people who will not have the opportunity to appear before the Law Amendments Committee.

I don't know how the selection will be done. Some people will have the opportunity to speak, to make a presentation, and others will not. Maybe later today or before the Law Amendments Committee starts, I hope we will find out and all of the people of Nova Scotia will find out who will be allowed to speak and who won't get the chance to speak. You have to ask yourself, why would the Minister of Justice make this statement? Is he trying to bully the Opposition to tell us to shut up, to sit down. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, it is going to take more than the Minister of Justice telling me and members on this side of the House to take our seats and not to enter this debate. This is not what this system is about.

The parliamentary system allows the Party with the majority numbers, come election time, to form the government. The other Party sits on this side of the House. On the right of the Speaker, the government member sits and to the left of the Speaker, Your Honour, sir, members of the Opposition. It is our job under the British parliamentary system to hold the members across the floor, on the government benches, accountable to the people of Nova

[Page 5485]

Scotia. We know not everyone in the Province of Nova Scotia voted and supported that Party in the last election. Thank God we do live in a democratic society, that we have more than one Party, that we don't live under a dictator.

[2:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you, with Bill No. 68, I am sure members on this side and the public and the health care workers are probably asking themselves, today, what ever happened to this so-called democratic society that we live in? It seems that King John, the Premier, has decided to bring this bill down to the floor of the House, and unfortunately everyone else, take it, you don't have any other choice. But, coming back to the democratic process, yes, Nova Scotians do have a choice. That choice happens at election time, every four or five years. They do have a choice; they do have a say. It is a privilege; it is a right on election day, as a Nova Scotian, to go and vote for the individual he or she wishes to support. That is what this democratic process is all about.

Unfortunately, where we are today with Bill No. 68, especially with the Minister of Justice's comments that the Law Amendments Committee will now be restricted to one day, one day only, some people will have an opportunity to speak, and others unfortunately will not, and that is not right. That is not right. Two years ago, before the last election in July 1999, that Minister of Justice was sitting on this side, in the Opposition. How soon he forgets. Who knows, maybe some day that member for Lunenburg, the Minister of Justice, will maybe find himself on this side of the House again, in the Opposition benches? Who knows?

Mr. Speaker, for the Minister of Justice to tell Nova Scotians that the Law Amendments Committee will be restricted to one day only is certainly a sad day for Nova Scotia. It is a sad day for the people of Nova Scotia who will not have the opportunity to come forward and make a presentation before the Law Amendments Committee. Then, what happens? We know that the Law Amendments Committee will only sit one day, on Wednesday, what happens then?

Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, that bill, Bill No. 68, will return to this side of the House. The bill will go into the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. The bill may return to this Chamber, with amendments or with no amendments. We don't know what is going to happen. When the bill goes through Committee of the Whole House on Bills, we will be limited to 20 hours of debate, just 20 hours. Especially looking at these extended hours, or extended extended hours, it certainly will not take long for that bill to go through Committee of the Whole House on Bills, and then you will return to your Chair and the bill will go through third and final reading.

[Page 5486]

Members on this side of the House will have an opportunity to stand once and speak on this debate. Amendments are allowed on third and final reading, as you are aware. Usually only one amendment is brought forward on third and final reading, and I am sure an amendment will be brought forward again, to try to delay it a few more hours, but within the next few days, Mr. Speaker, this bill that is before the House, Bill No. 68, will go through the House and will become law. Then the Tory Government for the Province of Nova Scotia will have the authority to impose what is in this bill, and that's the scary part. That is the scary part, and that is what I want to talk about this afternoon, what is in this bill.

Bill No. 68 affects more than 9,000 nurses and health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia. You may ask why has this bill been introduced by this Tory Government, Mr. Speaker. Well, this government has told us the reason the bill has been introduced is they want to prevent the nurses and the health care workers from going on strike. That is not all that is in this bill. That is the message that we've been hearing about, preventing these health care workers from going on strike, but that is not the full story. This bill is not just about taking away that right to strike, this bill allows the Cabinet to impose, allows the members of the Cabinet on the government benches, allows them to impose a settlement if a settlement cannot be reached.

You have to really ask yourself, you know normally through a collective bargaining process you have two sides, and they talk back and forth and negotiate. They go through the system, conciliation. If you cannot make any progress, an arbitrator is appointed. In the end, if both sides cannot come to a compromise, an arbitrator is appointed. There is a possibility of binding arbitration along the way and an agreement will eventually come about. It is not going to happen under this bill, Mr. Speaker. Once this bill goes through, if it goes through unchanged, unamended, Cabinet will have the final say. It will have the final say in presenting a settlement to these employees who are being affected by this bill at this stage.

But furthermore, Mr. Speaker, you know 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 fair negotiations, and furthermore under this bill that is before us, if that group of employees, if that specific union wishes to challenge, wishes to appeal the Cabinet's decision under this bill, we are out of luck. There is no right to appeal. It is a done deal and that is what people are upset about and that is what Nova Scotians are hearing. They have only heard bits and pieces along the way about government tabling Bill No. 68 preventing these health care workers from striking, but there is a lot more in this bill.

I am afraid, Mr. Speaker, if this bill goes through, the next question we have to ask is, what is the next group? I am a teacher and proud to be one. I spent 14 years at home teaching and I still consider myself even today a teacher. So I have to ask myself and my colleagues in my former profession if we are going to be next, if the NSTU, if that is the next group that this government is going to take on? There are quite a few teachers, not just in our caucus, but in the other two caucuses. I honestly don't know, and I hope I am wrong, if this

[Page 5487]

government after Bill No. 68 goes through has intentions to take on any other groups. I hope that I am wrong.

If this bill goes through as it is, what is going to happen? People here today are thinking this bill will only affect nurses and health care workers and their families. That is not true. This bill that we are debating right now is a lot more than just those folks. That bill will probably be driving some of our health care workers outside of the Province of Nova Scotia and what will happen when some of these workers are driven out? The chances are beds will close, waiting times will increase, surgery will be cancelled and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you've been watching the media the last few days. Elective surgeries will be cancelled; delays in lab tests which means delays in surgeries. This is much more than just a bill affecting the health care workers in this province. This bill is going to affect all of us.

The previous speaker indicated earlier that all of us know, probably have family members, friends, neighbours, who are nurses and health care workers involved in the system. My girlfriend is a nurse. She has been a nurse for over 25 years and I have been hearing all kinds of stories and I am sure you have as well. Over the last few days our Liberal caucus has received lots and lots of letters.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Just like us.

MR. GAUDET: Yes. My colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, just said that they have been receiving some as well, letters, e-mails, telephone calls, faxes, and they are still coming. They are coming from all walks of life, Mr. Speaker, not just people involved in the health care system. They are coming from all kinds. From all around the province people have concerns and you can understand why people have concerns with Bill No. 68.

Like I said, Mr. Speaker, this bill is not just about taking the right to strike away. There is a lot more in that bill and the letters that have been coming in are people not in support, I am sorry to say, but I haven't seen anything yet that has come through our office that supports Bill No. 68. A lot of people have many questions. A lot of people are scared. A lot of people have concerns. When this bill was introduced in the House by the Minister of Health, unfortunately, it was tabled with no comments. So, again, many Nova Scotians are waiting for the Minister of Health to stand in this House and talk to the people of Nova Scotia and to assure them what is in Bill No. 68. That hasn't taken place yet.

[2:15 p.m.]

Over the weekend I had an opportunity to attend a number of events at home, in Clare, and many people I spoke with did raise concerns with Bill No. 68. I think practically everyone that I have spoken with - including some Tories as well, at home - they all told me, this time this Tory Government has gone too far with Bill No. 68. And, do you know what? I agree with them, this time they are absolutely right. With what is in this bill, if this bill does

[Page 5488]

not get amended, this government, this time, has gone too far. I am sure members from across the floor the last few days, I am sure they have heard from some of their constituents who are not in support of this bill either.

I am sure this past weekend, for a lot of members on that side of the House, it wasn't much fun to go back home trying to defend the government's actions, and trying to explain and defend Bill No. 68. I am sure it wasn't a fun game for a lot of members on that side of the House. Just imagine, trying to defend a bill that shows no respect to these nurses and these health care workers. I am sure, again, a lot of the members on the government side certainly did not have too much fun over the weekend.

Allow me to go over some of the few facts that are before us. We know that nurses, health care workers in this province are underpaid, that is a fact and I will talk about that in a minute. We know that a lot of our health care workers are moving outside of Nova Scotia because the same job pays a lot more elsewhere; you can't blame them. We know that these health care workers are in demand, not just here in Nova Scotia. This is not just about money, it is about working conditions that need to be looked at for these individuals. If I have the opportunity later on, I will share with you a few of those stories that I have.

The people of Nova Scotia want this Tory Government to treat these health care workers fairly and with respect. That is what the people of Nova Scotia are expecting from this government. To treat these health care workers fairly and with respect, and that is not what is happening here. This Tory Government has decided to bring down the hammer and impose a settlement as they see fit, if agreements cannot be reached. That is not treating these individuals fairly and with respect. I am sure you will agree with me that these more than 9,000 health care workers do not - do not - deserve to be treated this way by this Tory Government. And, do you know what? They will remember. Earlier today, I talked about living in a democratic society. Well, these individuals, their families, friends, they will remember.

I want to say a few words about this mess, about this Bill No. 68. Whatever happened to the negotiations? We know that these people were currently involved with ongoing negotiations with the provincial government, negotiations with the Nova Scotia Government Employees' Union, the NSGEU, with the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union. Then this Tory Government decided to hijack these negotiations and introduce Bill No. 68, that is what happened here, they hijacked the whole process. So much for collective bargaining.

I am sure you are wondering, as all these workers are wondering, what happened here? What truly happened here? Negotiations were underway, so you have to ask yourself, why did this Tory Government decide to hijack this process and not let the collective bargaining process work?

[Page 5489]

What about the conciliation process here? What about the mediator that was appointed by the government last week, by the Minister of Environment and Labour? What about arbitration if both sides can't come to an agreement? 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 that is before this House.

I am sure you are asking yourself, whatever happened to bargaining in good faith. Why was there a need to hijack this collective bargaining process? We have been hearing on one side, it is health and safety, and we have been hearing on the other side, it is a money issue.

As I have said earlier, if this government is willing to take this action against these workers then you have to ask yourself, who will be next? I hope there is not more to come or more to expect that will come from this bill, after Bill No. 68 becomes law. We have no guarantee of that so you can only assume, expect, at this stage, there is more to come.

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 and health care workers will always keep their values of caring, compassion and commitment. Mr. Speaker, we cannot say the same about this Tory Government. Compassion and caring do not exist, not with this Bill No. 68.

This latest action by this government proves that they have no trust in the nurses and the health care workers in the province. They have no trust in the collective bargaining process, and they have no respect or very little respect, I should say, for the nurses and the health care workers in the Province of Nova Scotia. By introducing this bill if agreements fail, if agreements cannot be reached, Cabinet will now have the final say. Mr. Speaker, this is a sad day for collective bargaining in the Province of Nova Scotia.

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 they believe in and that they have trained for. In a press release from the Nova Scotia Nurses Union, dated Wednesday, June 13th, the President, Heather Henderson says, NSNU nurses have an incredible amount of loyalty to their patients and residents.

Mr. Speaker, in the last several weeks, we have heard many stories from these front-line health care workers. All they are asking is that they want to be treated fairly by this government. By introducing Bill No. 68, this government has gone too far with these employees and their families who know first-hand how this bill is going to affect them personally. If this government thinks for a minute that this bill will solve all their problems with health care in Nova Scotia, I can honestly say good luck to all of them.

[Page 5490]

Mr. Speaker, there are many problems, there are many issues, there are many concerns that this government needs to recognize and address along the way before any agreements can be reached between these parties. This piece of legislation does absolutely nothing to address our crisis in health care in Nova Scotia. I think I would even go so far as to say it is just going to make it worse. I want to quote from a press release from the Medical Society, last Friday. The society thinks, "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 system in Nova Scotia, and I am sure you would agree with me, it is a terrible shame. I want to go to a press release here by the President of the NSTU, last Friday, Brian Forbes, from Yarmouth, down home, who says, "This is perhaps the most regressive legislation ever introduced by any government in the history of this province. If this Bill is enacted, collective bargaining in this province is dead."

[2:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this government is wondering why these health care workers are upset and frustrated. I want to say a few words about nursing salaries, because throughout this whole debate, we have heard lots and we have seen lots through the media, talking about nursing salaries. Last week, this week, the government has put out advertisements in 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. It shows, on a bar graph, what nurses receive in P.E.I., New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

I am sure that salary is probably the top end of the scale and does not represent the true picture of what nurses' salaries in this province are. What is amazing in these advertisements is, why has the government not included in these advertisements what nurses are making in other provinces in Canada and what nurses are making across the border, in the United States? This government is spending a lot of tax dollars on advertising the salaries of nurses. Before I get into this issue, let's look at what the Tories promised Nova Scotians in the last election.

Mr. Speaker, I am quite sure with you are familiar with this famous Tory blue book, 243 promises that were made to Nova Scotians to get their votes in July 1999. (Interruptions) I want to go back to Page 19, "During its first mandate a PC Government will: Stop spending taxpayers' money on politically-motivated government advertising." That is what this Party ran on, it is not what we said, it is what they said. They would stop using taxpayers' dollars to pay for politically-motivated advertisements.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, you have to ask yourself, what happened to this promise? The advertisements in these newspapers are politically-motivated advertising. This is exactly what this bunch said they wouldn't do. So, in typical Tory fashion, they have, again, ignored their promises. There were others, but I will come back to that later on. I want to get back to

[Page 5491]

nursing salaries. Into this whole mix and this whole debate at looking at nursing salaries, we need to include the nursing shortage that exists.

Mr. Speaker, what this government and, particularly, the Premier and the Minister of Health don't get is that the nursing shortage is not just a Nova Scotia problem. In fact, it is not just an Atlantic Canadian issue, contrary to what the Health Minister's propaganda machine would have us believe. Nurses are in demand all across North America and that is a given. As I speak, there is currently a job fair in Toronto. People are there trying to recruit nurses, not just for the United States but, as well, for the United Kingdom. It is not just a problem here in North America. Nurses are in demand.

Mr. Speaker, according to the American Hospital Association, 126,000 nurses are currently needed in the United States. So you can understand why people from across the border are here in Canada trying to recruit nurses to go and work over there. The average salary in New England, Boston is $64,993. So you have to, again, wonder, a fair offer for nurses, why did the government forget to talk about what nurses are being paid elsewhere, outside of the Atlantic Provinces. Oops, they forgot. I don't think they forgot - I don't think it was intentionally done.

Mr. Speaker, hospitals in the U.S. are also offering anywhere between $3,000 to $10,000 U.S. in signing bonuses, just to make it more attractive. So it is a very competitive market out there for nurses and for other health care providers. This government can put out all the advertisements they want, even after they said they would not do it. This government has no conception of the magnitude of the nursing shortage. At the same time, they decide to bring Bill No. 68 before this House.

Mr. Speaker, if this Tory Government truly believes that this piece of legislation will prevent our nurses from leaving Nova Scotia and our health care workers from leaving Nova Scotia, then they should look again because we are losing them now as we speak and have been. With this bill, we are helping them, we are pushing them out.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to share with you one incident. Debra Theriault, a young nurse with a young family from Little Brook, Petit Ruisseau, from Clare works at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital and went down to Louisiana several years ago and did some nursing but then decided to come back home, settle down, build a new home and raise a young family. Debra Theriault works in the ICU at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital. I was speaking with her yesterday afternoon. I have known Debra for a long time. She is very upset and very frustrated and she tells me her colleagues are upset, as well.

Mr. Speaker, Debra loves her work and she is very dedicated to her profession and committed to her job, working 12 hour shifts in the ICU. There are supposed to be three RNs working in the unit and it is a unit that is very busy. There are eight beds, but they try to only have six beds occupied at a time. Debra tells me, practically all the time, the eight beds in the

[Page 5492]

ICU at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital are all occupied. Because of a nurse shortage at the Yarmouth Hospital, and it is not just happening at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital, just work your way around the province, Debra finds herself working sometimes with only one RN and one LPN, instead of working with two RNs. Because of the nurse shortage in Yarmouth, Debra often finds herself getting called for another 12 hour shift in her scheduled time off.

Mr. Speaker, sometimes she has lots of difficulty in saying no to another 12 hour shift to help her colleagues at work and to help care for those in need. It is truly upsetting Debra. Existing working conditions at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital are making it hard for Debra and her family. Debra is very upset (Interruption) Debra Theriault is not the only one who is upset and frustrated. There are many nurses, many health care providers and their family members in this province who are upset. Debra is now considering getting on the Yarmouth ferry, which travels between Yarmouth and Bar Harbour, Maine, on the Cat, and looking at going to work in Maine, because Debra and her health care colleagues deserve to be treated fairly and respected.

That is not what is happening here. It is not just about money, Mr. Speaker, it is about working conditions. Earlier in this debate, I talked about Helene, Helene that is looking after this 96 year old lady from Meteghan Station, Madame Thérése Saulnier, who was taken to the Yarmouth Regional Hospital last week for an emergency. That 96 year old lady stayed on a stretcher in the hallway for two days before she was brought up to a room. Mr. Speaker, as Helene indicated to me, the nurses at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital told her that because of the nursing shortage at that hospital, they had to close 16 beds in order to allow nurses to take some time off. Now that 96 year old lady is back home worrying about what is going to happen if she needs to be hospitalized again. That is really unfair for that lady.

[2:45 p.m.]

I am sure members of the government benches and all members of this House have heard similar stories because beds have to be closed in order to allow nurses and other health care workers some time off. Working conditions, Mr. Speaker, need to be seriously looked at. It is not just about nursing salaries and health care workers' salaries, it is about working conditions. This tabling of this back-to-work legislation will only encourage more Nova Scotian nurses and more health care professionals to leave the province and look for work somewhere else.

Mr. Speaker, can you indicate to me how much time I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, you have about three minutes, honourable member.

[Page 5493]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, our province will continue to lose nurses and health care professionals to other parts of Canada and the U.S. unless we act quickly to improve working conditions and the wages of these individuals. This bill that this government has introduced has been and will certainly keep on adding to the list of individuals that will be driven out of this province looking for work elsewhere and that is a shame.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I have said this before and I will repeat it, because all members in this House certainly recognize that we have many nurses and many health care workers working in Nova Scotia, not because of the money, but because of the dedication in helping others and helping others in need and because of their dedication to their profession. I sincerely want to say a big thank you on behalf of all of us to all those individuals. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hope that the applause that I heard coming from a few government members when the former speaker sat down was applying to all of his comments, not just to the last part, because if members on the government benches truly applaud and support the comments that were made by the previous speaker, the Premier or the Minister of Health will stand in their place now and say that this bill will be withdrawn. I look across the floor and I ask the members, how many of you are proud of what you are doing to health care and to health care workers in this province? Look in the mirror, look inside yourselves and ask yourself, do you honestly believe that what you are doing is right? Do you honestly believe that what you are doing is going to improve or help to maintain the quality of health care in this province, or are you going to be doing what you are going to be doing simply because you are told to?

We can count the hours any way we want. Members on this side of the House have spoken. I am in the start of my third hour. I expect that before this bill has finished, unless it is withdrawn, I will have the opportunity to speak at least another three hours. Once upon a time, before the rules were changed, I would have had the opportunity to speak - and I have on some bills - even more than that. But, Mr. Speaker, words are meaningless unless those to whom they are directed will take the plugs out of their ears and actually start to listen.

A little while ago, the Speaker exercised some restraint. He did not call or draw attention to the brief demonstration that was taking place in the gallery. That was an honest demonstration of feelings of anger, of frustration at being treated, by this government, with contempt. Then to have some government members applaud because somebody said that we respect and we thank those health care workers, was, Mr. Speaker, if I dare say, it strikes me as a tad hypocritical, because if there was a sincere applause on behalf of some of the government members, then you would be speaking out against this legislation. You don't need to worry about playing to the few in the galleries. Words are hollow if your actions show something else.

[Page 5494]

By my calculations, the government members on the backbenches have a week or more - more, I think - to have some second thoughts on this legislation and what you are going to do, but the reality is the vote for second reading on this draconian piece of legislation will happen here tonight. We can't move any more motions. We have exhausted them because the Government House Leader moved the previous question, as we knew he would. We have been speaking on this side of the House at some considerable length, although the time does go fast unless you are sitting on the government benches, just being one of the numbers who has to sit there and listen to maintain the quorum.

We know the number of speakers that are left and, the government has calculated it will be around 10:00 p.m., 10:30 p.m. tonight that all of the speakers and bell-ringing opportunities will be over and a vote will be held.

Now I have heard the Premier say, when he is out in the scrums, that if everybody goes back to the table and contracts are concluded, the three of them, the legislation doesn't have to proceed. But when asked, is the government willing to put another offer on the table, there was no answer. It was, well, I don't negotiate here. I think that is a fair reflection of a summation of what the Premier said. If you go back and accept what we have already said we will give you, we won't proceed with the legislation; in other words do exactly as we tell you, be good little boys and girls, according to the Tory standards, and this legislation may not proceed. Do it my way or the highway, and a lot of people are saying they are going to take to the highway.

I may come back to this point a little later on, but there has been some considerable discussion about the number of nurses for example who have been graduating in this province, and the fact that more go to California alone than stay in this province. I think it was 8 people last year out of the graduating class of 79 who stayed here in Nova Scotia.

AN HON. MEMBER: California?

MR. HOLM: No, 10 went to California from Nova Scotia, out of the last year's graduating class and 8 stayed here. We will find Nova Scotian-trained nurses out West and in other parts of the States. The Minister of Health received a rose today, given in memory of the passing of health care in this province. The previous speaker talked about the faxes, the e-mails and phone calls that the Liberal caucus is receiving. I can assure you that our caucus is receiving many as well. I can tell you that my constituency office is getting them also, and of every single call, every single fax, every single phone call, not one of any of them was in support of what this government is doing. Not one; not a one. Every one of those e-mails that I have received I have saved in a separate file on my computer, so if anybody doubts it you can come and look at them. Not a one.

[Page 5495]

Mr. Speaker, they weren't all from health care workers. I don't know where the government is coming from in this. Maybe they feel that they have backed themselves into a corner by this foolish decision that they came up with, Bill No. 68, and they don't know how to get out of it. You've driven into a corner and you have no escape, so what do you do? The government doesn't know how to say, oops, we goofed, we made a mistake. (Interruptions) Well, when you are faced with that dilemma, the best advice is to be up front about it and to say, yes, we did make a mistake, our actions are wrong, and therefore we are going to shelve this legislation.

If you force somebody, if you put somebody into the corner . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: What happens, John?

MR. HOLM: They are going to fight back.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are right. They will fight you.

MR. HOLM: You push somebody to a corner and they will fight back. We are hearing that from health care workers from one end of this province to the other. Reasonable people understand that. We have heard that from the Medical Society. The Medical Society is saying that this legislation will do more harm. They said that this legislation will drive health care workers away from Nova Scotia, rather than maintaining them or attracting them. The Premier, I imagine, was once a member of that Medical Society. I don't know if he ever held any offices in it or not (Interruptions) He was president, oh, he was president.

[3:00 p.m.]

He loves to run, but shows leadership in few, true leadership. I hope his judgment was a little better at that time. I remember the Minister of Health was once the principal of that school that was existed in Truro, called the Teachers College. That might have been part of the reason why he got into politics, because with the Teachers College his job disappeared under another government who did away with it, and he felt he needed another job. Now he is trying to shut down the health care system, do to it what was done to the Teachers College by the Liberals. But I digress.

Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of Health, however, was principal of the Teachers College, he could speak up and he did. He had some concerns about what was happening, that is why he got early retirement. I am sure when he was wearing another hat, he could understand and see the wisdom of those who were actually in positions of power, like he is in now, of listening, not pretending, not putting out their shell games or phony or half-sincere offers, but of genuinely listening.

[Page 5496]

The last time I spoke - just yesterday, it seems that when you are having so much fun time goes so fast, it just seems like it was a few minutes ago, but - I was telling members opposite, including the Premier and especially the Premier, that many times, unfortunately, in my life, I have been too opinionated. I knew that I was right, I knew, I just knew that what I believed in was right until somebody, often my wife, would actually get me to listen.

AN HON. MEMBER: That woman's a saint.

MR. HOLM: Yes, she is a saint, I hear that too. Didn't you call somebody to order the other day, Mr. Speaker, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, anyway. The point that I am trying to get at is that when you actually do listen, you get through that little mental block you have that you are right and you have to be right, and you actually listen, you sometimes find out, lo and behold, you were wrong.

The head of the Capital District Health Authority, Mr. Smith, in a press release that came out earlier today is indicating that they have some very serious concerns about what is happening because of Bill No. 68. Is it possible that everybody else is wrong, and that only the Premier and the Minister of Education have all wisdom, all vision and are right; or the Minister of Health or the Minster of Agriculture? Of course, they wouldn't want to disagree with the Premier, because they might find themselves on an early retirement from Cabinet as well. (Interruptions)

Is it that the members on the backbenchers won't disagree because, oh, when somebody in the front bench falls out of favour, you might actually get to become part of government and you might get elevated to the inner sanctum, to the bunker chamber, down in the Cabinet Room where, if this legislation passes, the bunker team, those in the inner circle of the blue team, will have the absolute power to dictate the terms of collective agreements. Of course, you couldn't call them collective agreements then, could you? They are imposed agreements and they aren't even really agreements. They are the dictates of the government on what the wages and the working conditions and anything else that the government may decide. The government will, according to this legislation, have the power to define words, terms, expressions. How many of you would work under those conditions?

Actually, as I asked that question, I realized that it wasn't a very bright question to ask because, quite obviously, most of you will, because those are the conditions you are working under right now. I guess what you want to impose on the health care workers of this province is what you have being imposed on yourself. In other words, the bosses at the top tell you exactly what to do, when to do it, have no mind of your own, don't stand on your own two feet, don't stand up for your constituents. I don't honestly want to believe - and I don't believe - that all members on the government benches support what is being done. I honestly don't believe that. I don't believe that my words here or those of my colleagues are going to change their minds. Members opposite, however, you are going to vote the way you are told to vote, unless, you actually listen to your constituents, unless you listen to those people who

[Page 5497]

are going to be here, the residents of Nova Scotia who have been here and who will be coming here to express their opinions about this legislation in their House of Assembly. This Chamber does not belong to us. We are holding these seats for a brief period of time.

Now the member for Eastern Shore, says part of it belongs to us. Sure does, yes. We own about one millionth of it or whatever number of people there are in the Province of Nova Scotia because it belongs to all the people, so therefore, I want to tell you - I don't mean to disappoint or disillusion you - but, you are what they call a very small minority shareholder. Same as everybody else. (Interruptions) Oh, yes, equal. So you believe in equality, do you? He agrees with it. That means that he believes that everybody should have an equal opportunity, if he truly believes in equality, to have their say about this bill. Obviously, therefore, he can't support the Justice Minister who said that he is going to be shutting off debate in the Law Amendments process, because, if he believes in equality, and he has a right to have a say, although he hasn't had anything to say so far, he would obviously believe that everybody should have an equal opportunity to speak at the Law Amendments process. Those for it and those agin it. (Interruptions) I would love to hear the ones for it.

I am sure that there will be some back room women and men who might come out - might - not sure who they are. I would love to see - I would truly love to see and hear members on the government benches actually get up and speak their opinions. (Interruptions) I would love to hear it. What does the member for Kings North - I didn't read his article in the Daily News today, was that about this?

AN HON. MEMBER: It is a matter of conscience.

MR. HOLM: Oh, was it a matter of conscience?

AN HON. MEMBER: A matter of conscience.

MR. HOLM: I apologize, I didn't read your article this morning. I think I must have had a headache. I planned it yesterday. If the member for Colchester North, the member for Chester-St. Margaret's, the members for Shelburne, Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, Halifax Bedford Basin, Inverness, or those whose important business, probably some sleep, is keeping them from the Chamber so they are, therefore, being spared the opportunity of listening to me at this moment, I would love to hear them actually stand up in their places and explain why they do or do not support this legislation. Yourself, even, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, can be quite eloquent at times. When you were on this side of the House, you spoke very forcefully. When you are not in the Chair, I would even welcome your intervention on this legislation, especially.

[Page 5498]

I think those who are in the galleries, those who are in our constituencies and, most importantly, those who you are legislating have a right to know why you are making decisions that you are. They have right to hear it from each and every one of you, not just that you, at some time, members are simply going to sit back and say, oh, go back to the constituency and say, look, I talked to a couple of health care workers or I met with half a dozen or 10 or 20 of them, and I spoke to them in my office or on the telephone. Of course, when they are doing that, they are probably saying things like, I really didn't like the legislation, I don't support the legislation, I don't think we should have had to have Bill No. 68, and oh, yes, I am so thankful for and so respectful of health care workers, I know how hard nurses work in Nova Scotia, and we are with you, I support you totally.

That is what they say privately, but then when it comes to the public record, the most we hear from them so far has been no, no, no for amendments. I don't know who their scriptwriter is but maybe they just all follow the member for Inverness' lead. He is the real leader, he stands up. If he says no to an amendment, everybody says no. I hope you aren't paying your speech writers very much. Then, when it comes to the final vote on Bill No. 68, they will do a flip-flop and they will say yes, they want it to pass. But that won't be what you will be saying privately.

[3:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, some of the kinds of things that I received in the way of e-mails. Since the last time I was here - speaking yesterday - a person wrote, I was taught in Canadian law, and government is based on the premise of equality, fairness and justice to all. However, the actions and the tactics of the Hamm Government towards nurses and health care workers, with regard to Bill No. 68, illustrates that the government has little concern for its constituents. As a nurse of 24 years, I have suffered wage restraint and rollbacks for the so-called good of the government with little complaint, but I refuse to sit back and let this current PC Government use tactics that are unjust, unfair and unequal. Those aren't my words.

Tell me members opposite aren't getting the same kind of messages. Tell me, I challenge any member on the government benches to get up in their places now and tell me, tell others in this province how this legislation is going to protect or enhance health care in Nova Scotia. Tell me how this legislation is going to make Nova Scotia a more attractive place to work, how it will help to maintain workers here, how it will encourage those who are being trained in Nova Scotia to stay here, or those who are being paid through Nova Scotia and trained elsewhere to come back.

I'm waiting. The sound is deafening. I hope tonight that some members on the government benches will have the intestinal fortitude - I didn't use the word that got me into trouble, Mr. Speaker, yesterday - to go out and go face-to-face with those who are going to

[Page 5499]

be coming to visit us in this House to express their opinions. People don't seem to be too keenly interested over there.

Mr. Speaker, that same person went on to say let me clarify a few pertinent points. First, nurses would not leave patients without proper care in emergency situations. They made that commitment, but the government said I don't trust you. They are spending thousands and thousands of dollars daily to get their propaganda out there.

AN HON. MEMBER: Spending $43,000 and something.

MR. HOLM: Yes, it is $43,000 and something, and growing. Yet some members applauded on the government benches when we said thank you for all your hard work. Yeah, right. The author of this letter goes on to say, I find the government's comments insulting and immoral. I feel that John Hamm is one of the few physicians who view nurses as subordinates, not equals, therefore, the PC Party is to be pitied, not admired. Hmm. It is a pity. It is not only pity that they deserve, the bigger pity is what devastation you are bringing towards health care workers in this province, and the contempt that you are showing for health care workers in this province, whom you pretend to admire.

Mr. Speaker, we know that offers have been made and commitments have been made to ensure that essential services continue. Yet, somehow, for some reason that nobody on the government benches, not a one, has had the intestinal fortitude - you weren't in the Chair when I used the word that I got in trouble, Mr. Speaker, so maybe you would have allowed it - not a single member has tried to explain how, if you truly admire and respect health care workers, you can then turn around and tell them that you don't trust them. Does anybody on the government benches have any examples or any evidence to say that they have broken their word?

Mr. Speaker, this legislation has nothing to do with trying to improve the quality of health care in this province. It is all about the size or the amount that will be coming out of the government's budget. This is a money bill. The Premier - I can't remember if it was in today's paper, I think it was, or it may have been on the radio - was saying we can't afford binding arbitration. It sounds like money to me. Nobody is asking for binding arbitration, but the government is saying we can't even afford that. That sounds like the government knows their offers are unfair. If you believe that your offer is good and just and fair, why would you be afraid to go to arbitration? An arbitrator would side with you if you are right.

Mr. Speaker, we do know why. Health care. The Premier says we can't afford certain things. I learned something a long time ago, and I still believe it is true. We are talking about employment, we are talking about those factors that entice businesses, good, paying businesses to an area, and we talk about infrastructure. The two key infrastructures are the health care system and the education system, and if we don't have a good health care system, if we don't have a good education system, employers are not going to want to locate in this

[Page 5500]

province, because they can go almost anywhere, where we have the modern telecommunications and the digital networks, where there are roads and airplanes, where there are mountains and trees and streams and lakes. There are many of those places they can go if they aren't going to be interested in setting up in this province because they don't feel that their family would have a good quality health care system if anything were needed. They are not going to want to locate here.

Government has no hesitation, and I see this as a breaking of a contract, because there is a collective bargaining process in place. There is a process, and what the government is doing here with this legislation is breaking that process; that is in effect breaking a contract. If you shake hands with somebody, you make agreements how you do things, even that is a contract. But when it comes down to the big friends of government, do you think they would ever break a contract? Could you imagine them standing up to ExxonMobil and saying, hey, look, we have a problem in Nova Scotia? We have a problem in that we don't have enough money to hire sufficient health care workers so that they have a manageable workload and can actually have a day off, instead of going home and saying I don't dare answer the phone because I am exhausted, I have just worked several days of 12-hour shifts and I just know I am going to be called back in.

We don't have enough health care workers, and this government is doing virtually nothing effective to attract them or to maintain them. So, you could go to ExxonMobil and say we need some money, therefore we are going to up the royalty rate a little bit. Do you know that could be done by legislation? In here, and I don't even think that you would find us on this side of the House standing up for hour after hour after hour to oppose it. It might be a way to get some money. We could increase a few cents a ton the amount that we are collecting in royalties from coal. What is it they pay? It's 27.5 cents a ton. And sell it for what? About $55 a ton. Not a bad mark-up. We could do that.

How many millions of dollars extra would that bring in in the run of a year? (Interruptions) I really can't hear him, he is speaking softly. If the minister would like to take his place on the floor and speak, I would be only too happy to allow him, to encourage him to do so. I hear that is fine, Mr. Speaker.

If we had a couple of million dollars here and a couple of million dollars there, and we know that the value of the natural gas that was exported from this province was valued at around $1.1 billion, $1.2 billion, and Nova Scotia's take in royalties, about $4 million to $6 million. It was equal to about a couple of weeks' worth of money that is gambled at the casinos. Something wrong with this picture?

But, oh no, health care workers, what the heck. For 10 years you have been under wage freezes, rollbacks, as other public sector workers were, and now we are not going to allow you to negotiate, to bargain. We are going to impose. It is all about money, it is not about improving the quality of health care or maintaining health care. Mr. Speaker, government is

[Page 5501]

not going to pull the wool over anybody's eyes on that. The Premier, I heard him on the radio, saying no, we can't pay as much as they pay in parts of the United States or out West, but they don't only want a good wage, they also want to know that the Government of Nova Scotia is going to have enough money for all the other things that the government needs. No question about it.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think, from what I am hearing, that money is the only issue for health care workers. Don't get me wrong, it is important, you have to live, it is a sign of respect, but it is also a way that you can attract more health care workers to this province, so that instead of out of a class of 79, having 71 leave this province going elsewhere, it is a way to attract those people to stay here, especially if they are given full-time jobs, instead of only being hired as casuals.

[3:30 p.m.]

We can do things with that money. But those who have been through all of that, if you turn around and you kick some more sand in their faces, if you push them in the corner, some will leave. I was speaking not too long ago with somebody else who was going into nursing, and I said, where are you going to work? Without even a blink of an eye, the person shot back, I don't know but it won't be in Nova Scotia. That is an attitude, because they see and they hear what this government is doing. Do you members on the government benches actually understand what you are doing? Do you know the road that you are walking down? Back off. Give it some time. You are going to be remembered a lot more fondly if you pull back than if you create an increased crisis.

Somebody else wrote, the situation with Bill No. 68 has now clearly gotten out of control. I would ask that you and your caucus ask for the resignation of the Minister of Health, Jamie Muir. He has bungled, mismanaged and lost the respect of health care professionals in this province, not leaving out the taxpayers. The only thing I would say is don't only impose it on the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health can't say or do anything without the support of his caucus, he is but one vote. One vote. I have a vote, he has a vote, in that regard we are equal. Each one of us is equal. Unless the majority of the government members, if in fact only a handful say that you will not support this bill, it is dead. It will be dead.

Another said, it has become increasingly hard as an employed Nova Scotian to make ends meet, if there are no unexpected events to deal with. Your apparent total lack of concern and trust for the Nova Scotian employees employed at the QE II Health Sciences Centre and other facilities tells me that you have not listened to our concerns and promises. We have not become involved in health care to harm or to contribute to the harm of other people, just the opposite in fact. I appreciate your concerns for the health and welfare of Nova Scotians, but I think you forgot one thing, I, too, am a voting Nova Scotian.

[Page 5502]

All of those who you just cavalierly dismiss, they are going to vote. Maybe you are hoping that you don't need to worry about them because they will be one of the ones who have gone down the road and are working in California or Florida or out in Alberta or Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, somewhere else.

The Premier was very critical, with good cause, of the past Liberal Government. The one thing that neither this nor the former government seems to be interested in doing has been to listen to the front-line workers. You get in some high-priced guru and you would start off restructuring and then before that restructuring is finished, that guru falls out of favour and another one is hired. Then you replan and you restructure and then you restructure again the restructured restructure and all the time the front-line workers are expected to pay for it.

This legislation affects all Nova Scotians. This contemptuous effort by this government of fear-mongering is creating tremendous anxiety. Things are starting to happen now. We are hearing of cancellation after cancellation of surgery - some of it pretty essential, pretty serious services - because the hospitals and so on now, because of what is happening here and the absolute bad feelings being created by this government. You hear of health care workers who say they have already written their resignations, highly skilled, valuable partners in the health care system who are saying that I have had it. I can't take it anymore, more importantly, I won't take it anymore. I am going to go somewhere where I am respected.

We all know that there are headhunters all over the place, headhunters contacting nurses, technicians. The jobs are there. In the United States alone, they can clean out every nurse we have and still be looking for hundreds or tens of thousands more. They need over 100,000, I believe it is.

So facing that reality, tell me, why is the government so short-sighted as to want to provoke a confrontation that will drive people who work in the health care profession to feel that they have no choice but to leave? I don't know. Maybe in the case of nurses, we have this attitude that goes back about 40 or 50 years, I don't know how far back. Nurses, of course, were always women, like teachers were always women - except I was one - so therefore they will stay here because that is where their "husbands" are.

It sure isn't true anymore. In fact, when I was in the neuro ward at the QE II, one of the nurses who attended me was a gentleman who was a former student of mine. Provided excellent service, too, as did all the others. Do you now know, Mr. Speaker, many of those young nurses may decide to locate elsewhere, many of those nurses are the primary bread winners in a family or single people bringing up a family. It ain't the way it was, if I can use that phrase, 40 or 50 years ago and they can, and they do, and they will leave, and then what kind of a crisis are we going to have?

[Page 5503]

The Premier had said in 1999 kicking off his election campaign, 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. He applauds the efforts. I wonder, Mr. Speaker, when he stopped valuing their efforts. You can applaud all you want, or say that you appreciate verbally, but actions speak much louder than words. At that time, in fact on June 19, 1999, exactly one year ago today, he said: What bothers me is the fact that the efforts of health care providers are often thwarted by a government that has completely mismanaged the health care system. Excuse me, I should have said exactly two years ago today; interesting.

I wonder if we were in an election campaign today, if it might not be a fair comment for somebody to stand up and to say exactly the same thing about this Tory Government. It is amazing how much things change and how much they stay the same. If the Premier is truly committed to improving the quality of health care, if he truly respects and values the health care workers in this province, he will then listen, he will then say that I am not only encouraging people to go back to the bargaining table, but that I will keep my hands off. To the best of my knowledge, the Premier is not supposedly the negotiator or the direct employer for employees, for example, at the QE II. Wasn't it privatized? I thought so and I thought that the employees at the QE II and the other health care facilities across this province were employed by either the district board or the health board for that area. They get money from the government, but technically the QE II was privatized and that's how they hid the monies and the debts off the books of the province for so long.

Even though the Premier and the Minister of Health are not technically the employers, I hear the Premier saying we negotiated, we have negotiated, we have made offers. That sounds like the Premier or his Cabinet henchmen, or their designates, are the ones who are at the table calling the shots. We, he said, not the health board, not the representative from the hospital, but we, meaning government. This legislation, Mr. Speaker, gives the negotiator, the we, in this case the Premier and his front benches - backbenchers have no say, you don't count other than being here for 1 of the 15 who are needed - he and his colleagues will decide what they are prepared to put on the table in the way of negotiations and if the employees have the audacity to not simply say thank you very much, yes, sir, no, sir, three bags full, sir, they will impose it.

Even his government will decide, oops, obviously we can't reach agreement, that could be 24 hours after they started negotiations. It is not defined in this legislation. Mr. Speaker, it is asinine to think that anybody would accept that as being fair, absolutely asinine. We want to go into, and I know my colleague spent some considerable time talking about medical technicians, the important work that they do, how much doctors and other health care providers depend upon the work that they do, talked about the fact that Nova Scotia is heading into a severe crisis in that field as well, and how Nova Scotia has no plan or training even taking place in this province. I think there was a little over 4 per cent who can retire this year, or leave.

[Page 5504]

[3:45 p.m.]

It goes up to the point where I think by 2005, without going through the figures and looking them up, it would be somewhere in the 40 per cent plus range and, Mr. Speaker, driving them away. The Premier and I and the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations aren't the only ones in this province who have a different colour of blond hair than we had at one point. There are many people who are reaching that stage, especially the employees in the health care system and the trades across this province generally, who will be able to retire in the next short number of years.

Yet, Mr. Speaker, this government wants to introduce such contemptuous legislation and expect us to pass it - and I have got one minute left, I see your signal - and expect that the health care workers are going to be so grateful. Young people, if they see that they're being treated like this now, they're out of here. They are, they are out of here. As I take my seat, is that what each and every one of you on the Tory benches want? That is a decision that you are going to have to make later on tonight. Are you going to vote for this bill and show contempt and disrespect for health care workers or, Mr. Speaker, are you going to vote against this bill and show some trust and respect for those health care workers? I suggest that the last is the proper thing for you to be doing. Thank you very much.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on second reading of Bill No. 68 which I think in short form, as I have stated on a previous day, this particular regressive piece of legislation says a lot. I don't mean that in the literal sense, but rather if you break it down and interpret what it says, it means lack of trust. So I wouldn't want to mislead the government members into thinking that they have a good piece of legislation before the House. They have anything but.

Now, that having been said, let's focus on the principle of this bill and what it does for the health care workers, to the nursing profession, to the LPNs, to the medical profession, to the health care system in general and, indeed, to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, usually when we speak on the principle of the bill, we are allowed to include in our dissertation a number of various arguments to present, doing some analogies, some facts and figures, and some statistical information that would presumably support our position as to why we would either support or oppose a particular piece of legislation and one of the things that I found myself doing is, particularly over the last 72 hours, asking myself what really is the intent of the government on this particular Bill No. 68?

I kept coming up with conflicting answers because it all started last Thursday shortly after Cabinet when the Premier was scrummed by the media and they asked the Premier, Mr. Premier, is it your intent or is it the intent of your government to introduce back-to-work legislation for the nurses of Nova Scotia? His response was, this is a poor time to be

[Page 5505]

introducing such legislation because, he said, you don't do such things, you don't take such actions in the heat of a battle. Well, lo and behold, less than a week later he did the very opposite to what he told all Nova Scotians. What panic buttons were pushed that made him flip-flop once again like he did by injecting himself into the boundary dispute with Newfoundland, that ended up a fiasco, and half a dozen other initiatives which I think have been noted so eloquently by others.

Then we heard, today, during another media scrum the Premier say it was his intent all along to withdraw this legislation if the three agreements would be concluded before the final reading of Bill No. 68. The media reporter asked, why didn't you say that before now? His rather coy response was, nobody asked me. Well, is this just a game of cat and mouse with the lives and the people and the health and the well-being of all Nova Scotians? Is that the type of leadership that we expect? I don't think so.

Much like the type of leadership that was promised by all the Tory candidates when they ran in the last election, yes, Mr. Speaker, they made commitments. They made promises, they did everything but kiss the cat and the dog on the doorsteps of the voters to get their support so they could come here and represent their interests. But what do they do when they get here? They abandon the people who sent them here, an absolute disgrace, and that is why Bill No. 68 says a lot - lack of trust. Why wouldn't the health care profession be suspect? Why wouldn't the people of Nova Scotia be somewhat confused as to what's going on in this Legislature?

Less than two weeks after we closed this Legislature, after an unprecedented, lengthy session which dealt with, of all things, the restructuring of government which included in Clause 41, Section 17(b) an opportunity for the government to ensure some contingency plans for continued health, whether it be in health care, in the schools, fire departments, police services, or what have you but, no, Mr. Speaker, like everything else, it has been haphazard. It is just pure and simple sloppy management. That's really what it is.

Let's look at what the honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin said when she came to this very hallowed place, Mr. Speaker, and I quote from Page 18, Thursday, October 7, 1999, the good member states: "The first and most important area of concern must be our health care system. The steps just outlined by the Honourable Mr. Kinley . . .", the Lieutenant Governor who read the Speech from the Throne ". . . will begin the process of providing the necessary support for our doctors, nurses, paramedics and other dedicated health care providers as they work faithfully to deliver health services to the people of Nova Scotia. In health care, as elsewhere, communities must be involved in the decisions of how best to meet their own needs. I applaud the direction that this government is taking . . .", to support this initiative.

[Page 5506]

Well, Mr. Speaker, what happened between October 1999 and June 2001? Who purchased the muzzle? Surely to heavens, the cat didn't get the tongue. It wasn't those cats on the doorsteps. Where is this member speaking for her constituents? As recently as 20 minutes ago I had a call from one of her constituents demanding that if I could find her, please, let her know that he is looking for her to return a call on this issue of health care.

So what happened, Mr. Speaker, what happened to the premise and the very essence of responsible government? Just to remind the member and other members on the government benches, the very premise of responsible government is that it requires by law under British parliamentary rule - and that's what we operate under - that every elected official represent, protect, defend, advocate the interests of his or her constituents. That is not being done by being an apologist for the Tory Party of Nova Scotia because senior members of that government, who are the relics of a previous regime who bankrupted this province, now are driving the engine to clarity. But it is not clarity, is confusion. It is confusion and it is chaos. I feel sorry for that honourable member, because deep down in her heart I know she is well-intended for her constituents, but the job is not getting done. The job is not getting done.

Let's look at the good minister, heaven forbid, who should be sponsoring this particular piece of legislation because, Mr. Speaker, it is labour law we're talking about here. It is labour law. The Minister of Environment and Labour, who has demonstrated that he is nothing more than a cheerleader for senior members and the Cabinet as well, maybe he is afraid that he will be shown the back door, I mean he can't even rationalize why he appointed a mediator on Wednesday and supported back-to-work legislation the next day. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that that undermines the whole process.

Members of his caucus, particularly the Minister of Justice, when he was Labour Critic on this side of the House, demanded that we not politically interfere, a minister should not interfere with the collective bargaining process, should not become involved. Now we have the Minister of Environment and Labour waffling on some critical mass areas within that process. You wonder why the nurses, the health care workers, the LPNs, doctors, what have you, the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, the people of Nova Scotia, even the media are somewhat baffled as to what is going on here.

[4:00 p.m.]

Yet, the Premier, like he did in some other situations, injected himself into the negotiating process. Now he has taken on the role of the Minister of Health and the Minister of Environment and Labour by playing cat and mouse with the media as we get down to the deadline. I say, shame on that Premier.

[Page 5507]

Let's look at the two essential principles. Before we go to that, let me remind members of the House what the good Minister of Environment and Labour said when he came to this very sacred place. On Thursday, October 7, 1999, the good member for Kings South said, ". . . I proudly rise here today to second the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. On behalf of the good people from Kings South . . ." in other words, he has already bought into the government's agenda for his constituents. Okay, that sounds pretty reasonable and fair. Now, let's go on, "I congratulate Premier Hamm for his foresight in recognizing this critical change in how we represent our constituents . . .".

Is this the type of change he is talking about, betraying the needs, the wishes, the aspirations, the rights and the privileges of his constituents? Is that the type of good government and change that the Minister of Environment and Labour was talking about when he came here? Was everything he said when he went door to door, was everything he said as a municipal councillor only a veiled attempt to advance his own political career? And now that he has arrived here, whistle Dixie folks, we don't need you anymore. I am here, I am now, I am the bright light, you will listen to me. Much like he is doing to the people down in Torbrook, much like he is doing to his colleague, the member for Annapolis, he is selling him out. He won't even return the phone calls and heaven forbid if he did, he would probably tell him the same thing he told a constituent of his already, he told her to shut up. He didn't want to hear her complaints, and yes, he hung up the phone.

Is that the deafening silence that we expect from this government? Is that what Bill No. 68 speaks to? Shame on that member. Shame. Maybe the rest of us in this place should apologize to the good people of Kings South because they certainly won't get an apology from their representative or from the member for Halifax Bedford Basin. And, heaven forbid, Mr. Speaker, every Tory backbencher who spoke in this House when they gave their Address and Reply to the Speech from the Throne, every one of them - all the same song sheet, all the same theme, that their constituents would be protected.

Is this protection? You are better off with Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves than you are having that lot across the floor. Some of them - you wonder, there is more backbone in a pretzel stick. Give us a break. If they won't even stand and defend this draconian piece of legislation, which, by the way, draws the democratic process almost to a close. It is just another step in the destruction of responsible government that Joseph Howe fought so hard for. You wonder why you will never find a Tory in this House of Assembly quote Joseph Howe. Do you know why? Because they didn't appreciate those types of rights and freedoms. Go through Hansard. How many Tories have you found who would quote Joseph Howe?

AN HON. MEMBER: They don't know how.

MR. MACKINNON: That is right. They don't know how. Excuse the Freudian slip. I hope that is not too heavy for you over there, folks. But I tell you, Bill No. 68 is a destructive piece of legislation. The Premier says he trusts the nurses. The Minister of Health

[Page 5508]

says, you can't trust them. Then you have Dr. Seuss down at the Department of Environment and Labour and he doesn't know what to do. He is just a cheerleader. This is absolutely disgraceful that less than two weeks after a major session of the Legislature that we are back here to do repair work, patch work to sloppy management that is not their fault, heaven forbid.

The government says it is a lack of money. Well, let's go back and let's look, Mr. Speaker. Statistics Canada last week said the government should have a $51 million surplus, not a deficit of $129 million. But you know, the Minister of Finance says, I am right. You can trust me because I was a minister in John Buchanan's Government. Let's not look back into the past because we only bankrupted the province and I only want to look to the future. Well, that is some visionary. I would say that, if he keeps going, he will be driving by Braille. He is not seeing too far ahead when it comes to the province's finances.

Let's look at the cost of restructuring of government. The government's own document, which they themselves have laid out, and let's go back into Hansard during the budgetary process, April 19, 2001, 3:05 p.m. in the Red Chamber of Province House. Yes, that is what a lot of people in Nova Scotia wouldn't realize because, during budget debates, what we refer to as Supply, that is not recorded on TV in the Red Chamber, and the written word of Hansard is not provided to the general public until months after the fact.

You know what is so interesting? They have a surplus and the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, who is also responsible for Planning and Priorities - or he used to be until they did away with it and brought back the political bureau - he fessed-up during budgets and he admitted that there was a surplus in the restructuring fund. They budgeted last year $88 million and they only spent $74.6 million, now notwithstanding the fact that the previous year to that they also had a surplus. They had to have because the Minister of Education was able to get $20 million from the Minister of Finance from the same fund. So you wonder why the nurses, the health care workers, the home providers, the taxpayers, the good people of Nova Scotia would be suspect.

If it is an issue of not allowing binding arbitration because the government is afraid that the arbitrator would award a lot more than the government can afford, well the very least this government can do, Mr. Speaker, is tell the truth. That is the very least that they can do. Stop playing politics with the taxpayers' money, with their own Machiavellian games like they did during the John Buchanan era. That type of voodoo politics doesn't work anymore. People don't accept it. They don't care in the final analysis, whether you are Liberal, whether you are Tory, whether you are NDP, banana republic or what have you. They want good government and they want accountable government. That is why they have very little tolerance for Bill No. 68.

[Page 5509]

The senior elements within that government, who are just transplants from a previous era, sometimes you can transplant branches off trees, you can do some grafting or you can transplant a pine tree or something like that and they'll take root. But you don't have to worry about that with elements of this government. They are like weeds; they will spread. You will have to have an insecticide or a pesticide to take them out.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 68 does not do anything to engender good labour/management relations in this province. It doesn't. We are advised that tomorrow there will be a major citizens and health care march and protest in Antigonish. I wonder if the good Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations will attend and offer his insightful thoughts as to why the government has to do this. Maybe that would be helpful. Maybe it would be helpful if we could recess this House and I am sure the Opposition would agree. It is like everything else, you develop a certain consensus. We could agree to recess the House for one day and maybe come back on Saturday. That would allow every government member to go back and hold a public meeting in his or her riding and explain the value of Bill No. 68.

Why wouldn't they have done that in the two weeks from the time the House closed until the time that they introduced the bill? Why not? Because, zip, the backbenchers are not allowed to say anything and half of the members of the Cabinet, it is becoming quite evident, are not allowed to speak up. The only one who spoke on this, aside from the introduction at second reading, the Minister of Health, is the Rambo Justice Minister who only spoke to chastise us for exercising our democratic right. Well, heaven forbid.

If we were to close our eyes and listen to what the Minister of Justice has been saying or read any of the comments that he has made through the media or even in this House, you would almost think that cloning existed 20 years ago because it is almost like we are looking at a clone of Brian Mulroney. That is just about what we are talking about. (Interruption) I am not going there.

Mr. Speaker, that is how sad this has become. Yes, the government can use its majority. They can use the big hammer. They can go 24 hours a day. They can go 26 hours a day if they want to go on to lunar time and change the cycle of the celestial spheres. They are such space cadets on some of the issues that it wouldn't surprise me what they will do. Earth to Premier, stop listening to Mike Harris, Ralph Klein, Peter Lougheed and some of the ones who can't even look after their own province. You wouldn't have to be a rocket scientist to balance the budget. In Alberta, when you figure out the amount of oil and the royalties that are coming out, this year there will be $16 billion in royalties and Alberta will get $10 billion. Think about it. How difficult is it to balance the budget?

He did such a wonderful job sending Stockwell Day to Ottawa, didn't he? See, that is what happens when you take them out of their element and put them to the real acid test, when they are not being subsidized by their own inefficiencies, which are, in effect, covered, at a larger scale, by the taxpayers, who are paying for all these royalties.

[Page 5510]

[4:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, for Governor Celucci to come from the United States and start advising our good Premier on how he should manage Nova Scotia's royalties, so that we could have more money to deal with health care, I would say, have a nice day, let's be polite, thanks but no thanks. He is up here saying, thank you very kindly for sending your natural gas but we want more, and that is why I am here. Premier Klein, he is down there wanting to sell more oil while his whole environment, the literal, the physical environment, the state of the province is falling from under him. They just don't get it, that big business and money and political patronage is not what runs the province in the 21st Century.

Bill No. 68 speaks to that and only to that. What does this really say? What does Bill No. 68, the principle of it, really say? Let's not be naive, if you go from one end of this country to the other, provincial governments have mismanaged the public affairs, even federally in a certain measure, of all political stripes. Do you know why? Because politicians, for years, knew that they could buy votes with the taxpayers' money because it wasn't intrusive at the time because they felt good; short-term gain, long-term pain. See, that is what is happening. To a certain extent, we have to blame ourselves.

You don't continue to beat up on individual interest groups in the fashion that this government is purporting to do. Whoever in the name of heaven advised the government that it would be politically popular to beat up on unions in Nova Scotia missed the point, because this is not about unions. We know that when unions first came into existence - and I have very limited knowledge of unions. I was a member of the pulp and paper workers' association when I worked in British Columbia, and then when I came to Nova Scotia I was a member of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union when I worked for the provincial Department of Lands and Forests at that time, and then I went into the private sector, then I eventually became a Minister of Labour, so I guess you could say that I have had experience on both sides.

Mr. Speaker, there is a need for organized labour in this province. Perhaps not in the same measure or in the same context as it was 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 years ago, when there was so much repressive action against the working person, because we do have the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which provides certain features that will protect the rights and the health and the safety of workers, except, unfortunately - and this is where I congratulate the health care workers this time around for hanging tight.

We saw what happened in the last session of the Legislature, or two sessions ago when the Minister of Environment and Labour, his seatmate brought in a piece of legislation to bring in a sunset clause to do away with occupational health and safety regulations. How many people in Nova Scotia did they advertise that to? Not too many, because that wouldn't be good for that right-wing agenda. Yes, the number of preventable claims at the Workers' Compensation Board, time loss claims, have increased. The amount of time for an injured

[Page 5511]

worker, off the job, has increased by more than 10 per cent since that legislation was brought in, and it will continue.

The government, again, in a different form, in a different language is now doing what it did for years with the taxpayers' money, trying to buy power. That is why they put the workers' compensation system under Treasury and Policy Board, they took it out of the Department of Labour, where it was independent from politics. I predict that within the next year the minister responsible for that department will manipulate the rates for employers in this province. He will say, oh yes, we can now afford to drop the rates for all 30,000 employers. I make that prediction. Do you know what? He will do it just in advance of an election.

Now, after all the work that we did, from 1993 to 1999, to deal with that unfunded liability, now we finally have close to $0.5 billion built into a secure fund for injured workers in this province, there is no-fault insurance, and that government will purge it for politics. That is why they feel so cavalier about Bill No. 68. That is why they don't care about the health care workers, because it is spinning the big story out there. We restructured ourselves so all our communications people will be so busy communicating our political message that it doesn't matter if it is true or not; if it is politically good for us and it gets us elected, who cares? That is really what they are saying.

The Minister of Finance knows full well, when he looks at the books. Look at NSRL, who bankrupted that? The Tory Government of John Buchanan. Who bankrupted the workers' compensation system? The Government of John Buchanan. Who bankrupted or nearly bankrupted the Teachers' Pension Fund? The John Buchanan Government. Almost $1 billion, unfunded liability. Part of the reason for that is they took the accountability process out of the Legislature. Anyone who was in the House at the time - there are still a few of us who would remember, I know the Government House Leader would remember - all the rates that used to be set for the teachers' pension fund would be set on the floor of the Legislature, where all members would have an opportunity for a full, open and accountable debate on that.

The John Buchanan Government took it out of there and put it down in the Cabinet Room, so nobody would know what was going on, and that is why that unfunded liability built up, because there was no accountability. Quietly, they made people feel good by cutting little political deals, by saying to the Teachers Union, well, if you don't go on strike, or if you just kind of go a little easy here, maybe the next session we will have a half-decent rate on our premiums. That type of hodge-podge dysfunctional thinking went on for 17 years. That is why Bill No. 68 does little to address the inequities that we should be dealing with.

Mr. Speaker, I would advise - they won't take advice so I will just raise the issue - I would suggest that members of that government and backbenchers on the government team go down to the Department of Environment and Labour, go into the library, and read some

[Page 5512]

of the reports that were done on labour/management relations, some of the rather lengthy studies that were undertaken. They would find, within 48 hours, that they are dead wrong for imposing Bill No. 68 on the health care workers of this province. I don't know if they really understand what they are doing. I am not sure they really do.

Somebody has gone into that Cabinet Room, on the board that they have down there, that chalk board or that bristol board or whatever, they bring in their video machines and their computers and everything, they have a nice slide presentation, here is how much we can save here and here is when the contracts expired, we have to look at this, this and this. The bean-counters are not looking at the big picture.

Someone should go down and ask the Deputy Minister of Health to come before the Public Accounts Committee and give a full accounting of what he has done since he has come here. Two full budgets, and it is the first in the history of the Legislature that the Deputy Minister of Health refuses to come with his minister to answer questions on how health care dollars are being spent. So, whatever mandarins they had to come in and make those slide presentations or make those arguments, they are completely amiss about what the real picture is.

As I said, I don't think they really understood what it is all about. You cannot legislate opinion. You can manipulate with the laws, you can bring in regulations, you can bring in guidelines, or what have you - proclamations, ministerial announcements, prognostications, whatever you want - but if you don't have the acceptance of the people and in particular the stakeholders involved, it is a waste of time. All you are doing is compounding the problem. Maybe in the short term the government will say, whew, this is great. It was really worth it, all you backbenchers. I told you if you hung tight with us, we would pull it off. We showed them. Unions aren't going to push us around. But it's not about unions, it has nothing to do with unions. That is the message you are trying to sell, but it isn't.

The Premier knows full well, it is absolutely unconscionable, in Clause 13 of Bill No. 68, that no citizen of this province has a legal right to question a decision of Cabinet. When did they become the all-powerful, the all-mighty? Who gave them this special authority? I don't think the people of Nova Scotia did. I don't think the taxpayers did. I don't think all those who voted for the Conservative caucus members when they went door to door gave them that authority. In fact, I would believe that a very strong argument could be made that those government members are now misleading - I won't say deliberate because we know the Rules of the House but they are misleading - the people of Nova Scotia. The people who voted for them were misled because what they said and what they do are two different things and that is what bothers me.

Let's look back at the rollback legislation, as the Minister of Finance so anxiously jumps to his feet and tries to champion as a rabbit track, as a deflection away from the real issue of today. Back in 1993, the bonding agencies in New York said that if this province

[Page 5513]

didn't get its House in order, it would not be allowed to manage the financial affairs of this province. It is like going to the bank: you borrow money to buy a home, you borrow $100,000, you don't pay it back, you don't keep that home. You don't say who is going to move in or who is going to move out. You have no rights to it.

That is what was happening in 1993 because of the unfunded liability, the near bankruptcy of the Teacher's Pension Fund, the unfunded liability of the workers' compensation system. We have $1 billion there, we have $0.5 billion there, NSRL, another $0.5 billion. They were like drunken sailors and they come back and say, trust us. We are doing this in your best interests. It is for the health and the safety of the people of Nova Scotia. We cannot take a chance that the nurses would not rise to the occasion and treat somebody in an emergency situation. That is really what they are saying.

[4:30 p.m.]

The Minister of Justice stood in his place the other evening when he chastised members for debating this issue and basically threatened the members that if we didn't sit down and shut up, then the people of Nova Scotia would be not allowed to come before Law Amendments. That is what he said, to paraphrase. Who in the name of heavens is he to come in here after 3 years out of 250 years of democratic rule and say that he is the end-all for justice and fair play for the people of Nova Scotia. He bragged about so many different things and yes, rightfully so, he boasted about his wife being an RN, a nurse, and I congratulate both he and she and their family. But is he really saying that government can't trust her to go treat an emergency when one arises? Is that what they are saying, that he can't even trust his own wife to protect the sick and those who are in need of health care? What kind of twisted logic is coming from the Minister of Justice?

That is what is so offensive about Bill No. 68. They use politics to distort the reality of the situation. They twist politics to make it look like it is one issue when they know in their hearts, in their minds, with the facts, with the figures that it is something else. I find that absolutely disgusting, to think that well-educated people, very reasoned, very thoughtful individuals would come before this House and play such pathetic political games.

The Halifax Regional School Board met last evening; no money in education. Where did the extra $1 million come from that the province just offered the Halifax Regional School Board to do split shifts at J. L. Ilsley? Where did they get the extra $1 million? Was it the Minister of Finance's slush fund? When you look at this restructuring fund, yes it looks great and everybody looks at it and, wow, this is our Minister of Finance that has done this. He is a chartered accountant and wow, this is a $4 billion budget and wow, he must be some smart when he can manage all that stuff.

[Page 5514]

But it's the follow-up. They don't tell the people of Nova Scotia that for every year in a five year process, that they have budgeted for the cost of downsizing government, laying off 1,100 or 1,200 employees and concluding contracts for leaseholds in large office space and all the other things to go with it. What they budget and what they spend are two different things, but they don't tell you that. That is what I find so unsettling.

That is why I call it a slush fund because the Minister of Finance came in here and he said, the Liberals didn't have a $1 million surplus. They didn't have one. Let's assume for the sake of discussion that he is right. He said it was a $500-some odd million deficit. But, when we wanted to know where that $230 million was that was included in that deficit, that was slated to be spent on the environmental cleanup at Sydney Steel, and it wasn't spent in that first year, I asked the minister, where did it go? Did you put it in a sock? Did you put it in a box? What did you do with it? Do you know what he told us? It really didn't exist. It was just paper talk. So, he is telling the people of Nova Scotia one thing, you know, this big deficit exists, but in reality it is not there. That's why you can't trust your politicians, that's why, because of that type of double-talk.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, they learned from the best. The Minister of Finance and the Government House Leader, architects of just about everything that happens in this government, have just about all but shut out the Premier from the strategies of government, are now going back to the school of John Buchanan politics and that is what it is all about, power at all costs. The backbenchers over there, well, I have seen more life form in that cast from Taxi, you know, they often referred to them as a lovable bunch of losers. Well, when you see the way that they conduct themselves in this House on these bills by virtue of their silence, I haven't seen them speak once on any major piece of legislation before this House, not once. I mean it is absolutely sad. This has to be the most dysfunctional, disorganized government that I have seen since I have came here in 1988 and, yes, that includes a Liberal Administration, too, or two of which I was part.

I mean you have the Minister of Environment and Labour who really should be the sponsor of this legislation and having served as a minister, I know that because it is labour management issues, but even when it comes to occupational health and safety issues, he won't stand in his place and defend them. He gets backbenchers to stand up and read from a script, dah, dah, yeah, point a, point b. I would be very proud to defend the actions of myself as a minister, Mr. Speaker, and for the rights of the workers and the employers, for all the stakeholders, because as minister we have that obligation, not just to a select few, not those who can court special favour with the government. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, the competition is growing here, but I really feel sorry for this government because in the absence of a good Opposition, they would be most apt to get away with it. I hate to sound like Churchill and I think I made this point to you a little earlier, I will not stop at making this government accountable. They say there's no money, but yet they are moving lots of money around, you know, as was demonstrated at the Halifax school board

[Page 5515]

last night. I don't want to get into a long sidebar on that issue, but that's just one example right there. We saw how the Minister of Finance will say, we removed those dollars last year.

The Premier knows full well that any arbitrator, if he is so confident about the fact that they are the highest paid health care workers in Eastern Canada, think about it, no arbitrator is going to upset the balance of nature because of what is happening in another jurisdiction beyond the scope of what is happening in this province. He knows that, that is a red herring but no, Mr. Speaker, this government has some high paid, very powerful friends of the government who have another political agenda and that is, destroy unions at all costs, but this is not about unions. These health care workers are fortunate to have that type of umbrella protection because of the way this government is operating. That would be clear evidence, you see, because during the John Buchanan days that is what they used to do. They used to marginalize anyone who took issue with the government. They did it a little at a time, a little here, a little there, and then the next thing you know, you were almost afraid to say you were anything but a Tory for fear of being persecuted in one form or the other, whether it was discrimination on job applications, or the fact that somebody would go into the tax department and access your personal records, clear evidence of that.

That is the type of unsavoury government that the people of Nova Scotia don't want. That is what they're trying to force on the people and they are moving at lightning speed but, you know, they snafued on this one because they outsmarted themselves because some of these bright lights on the front benches, I think the generator was down in the last session of the Legislature when they didn't put a comprehensive contingency plan in place in terms of what was proposed by the Nurses' Union in terms of those four essential services.

Mr. Speaker, the government knows full well that the nurses and the health care workers of this province were very well prepared to sign that contingency plan for essential services. Why did the hospital organizations back out on the eleventh hour after agreeing; why did they do that? It defies logic. Why have they forced all these Tory members to go in hiding on their constituents? These health care workers are not subversive. They are not terrorists. They are not enemies of the state. They are good, honest, hard-working individuals, dedicated professionals doing a job that I couldn't even hope to consider because I don't have the talents to do it.

We take so much for granted, Mr. Speaker, by what they do. I don't believe for one moment that we can blame this all on the nurses or the health care providers. I don't believe that for a moment and the Minister of Health, the Premier, the Minister of Finance and the Rambo Justice Minister - as arrogant as he may be - they don't believe that, but they do believe that they have the power, they have the money and perhaps with a little bit of manipulation, they will have public opinion on their side, but it won't work because they are thinking in the 1970's when they should be talking labour-management relations in the 21st Century.

[Page 5516]

Think about all the high-tech that is now in the medical field, you know, how technology has changed the way the health care providers treat patients in the hospitals, the professional liabilities that have now been put on these professionals. If they're good enough to give increased responsibility and liability to, then by golly, Mr. Speaker, they must be good enough to give a few more pennies other than what is being spun out by the Premier because he is dead wrong when he would suggest, when he would prejudge an arbitrator even before he is included in the process.

Well, we saw what damage he did on the boundary dispute between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. He injected politics into it and what happened? Poof, up in smoke, that is what happens when you put politics into the business of running the affairs of the government and the government is the representative of the people. This is the people's business. This is not the business of a political organization that is so starved and craving for power that they have forgotten what their mandate is. The days of asking an individual what their politics are before you decide you are going to help them as a constituent is out the window. That was out the window and should have been out the window 50 years ago. (Interruptions)

[4:45 p.m.]

Yes, and politicians of all political stripes still do it and they should not do it. They should not do it. So I am not going to be an apologist for one Party or the other because all of them are guilty. All of them are guilty, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption) Well, except for the socialists. They still believe that Elvis is in the backroom, you know, they are so self-righteous and right on everything on the floor of the Legislature, but never mind the rabbit tracks.

I will be fair-minded, I think I am being fair-minded by saying we are all guilty as representatives of these Parties, but if I can leave one message, Mr. Speaker, for this government and this Premier, maybe a few points, stop listening to the right-wingers from central and western Canada because it doesn't apply. That is not the mosaic of the people, the culture and the history of Nova Scotia. Do as we did in 1998. We negotiated our way out with the nurses. Were they upset? You are darn right they were upset. Were they irresponsible? No.

They exercised their democratic right within the confines of their organized unit, Mr. Speaker, and again I would advise the Premier to take control of his ship, be the captain. Don't let it turn into a form of demagoguery because that seems to be the message that is coming out. He is not in control of the ship. You have certain senior Cabinet Ministers who are so full of their own self that they want to position themselves for maybe two or three years down the road just in case public opinion doesn't turn around. (Interruption) You are an optimist. If public opinion doesn't turn around, like it didn't turn around for a former Premier, Premier Savage, then they will say, oh, well, we are going to move in and that is what they are doing. They are using the Tory backbenchers as pawns in their little game and

[Page 5517]

they are flunkies enough to take the bait. They are flunkies enough to take the bait while their constituents are not getting the true representations that Joseph Howe so proudly stood and fought for.

Mr. Speaker, I realize my time is coming to a close. I only wish that I could continue, but I know the rules of second reading. Thank you very kindly. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, once again I rise, but before I rise to speak on this bill, there are some introductions in the gallery. The introductions were handed to me some time ago so they may have left, but I want them to be recorded in the record anyway. I will introduce those introductions and many of them are here watching the outrageous demonstration of abuse of power by a political government in the Province of Nova Scotia in some time.

The names of those individuals, Mr. Speaker, are Heather MacIntosh, a home care worker from Glace Bay. She is opposed to Bill No. 68 taking away her democratic rights. I will ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House after I have completed. Cathy Gilbert, a home care worker in Glace Bay, "We are strongly opposed to Bill No. 68." Leslie O'Connell, an LPN in long-term care at the home for care in the Cape Breton constituency, and that home for special care I guess is Braemore, 25 years in health care and has been a health care worker in Sydney and is opposed to Bill No. 68. Sadie MacIsaac from Sydney, Celine Chipman from Sydney, Charmaine Saccary from Sydney, a health care worker and in nursing home care, asking for fairness to all and retain the collective bargaining rights, no strike, no vote. Fair wages, fair benefits as government deems for itself, but not for workers. The other introductions are Wendy Crocker, an LPN from Braemore Home, a Home for Special Care in Cape Breton; and Patricia Collins, an RN at the University College of Cape Breton.

Mr. Speaker, if those members are present in the public gallery, then I would hope that they would rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member allow for an introduction?

MR. PYE: Sure.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West on an introduction.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for Dartmouth North for allowing me to make this introduction. I would like to introduce to you and through you to all members of the House two very distinguished Nova Scotians who are from my backyard, from industrial Cape Breton. In the west gallery we have, if they would

[Page 5518]

please rise as I introduce them, Mr. Dale Keefe, who is an assistant professor of chemistry at the University College of Cape Breton, and also Allen Britten, who is an associate professor of chemistry at the University College of Cape Breton. They came to watch the proceedings vis-a-vis Bill No. 68. I would ask if all members would be kind enough to afford them warm applause. (Applause)

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

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, again on introductions that I just received and, once again, these people are here in the public gallery watching the outrageous abuse of power by a Tory Government in the Province of Nova Scotia and that individual is Diane Grant, a retired teacher from Halifax Citadel, "I have been involved on a personal level with the health care system for 11 years. In 1993 my mother, Norma Arnold, passed away with cancer. Her palliative care worker was exemplary. My father is to this present day and has had a series of serious health problems, John Arnold. He, too, has received excellent care. I support the health care workers 100 per cent." Actually she says 1000 per cent, Mr. Speaker. Ken Morris, an LPN in Cape Breton The Lakes in the nursing care and Judy Terry, an LPN in Cape Breton as well.

I would hope the House would give them a warm welcome. They are in the public gallery as well. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, as I rise for the third time to speak on Bill No. 68, I just want to hearken back that we know that the government has the power to endorse this legislation if it so chooses, but I just want to say the kind of road that this government has taken since it has entered office in 1999. I have stood before this Legislative Assembly and watched what I consider not only Bill No. 68 to be draconian legislation, but I have watched other legislation which puts in the ultimate power of government and government's abuse to the citizens of Nova Scotia. The bill I am talking about is Bill No. 62, as a matter of fact by the Minister of Community Services which, in fact, is a bill that restricted the rights of individuals on social assistance to receive adequate benefit and so on with the new regulations. As a matter of fact, that was the bill from welfare-to-work legislation.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I stood in this House and I watched this government introduce Bill No. 20 which gives this government the ultimate power to turn around and dictate to the Province of Nova Scotia just exactly the kind of direction that this government is going to go. This is a mirror of Bill No. 68. This is a mirror that is reflecting across this Legislative Assembly. Bill No. 20 and all its power is right here before us and it comes through the guise of Bill No. 68.

Bill No. 68, Mr. Speaker, has stood here and it is, in my opinion, the most outrageous abuse of a legislative government in the Province of Nova Scotia and it is supported by the honourable Government House Leader. It is supported by the Minister of Health and the

[Page 5519]

Minister of Justice. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, the other evening the Minister of Justice chastised - can you imagine - the Opposition for standing up here and speaking about Bill No. 68. As a matter of fact, that Minister of Justice, who is here to uphold the justice of the Province of Nova Scotia, is, in fact, the very individual who has taken away the rights of us in government by simply implying that if we didn't adhere to a policy by that minister that we would cause, can you imagine this, the health care workers to lose their time at the Law Amendments Committee. Can you imagine that he would, in fact, cause the Law Amendments Committee to only sit for a one-day period in order to meet his agenda.

Mr. Speaker, can you imagine the Minister of Justice in this House doing that? This government has gone to extremes. They had gone to the point whereby, where I was sitting in this Legislative Assembly, of protecting the House by the very fact that they were even going to introduce security monitors so people would have to cross through a security monitor for the protection of this Legislative Assembly. The kinds of actions and the kind of business that has been going on by that government across this floor makes me wonder what kind of magic water they walk on when they cross that side of the House.

Mr. Speaker, when those government members were in the Opposition, those government members criticized the Liberal Government for the kind of action it was taking. The Minister of Health stood, time and time again, and espoused the virtues of health care. That Minister of Health, when he was on this side of the House, recognized the importance of all those individuals who worked in the health care services in this province. He stood there and he, every single day, almost, during Question Period, that Minister of Health would make sure that he had health care in mind. Now he just happens to be the Minister of Health, and he happens to be sitting on the government side of the floor, and I don't believe for a minute that this kind of bill and this kind of legislation was actually concocted by that minister.

I actually believe that that kind of a bill was done by the Minister of Justice, the honourable Government House Leader, the Minister of Finance and the Premier of this province. Those are the four people who now, Mr. Speaker, have the ultimate power, under this new Bill No. 20, to slide down there in the bunker and make the kind of decisions and have every member of the government side adhere to it and if you don't adhere to it, then out the door you will go. Can you imagine now?

I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, the reason why I entered politics was, in 1993, when the Savage Government was in power, that is the Liberal Government, they imposed a 3 per cent wage reduction for every individual who earned $25,000 a year or more. They proposed a 3 per cent wage reduction. I can tell you that they imposed that, irrespective of the right of individuals to bargain freely for a free collective agreement. I was one of those individuals who had the collective agreement signed and approved and we had taken the cut. I said it must be something to be government when in fact all the legislation that is before

[Page 5520]

government, you can simply, at the whim of your own power, turn around and take it away and that is exactly what the Liberal Government did at that time and day.

Every one of those people who work in the health care services today, every single one of those individuals are now trying to catch up to that 3 per cent cut in their wages, which affected their benefits, as well, and will affect their pension plan in the future. The Liberal Government did not campaign on a promise that they would cause a wage reduction. They campaigned that they would be sympathetic and they would be caring and John Savage just happened to be a family doctor, much like John Hamm. Maybe there has to be something said about doctors being Leaders in this province because you would certainly think that they would have compassion and understanding, but I guess there are times when I think they just bury their compassion and understanding.

[5:00 p.m.]

Certainly, Mr. Speaker, that is the kind of thing that happens. You have to ask yourself, what goes on when people walk across that floor? Is there a particular kind of water? There is a warped mirror there that they actually go through and they absolutely change. The Government House Leader over there, the main culprit for standing up here and introducing that bill, the very guy who will turn around and jump to his feet the very minute somebody sits down so he can catch them out of place, so that he can put this bill forward and throw it through. He will, at every given opportunity, stifle debate on this bill.

Mr. Speaker, that is why we are here on this Opposition side. We are here on this Opposition side so that we at least bring that information to the minister. The Minister of Finance, the Government House Leader and the Minister of Justice, in fact, are the individual architects behind this kind of legislation. They are the official architects and then they impose the gag order on every single member of that Legislature over there to say absolutely nothing.

I can assure you the Premier probably had taken a trip, you know, to that beautiful fishing cottage, owned by David Sobey, down there on a lake and, over a fishing trip, he probably had a nice little glass of milk to make sure it soothes the soul and hardens that spine that he has to have in order to introduce this kind of legislation, make that spine strong and tough so that he can bring forward this kind of legislation. Now he has probably had a few chats with Mr. Sobey and he says, you know, we have to keep your business here in Nova Scotia and the only way to keep your business here in Nova Scotia is to give you $3 million. We will authorize $3 million because that will come back in payroll taxes in order for you to stay here; a homegrown company making billions of dollars and he has to give them $3 million in taxes in order to keep them here.

He sat around and he probably talked about this legislation and he probably said to those boys, and probably there were some boys from downtown here in the legal offices, I am sure that they are very good friends of the Tory Party, who said, we would like to take

[Page 5521]

that fishing trip, too. It is kind of early for salmon, so I would assume that it was trout fishing that they were after down there, and that, in fact, they had a good day discussing this bill and this collective bargaining issue. I know that they said, there is a way in which we will do this. We will bypass the collective bargaining process all together. It is called circumventing legislation. We will circumvent the legislation and we don't care what people will say today, much the same as the Liberal Party.

We know that people will complain and they will say, you know how bad those Tories are and what kind of things they are doing to that piece of legislation out there that doesn't mean a damn to them, but certainly means a lot to Nova Scotians, particularly those people who are organized and he would turn around and he would say, so what? He would say, what is the worse that can happen? The worse that can happen is the same thing that happened when the Liberal Party did this, that there will be a complaint sent to the International Labour Organization. The complaint will go to the International Labour Organization and three or four years after they are out of office, you will get a feedback condemning the government of the day for not doing the right thing in recognizing the labour legislation that is in the province. So what? It will be gone, it will be heard and that will be the final say of that. That is what the Premier of this province and that is what this government is expecting, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, there is a very important issue here and the very important issue is in fact health care and the delivery of health care services. Not that I have been eavesdropping or anything, but I overhead the Premier talking to a nurse who works at Ocean View Manor. She was trying to tell him just exactly the kind of difficulty that she is having there at Ocean View Manor, having to work all this overtime, having no vacation period, not had a wage increase in approximately 10 years and very good friends with the Premier and was trying to encourage the Premier that he ought to withdraw Bill No. 68 because Bill No. 68 does no good and it certainly will interfere in any kind of harmony that there is in that workplace with respect to health care workers. I am just eavesdropping, and I am not supposed to hear these things, and the Premier says, well, you know, you help me get through this period of time and I promise you the next time when the deficit is all in place and the next time we run, there will be significant increases for the nursing profession.

I don't know how far you stretch that, Mr. Speaker. How far do you stretch something like that when the Premier is out there talking to those individuals? The Minister of Health, Jamie Muir, was out there as well and he was talking to individuals, as well. But at least the minister was a bit forthright and said, you know, that is the best I can do. I can't go any further and he stood there and he stood his ground. That isn't enough. That will not suffice for all those individuals who, in fact, are in the health care services throughout this Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 5522]

I saw a list the other day, Mr. Speaker, and I am not going to name some of those, but you can be assured there are nurses right through to the individual chambermaids and individual people who work in the kitchens and so on and all the way through the health care service. I totalled it up and there are some 89 different professions in the health care service. That is a significant number of people in the health care service. I want you to know that everyone of those individuals who work in health care institutions throughout this province play an important contributing role.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

MR. BARRY BARNET: I was wondering, Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member would allow me to do an introduction?

MR. PYE: Certainly.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes.

MR. BARNET: Today, in our east gallery, we have a friend of mine, Mr. Peter Whalen. He comes from the constituency of Halifax Bedford Basin and I would ask members of the House to give him a warm welcome as he is watching the proceedings of this House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome our guest to our gallery today and thank you to the honourable member for Dartmouth North who has the floor.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I just want to say that those are the kind of people who contribute and who contribute to the well-being of those individuals, be it a premature child in an intensive care unit at the IWK Hospital or be it an elderly individual who needs specialized care at a long-term care centre, at Ocean View Manor, and all those people in between who use health institutions. Those very individuals who use health care institutions continue to contribute to the well-being of each and every member of the Province of Nova Scotia. They can be our relatives, they can be our mothers and fathers, they can be our aunts and uncles, sisters or brothers, or whatever the case may be, but they contribute and they contribute strongly.

They also know that there is no bottomless pit in this province and that is thanks to the corruption of the Tory Government and the Liberal Government who have continued to lead and add to the debt of this province. The debt of this province when the Tory Government left power was, and I do agree with the Liberals, $7 billion to $8 billion. The accumulated interest has now driven that up to $11 billion.

[Page 5523]

The government can't simply stand and ask people to continue to take wage cuts while the cost of living continues to escalate. Mr. Speaker, the cost of living in this province right now, according to just a couple of weeks ago, was 3.1 per cent.

I don't care how you measure it, if you give someone a 2 per cent, 2 per cent, 2 per cent wage increase, it doesn't even meet the demands of the cost of living, let alone the catch-up they had to do in approximately a 10 year period. There is absolutely no possible way. You don't have to be involved in Economics 101 to understand that kind of numbering system.

The Minister of Finance can turn around and say that he has a formidable task of bringing this government house in order. That Minister of Finance was very much aware of that when he sat on this side of the House. He read exactly the same budget books that I read. That Minister of Finance was very much aware of that. When, in fact, they campaigned on the Tory blue book they made no mention about cutting nurses' wages or nurses' salaries or anything. (Interruptions) Or even giving them insignificant increases and bringing the up with respect to the cost of living. The government didn't campaign on that. As a matter of fact, the government campaigned on a Tory blue book called, "Strong Leadership .... a clear course." That is what they campaigned on - the promise to be open, transparent and consultative and they were going to consult with Nova Scotians on basically every single decision that they would make. (Interruptions)

Oh, I don't know how many Nova Scotians they asked in Bill No. 68, but they actually asked none.

AN HON. MEMBER: Four of them. The Minister of Finance, the Minister of . . .

MR. PYE: Well, thank you very much. That is right. The boys down in the bunker.

AN HON. MEMBER: The Minister of Finance is the worst one.

MR. PYE: Absolutely. But I would say also the Minister of Justice falls close in line.

However, the Minister of Justice . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Don't forget the Government House Leader.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, if I can and if I may, I just want to tell you that this government that said it was going to be open and transparent and that, in fact, it believed in the delivery of health care as its number one priority, as a matter of fact, it talks about health care on the opening page, Page 3 in the platform. Actually, on Page 6 in the platform - I just simply want to read this because I think it is important to be enshrined in the Hansard. I don't know how many times one can say this, but it ought to be enshrined in the Hansard forever and a day and hopefully it will be.

[Page 5524]

I just want to go where it says, what it says about, in the preamble. I just want to read the preamble and the preamble says, "During the six years the Liberals were in office, Nova Scotians watched health services steadily decline as costs increased sharply. Doctors left, nurses were let go, the number of hospital beds cut by 30 per cent, the number of ambulances cut, insured services cut and a freeze was put on new long-term care beds. Nova Scotians paid $300 million more for a lot less service as a result of Liberal waste and incompetence.".

That is what that government said about the Liberals. And, I want to continue, "Some examples: Less than four years ago, the Liberals offered a $20 million incentive package for nurses and other health care providers to leave. Today, we need a significant investment to get them back." Now, that is what he said, ". . . we need a significant investment to get them back." The government knew very well what the finances of this province were, yet, it was prepared to commit a significant investment in making sure that they kept the people in the health care services, particularly the nurses.

I want to go to another section which is most recent and that was the highlights from the Speech from the Throne. It said, "The government is committed to ensuring that Nova Scotians have a reliable quality health care well into the future. Solid information, community involvement, support for health care professionals, a greater focus on preventing diseases and promoting wellness as a key of making this possible.". And it says, "Community involvement."

I wonder where the community involvement was in Bill No. 68. Where was the community involvement in Bill No. 68? Did they go out there and talk to those nine individual caregivers and professionals that are in those health care units of all those health authorities across this province; some nine district health authorities across this province? Did they go out there and talk to those individuals? My guess is, no they did not. As a matter of fact, they did not. If you want to go to Bill No. 68, it is too bad the member for Cape Breton North isn't here, oh, I am sorry, I apologize, I am not supposed to mention that, Mr. Speaker, I apologize, it is unfortunate. It is too bad, because there was a Sunday meeting most recently, last Sunday.

[5:15 p.m.]

He was supposed to meet with the nurses in North Sydney. As a matter of fact, I want to read this, because I think it is important to read. (Interruptions) No, there actually was a meeting on Sunday and the Cape Breton nurses local requested a meeting with him. He agreed to meet Sunday evening in North Sydney on the following terms - now, can you imagine, on his terms. This is a government that is supposed to be open, transparent and consultative - get a load of this, here are the terms that he is going to meet with them on, they would only send 20 people, all 20 would be from Cape Breton North, and he would meet with them for one hour. Can you imagine?

[Page 5525]

The meeting was set for 5:00 p.m. He didn't arrive until 6:05 p.m., but did give them an hour. He said that he would have an open mind, but came with a closed point of view, obviously. They asked him outright if every single resident of Cape Breton North was against the bill, would he still vote for it? He said, yes, and went on to defend the bill on a couple of fronts, all of which were refuted. Several nurses were particularly tough on him about whether he was their elected representative or John Hamm's mouthpiece. (Interruptions) He left ruffled, as they were relentless on his questioning. He simply left ruffled. Can you imagine? (Interruptions) Can't take the heat, can't stand.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South has absolutely said, Mr. Premier - if I can put this across the floor - don't bother putting him in the Cabinet. He is a one-term MLA, actually a half-a-term MLA. It is absolutely factual, and if you don't believe that all you have to do is look across this floor to the Third Party and you will simply see what happens when you don't carry out your mandate. If you don't carry out your mandate, you are gone. You can talk about having spine, you can talk about having backbone, you can certainly talk about being tough but, at the end of the day, having all that said and done, the bottom line is the voters come out and the voters make their decision. The voters will, once again, remember, as they did in 1998, they remembered and they remembered quite clearly.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that they will remember quite clearly, and the Premier can stand there and he can say, yes, I know this is going to cost me votes, looking for that kind of sympathy which only his audience will afford him, but when it comes down to casting the ballot, there is a different audience. Those voters out there will recognize that. Allow me to tell you, far too often the cynicism of politics has crept into the minds of many people. Many people chose not to exercise their franchise, their right to vote. I can tell you that many of those people who sit in this public gallery, and maybe for the very first time, will ensure that everyone gets out there and casts their ballot the next time around. Every one of those people who are involved in the health care services will, in fact, be there.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that that is the kind of message that will be sent out. You can be a member for Colchester South, you can be a member for Pictou West, you can be a member for Cape Breton North, you can be a member for Hants North, you can be a member for Halifax Citadel, it doesn't matter where you are from, the bottom line is that you will be remembered if you don't make your commitment to your constituents. Allow me to tell you, you are only as good as your word.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that there are lies, lies and more lies handed across this floor . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth North knows he is not allowed to use that word in the Legislature. I would ask him to retract that, please.

AN HON. MEMBER: Which one, which lie?

[Page 5526]

MR. SPEAKER: All three. Three times.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, there are some principles on which I choose to stand in this House. Because this debate is so important to me and it is so important for me to stay here, I am going to retract that statement. I am going to retract it simply because I firmly believe that it is a commitment of myself, while I am here, while my political Party is here, to make sure that we stall the actions of Bill No. 68 until such time as the government moves forward and brings its senses together and recognizes just exactly what it is doing.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to say that I just received a nice little note here, and it says the Nova Scotia nurses at Pictou County's two hospitals have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike. (Interruptions) I just want to know, as a former member of the NSGEU, who sits over there, for Pictou East, the former member who is now a retired member who reaps the benefit of a pension plan, is going to stand up there and speak on behalf of his constituents or not. I just wonder if that individual is going to. Brother Jim, will you speak on behalf of your sisters? The answer will be no, I know the answer is going to be no, because he is next door to the Premier. The Premier, that muzzle that the member for Cape Breton North was talking about, the muzzle has been purchased by the Premier and it has been stuck on the member for Pictou East already, so his lips are sealed.

Mr. Speaker, the bottom line is many of these people are benefactors of very professional jobs. The member for Pictou West is a member of the NSTU. The NSTU came out and condemned Bill No. 68, and what is that member going to say? That member over there is going to say absolutely nothing. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, you can certainly stand here and you can certainly say in jest about all those fine individuals over there, every one of those fine individuals, professional individuals with professional backgrounds knows full well that this kind of legislation is draconian legislation, and it ought not to sit on this Legislature floor. It ought not to have even been introduced by the government. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, many of those individuals over there who are teachers, former members of the NSGEU and of the teaching profession, many of their benefits were fought for by unions, every single one of them. Every single one of those individuals got wage increments and a good pension package that, in fact, was funded by the taxpayers of this Province of Nova Scotia to enhance the teachers' benefit package which was in debt at that particular time. Every one of those individuals, now, stand as pyramids of frozen goose dung and say absolutely nothing. (Interruptions) Absolutely nothing. They stand there and say absolutely nothing. Can you imagine?

They reap the rewards of many years of hard work and many years of professional people representing them on their behalf, and recognizing the potential of the Trade Union Act and the Collective Bargaining Act and standing up for the rights. I remember when the

[Page 5527]

teachers protested the Liberals and everyone else. I remember when they did that, and I remember when they stood their ground.

AN HON. MEMBER: I was there, Jerry.

MR. PYE: I can remember, Mr. Speaker, when, in fact, the teachers came out in droves to support the Liberals at that particular time of the 1993 election campaign, but there wasn't one to be found in 1998, they all disappeared. It will happen again. If everyone thinks they are immune to this kind of a process, then they ought to turn that warped mirror around, reflect and walk back across this floor to remember where you were.

AN HON. MEMBER: Brother Jim should know that.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, that is what is significant, and that is exactly what is important here. To imply or to think that we don't understand economics, and to imply or to think that we don't (Interruptions) Every day I stand in this (Interruptions) Every day, in this Legislative Assembly, that Party over there has to be constantly reminded that they are now the Third Party and we are the Official Opposition, and maybe we will eventually be there. The bottom line is that they have difficulty accepting the consequences of what they did from 1993 to 1998.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the consequences of what the Tory Government has done from 1999 to the year 2003, if they continue, will be met at the polls. I can tell you that every one of those professionals who work in the health care system will, in fact, make note of that very clearly and there will be a lot of memories like elephants and they will come in like elephants in a herd on that particular day, on election day, to make sure that that message is loud and clear. I am simply amazed and astonished that some people's profession, who are in the police services, who understand the rights of people, the right to protect individuals rights, the right to uphold the law, knows that this is an absolute violation of the law and absolutely say nothing. It is beyond me how people can actually do that. It is no wonder, once again, that we talk about the cynicism in politics and the fact that the voter turnout and the support was some 67 per cent, less than the 70 per cent, in the 1999 election campaign. The Premier knows that. We all know that. Yet, the Premier is bent on carrying out an election promise which nobody wants.

I want to go back to a Corporate Research poll that was done on March 2001. That corporate research poll, Mr. Premier, through you, Mr. Speaker, said that 44 per cent of Nova Scotians want something done with their health care services. They wanted more money put in or at least they wanted a better health care service delivery. Following that, was education, which was the next best and they wanted a quality education in this province. As the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid said here earlier, when I came in late and I was listening to the honourable member speak, he had mentioned about the value that the corporate industry recognizes communities and provinces for. If you don't have those

[Page 5528]

infrastructures and if you don't have those professionals within your community, you are unlikely to attract the kind of quality businesses that you want to be here in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Constantly, Mr. Speaker, that is the kind of thing that this government said that its agenda would be. The Minister of Economic Development said that that was his agenda. He said that he was going to move forward. I don't know where we are going at this very minute, but that Minister of Economic Development has not made a mention of the good news here within the last two or three weeks. I can assure you that that Minister of Economic Development should be standing up here once a month, at least, making a good-news announcement in this province.

We say that we can't afford to pay our nurses. We say that we can't afford to pay them, but you know the reason why we can't afford to pay them, Mr. Speaker? It is simply because the government has this agenda of a tax cut in the year 2003, in year three of their platform. They have a 10 per cent tax cut for Nova Scotians is what they say and that 10 per cent tax cut will benefit Nova Scotians. But let me tell you, the Corporate Research polls indicated that only 9 per cent of Nova Scotians wanted a 10 per cent tax cut. They would rather have that money put into education and health care. If, in fact, the Economic Development office was working properly and we were reaching the benefits of the offshore oil development and so on, then I can assure you that we would have the dollars and we can have the dollars. Despite an $11 billion debt in this province, we do have the dollars to address those very issues.

Mr. Speaker, it is a matter of priorities, it is a matter of going out there and talking to Nova Scotians and asking Nova Scotians what their priorities are. When the bill came in here and there was an amendment to the bill for a six months' hoist, I supported that amendment for the six months' hoist because it would have given the Premier and the members of his government the opportunity to consult with Nova Scotians, to speak to Nova Scotians about what they believe is the important direction that this government ought to go.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, when that Bill No. 68 came back again, that it be referred to the Human Resources Committee, I stood there and I supported that bill being referred to the Human Resources Committee. The reason why I felt that bill should be referred to the Human Resources Committee is because I firmly believed that this government would in fact take the Human Resources Committee on a road show to all those nine district health authorities and that in those district health authorities, that that Human Resources Committee would be there and it would be open, it would be transparent and it would be consultative with Nova Scotians, both in the health care profession and all those people who are in the health care profession, as well as Nova Scotians. I mean, talk to all Nova Scotians, not only the government's friends and not only the people the government continuously consult with, but

[Page 5529]

to consult with all Nova Scotians and all Nova Scotians in this province, I can assure you, would attest that they want an excellent health care service.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, I happen to have been today and I happen to have, this afternoon, taken a trip to the Dartmouth General Hospital because they were there doing a demonstration, as a matter of fact, handing out leaflets and presenting their particular point of view and it was significantly important that they be heard. They were certainly receiving an overwhelming reception by the general public that was going by while I was there. They were certainly receiving a tremendous amount of support. People were coming up to them and they were talking to them and they were telling them, we are on your side. There were people who were driving by and actually pulled over and stop and continued to honk all the period of time that they were there.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know where the Premier, the Government House Leader, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health were coming from when they introduced this bill. This bill has been loud and it has been clear and it has been demonstrated that Nova Scotians certainly do not support the government introducing this bill. Maybe there is another agenda around here and I think that that agenda is trying to address a serious problem that may have been incurred by this government from a previous government, but to do it in a short period of time, in a four year period, you cannot.

Mr. Speaker, the economics of Nova Scotia, with a population of less than 1 million Nova Scotians, does not allow you, does not, I say, allow you to try to get rid of a $750 million deficit, plus $11 billion debt in four years or not even to touch the base of an $11 billion debt in four years. It does not allow you to do that. The hardship that is placed on Nova Scotians as a result of that kind of legislation is just simply far too much to bear.

Mr. Speaker, when I stand in this Legislature and I know that the government is very much aware that the Voluntary Planning Report said that 55 per cent of Nova Scotians earn an income of $20,000 a year or less. That is what the Voluntary Planning Report said, $20,000 a year or less. Now, I don't know how you match the numbers and I don't know how you do it, but the minister and the Premier know very well that all that hardship imposed by trying to get rid of the deficit in a four year period, and to pay on the debt in the four year period and to start paying on that debt, cannot happen unless his government takes very strong action in bringing industry and development into this province. Even though we have natural gas off the province, Nova Scotians will not receive the benefit of that for some time to come.

Those were decisions that were made, not necessarily by that government over there, but that government is now in power and has the opportunity to rewrite or to renegotiate some of those contracts to make sure that Nova Scotians are the benefactor of that. But, you know, Mr. Speaker, they won't be here long enough because of the kind of legislation that they are introducing. They can talk about a government who has stood in this House and

[Page 5530]

introduced, in its term in office, more legislation than any government in history or the amendments to legislation than any government in history. They can stand here and they can say that. But you know, it is not a matter of legislation, it is a matter of having the right legislation. It is a matter of making sure that the legislation that is here protects the rights of individuals, protects the rights of citizens and that, in fact, that legislation recognizes that everyone - I don't care, Mr. Speaker, if that legislation happens to be in policing services, if it happens to be in the Registry of Motor Vehicles, if it happens to be john/prostitution legislation, whatever the case may be - the legislation has to be good legislation. It has to be legislation that will stand the test of time. It has to be legislation that will work. We can stand here and we can talk all we want, but if, in fact, we turn around and we introduce this kind of legislation, we have to say that there is something wrong, something absolutely wrong.

Mr. Speaker, I want to go to some individuals who have sent me off some letters. I promised those individuals that I would make sure that these letters got in Hansard. I think that now is about the appropriate time to make sure that these letters get in Hansard and I will table these letters, as well. Since I only have approximately 12 minutes left, I think it is important that I read all these first and then I will pass them through. But I think it is important that they get in Hansard for posterity purposes.

I just want to read it and it says,

"To whom it may concern.

I believe it is about time the public of Nova Scotia knew the facts about the nurses of this province and not just the select information that they are being told by this Government.

I have been working as a Registered Nurse for over twenty years and am at the top of the pay scale. Two years ago, I moved to Nova Scotia from Newfoundland. The hourly rate of pay for a nurse was more here but what I did not know at the time was that the benefit package for nurses in this province was and is much less.

In Nova Scotia, nurses receive fifteen vacation days per year starting out compared to the twenty in Newfoundland and twenty after your first year of work in Alberta. The same holds true for sick leave with the nurses here getting five less days per year, and the sick leave days have to cover personal and family illness whereas in other provinces family illness or emergency days are separate and vary from three to four per year.

[Page 5531]

Over this past year, I have seen many nurses leave the unit where I work to take jobs elsewhere in Canada and the USA. Since the beginning this year alone, eleven nurses on the unit where I work have resigned to take such positions. This represents over 10% of the staff.

Despite the fact that I like living here and enjoy my work, I am also in the process of finalizing a move to Alberta. When I moved here in 1999, I may have gained a small increase in the hourly salary but I lost much more and this Government saying that we will be the highest paid in Atlantic Canada is deceiving the public. While it may be true that the hourly rate may be slightly higher, if one took into consideration that we are losing thirteen paid leave days per year then the yearly pay does not reflect this.

At this time, there is a North American wide shortage of nurses. Unless this Government tries to keep what nurses now work in this province along with recruiting nurses to replace those who have moved, our health care system is in grave danger. The nurses that are now leaving are not only the new inexperienced graduates but also the veteran nurses who have years of experience and expertise.

The nurses of this province deserve to be treated with the same amount of respect that they give their patients every day and this means negotiating a contract that is not an insult but rather a true attempt to try to avert a crisis and maintain an adequate level of care. Anything less than that will only force more nurses to leave."

That is signed by Marilyn Crummey.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are going to table that, are you?

MR. PYE: Oh yes, I will be tabling every one of these and I told the Speaker that I will be tabling them all at one time.

Mr. Speaker, again:

"To whom it may concern:

I graduated from the school of nursing at the old Halifax Infirmary 30 years ago. My scope of practice has gone from making beds and giving bed baths to very specialized training in IMCU, where my main focus is reading and interpreting monitors, blood work, and other duties.

[Page 5532]

A nurse is not a nurse anymore. We are all highly trained for the area we work in.

Since the closure of the hospital programs, you have to go to Dalhousie University to become a nurse. That means that after four years and $60,000 of student loans later, you would hope you would have a job here in Nova Scotia. Not so. You will be lucky if you can get a casual job. These nurses aren't staying here. You cannot blame them if they are lured away to the United States or Western Canada by signing bonus paid moving expenses and most times start out salaries higher than what I make after 30 years. I am 51 years old and can't do this forever. Someone has to replace me. I work my regular shifts and then called on my days off to cover sick calls, please give us a fair raise so we can keep these men and women here. Nova Scotians want and deserve the best health care possible." That is from Elaine, and she is an RN in Halifax.

Mr. Speaker, again:

"To whom it may concern:

As a health professional, I am ashamed to say that I considered voting for our so-called government now in office. As a nurse, I am appalled and angered that our Health Minister has the audacity to make a statement such as, one of the questions we really have to ask is, will the workers provide emergency care? This is nothing more than a scare tactic and an attempt to deface nursing in the eyes of the public.

As a Canadian, I am disgusted that we, as nurses, are denied our legal right to strike, and then we are threatened that if we don't choose to stand up for ourselves, we will "get what we deserve". Is this democracy or dictatorship? What type of precedent does this set for our future, that we can be ordered to work, ordered to accept a contract that Mr. Hamm and Mr. Muir think we deserve.

In the time of nursing shortages and an already deteriorating health care system, our government is driving our health care professionals away, thus creating a more desperate situation. Yes, Mr. Muir, you are right to say Nova Scotia is a nice place to live. Why is it then that you and your government seem to be doing all things possible to change that." That is from Melanie Edwards, RN.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to get in a couple more, smaller ones; I think I should, before my time expires.

[Page 5533]

"To whom it may concern:

I am a Critical Care Nurse at Colchester Regional Hospital. I am very upset with the proposed bill # 68, which will take away the rights of health care workers.

I have worked 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 (i.e.: wages, education, vacations, etc., etc.) It is such a disappointment that my own government does not know this.

It is because of your treatment of nurses that I feel I am being forced to once again seek employment in the United States.

I will be interested in seeing just what the Nova Scotia government will do when we Canadian nurses leave the province in great numbers. Explain this to the public that you are so concerned about!!!

Sincerely,

Joanne Keating."

Mr. Speaker, again:

"To whom it may concern:

I have been nursing for forty-one years and for the first time I fear for the continuation of care for the people of Nova Scotia if bill 68 is passed.

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 the United States and other parts of Canada.

We are a dying profession. It should be a big mandate of the government to retain the nurses we presently have instead of forcing them to choose to go elsewhere. How can we feel respectful of our profession when the government demeans us so? Hopefully you won't require our services!

Sincerely,

Mora Levoie."

[Page 5534]

Mr. Speaker, again:

[5:45 p.m.]

"To whom it may concern:

I am an Emergency Nurse at Colchester Regional Hospital. I am very disappointed at the way the Nova Scotia government is treating the health care workers.

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.

I still have many Canadian co-workers in the United States and cannot give them any positive reason to return to this province. Because of this proposed bill I too am currently seeking employment again in the United States for myself and am sure many more will follow." That is from Sonya Salter.

Mr. Speaker, I know that I don't have time to finish all of these, and for those individuals who I have not gotten on record, I do apologize. I just want to tell you that, in fact, these letters can be tabled. It is quite significant. As the member for Halifax Fairview stated the other day, in the year 2000, of the 79 nurses who graduated from Dalhousie University only 6 stayed in the Province of Nova Scotia. That sends a very loud and clear message. That should send a very strong and clear message. I can tell you that that can be checked, it can be verified and it can be cleared.

Again, as I was eavesdropping on the Premier's conversation with the nurse from Ocean View Manor, he said, bear with us and we will cover this over time. I can assure you that you will reap the rewards in your profession after this period of time has elapsed. She said, well, Mr. Premier, by that time, we will be so far behind, we have already struggled for 10 years. She said, Mr. Premier, not only that, then again, there will be so much to catch up on. There will be so much need to provide me with a reasonable wage package. She said, I am there, not even knowing what my vacation time is, and simply can't take a vacation because there are so many people in that long-term care facility who need my help.

Mr. Speaker, she was a dedicated nurse, and the Premier knows her quite well and the Premier knows her husband as well, quite well. I don't have to go much farther than that. The Premier had that conversation, and he knew that this Bill No. 68 was hurting her heart and soul. It was digging into that nurse in a manner where she knew she had lost the respect of her profession by a family doctor, a family doctor who visits hospitals, by a family doctor

[Page 5535]

who has seen patient care and the need for patient care to be improved in this province. That nurse stood there and she talked to the Premier of this province, who has the ultimate power over any decision of Cabinet, that Premier who has the ultimate power to sway his decision.

Again, as I have said, while I conclude, that nice cold glass of milk, down there at that fishing cottage of David Sobey's gave that Premier the kind of stiff backbone that he needs. I can assure that Premier he will not suffer from osteoporosis, that is a guarantee, that is a given - you know that and I know that as well - because of all that drinking of cold milk while he is down there making deals with big business who really don't need to have deals cut, particularly when they are homegrown Nova Scotian businesses.

I would want that Premier to recognize that he has an obligation to all Nova Scotians here in this province. Thank you very much.

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

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak on Bill No. 68, even if it is on a closure motion brought in by the Government House Leader. That is what this government would like, they would like this bill to go away, at least so they could deal with it at the Cabinet level. That is really what this bill is written for, it is written for the actions of the Cabinet. This government, in my opinion, has no idea of what they really want to do, they don't know how to do it, they don't know how to go about it, and now they have brought a bill here, and they don't know what to do with it, probably.

Already the Premier is saying, well, if there is a collective agreement derived at in three main areas, then they would hold back on the bill. So are they hoping that somebody is going to come along and rescue them out of this path that they have gone down, this journey that they have taken, that we predicted on day one when we saw this bill being brought into the Red Room and introduced? When we asked the lawyer who was with them if this was constitutional, she said, well, it is in the bill.

So this hasn't changed, Mr. Speaker. After 24 hours, a couple of days of debate, it still hasn't changed. This bill is most likely not constitutional. Now, whether there is time to go to the courts, well, the main part that is not constitutional is that you can't go to the courts to question the Cabinet's decision when they make that order to overrule the collective agreements, but this province is dictating to the Supreme Court of Canada and Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, which is really under federal jurisdiction, what they can and cannot do. So that is the guts and the arrogance of this government, Mr. Speaker, that they would even tread in those areas of which they have no right and they have no jurisdiction. It is not fair for them to even think of that.

[Page 5536]

So the whole issue of definition of collective agreement, there is a definition of collective agreement under the Trade Union Act, but if you look at it under the order that the Cabinet would give to do away with those collective agreements, they are totally different. So, no wonder this bill wants to bring in measures that would change the definition. If you go through the definition section of a bill, which often you tend to gloss over, anyone interested, go back and look at the definitions there, but this whole definition of a collective agreement, it really means that there are two people, an authorized group, an authorized certified union - which these unions are - and they would have authorized persons, agents, acting on behalf of the employees which in this particular bill is the health care services' workers in this province.

They are certified. So they are a legitimate group. They are certified. They are authorized to come forward and be signatories on a collective agreement, but the order is going to disband all of that, Mr. Speaker. So the people of Nova Scotia are looking at this bill, and think if you listen to most of the reports and speak to your friends and neighbours, they are concerned about the back-to-work legislation, the taking away of the right to strike, and that is a very important part of this bill. This is quite legitimate that they would be concerned.

If they knew and could understand the second and the third issues here that this bill has done, that is why I ask, does this government know what it is doing? Does it understand what it set out to do and now that it is there, really, how is it going to handle this bill? I mean how are you going to convince a trade union movement across this country that this is a fair and a just piece of legislation. That is why people are interested right across this country from one end to the other as to what this province is doing. Legislation that is a little bit similar, like in New Brunswick, is nothing like this. I mean they are amending some measures within that Act, but nothing like this, Mr. Speaker.

I mentioned the courts and this whole jurisdiction, Clause 13 that is there. I know we're speaking more on the principle of the bill, but it is basically taking away basic rights and we are in the oldest Legislature in Canada and this is a very symbolic building. Nova Scotians who come to this place and our visitors are touched and they are moved by this place because they know they are in a special place. This place has a presence. It has the spirit of Joseph Howe and all of those other people, the people who are lining the walls and, yes, Wayne Adams, the first elected Black person.

If you look around the world today, Mr. Speaker, and you see those countries that are still in an uproar and basically that is what they're fighting for. They are fighting for human rights and this legislation is taking it away. It is taking away their whole definition of collective agreements and those basic definitions and they hold that special within that Act that the Cabinet, by regulations, will be able to change the definition of who is impacted by this Act or what they will bring in as a carbon copy, maybe for the teachers and other persons affected by that.

[Page 5537]

So, Mr. Speaker, we have the violation of a certified bargaining unit, authorized agents that are certified under the Labour Department, that their rights are being thrown out the window. The Trade Union Act does not recognize the collective agreement as defined by Bill No. 68. I don't want to get too complicated. I am not a lawyer and I am not too sure where some of the lawyers who brought this forward got their degrees, that they would do the will, that they would prostitute their professionalism to write legislation like this for this arrogant government that is going to take away the basic rights of health care workers in this province, and that's the problem I have in addressing this particular issue today. As I mentioned, this bill also can determine who by definition this bill applies to.

Mr. Speaker, I just got a notice on my desk that as a member of the Law Amendments Committee, there will be a meeting on June 20th, that's tomorrow, at 8:00 a.m. That is in the Red Chamber where Bill No. 68 will be considered. It doesn't say for how long and that is the concern because we have a letter from the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, signed by Rick Clarke, president of that federation. He says to the Premier he is deeply concerned. This is a copy of a letter to Honourable Michael Baker, Minister of Justice, or some are saying minister of injustice, a Q.C. given to himself (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth East is getting lots of help.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East has the floor. (Interruptions)

DR. SMITH: I'm sure if he had a sense of justice he would tkae it back and then if it was good - it was good for a period of time, which he might find very difficult, certainly as long as Bill No. 68 is before us, then we could restore it. So we could say restored by the Legislature.

But, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Clarke is deeply concerned about his comments, the Minister of Justice, regarding the length of time that would be available for public presentations on Bill No. 68 to the Law Amendments Committee. Another paragraph: All across the province, nurses, other health care providers, other public sector workers, trade unionists and the public at large have serious misgivings about this legislation and should be heard by their government. The emphasis is on "their". He says: I, therefore, strongly urge you to reassure Nova Scotians that there will be sufficient time allocated for each and every person, or organization, that is on the list to speak to the committee about Bill No. 68."

You can be sure, Mr. Speaker, that whatever the law is interpreted that governs the Law Amendments Committee and it is our understanding, as a caucus on this side of the House, that the rules of the Law Amendments Committee are the same as rules in the House and we tend to look at that and protect the rights of Nova Scotians to come to this special place to ensure that their basic rights are upheld and not taken away by Bill No. 68.

[Page 5538]

Just in closing before the hour, Mr. Speaker, I want to say I was asked just to mention a letter from Sandra Faltenhine, and I would try to summarize the letter. She is a nurse. She is a grandmother and she is concerned about this government's ignorance and arrogance, it is atrocious, and she worked for the honourable member for one of the local Halifax ridings. She goes on to say: I rue that day now. I rue that day. They have no shame, but they have the power. We know this. This government knows that. They are sitting there smugly and they are a majority government.

So I am proud to say that the atmosphere in the hospitals - she took her husband who has an illness and she is proud to report to the Legislature today - is warm and friendly and as professional as usual. So that is a real concern and there is more there, Mr. Speaker, but I know that we have reached the hour where the late debate will take place and so I would take my place and resume it after 6:30 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We have reached the moment of interruption. The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Lunenburg West.

[Therefore be it resolved that when it comes to health care, the greatest threat to public safety is the Nova Scotia oligarchy represented by the Premier, the Government House Leader, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Justice, or the lack thereof.]

[6:00 p.m.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - CARE: THREAT - N.S. OLIGARCHY

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I guess I got the long straw again this evening. The adjournment debate resolution says:

"Therefore be it resolved that when it comes to health care, the greatest threat to public safety is the Nova Scotia oligarchy represented by the Premier, the Government House Leader, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Justice, or the lack thereof."

[Page 5539]

The Chambers dictionary that I checked just for the definition of oligarchy, the definition is government by a small exclusive class or a small body of men who have the supreme power of a state in their hands. That is why it is important that we debate this particular resolution this evening, Mr. Speaker, at this time that we are debating Bill No. 68, because I think they go very much in tandem and complement each other.

This government, Mr. Speaker, is the most backward dictatorial government in the history of Nova Scotia. The latest bill before the House is the grand finale in a series of bills designed to take power away from Nova Scotians and place it in the hands of the Cabinet and a few trusted ministers of the Premier, like the Minister of Health, the Minister of Finance, the Government House Leader and the minister of injustice. Never before has a more draconian series of legislative measures been forced on the people of Nova Scotia, including the Government Restructuring (2001) Act that we have seen and the paramedics bill. Those are two that we would like to add along with Bill No. 68. So there is a trend.

Bill No. 68 just didn't arrive here by accident. This is a government that has had almost two years now to test the waters and to see what they can get away with and they are getting more aggressive and more push to them in bringing forward legislation that can take away the rights of Nova Scotians and take away the rights of people who they have to do business with, because in this province and in this country we have health care workers who are closely linked with the government and that is by the nature of our Medicare and we are proud of that Medicare across the country.

So these people are married with this government, if you will, and the Cabinet, particularly under Bill No. 68, would have the final control over those persons within the health care system because they would not only control the purse strings, but they would also control what any collective agreement would look like. Even though those people and those workers would have authorized agents to work with them within the certification of the union structure, this government subverts that, Mr. Speaker, and that is why we are debating this resolution here this evening in what we call the late show.

No government in Canada has brought forth legislation that is so anti-worker as this government has done here in our province and another black eye for the government and for the people of Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, that is a terrible shame. For example, currently in Ontario, Premier Mike Harris is under fire for legislation affecting ambulance workers where the government unilaterally appoints an arbitrator. Does that sound familiar? (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, I think I can hear the Wal-Mart greeter. Is he outside looking in the window? Is he out with his friends on the street or what?

Mr. Speaker, this unilaterally appointing of an arbitrator by Mike Harris in Ontario differs from the accepted method of both sides submitting a list and coming to a mutual agreement. That is obvious, but at least Mike Harris in Ontario provides for arbitration, albeit

[Page 5540]

flawed, and the Premier and his group make Mike Harris look like a progressive social democrat by what is happening here in Nova Scotia.

This government is not about good government or doing what is best for Nova Scotians. That is not their interest, Mr. Speaker. This government is about trampling the rights and governing for the sake of a few, not the many, not the people of Nova Scotia. The policies of this government are taking away the rights of Nova Scotians one group at a time over and over again and they're doing it through legislation, the Orders in Council, the regulations passed by this Cabinet, the selected few, as Chambers said in his definition of oligarchy, a small body of men who have the supreme power of a state in their hands. The policies of this government are taking away the rights of Nova Scotians one group at a time and they're repeating it and they are getting more arrogant and more sure of their actions.

We should have known when one of the first acts of this government was to take away $2.2 million from charities. That shocked most of us. We couldn't believe that was happening and when a government stoops that low, there is no telling where that might lead, Mr. Speaker. First take from charities and then kill the collective bargaining process. What next? Whose rights will this government trample next?

Mr. Speaker, I close with a poem from the Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoller. Niemoller was one of the few who opposed oppression in Germany before World War II. For those of you who may not be familiar with Martin Niemoller, he was arrested for malicious attacks against the state and spent seven years in concentration camps. He understood all too well through his experience that everyone must speak up when someone's rights are being violated or whenever there is an injustice. I urge the backbench of the Tory Party to listen closely to the poem that I am about to read, especially people like the member for Kings North, who is probably familiar with this poem. He is a man who reads a great deal and he spends some time, I am sure, thinking deep thoughts. That member, as some others, are very conscientious and I hope he will listen to his conscience and not to the Tory line. Niemoller wrote and I quote:

"They first came for the Communists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

[Page 5541]

Then they came for me -- and by that time no one was left to speak up."

Mr. Speaker, there are people outside on the street tonight who we can hear through the open windows who are speaking up for health care workers in this province. Let their voices be heard before it is too late, that there will be no one to speak for the health care workers and when you and I go to that hospital, or we go to that health facility, and we need treatment, whether it is in drug addiction, or it is in mental health, or it is to have a gallbladder out, or a heart repair, that there will be someone there for us and for all Nova Scotians. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the privilege of being part of tonight's late debate although after having only three hours of sleep in the last 48 hours, I am not sure how logical or compelling my comments will be. However, I am not sure how logical or compelling my comments are when I have the regular amount of sleep that I need anyway.

Behind the resolution which is before us this evening, Mr. Speaker, is the sentiment which many nurses have expressed to me, that they have been unfairly depicted as not being concerned about the public safety of Nova Scotians in the event of a strike and I, for one, can only say that for myself I have never doubted that acute health care workers would do everything they could to ensure the public health safety of Nova Scotians. Indeed, I know from my work as a clergy member that they have the utmost concern, nurses, technologists, doctors, an unfailing commitment for our public health and safety.

So I agree that the threat to public safety doesn't come from the acute health care workers, but I do not agree that it is fair to claim that it comes from the front benches of this government. Machiavellian motives and conspiracy theories make easy targets, Mr. Speaker, but they make inaccurate ones. Instead, I would suggest that the threat to public safety in the context of the debate that has been going on tonight comes from the possible breakdown of our public health system due to ever-increasing demands, spiralling costs and an unwillingness to change in the future in order to preserve the dreams of the past.

I believe, as I know all the MLAs do, in the public health care system. I believe that it is one of the ways in which Canadians show their distinctiveness and their values of caring and sharing. My son is working in Chicago for the summer. My great worry, of course, was that he would have a health care problem, and the cost of health care treatment in that country is so exorbitant that I implored him to make sure he got proper health care insurance. I am proud of our health care system, a system which was inaugurated in Canada in 1962 by the Baptist-turned-CCF politician, Tommy Douglas.

[Page 5542]

Since that time, Medicare has served our province well and served our country well, but what has happened in the 1980's and 1990's across this country is that there has been this concern because of spiralling costs and increasing demands with how provinces will be able to fund universal, public medical health care. This challenge has prompted provinces right across this country to take a look at reforming their health care systems in order to make sure that they are there for the people as needed.

The most interesting and pertinent one for us, I think, the comparison which works best for us is the comparison of the experience in the Province of Saskatchewan. The reason why this comparison works well for us is that Medicare started, as we all know, as I indicated, in Saskatchewan. It started there back, actually, right after World War I, when a tax power was granted to municipalities in order to tax people in order to pay for the health care system. Then, following that, after World War II, and then, as I stated, in 1962, with Tommy Douglas, the Baptist minister, which prompted John Deifenbaker to commission a report by Hall, which came out two years later, and that prompted the Liberal Prime Minister of the time, Lester Pearson to inaugurate universal health care across Canada, which was finally accomplished as all the provinces adopted it in 1972.

So, I am proud of this, and it has served us well, but we have challenges. We have challenges that appeared in the 1980's and in the 1990's due, as I said, to increased demands, spiralling costs and the need to change a system which has served us well but which needs to be reformed if it is to keep the dreams of the past alive in the future. Saskatchewan, amongst all the provinces, has taken a look at this. I mention Saskatchewan because of its size, it is roughly the same size as us, and because of the financial challenges it faces. It is actually bigger than us, so its $11 billion debt is actually smaller on a per capita basis than our debt happens to be.

What is interesting is that Saskatchewan has done a report, they commissioned Mr. Kenneth Fyke to do a report on health care reform in the Province of Saskatchewan. He did a thorough report covering 100 pages, going throughout that province and taking a look. The report was inaugurated by the then Premier Romanow who is also now doing a report for the federal government. It was handed over to the current Premier Lorne Calvert who has accepted this report, I understand. This was released in 2001, just recently. In this report, Mr. Fyke talks about being in Saskatchewan and feeling for his province amidst the cost the province has to deal with for educational costs, he talks about the universities there, and the strain they are under, having to be funded. He talks about the road system in Saskatchewan, the strain it is under. He talks about the debt-servicing costs, and the strain that puts the province under, and the health care costs.

Mr. Speaker, it sounds so much - when I read Mr. Fyke's comments about Saskatchewan - like the same challenges that we face here in the Province of Nova Scotia. So I read this report with great interest. What is he going to say in light of the similar

[Page 5543]

challenges that we have about reforming and sustaining the public health care system and keeping it a public health care system instead of a two-tier system?

This is what he has to say, very interestingly. On the last page of his report, he states these words, "It is important to remember that health costs are increasing at a rate faster than general government revenue. Should current trends continue, future health expenditures will exceed available resources by a significant and substantial amount. The historical practice of increasing health expenditures at the expense of other important public services is not a feasible, practical or advisable approach." Then he ends, "If Medicare is to remain publicly financed, then the current rate of growth in health spending needs to be reduced." That is what Mr. Fyke said, and that is what Lorne Calvert of the NDP Government has accepted as the report.

[6:15 p.m.]

Like Saskatchewan, we need to do health care differently in the future. We are burning out our health care workers. We need to do it differently. We need to focus, for example, more on prevention than treatment, and we must control our costs. We're not talking, like Mr. Fyke is, with the NDP Government in Saskatchewan, of reducing costs, he is talking of reducing costs. We are talking about a 10.5 per cent increase in this one sector alone, aren't we? We are not talking about reducing costs, we are talking about increasing costs. In fact, in the data which I have seen, the Province of Nova Scotia is going to be putting more of its GDP towards health care expenditures than five other provinces in Canada over the next four years, including the Province of Saskatchewan.

We have to do what Mr. Fyke has said to the NDP Government and have accepted, we must control our costs. If we don't control our costs, if we don't make these changes then we will lose our medical care system. This is the great danger, we will lose our medical care system. We will end up with a two-tier medical system. We will end up with a system in which those who have will have the means to get proper medical care, and those who do not, the rest of us, will be left with the pieces.

This, I suggest, is the great danger to public safety, not some sort of spurious, Machiavellian conspiracy, but this is the great danger to public safety, the breakdown of our medical care system, unless we control those costs. This is what we must not allow to happen. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in late debate today to speak to this motion. I don't know what kind of information the government members are given; I don't know what possible justification they have for doing what they are doing. I think they think they are some kind of knights riding in on white horses to save Medicare.

[Page 5544]

That's not what they are doing. How wrong, how arrogant to think that they know what is better for the health care system than the men and the women who work in that system every single day, who work their guts out, who support their families, their communities, and this government has the nerve to come to this House and pretend that they have the answers, they know what's best.

The one sure thing that will help to solve the current situation in health care is if this government stops believing that it has all the answers and it starts listening. What the member for Kings North didn't say about the situation in Saskatchewan is that after the nurses' strike there in 1999, the government apologized. It apologized profusely, and what it apologized for was not listening to the nurses. It was too busy listening to other things, to other priorities and it did not listen to the people who elected them, the people who they are supposed to serve.

Mr. Speaker, this government would do us all a big favour if they skipped that ugly strike they had in Saskatchewan and went straight from where we are today, to that public apology, that public apology to the health care professionals of all kinds who are saying to this government that they are not being listened to. They are not being listened to and they have just had enough. Those health care professionals will be listened to. Since they know that they cannot be heard in this Legislature, since no member of the government has had the intestinal fortitude to stand up and speak to Bill No. 68, except for the Minister of Justice standing up, making threats about cutting off - at 2:30 in the morning - debate in the Law Amendments Committee, which is the forum for the people. That is the only member of the government who stood up to speak on Bill No. 68.

So now I want the people of Nova Scotia to know that in the streets outside the Legislature, the streets are full of health care professionals and their neighbours and their friends and their fellow unionists and just ordinary Nova Scotians who know that this is the wrong thing to do, Mr. Speaker. When the Law Amendments Committee starts tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. and runs until people are exhausted and under the constant threat of being cut off, whenever the government feels like cutting them off, an unprecedented move in Nova Scotia, not to hear everybody at the Law Amendments Committee who wants to be heard, but to cut off when the government wants to cut off. That is completely unprecedented.

If those people cannot be heard in this Legislature, if they will not be heard in the street, if they cannot be heard in the Law Amendments Committee, they will be heard because they have suffered a decade of disrespect from this government, from the last government and from the government before that, wage freezes, wage rollbacks and now, Mr. Speaker, the Cabinet giving itself the authority to dictate, with a stroke of a pen, the terms of a collective agreement. What a joke. An agreement - that is what the legislation says - the terms of which are dictated by a Cabinet order.

[Page 5545]

You know something, you can't legislate good morale. You can't legislate good working conditions. You can't legislate happy health care professionals and if you try, the dissatisfaction, the anger, the rage, the bitterness is going to come out in other ways, Mr. Speaker, and we can only imagine what ways those are going to be. We have already heard of work-to-rule campaigns. We even have people talking about illegal job action. You can't condone an illegal job action, but you can certainly understand the bitterness, the frustration, the anger and it is all the more so because this government said that they had all the answers.

They campaigned in 1999 and I want the people of Nova Scotia to remember that their number one campaign promise was fixing the health care system and the day after the election, the work started on trying to get the people of Nova Scotia to forget that that was the number one promise of the Conservative Government. That government tried to get people to believe, from day one, that their biggest promise was eliminating the deficit, Mr. Speaker, but it wasn't. If you look at that blue book, the book of shame, you will see that the debt reduction promise is buried somewhere deep in the darkest pages of that book and what is right up front on the first page and the second page and the third page and in every speech the Premier gave was health care. Health care, health care, health care, that is what you all campaigned on and I am not going to let you forget it and my constituents are not going to let you forget it.

I just want you to realize what you are going to be facing in the next election because as if people weren't cynical enough about politicians, we have a crowd who cynically rode to power on promises of fixing health care. You said you had all the answers. You said you were going to cut administrative waste, waste of $43.5 million, and that was enough money to fix it all. You said there were going to be more doctors. You said there were going to be more nurses. You said there were going to be better working conditions. That is what you told the people of Nova Scotia two years ago, Mr. Speaker. That is what they told the people of Nova Scotia.

Today, Mr. Speaker, what do we have? Are there any health care workers who really think they are better off than they were two years ago? Do we have more doctors? Do we have more nurses? Have the Tories done a darn thing to deal with working conditions? Have the Tories listened to that anger. I can tell you, they have not. I was on the doorsteps of Halifax Fairview just over three months ago and I can tell you that every health care professional I spoke to is angry. They are angry that this government has called this Legislature back on the pretext of an emergency that doesn't exist because what Bill No. 68 does is it outlaws strikes anywhere in Nova Scotia until after the next election. That is pure politics, that is not concern about health care.

This government has not told the truth about the essential services agreement that was nearly reached and the 24 hour arbitration clause that would have ensured that all essential services were provided. I can tell them, if they don't know already, that those health care professionals are enraged that that government would suggest that they cannot be trusted to

[Page 5546]

keep their commitments to provide essential services. Those health care workers are enraged that this government would use their tax dollars to put ads in the papers that do not tell the truth about wages, that are far from telling the whole story, that don't say that the top wages apply only to nurses at the top of the job category, that they are only the highest paid in Atlantic Canada for a couple of weeks, that some of the nurses were offered 2 per cent, 2 per cent and 1 per cent which doesn't even keep up with inflation and that some of the nurses were offered zero.

These government ads don't say that the special unit premium is about to be eliminated, which is worth 2.8 per cent to the nurses, so they are starting in the hole. This government is not saying that RNs and LPNs were offered different rates for the same people with the same cost of living. Mr. Speaker, we haven't even begun to talk about the fact that what the government is taking on here are female-dominated professions and what that is doing for pay equity and wage equity in Nova Scotia. All the dark suits over there are taking on female-dominated professions.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired. We have approximately three minutes left in the late debate, if anyone would like to take advantage of the three minutes.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise this evening and briefly address this resolution. I believe that it is important to say for the record that what the government favours is free collective bargaining. What this is about is ensuring that the public safety is preserved during a period when their free collective bargaining goes on. No one wanted to have to do this, but it was required to protect public safety.

Mr. Speaker, we are beginning to hear a few stories of what the effect is going to be on the public of an interruption of health services. I can assure you that the unfortunate story is, as the days wind on, these stories will become more and more frequent. It isn't for lack of compassion on the part of our health care workers, it is a simple reality that the effect of reducing health care is to hurt ordinary Nova Scotians. They are the people who pay the price for this and, frankly, the government felt it had no choice but to bring the bill forward rather than face a situation where, as Ms. Jessome herself has described, there would be anarchy.

Mr. Speaker, no responsible person would choose to have a situation occur where public health and safety were put in jeopardy. When it all comes to be said and done, any government must take and put, as their highest priority, the public health and safety of Nova Scotians. I understand that the health care workers in this province have many grievances that have been built up over the years of Liberal rule. But, unfortunately, it is impossible to address all of those grievances in a short period of time. But what I do hope is that as a result

[Page 5547]

of the continuation of bargaining, I believe on Thursday, that the DHAs, the employers and the health care workers in this province can reach collective agreements.

Clearly, there has to be some leadership shown by the members of the unions who have been exceedingly, Mr. Speaker, unsuccessful in taking the collective agreements that they have negotiated, that they have ratified on behalf of their members, and explaining those contracts to the members. That is the untold story. Anyway, I know my time has drawn to a conclusion. Thank you.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Maybe this is a point of privilege, I am not sure which one it is, but it has come to our attention that the police officers are outside videotaping the crowd right now. I must say that that is something that concerns me as a citizen of Nova Scotia. It is something that concerns me as a member of this Legislature that, on behalf of this House, on behalf of the Speaker of this House, we have police officers out there videotaping this crowd. For what purpose, I can only assume (Interruption) It's evidence. See, that's what the member for Annapolis is saying, and that is my point. Why is this being done? I suggest, and beg the Speaker, if this is being done on his behalf, that he order that it stop now. These are peaceful protestors outside and I am shocked that this is something that is going on.

[6:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If the police officers are taking videotape outside this property it has nothing to do with the Speaker, I can assure you of that. You will have to take it up with the HRM Police Department.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

Bill No. 68 - Healthcare Continuation (2001) Act.] [Debate resumed.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment my colleague for bringing that forward because these people have come here today out of frustration and out of concern for the lack of respect shown them. For the Minister of Justice to stand in his place - he's never seen a microphone that he didn't like but it is shameful that a member of the front bench of this government would get up there and go on with that tirade like he just did.

This whole issue of back-to-work legislation, strike breaking, if it would be, or at least even brought in well before any threat of a strike would take place, is really not the only issue that we, on this side of the House, are concerned about with Bill No. 68. As I mentioned in my earlier comments, our concerns about this whole violation of the collective agreement of the Trade Union Act and also the meddling in areas, as the Minister of Justice should

[Page 5548]

know, that meddling in areas of federal jurisdiction, relative to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. Those are the issues, not only back-to-work legislation and strike breaking if that was to happen. If that is the best the government can do, that is shameful.

Mr. Speaker, I believe this government doesn't realize the spiralling effect that this piece of legislation will have on the health care system in Nova Scotia. The President of the Nova Scotia Medical Society said it best. "We believe that this Bill, if enacted, will create a climate in the province which will exacerbate the shortages of essential health care workers. 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." If physicians and specialists do not have a well-trained, motivated health care team, they will not come to Nova Scotia, worse yet, they will leave. Retention and recruitment of physicians and the impact - that is from the President of the Nova Scotia Medical Society. That is what we mean about the spiralling effect this Tory Government has caused with Bill No. 68.

There have been some interesting vote results relative to a strike and, I think, presently, the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union is conducting strike votes across the province Monday to Wednesday of this week, and they have the result of some votes. This union represents 38 hospitals and facilities across the province. The Nova Scotia Nurses' Union certainly seems to be the moderates when it comes to making decisions respecting potential job action like strikes, et cetera, within this framework of the last several weeks.

The District Health Authority 6 voted 95 per cent in favour of strike action and that was released today. Certainly, the Premier and the honourable members for Pictou East and Pictou West should find these results, I would think, a bit shocking. There is no doubt that Bill No. 68 has certainly fuelled the flames of rage in the Pictou County nurses. In addition to that, District Health Authority 2, the Roseway Hospital, Yarmouth Regional and the Digby General voted 78 per cent in favour of strike action, affecting the honourable member for Shelburne, the champion of the Barrington bill, the member for Yarmouth, and the Minister of Economic Development. That is how the people in that area spoke, the nurses and other health care professionals. Easily, District Health Authority 2, which is in the western region, under that previous health board, can be considered, I would say, one of the most small "c" Conservative areas of the province, also along with the Pictou area. Again, the vote results in these areas are strong. It is a clear indication of the complete and utter outrage of the nurses. They have spoken.

Mr. Speaker, the issue of having the nurses scapegoated has been real, many members have mentioned that. I mentioned in a press release yesterday, and I tried to focus on an area in Dartmouth, which shows the hypocrisy of how this government has triggered and precipitated the closing of beds already, well ahead of any strike deadline. We have found that with the Dartmouth General Hospital, there was already a business plan to close 30 beds and possibly 31, 32 in that hospital. That was to be closed this summer, this is part of the

[Page 5549]

business plan, or as we call it the business-bungling plan of the Minister of Health, to close those beds, those 30 extra beds from June 30th to September 4th.

Mr. Speaker, it is quite obvious that the bed closures were part of the business plan process, and not part of the contingency plan for potential health care workers' strikes. This was all done to scapegoat the nurses. The media have reported and, I have received phone calls from visitors, from relatives of people who have been booked for cancer surgery and other matters, and they have mentioned that what they are being told is that their cancer operation must be cancelled because the nurses may or are or will be going on strike.

Mr. Speaker, I just thought I would use the time I have here this evening to just go through some of the letters to the editor, perhaps, I know we have all read them, but there are some, particularly, that stand out. One is from Alana MacLellan from Porters Lake, which is in the Halifax region. She says, and it will be self-explanatory, where she is coming from: "I have just completed my second year of the bachelor of science in nursing program at St. Francis Xavier University. I am writing in regard to the government's second offer to the NSGEU nurses." This is a young person who is on the road to a nursing career. "Their first offer was eight per cent, retroactive to November. When the nurses refused this offer, the government replied with 10 per cent, and no retro. The public views this as an increase for the nurses. I did the math. The second offer of 10 per cent and no retro is $834.72 less than their first offer (after taxes have been deducted). I do not want to work for a government that treats their employees blatantly unfairly. The government was supposed to come back with a serious offer the second time and from my deductions, it was less money than their first offer."

And you wonder why they are upset and out here this evening. The Minister of Justice has the nerve to go up and insult the intelligence of not only the members of this House, but the health care workers and all Nova Scotians by talking about how they are doing this to protect the collective agreement process and the free bargaining process, and this is the kind of offers they are making. They are scapegoating and making sure that people, when they are called to have their cancer operations and their heart operations cancelled, that they are being told that it is because of the nurses, not because of the mismanagement of this government and the destruction of the infrastructure.

AN HON. MEMBER: You can tell who are the originators of that bill. You can tell who making that up.

DR. SMITH: Yes, yes. The person who, every time the mike affords an opportunity, is up there just adding to the misinformation. That is really what is happening. The average nurse is now making $23.50 an hour, an 8 per cent increase and retro added on would equal out to be $40,623.04 net this year; the second offer of 10 per cent without retro equals out to be $39,788.32 net for this year. Two years from now, she says as she concludes, I will

[Page 5550]

graduate from nursing (with a $50,000 debt). Can you give me a good reason why I should stay in Nova Scotia?

Mr. Speaker, that is sad. We have been trying to get some figures on what is happening here in Nova Scotia with nurses. I don't want to dwell only on nurses, they are a large part and a very important part of the health care team, but I think this applies across the board, whether we are talking about technologists, LPNs, physiotherapists, social workers, all those persons and all the other support people within the health care system. We are concerned. We have some figures about those persons who are checking their status of nursing, their verifications as it is called, for 1999, there were 384 nurses in Nova Scotia, checked that. This is often when nurses are looking to update their status, and get their qualifications to apply out of province or out of country. In other words, it is often nurses who are either coming back into the workforce or, more seriously, those who are looking to move away from this province. In the year 2000, verifications increased to 445. So, from 384 to 445. It may not mean much but there is movement going on there. The nurses are looking, and they are on the move.

The number of registered nurses in Nova Scotia, and I am glad to see that the Minister of Health is in his seat, probably safer than out on the street - I don't mean that the minister is homeless, he might be something-less but he is not homeless - just so that he can hear that the nurses registered in Nova Scotia in 1999, 9,365; in the year 2000, 9,327. That is not a major increase, that is a decrease, 38 fewer registered in the year 2000 than in 1999. I know these figures can vary, and it doesn't necessarily say who is employed, the number who are gainfully employed in permanent work. The number of nurses who are registered in Nova Scotia has dropped 38 within that one year.

These are very disturbing figures. The third group of figures I would like to share with my colleagues in the House of Assembly this evening, in 1999, 133 nurses graduated in Nova Scotia, 92 are still registered in the year 2001. In the year 2000, 135, two more nurses, 135 graduated in Nova Scotia, 86 of those are still registered in Nova Scotia in the year 2001. That is a negative, and I know the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour had some figures on the graduate nurses staying in this province.

But, if you put everything together, the verifications that are increasing for the nurses, the numbers of registered nurses in this province is decreasing, the number of graduates, less staying. There is six less staying in the year 2000 than in the year 1999. That is a trend. In 1999, 41 nurses who graduated in Nova Scotia are no longer registered in Nova Scotia; in the year 2000, 49 nurses who graduated in Nova Scotia are no longer registered in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, there is a disturbing trend here, and that is far different than what the Minister of Health would have us believe. I will be concluding my comments. Someone has just put some things here, but I better not get into that, it looks like it would take more than

[Page 5551]

a minute. The member for Inverness says I am stealing his literature, and I know it is not right to accuse anyone of stealing in the House. Is it, Mr. Speaker? You made me take my word back, when the Page took something from my desk, inadvertently.

Hamm pledges more funds, more staff in health care. This is interesting, it was written by Dale Madill, who used to be a reporter here, so he had some trouble copying down Hansard, he had a little trouble getting Hansard right. This was February 19, 1998. Somehow, if a wildcat strike brings this government to its senses, then it is good strategy. He was calling a wildcat strike in 1998, when he was in the Third Party and, somehow, if a wildcat strike brings this government to its senses, then it is good strategy. So he thought it was good then, I will be interested in what the Premier thinks tonight.

[6:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is very difficult to hear. I would ask the honourable members to keep the noise down, please.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I just wanted to get the member to clarify, did he say that Dale Madill was working for the Third Party in 1998, because that is not so. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order, it is a point of clarification.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable minister for his intervention. What I said was, this was an article written on February 19, 1998, by Dale Madill and it was in The Halifax Chronicle-Herald. It said that Hamm pledges more funds and more staff in health care. That was a promise in 1998, but that is when he was saying that, somehow, if a wildcat strike brings this government to its senses, that is the Liberal Government of the day, then it is good strategy. So what was good in that time, I hope the Premier doesn't really subscribe to that philosophy today, or, in fact, is that what he wants to do? Is that part of the grand design of this government and this Premier, to go and make the nurses scapegoats enough that they will go to the nurses and all the other health care professionals and the health care team, to make them so angry and so frustrated and feeling a lack of respect from this government they, in fact, would go on wildcat strikes. Is that really what this government is trying to do? Thank you.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak on the previous question. Just before I came in here my colleague and I were out among those who are protesting outside these doors. We were handed this quote, and I think it apropos and I am going to read it. Perhaps it will mean something to the members opposite. "The weak, the insecure, the incompetent and the desperate have much in common. When thrust

[Page 5552]

into positions of authority they tend to confuse the ability to lead with the desire to control." That is what has happened in this case.

The government can't have it both ways. They can't have Bill No. 68 and say they believe in negotiations. They can't take away basic democratic rights and say they believe in those rights. They can't take away the right to strike and say that they believe in the rights of workers. They can't impose agreements from the Cabinet table and say they believe in collective bargaining. They can't say that the laws of health services due to a labour dispute is intolerable, but the loss of health services due to Tory Cabinet decisions is wise.

Mr. Speaker, every voice raised from hospital administrators, from supporters of the Conservative Party, from nurses, doctors and every other health care provider, from the friends, neighbours and patients of health care workers, are saying that this is not the only choice. This is not the solution. I want you to listen, and I want the members opposite to listen to The Halifax Chronicle-Herald. "The Tories may pay even more dearly in the form of bitter relations with organized labour that could prove expensive to heal, and by worsening the nursing shortage already being experienced in Nova Scotia and elsewhere in Canada." Those aren't my words, those are the words of the editorial writers at The Halifax Chronicle-Herald today.

The Premier and his government have crossed the Rubicon with this legislation. They no longer pretend that they are keeping the promises they made to get elected. They no longer pretend that their number one priority is fixing health care. Last night, when the Premier was faced with his own words, with his own promises and with his own commitments, the Premier said, well, it is easy to say those things when you are in Opposition. What the Premier left unsaid was the fact that now, in government, he doesn't repeat or respect the words he said, the promises he made, the commitments that he made to the people of Nova Scotia. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I urge the Premier to listen to the people who elected him and to listen to his own statements about the approach he is now taking. In 1998, here is what he said in the face of the Savage Liberal record. He said that for five years, the Liberals have governed solely for the sake of the bottom line, treating the serious concerns of people as a mere afterthought. The Liberal Government has lost touch.

He said, I am convinced there is a better way to govern Nova Scotia. It starts with setting priorities and making choices that put people first. It means consulting with people, considering the human impact of every move that government makes. (Interruptions) Those are not my words.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Whose are they?

MR. DEXTER: Those are the words of the Premier.

[Page 5553]

Mr. Speaker, the Premier said that Nova Scotians want to know that if they need the health care system, it will be there for them. I want them to know that under a John Hamm Government, it will be, he said. We are committed to fixing the mess in health care. We won't do it as the Liberals have done, by shutting out consumers, providers and communities. We will do it with them and we will do it right - that is what the Premier said. Well, the consumers, the providers, the health care workers are outside the door right now and they say, with one voice, Bill No. 68 is not the solution. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, the Premier said, our bottom line will never get better if we continue to deny Nova Scotians access to quality care. He said, finally, to the people of this province in that election campaign, my message is simple. We have to put people first. Those are the words of the Premier. What has changed now that the Premier sits on the other side of the floor? Now, the people of this province rate somewhere below the interests that guide the Conservative Party.

Mr. Speaker, we have engaged here in this debate because the government has seen fit to recall the Legislature to sit 24 hours around the clock. We have not heard from the members opposite except in the middle of the night when they have tried to bully us into being quiet. We have refused. We have committed ourselves to making the voices of ordinary Nova Scotians heard in this Legislature. But you know, we know the time is running down. We know that tonight, regardless of what we do, that the clock will run out, that the members on the opposite side will have the opportunity to vote in favour of Bill No. 68.

So we could stay here, Mr. Speaker, until 10:30 p.m. and we could allow the members of the government to sneak out through the side door to leave after the rally is over. They could get out of this building without having the opportunity to consult and to talk with the people who make up their constituencies. We are not going to do that.

Mr. Speaker, I intend to take my place in a few minutes. I will be the last speaker on this bill and we are going to present the opportunity to the members of the Conservative Government to walk out those doors and to meet with the people of Nova Scotia. That is what we are going to do. We are going to sit down and allow them the opportunity to talk with the people who have elected them.

I have said this before and I want to repeat it because I think, in this situation, we should be reflective. Alexandre Dumas, in his book "The Count of Monte Cristo" said, at the very end, all of human wisdom is summed up in the two words - hope and wait. Well, Mr. Speaker, here we are and still we hope and still we wait. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The question before the House at this time is the previous question, which was moved by the honourable Government House Leader. (Interruption) It is not on the main motion, it is on the previous question. I want to make sure

[Page 5554]

I understand this right, once we vote on the previous question, the honourable Minister of Health can speak on the main motion. Can he?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: Okay. So the motion before the House right now is the previous question, which was moved by the honourable Government House Leader. Is the House ready for the question? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The motion before the House now is the main motion of Bill No. 68.

MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Did we not just vote that the question now be put?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. HOLM: So, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: That is why I asked if the honourable Minister of Health could speak to the main motion and the answer you said was, yes.

MR. HOLM: But the question was to be put.

MR. SPEAKER: He was going to close debate so we can vote on the main motion. (Interruptions) The previous question was voted on and now the honourable Minister of Health, which I asked a moment ago for clarification, will be able to speak so that he can close debate. If I recognize the honourable Minister of Health, it will be to close debate on Bill No. 68.

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on the Healthcare Services Continuation (2001) Act for a few minutes. I would like to take this opportunity to explain to members of the House a little bit more fully, particularly those on the opposite side of the House, why I believe that this legislation is necessary to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians. (Interruptions)

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

[Page 5555]

MR. MUIR: Over the past little while, Mr. Speaker, as members know, we have been in a position where it was possible that there could be a labour stoppage. One of the things that we received from around the province, from those who are in authority, indicated that with a labour stoppage, the level of service that our acute care system could deliver, if there was a strike, was not one which could guarantee the expected safety and health of Nova Scotians. In other words, the service that could be provided and guaranteed was bare bones, at best. In our opinion, that was not satisfactory. (Applause)

[7:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I would like to set the record straight on a few things. First of all, I want to tell the House that we have never questioned the commitment of nurses and health care workers in their ability and willingness to protect the health and well being of their patients and the public. I know, and have witnessed first hand, the care and dedication they put in their work every day. I know they have been working in their districts to develop contingency plans in the event of a strike, and that is not the concern.

The concern, Mr. Speaker, is with the capability of the system should a strike occur. We simply could not be convinced that the needs of Nova Scotians would be met if a health system was reduced by 50 per cent. As members would know, the Capital District Health Authority already begun to scale down services and we just can't take a risk of not doing anything should a strike occur. There are 8 days left in the 14 day countdown to a strike in the Capital District Health Authority, which is the largest health care district in the province and, in addition to that, it deals with the sickest people in the province. Most of the high-end procedures are done here and it also serves as a tertiary care centre for many other residents in Atlantic Canada.

Added to this problem, Mr. Speaker, was the work-to-rule campaign, requested by the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union over the weekend and, indeed, basically, formally announced yesterday. Bob Smith, who is the CEO for the Capital District Health Authority, at his daily media briefing today, voiced his concern about the serious impact a work-to-rule campaign would have on patients. As a result of the work-to-rule campaign, which was initiated by the NSGEU, a lot of elective surgeries have been postponed sooner than originally planned in the contingency plan and there is a concern about the possibility of complication should complicated surgeries be scheduled and take place if nurses have been counselled not to work overtime.

I understand that the district has formally requested that the NSGEU halt the work-to-rule campaign, saying that they need to stay focused on meeting the needs of our patients. The district has closed, so far, about 135 beds and, indeed, Mr. Speaker, that means because of the work-to-rule campaign the Capital District Health Authority closed about an additional 80 beds today. By the way, I am told that the Labour Relations Board, or the Labour Board, whoever did hear the petition of the Capital District Health Authority, has basically

[Page 5556]

supported the position that the district has taken and, optimistically, the union will withdraw its direction that there should be work-to-rule by its membership.

We are, indeed, very concerned about the health and safety of the public in this type of environment. We are concerned about the impact it could have on patient care and, actually, Mr. Speaker, we are very concerned about the impact it will have on the workers themselves. We absolutely trust our nurses and other health care workers. We trust their commitment to their patients and to Nova Scotians. The work-to-rule campaign, initiated by the union leadership, puts more stress on an already very difficult and trying circumstance, all the while they work to meet the needs of their patients.

We were very concerned, Mr. Speaker, that repeated comments by union leadership about the talk of strike and, of course, the implementation of work-to-rule action and the pronouncement by union leadership that even the talk of a strike would create chaos.

The union itself was telling us that there would be chaos, Mr. Speaker. In fact, the NSGEU president at a news conference this morning said this constitutes war. All rules and all bets are off. Now we cannot and will not allow this to happen because we are responsible for the health and safety of Nova Scotians. Our system needs every nurse; it needs every health care worker.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am curious as to how the minister can justify the statements that he is making right now when in an article in The Chronicle-Herald, dated Thursday, February 19, 1998, Premier Hamm, then the Leader of the Third Party is quoted as saying somehow, if a wildcat strike brings this government to its senses, then it is good strategy. How do you justify your comments now when your Leader, your Premier, said a wildcat strike would be a good thing to bring government to its senses. How hypocritical can you now be?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it was clear that that member understands no more about health care, nor labour relations, than he did when they were in government and that is why they are there. (Applause)

Liberal Health Critic, Jim Smith, was quoted as saying a strike by health care workers and nurses will have devastating effects on the already strained health care system. Mr. Speaker, we absolutely agree with the Liberal Health Critic and with the president of the NSGEU. We need a guarantee that no one would be at risk in the event of a strike. To be quite frank, it is a guarantee that no one has been able to give us. As Health Minister and as a responsible government, it is a real concern.

[Page 5557]

The concern was also expressed by the CEO of the Capital District Health Authority. Mr. Smith started his daily media briefings and posting ads in the newspaper last week to ensure that Nova Scotians were well aware of the impact a strike would have. He has been outlining how services at that facility would be geared down in the event of a strike. Beds at the QE II, Mr. Speaker, would be reduced in half, and this is a hospital that, as of late last week, had an occupancy of 1,030. That means 550 people would have to be discharged and this is not an acceptable circumstance.

If you want to just put that a little bit in perspective, Mr. Speaker, the people who would be discharged would not include those who were in veterans and long-term care beds; the proportion of people who are in there because of acute illness is certainly higher than 50 per cent. On the issue of bed closures, when we are in the position of facing the possibility of more than 500 beds closing in the largest health authority, what do we hear from our friends across the way? Well, that is okay; close them down; don't bother to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians.

AN HON. MEMBER: We are not paying that at all . . .

MR. MUIR: Indeed you are. They can stand up here and, as I said the other day, Mr. Speaker, they can suck and blow. They either stand up there and criticize the government for not putting more resources in, and at the same time will stand in their places and criticize the government for not allowing resources to be taken out. I don't understand it. It is just political rhetoric. I want to tell you, if the Opposition isn't concerned about the loss of 500 . . .

MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am just wondering if you could provide a remediation course in comprehension for the Minister of Health, so he could actually understand something about what is said and not misrepresent it - unintentionally, I am sure - in the House.

MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it is totally incredulous to try to understand why the Opposition would not be concerned about the magnitude of the problem that would be created should there be a system-wide strike. The beds to which we are referring are absolutely critical to the well-being of Nova Scotians. In addition to bed closures in the event of a strike, the rehab centre will not accept new patients and it will eventually close. Admissions to the QE II will be limited to patients whose condition is life-threatening. We are acting responsibly and decisively to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians and we will not allow any Nova Scotian to be at risk.

[Page 5558]

The legislation is straightforward and based on free principles. First, it protects the health and safety of Nova Scotians by preventing a strike that could seriously put health and safety at risk. Second, and this is a point which I wish to stress, something that the Opposition tends to gloss over, that the legislation very much allows - and indeed, it encourages - for the collective bargaining process to continue to reach negotiated settlements. Third, if negotiation, conciliation, mediation cannot lead to an agreement, it enables government, as a last resort, to establish provisions that have not been previously agreed to. Cabinet will have the final authority to define the terms of a package that is fair to nurses and health care employees and affordable for taxpayers. But this will happen if, and only if, the parties to the effective agreement are not able to reach a satisfactory conclusion on their own.

On the first principle, as Health Minister, I have a clear and certain responsibility to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians. Some will say that we acted too soon with this legislation, but I want to tell you the effects of a slowdown in delivery of health service in this province is already being felt. Nova Scotians today have been notified that elective surgeries are being cancelled and everything from blood collection services to mental health and other outpatient services are being scaled down considerably. We had to act now to protect the men and women and children who are awaiting surgery. We need to take action to prevent elective and urgent cases from turning into emergency cases. We knew it would take time for the legislation to pass through the House. But, keep in mind, there is currently a strike countdown in this province.

The second principle of this legislation allows collective bargaining to continue. We have been very specific in the bill. Nothing in this bill should be construed so as to limit or restrict the rights of a union and employer from attempting to resolve any issues or make any agreements. This legislation will help to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians while collective bargaining continues. We want nurses and health care workers to get a fair offer that taxpayers can afford. We want the collective bargaining process to continue, but we also want to ensure that the health and safety of Nova Scotians is protected while the collective bargaining process continues. We have made this clear because we want agreements reached at the table. I want to tell you, in the past six months there has been a great record of success in collective agreements.

As a matter of fact, agreements already have been reached with unions representing thousands of public sector employees, among them 10,000 teachers, 400 correctional workers, 1,900 CUPE highway workers, 550 Nova Scotia liquor store employees, 215 Workers' Compensation Board employees as well as the clerical and support workers of the Capital District Health Authority. And, just as a matter of fact, I can say that the bargaining teams, because they worked very hard, both sides reached three other tentative agreements. Even in times of fiscal restraint we have been able to continue collective agreements and provide wage increases to thousands of public sector employees that have been acceptable to those employees and their unions. Employees have been treated in a fair and reasonable manner.

[Page 5559]

[7:15 p.m.]

We want to see negotiated agreements in the health care sector, like we have already seen for the almost 15,000 public sector employees. We were extremely disappointed, as I know officials from the NSGEU were, that for the second time health care workers in the Capital District Health Authority rejected an offer that was recommended by the union. I know that the employer and the union worked exceptionally hard to secure a fair deal. These parties must resume discussions if an agreement is to be reached.

I understand that the nurses from the NSGEU and the NSNU are back at the table this week, indeed, they are to go back on Thursday. I was buoyed, yesterday, by a comment the President of the NSNU made to the Premier as we entered the House yesterday morning, in which she declared, once again, her intention, when she gets back to the table with her bargaining team on Thursday, was to reach an agreement. Mr. Speaker, I hope the people who were representing the NSGEU will go to the bargaining table with the same thought in mind, because that is what we want and that is what everybody deserves.

We certainly remain hopeful that agreements will be reached. I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that these agreements cannot be reached at any cost. The health and safety of Nova Scotians must be protected and that is paramount, but the agreements have to be made within the taxpayers' ability to pay for them, and that means they have to be sustainable. The government remains committed to ensure our nurses are the highest paid in Atlantic Canada.

As a government - and this was said by the Opposition members a number of times lately during the debate on this bill - we have been committed to seeing that public sector employees deserve a wage increase. I think it is important that this point doesn't get lost in the debate. We are talking about increasing wages for health care workers, not freezing them and, certainly, not rolling them back.

The goal of our government, as the negotiations have gone on, is that the agreements be fair to the employees, but at the same time they must ensure that the wage increases are affordable for the taxpayers of this province. I want to be very clear about the value we place, as a government, on our nurses and, indeed, every individual who works in our hospitals. All of us who are cared for by these individuals believe they should be paid more, a lot more, and they are invaluable.

I am also very conscious of the issues of recruiting and retaining nurses and other health care professionals. We have to pay them fairly and deal with recruitment and retention issues. As I have said, on the wage side alone, our nurses would be the highest-paid in Atlantic Canada. Earlier this year, we committed $5 million to a new nursing strategy targeted at recruitment and retention. This is a course of action that was developed for nurses and it was developed by nurses. As a matter of fact, some of the people who were participants in that process are in our gallery tonight.

[Page 5560]

We have launched a nursing recruitment Web site. We have hired a nursing policy adviser to provide advice to the department on nursing issues. We know there is a need to train more nurses if we are going to meet the demand. That is why this government increased the enrolment in nursing degree programs by 30 per cent, which was the largest increase of any nursing program in Canada. That resulted in the addition of 75 seats in those programs.

The unfortunate thing is, it is going to take another couple of years for those folks to roll through the system, but we will get payback in two years. Some things take a little bit of time.

We recognize that the work nurses do is changing and why there is a need for specialized nursing practitioners in Nova Scotia and we provided $150,000 per year for three years to fund the nurse practitioner program at Dalhousie University. We understand that it costs money to pursue those studies and that is why we established a nursing student bursary program which has provided 61 nurses with financial assistance amounting to $3,000 per student, for a total of $183,000 so far. Additional money is available for licensed practical nurses for refresher courses or pharmacy upgrades. We recognized that many casual nurses were staffing the health system, so many of these casual positions were converted into 100 new full- or part-time positions.

To help nurses and other health care workers do their job, we have spent $2 million to purchase patient equipment such as special lifts and beds. Yes, we want to do more, but we can't do everything at once. Overall, health care costs spiral upward. We still have to run our hospitals, we have to provide medication, we must buy and update equipment, and we have to treat patients. We therefore believe that the amount of money allocated for collective agreements is fair and reasonable.

I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, as long as negotiations continue there can, and always will be flexibility in any package that is on the table, but there has to be a ceiling and a responsible government must have the authority to set that ceiling. We are not Alberta; we have no magic pot of money. To provide much more for nurses and health care workers would mean much less for something else in our hospitals or elsewhere.

I remain very optimistic that agreements can be reached at the table, because I believe the sides who will be at the table want agreements. As a government, we must do more than hope. We have a responsibility to act and at no time is this more critical than when the health and safety of Nova Scotians is in question. The heart of the bill is to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians.

Weighing all those concerns with our responsibility to ensure the health and safety of Nova Scotians has brought us, as a government, to a very difficult decision and one that we did not take lightly. I know, and I understand why there has been intense debate on the bill, and more to come, but at the end of the day every member of this House shares the

[Page 5561]

responsibility to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of children, families, and indeed all residents of Nova Scotia.

In closing, I again call on the parties to get back to the bargaining table. I call on the unions to be responsible in the conduct of their business. I understand that we currently have our differences and I recognize that the measures that we have taken have generated concern. However, despite our differences I hope that Nova Scotians across this province will continue to have access to the health care services they need. At no time do we want to see anyone's health at risk while the collective bargaining process continues. Mr. Speaker, I now move second reading of Bill No. 68. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The motion before the House is for second reading of Bill No. 68.

A recorded vote has been called for.

Ring the bells to the satisfaction of the Whips.

[7:24 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

[8:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Are the Whips satisfied?

A recorded vote has been called for on second reading of Bill No. 68. Order, please.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[8:05 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Rodney MacDonald Mr. Corbett

Mr. Christie Mr. Deveaux

Mr. Baker Ms. Maureen MacDonald

Mr. Russell Mr. Dexter

Dr. Hamm Mr. Holm

Mr. LeBlanc Mr. Manning MacDonald

Mr. Muir Mr. Downe

Miss Purves Mr. Gaudet

Mr. Fage Dr. Smith

Mr. Balser Mr. MacAskill

[Page 5562]

Ms. McGrath Mr. Wilson

Mr. Ronald Chisholm Mr. Boudreau

Mr. MacIsaac Mr. Samson

Mr. DeWolfe Mr. MacKinnon

Mr. Taylor Mr. Pye

Mr. Dooks Mr. MacDonell

Mr. Langille Mr. Robert Chisholm

Mr. Chataway Mr. Estabrooks

Mr. Clarke Mr. Epstein

Mr. Hendsbee Mr. Steele

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

THE CLERK: For, 26. Against, 20.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried. (Interruptions)

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow being Opposition Day, I call upon the House Leader for the New Democratic Party.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the House will sit tomorrow between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. We will deal with Resolution No. 1697 and if there is time we will then also deal with either Bill No. 4 or Bill No. 2.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn until tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

We stand adjourned until 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

[The House rose at 8:11 p.m.]